Cameroon’s Patricia Pedhom Nono is driving tech evolution in Francophone Africa

In 2013, Patricia Pedhom Nono picked up one of the many valuable lessons she will carry with her throughout her life. In point of fact, she has been presented with multiple opportunities to acquire life-changing knowledge. And Patricia believes that having them is an absolute requirement; after all, without them, she would not be the person she is today.

She begins our conversation with an introduction of herself and then concludes it with "for now." This is likely due to the fact that humans are changeable by their very nature; however, Patricia is very clear about her values and the reasons why they will never change.

The story of Patricia is an excellent example of the importance of having faith, remaining consistent, and working hard. Patricia is currently serving as the Transformation Director and Technology Leader for the sub-Saharan Francophone Africa region of the multinational auditing and consulting company PwC. She is very passionate about giving African youth more agency and assisting those in positions of leadership in understanding what it takes to be an effective leader.

It would be unfair to attribute Patricia's achievements to the fact that she came from a privileged background without first learning about her journey.

Unleashing the brilliance that resides deep within a resistant Patricia

Patricia Pedhom Nono smilingPatricia Pedhom Nono. Transformation Director and Technology Leader, PwC, sub-Saharan Francophone Africa. Source: Supplied

The history of Patricia is quite entertaining as well as impressive. I didn't really pay attention to her warning that she was about to say "I'll tell you exactly how it is" until we were well into the conversation. We have only been listening to her tale for a few minutes, but it has already made both of us laugh out loud. Do not misunderstand me; these are very important points to keep in mind regarding her childhood.


She has always had a strong work ethic, which has been the primary factor in her continuous professional advancement ever since she was a child. An excellent place to begin is one of her essential traits.

"When I was a kid, I had a lot of attitude and I always wanted to know why things worked the way they did. She says, "At that point, my mind was just bubbling with ideas to try to understand the environment."

Even though her obstinacy, or let's be more charitable and call it doggedness, frequently got her into trouble, it did have some benefits, such as helping her become independent at an earlier age. She explains how her natural inquisitiveness causes her to be dissatisfied with the way things are and encourages her to pursue alternative courses of action.

" As a result, I developed a solution-oriented and challenging frame of mind, which is extremely important if you want to advance your career in technology and become a leader because things are moving at such a rapid pace.

In Africa, a child with such characteristics might be considered challenging; however, she considers it a privilege to have grown up with parents who understood her and were able to find ways to manage her and help her channel her natural curiosity in productive ways. This was one of the reasons why she values her upbringing so highly.

Patricia is the only daughter in her family of four, all of whom are boys, and she was born and raised in Yaounde, the capital city of Cameroon.

One of Patricia's many admirable qualities as a student was the fact that she has always had a passion for reading. She says that she is exceptionally bright, always at the top of her class, and an A student.

She received a scholarship to attend a two-year preparatory program at Telecom SudParis, which is considered to be one of the best engineering schools in France, during her senior year of high school. Before her life took an unexpected turn, she had just passed her entrance exam with flying colors and was about to start back at school when it was interrupted by an event from which she gained one of the many life lessons she has acquired to this point.

" As a student who consistently earns A's and is on the honor roll, I couldn't believe that my first grade in the class was only a 3.5 out of 20. After that, I dialed my father's number and said, "Dad, do you know what? I'm going to go visit my family! This is unfathomable to me; in all my years, I've never received a mark of this nature. Why am I not even performing at the level of the average?'"

Due to the importance that her father places on achievement, it is likely that she was aware that she would not have it that easy.

" Something that was very important that my father shared with me was. He responded by asking, "You know what? You were awarded the scholarship to represent Cameroon in that place; however, you are not there just for yourself; rather, you are there for all of the people who are looking at you and anticipating that they will also be awarded a scholarship. Put an end to acting like a child, I have faith in your ability to grow up. Running away is not the answer, Patricia, particularly when you're doing it for someone else in addition to yourself.'"

Patricia, who was only 18 years old at the time, found it difficult to take her father's advice.

However, in a brilliant move, he gave her an out, but the catch was that she could only take it if she continued her education for a while longer. It makes no difference whether you refer to it as the words of experience or the counsel of wisdom; the fact remains that she made the decision to continue her education despite the fact that her father had told her that he would only let her move back home if she truly disliked the environment she was in and not because of her academic performance. And she reasoned that the only way to validate how she felt about the school was to first demonstrate that she was capable of doing well academically there.

