The Story of a Woman in Leadership, Helping Others Write Their Own Story
Recognizing our Chief Marketing Officer, Tadzie Madzima
March 31, 2022
In celebration of February’s Black History Month and March’s Women’s History Month, we are honored to recognize and celebrate our Chief Marketing Officer, Tadzie Madzima, a person of color from Zimbabwe and a fearless woman in leadership. We asked Tadzie to answer several questions put together by our Chief of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Mika’il Petin, to share her story, career path, inspirations, and pieces of advice for others looking to follow in her footsteps.
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE AND WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR CAREER PATH THAT LED YOU TO THIS POSITION?
I am the Chief Marketing Officer at All Hands and Hearts, a role that allows me to tell incredible stories of how communities and people from all walks of life join together to rebuild communities affected by disasters.
I was born and raised in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, and began my marketing career while studying Fine Arts in college before specializing in Graphic Design and working for various advertising agencies and creative shops. I was doing exceptionally well and soon moved through the ranks to become a Studio Manager, despite being the youngest and overseeing an entirely male-dominated team. As I advanced in the advertising industry, I became more competent at leading teams, running campaigns, creating brand strategies and building creative business ideas.
Eventually, I was promoted to Senior Art Director and then again to that of Creative Director after a few more years. Because I was so adept at managing client-agency relationships, I was offered an additional role of Relationships Manager. Despite the fact that I was really good at what I did, I began to feel empty after several years in the advertising sector, and realized that my profession did not provide me with a sense of fulfillment. This is when I realized I wanted to change directions in my career and work in a sector that made a difference and offered me a sense of purpose. After nearly eight years in advertising, I was no longer thrilled about making toothpaste sound sexy!
As a result, I began looking for opportunities in the nonprofit sector that would provide me with a platform to make a difference. I pursued a degree in International Relations in order to broaden my knowledge of global issues, and was later chosen for a Peace, Trade and Development Fellowship with the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. After completing the degree and the fellowship, I began looking for work in the charity sector. I later got a job with Reach for Change, an international non-profit headquartered in Sweden, that helps social entrepreneurs better the lives of children and youth.
I began as their Africa Regional Communications Manager, in charge of marketing and communications for seven countries in Africa. I soon advanced through the ranks of the department, eventually becoming a Global Communications and Partnerships Manager and a member of a marketing team that was responsible for the organization’s communications in 18 countries globally. Being a part of Reach for Change expanded my skills tremendously and helped me to hone my skills in nonprofit communications and campaigns.
I was selected as a Mandela Washington Fellow in 2018, which is Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative’s (YALI). This program honors African leaders who promote economic growth and prosperity, peace and security on the continent and in the world. I studied Business and Entrepreneurship at the McCombs School of Business in Austin, Texas, as part of this Fellowship.
I felt it was time to move on to the next part of my career after 7 years with Reach for Change. I’ve always been passionate about volunteerism, and after the Cyclone Idai disaster that hit Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi in 2018, I got involved in recruiting young people in Zimbabwe to help the areas that had been devastated. That’s when I first learned about All Hands and Hearts, and I was immediately intrigued by its model of everyday people accomplishing remarkable things through volunteerism.
As a result, I kept my eyes peeled for any prospects that would allow me to join AHAH. When the position of CMO became available, I regarded it as an opportunity to join the organization. I was ecstatic to be chosen for the position, and the fact that I am a woman of color of African descent filling this role exemplifies AHAH’s dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
WHAT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTIONS PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT FROM ZIMBABWE HAVE ABOUT YOUR COUNTRY?
Some people have misconceptions about Africa as a whole, viewing it as a country rather than a continent comprising 54 countries. Some people believe that all Zimbabweans live in abject poverty, that we live in villages or on safaris in the jungle. Some people do not believe Zimbabweans are well-educated and others believe it is dangerous to live in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a very safe country for tourists to visit. Zimbabweans are, by nature, very welcoming and friendly to foreigners, and the country’s safety for visitors has not been significantly impacted by the country’s difficult political and economic situation. Life in Zimbabwe is full of art, adventure, variety, culture, and diversity.
IN THE U.S., WE HAVE BLACK HISTORY MONTH DURING THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY. WHAT DOES THE MONTH MEAN TO YOU?
Black History Month is a time for black people from all over the world to gather together to commemorate their heritage, contributions, and accomplishments, while also acknowledging the challenges and hurdles they have overcome throughout the years. This is also an opportunity to identify existing challenges and design new solutions. The world needs more knowledge about black people’s achievements and this is an opportunity to demonstrate how people of African descent have changed history through invention, tenacity, culture, and creativity. For me, it’s an opportunity to not only interact with other black people, but also to learn and share stories with the rest of the world that help to dispel stereotypes about black people. It’s a chance to shift the narrative about what black people have contributed to the world and how they continue to do so in extremely good ways. If we want the world to change, we must change the narrative that associates black people with violence, chaos, and a lack of education.
IS THERE A COMPARABLE CELEBRATORY MONTH IN ZIMBABWE?
Yes and that is Africa month. May is designated as Africa Month, a time when the African continent commemorates the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Every year on the 25th of May, we celebrate Africa Day, where we celebrate the continent’s diversity, success, and cultural and economic potential. In order to show the world the diversity of African culture, Africans dress in their cultural and traditional attire, present and perform customary acts, cook and eat traditional food, and share the innovation and creativity that is emerging from Africa.
