Becoming a global leader: George Smith Koomson ’12 shares his journey

May 16, 2017
By the time George graduated from Ashesi, he was convinced he wanted to grow as a global business leader, so he set out to pursue a career path that would provide him the needed skillset. This journey had actually started while he was still in school – from working at General Electric and leading Ghanaian investment banking firm, IC Securities, he had already gotten his feet wet in the corporate world. After Ashesi, he spent time at Phillips and Halliburton working in marketing and business development roles, and eventually joined Nielsen, where he become the youngest manager in the Ghana office.

“Off the bat, I knew I wanted a career experience not a job,” he says. “An experience where I would be exposed to different business challenges, countries and organizations; one that would groom me as a leader and move me beyond my field of expertise and comfort zone. So I decided to go for breadth over specialization, essentially setting a pace for career adventurism to build my career on a series of experiences from a broad range of industries across the globe and also learn from as many leaders and mentors as possible.”

After gaining corporate exposure across sub-Sahara Africa and Northern America, George was keen on getting some European experience. So when he learned about Germany’s Africa Kommt fellowship, he immediately applied. Set up in 2008 by the largest and most successful German enterprises, the fellowship is a premier leadership development program for future business leaders from Africa. The program seeks to attract Africa’s brightest minds from different business fields and prepares them for leadership roles either within major German companies or in the field of entrepreneurship.

George ended up being one of 25 fellows, selected from a competitive pool of 7000 applicants from across Africa to be mentored by leading German companies. Through the fellowship, George got a call up to Bosch & Siemens, the largest manufacturer of home appliances in Europe and also a world leader in that sector.

“For me, the fellowship was yet another learning experience that would enhance my leadership skills, advance my problem-solving skills and expose me to new thinking perspectives,” he explains. “I saw it as an opportunity to also dialogue and learn from the experiences of bright peers from other parts of Africa and Germany, gain more transferable knowledge and build on my ability to deal with different economic, cultural and political environments.”

Now on the Global Sales Marketing team at Bosch, looking back at his time at Ashesi, George is able to connect the dots back to his classroom days and to the school’s liberal arts curriculum. “Not every course in Ashesi was for me, however every bit of the liberal arts structure has been beneficial along the way,” he shares. “At the end of one’s undergraduate education, can that graduate explore connections between a wide variety of information; separate the relevant from the irrelevant and question assumptions? – Fortunately, I gained this springboard at Ashesi. Additionally, beyond scientific and commercial knowledge, the important things that have served me well throughout my work experience are integrity, leadership, critical thinking, problem solving and good communication skills.”

For George, in navigating one’s career journey, there are basic, yet significant milestones to check off and sacrifices to endure. “There are no silver bullets or quick and easy ways to make it at anything,” he explains. “In my experience, there is no substitute for integrity and strong work ethics; at any point in your life you will find solace in the fortitude of these two. If you work hard, embrace change, and value the insight and perspectives of mentors and smart people around you, you will make smart career choices and accomplish even more.”

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