It would be an interesting turn for this story to take if it were to turn out that she got back on her feet right away, but the truth is that her grades did not improve right away. And while there are debates over who first said, " Form is temporary, class is permanent," a statement that is often heard in sporting circles when one makes a resurgence following a dip in form, Patricia's class shone through, eventually, but not without encouragement from her mathematics teacher; he'd noticed how tense she looked during tests and examinations and said, " You've got this." Patricia's class shone through, eventually, but not without encouragement from her mathematics teacher; he'

" You must compete against yourself in order to succeed. When you have contributed the absolute most that you are capable of, you have earned the right to feel pleased with yourself. Don't bother looking around and don't bother trying to compete with the other Johns and Smiths."

She took what turned out to be excellent advice and was top of her class at the end of the programme; she was finally back where she felt most comfortable. After that, she was awarded a second scholarship to attend the same engineering school for a program that was equivalent to a Master's degree and lasted for three years. The program was in management, information systems, and finance.

By the way, Patricia's choice of studying engineering was not arbitrary.

" Being a surgeon had been my lifelong ambition; however, I ultimately pursued a career in engineering because I wanted the freedom to make my own decisions. When I was awarded the scholarship, its sole purpose was to fund my education in engineering. I inquired as to whether or not there was one for medicine, but they responded that there was not. They told me that there are a lot of medical doctors now, which is why we want to push forward the field of engineering in Francophone Africa. I decided to follow through with it because I didn't want to rely on my parents any longer.

The path to achieving one's potential

In conversation with Patricia Pedhom NonoPatricia Pedhom Nono. Transformation Director and Technology Leader, PwC, sub-Saharan Francophone Africa. Source: Supplied

And during her final year as an engineering student, things took a turn for the even more interesting. For some strange reason, Patricia had always planned on making the trip to the United States of America.

When I was a kid and I looked at the music, I used to say things like, 'American guys are so handsome. Therefore, I have no choice but to travel to the United States,'" she recalls, laughing.

It should come as no surprise that this did not play a significant role in her trip to the United States.

This opportunity presented itself in the form of a summer internship at KPMG in New York, which at the time was known for its consulting division as Bearing Point. However, despite her best efforts, she was not accepted into the internship program because it was not open to students from her school.

Patricia promptly visited the school after receiving word from a friend who attended a different institution that an American company would be conducting interviews for some internship roles. Because of her self-assurance, she was likely not rejected for the position because of her application. She put a lot of effort into preparing for the interview and performed exceptionally well at each stage of the process. As a result, the recruiter fell in love with her and offered her a job, despite the fact that she did not attend the same school as the recruiter.

I am dumbfounded, so I ask her why she went to such lengths.

She responds, "I knew what I wanted, and I was bold enough to go after it, and it turned out well." She goes on to say, "I am a very demanding person, not only of my team, [but] demanding of myself as well." First and foremost, I place a premium on excellence.

This is also reflected in the path that she has taken with her career.

The three words that best describe who I am today are "servant-leader," "mom," and "big dreamer." In addition, I work as a technology and business executive in the field of information technology. I am currently employed by PwC, which is an auditing and consulting firm, where I am responsible for driving technological transformation not only for the entire company but also for our clients.

However, this is not the only thing that the Cameroonian expert on technological leadership who has 18 years of experience does.

As a business consultant, she advises technology companies on how to identify the potential areas of focus that will most significantly advance their organizations. In addition to this, she is deeply committed to guiding the next generation of African leaders so that they can accurately communicate the continent's potential on a global scale.

Patricia, an untypical girl child, decided to start her career at the age of 23 in a country that is thousands of miles away from her home. She did not give it a second thought.

And she climbed the ladder so quickly that in the nine years that she spent living in New York, she was able to accomplish a lot by taking on consulting and project management roles at two of the Big Four consulting firms in the United States, namely PwC and KPMG.

Soon after, she started having a yearning that required immediate attention to satisfy it.