WHO ARE SOME OF THE IMPORTANT FIGURES, EITHER, FROM YOUR HOME COUNTRY, OTHER PARTS OF AFRICA, OR FROM THE AFRICAN DIASPORA THAT HAVE SERVED AS INSPIRATIONS IN YOUR LIFE?
Nelson Mandela: First President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 Nelson Mandela, a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and political leader. Nelson Mandela led a nonviolent protest against South Africa’s apartheid regime because he disagreed with its policies. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison as a result of his decision. As South Africa’s first black president, he emerged from prison to lead the country. Nelson Mandela was able to cast a ballot for the first time in his home country. Mandela motivates me to see that just because you are experiencing challenges and frustration, it does not necessarily imply that what you are fighting for is wrong or ineffective. I am always inspired by the story of Mandela. He serves as an excellent illustration of how passion and determination fuel purpose.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: A well-known Nigerian author and activist for gender equality. Chimamanda has written several fiction and nonfiction books and essays on a variety of topics, including feminism, racism, and gender stereotypes. Her lengthy book essay ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ even inspired a Beyonce song!
The women soldiers of Dahomey: These women soldiers were from the Kingdom of Dahomey, a West African monarchy that ruled from 1625 to 1894. They were the first line of defense for the kingdom. Some of the remains of the kingdom may be found in Benin, a small country located between Nigeria and Togo on Africa’s west coast. These women were well-known for their bravery, whether they were conquering neighboring tribes or battling European soldiers.
WHEN YOU TALK TO ELDERS, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE STORIES THEY SHARE WITH YOU THAT YOU TURN INTO SOURCES OF MOTIVATION?
Growing up, I was inspired by my grandmother, who was a fantastic folk storyteller. We would often go to see my grandma, who lived in the village. In the warm evenings, after supper, in a dimly lit hut, my grandmother would entertain the family with these folk tales while we shelled peanuts. Everyone participated in conversations about disciplining or praising characters in these stories, which we truly enjoyed. They were parables that encouraged children to be responsible adults.
In Zimbabwe, there is a popular folktale about a rabbit named Tsuro and a turtle named Kamba. Tsuro learned the hard way that he should treat others the way he wanted to be treated. Tsuro discovered that while being street smart is sometimes beneficial, it is not always the ideal approach to interact with others. As youngsters, we learned from these stories not to look down on others and that we can learn something from our peers no matter how different they are from us. Amazingly, Kamba, the turtle, demonstrated that slow is the new cool by being more considerate and kind than Tsuro and so ended up winning in life.
MARCH IS WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH IN THE U.S. TYPICALLY, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ACTIVITIES THAT ZIMBABWEANS PARTICIPATE IN ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY?
It is common for women to come together and advocate for their rights on a variety of fronts, both in-person and online. Women are also active on social media and in online initiatives that invite and include men in the conversations. In places where women have no Internet access, awareness events and trainings are also undertaken. It is an important month for many women and women’s rights advocates since it allows women’s views to be heard. Individuals, role models, female leaders, activists, community organizers, organizations, and movements typically lead a variety of activities during the month.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME IMPORTANT LESSONS THAT YOU HAVE DRAWN FROM REPEATEDLY THAT SHAPE HOW YOU HAVE DEVELOPED YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE?
Empathy: Empathy entails being kind to both others and oneself. A leader’s superpower is empathy. Empathy enables you to relate to those around you and put yourself in their shoes, which is an important trait for any leader. You must also be empathetic with yourself. Be gentle with yourself, because we are all humans having a human experience.
Be open to learning from others, particularly those who report to you: It’s crucial to understand that you don’t know everything and that we’re all always learning. Never grow so conceited that you believe you have nothing to learn from others. There is a Shona proverb that says, “Kudzidza Hakuperi,” which means “Learning never ends.”
In addition to learning from others, you should always be learning new things in the sector in which you are advancing as an expert. Always look for opportunities to improve your abilities through professional development and networking opportunities. For example, I recently finished an advanced Certificate in Public Relations from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (UK), in order to continue honing my skills. I do not intend to stop there, but rather to continue exploring more possibilities to broaden my skill set.
Adopt a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset: A growth mindset allows you to take risks, make mistakes, and take on difficulties while learning from them, allowing you to expand your abilities. Failure is a part of growth and the route to long-term success. So, don’t be afraid to take risks and fail; more importantly, learn from your mistakes and use them to motivate you to keep going forward rather than giving up.
WHAT ARE TWO OR THREE PIECES OF ADVICE YOU LIKE TO SHARE WITH EARLY-CAREER PROFESSIONALS WHO IDENTIFY AS WOMEN?
Establish your value system and let it guide you on your career journey. “Intentionality,” “empathy,” “taking risks,” “learning from failure,” and “self-advocacy” are just a few of the things I value.
Intentionality entails being clear about what you want from your life and your career. We think we have enough time, but we don’t. The longer we delay in deciding what we want out of life, the more time we lose and the more people who are robbed of the gifts and talents that each of us has to offer the world.
Self-advocacy is the ability to effectively speak up for yourself. Self-advocacy takes the weight of standing up for yourself off of someone else’s shoulders and puts it squarely on your own shoulders, making it your responsibility. You won’t always have people to support you in your fight for what you believe in, so you’ll have to learn to advocate for yourself. Self-advocacy boosts your self-esteem and confidence in your abilities. It strengthens your faith in yourself and the values you hold dear.
Finally, I want to encourage all women around the world, regardless of background, that if they dare to dream, they can achieve and go beyond what they envisioned for their lives. Women can absolutely run the world with a lot of hard work, dedication, bravery and fearlessness!