" I began to see things from a different point of view. "What am I doing to advance the cause of the continent? What do I contribute in terms of value? She explains, "I continued to ask those questions, and eventually I decided that I wanted to try going back."

Patricia submitted a request for a family leave of twelve months in order to return to Cameroon. During the course of her trip, she made the executive decision to get a taste of the working world by volunteering her time at an organization in the capacity of a mentor and coach for adolescents and young adults.

She looks back on that time in her life as a very inspirational period, and after returning to the United States for a little over a year, she started making plans for her move to Cameroon.

It felt as though my homeland was trying to get in touch with me when I got that call. When she sighs, "but when I came back, I had that clash of culture because growing up outside and living in New York actually strengthened that independent mind." "It wasn't necessarily the most rational decision to go back, and the return was very tough," she says. And from the standpoint of a woman, they do not anticipate you to behave in such a manner. It posed a problem both in the workplace and in society.

She remained unchanged and did not make any attempts to conform to the norm or the status quo. But after some time had passed, she came to the conclusion that she should do things differently without compromising her individuality. Patricia needed to learn the ropes of working in a French-speaking environment because she had spent those years in an environment in which English was the primary language.

It took me a full year to get a grasp on the surrounding environment. It was a significant obstacle to overcome to change that mindset from the Anglophone environment to the Francophone environment. Praise be to God, I was able to get things under control and find my way.

Acquiring leadership skills in the African tradition

 3 1140Patricia Pedhom Nono. Transformation Director and Technology Leader, PwC, sub-Saharan Francophone Africa. Source: Supplied

Patricia describes herself as a doggedly determined and selfless leader who saw that endeavor through to the end.

Following her move, she started working for MTN Cameroon in 2011, and the first team she was responsible for leading marked a turning point in her career as a servant leader. Taking into account her background, she was more concerned about getting the work done than she was about having to show concern for the people she was leading and what was going on in their lives.

She realized after the first assessment survey for rating leaders that the employees saw her as cruel and unkind. The survey had been conducted. As a direct result of this, she rethought her approach to leadership.

It was difficult for me to lead during that time. Now that I've had some time to reflect, I realize that the cultural aspect is quite significant, and if I want to be successful, I need to put aside my independent, American heart and make an effort to comprehend the surrounding environment.

Because success is also how you make sure you achieve within the confines of your own life, the culture in which you find yourself, or the constraints that your team imposes on you. She explains, "That was another defining moment in my life when I had to figure out how to become somewhat more people-oriented."

However, she still had important life lessons to acquire.

She began her career at MTN Cameroon as the Chief Information Officer (CIO), and before she led the customer operations department, she said, "We were serving approximately 10 million customers at that time." And I went from having a team of twenty people to having a team of four hundred people. But I wasn't able to accomplish any of my goals in the first year. Because it's not easy to get 400 people to dance the tango at the same time!

After giving it some thought, she was able to pinpoint where she may have gone wrong with the situation.

When you've achieved A-list status, you have a tendency to believe that you can exert influence over everything. that you are capable of doing it on your own. When there are twenty people involved, if they don't complete the task, you do it yourself and move on. When there is an organization, however, delegation takes on a much more significant role because you simply cannot do everything yourself. If you want to be successful, you have to motivate other people to do the things they need to do in the way that needs to be done.

Patricia was moved emotionally by the performance of the team.

" It was not just because the team was unable to deliver that we were unsuccessful; it was a personal failure for me as well.

Because she eventually came to the conclusion that having a background in engineering would not be sufficient to help her excel in her new role, she made the decision to develop her leadership skills despite working in the technology industry. In 2018, she launched an institution called the academy, at which she mentors young women and girls on how to excel in their fields. She uses LinkedIn as a platform to regularly discuss her past mistakes and the valuable life lessons she has gained as a result of them.

She describes the experience as "quite fulfilling" and notes that "not many leaders take the blame for the underperformance of their teams." Perhaps the issue was with me, even if the team was unable to deliver as promised. You have to invest the time and effort into developing and training the team so that they can achieve their full potential.

Despite this, she acknowledges that one of the abilities that stands out for her is critical thinking, which is something that she learned while working as an engineer. She has developed the ability to present an idea, persuade other people to buy into it, and point out the value and impact that her effort generates as a result of her work as a consultant. She even made a contribution to a book called The X Factor, in which she discusses the ways in which she draws on her faith to be an effective servant leader while simultaneously pursuing success.

At the end of that phase of learning, she had acquired a lot of useful lessons from her experience as well as other examples of poor leadership. These lessons included the cultivation of patience, empathy, and consideration.

She rejoined PwC after working for MTN Cameroon for seven years, taking on the role of Transformation Lead for sub-Saharan Francophone Africa in her second stint with the company. She is currently in a position where she is responsible for training core technical staff to go beyond technical skills and learn skills such as leadership, management, presentation, and negotiation.

I have recently transitioned back into the field of consulting, where I assist clients in improving the operational efficiency of the technological aspects of their businesses and in fostering expansion of their operations.

Patricia claims that the circumstances surrounding each of her transitions into new fields, including one in which she followed a well-respected boss to a new company because she was interested in doing so, prompted her to make those moves. The third one was because the company suspended her role, and the second one was because she had to relocate. On the other hand, she realized the importance of starting fresh at each new company rather than simply carrying over the strategies that worked at the previous one.

She also insists that her moves have made her well-rounded due to the fact that she has performed in various roles across core technology, commercial, and customer experience, among other areas. She says the following when discussing the optimal time to relocate:

It's time to look for a new job if you aren't progressing in your career, gaining new skills, or gaining perspective at the company where you currently work. Keep this in mind because you are wasting precious time, which is especially detrimental at the beginning of your professional career. If you're at a junior or medium-level position, the number of opportunities is still quite large; keep an open mind and don't waste any time. Later on in your career, you will be able to capitalize on the growth that you achieved during the first 10 or 15 years of your professional life. Because once you reach a certain level, people stop focusing on your capabilities and instead look at your references to determine whether or not you are an expert in the field.

The first level of a person's career is when they take any job that comes their way to gain experience and probably make ends meet; the second level is when they dictate the kind of job they take, which is when people begin to see you as an expert; and the third level is when you are headhunted or recommended for professional roles. She explains the three levels of a person's career as follows: the first level is when you take any job that comes your way to gain experience and probably make ends meet; the second

The entirety of everything in between

Even though Patricia is very outspoken and enthusiastic regarding her professional life, there are other aspects of her life that encourage her to remain consistent. She makes a point of bragging about her family and her partner, who, by the way, may have been a significant driving force behind her decision to move to Cameroon.

"They keep me on my toes," the elated mother of two children proudly proclaimed. They are the most essential, and I hope that my name will continue to be remembered through them.

Patricia credits her time spent in preparatory school with teaching her valuable lessons that have served her well throughout the majority of her life and contributed to her high level of productivity.

"I don't mind if I'm not at the top, but what I do mind is giving my all and being excellent at what I do to the very best of my ability to the maximum extent that I can. When the day is over and I've done the calculations, I know that I've performed to the best of my ability.

It is also beneficial that her parents constantly emphasize the importance of excellence and tell their children repeatedly that they should live their lives based on one goal — doing their best even if it is possible that they will be ranked fifth out of five winners.

“ If five people win, you can be the fifth; if there are four, you should be the fourth; and if there are three, you should be the third. But if there’s only one, aim to be the one.”

Regarding the prejudice she encountered as a young Francophone African woman in the United States, she has this to say about it:

" There is a bias. However, you shouldn't put an excessive amount of your attention and effort into it; you shouldn't try to justify and prove yourself to other people. Just continue to be yourself. I have no doubt that you will discover areas in which you can improve upon your performance and make progress.

She gets her children ready for school, works out, and attends meetings related to her job in the mornings before starting her workday and attending to her clients. A typical weekday for her includes these activities. Her evenings and weekends are reserved for her loved ones at home.

Surprisingly, she has quite a contentious viewpoint regarding the proper balance between work and personal life.

" Striking a work-life balance is impossible; one simply cannot have it all. You have to prioritize what's most important to you, whether it's your family, your career, or your personal life, and accept the fact that you have to juggle all of those things.

She follows the two-minute rule and makes consistent use of her calendar app in order to maintain her productivity at work. In addition to this, she promotes standing meetings and effective delegation. Patricia enjoys reading, going on adventures, staying active, and spending time with her family.