1. What was your first job?
As a student in Spain, I was flipping burgers and also worked as a cashier with McDonald’s. My first job in the legal profession was with Centurion Law Group. I studied for my law degrees in Spain. After I completed my master’s in legal practice, my idea was to return to Equatorial Guinea and become the country’s best lawyer. So I came here and submitted my resume to all the law firms in the capital Malabo. On the first day our CEO, NJ Ayuk, gave me a call, and I haven’t looked back since.
2. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
I like to go home in the evenings knowing that our clients are satisfied, and that my colleagues are motivated. So if any of these things are not done, I’m not going to get any sleep. I’ll be up all night thinking about a solution for the problem.
3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career?
My father. Even though he has a steady job, he is still going the extra mile, working from 6am. He instilled in me a strong work ethic, basic decency and attention to detail. I am the professional that I am today thanks to his example and leadership.
4. The top reasons why you have been successful?
As an African woman, I refuse to accept that we can’t be the best. I think about the vision of our fathers, the reasons that led me to become a lawyer in the first place and the many people I can help by using my legal education and leadership position within Centurion Law Group and Equatorial Guinea. I get inspired to do more and be successful. I know I have an obligation to many young people who look up to me and expect more from me. This has inspired me to work harder and not only think about being successful, but being great, while staying humble and living up to the ethics and demands of my profession. Sometimes I can be very direct and frank, but I guess you need that character when dealing with the challenges in Africa.
5. How do you motivate your team?
I try to lead by example. I’m the first one to arrive at the office, and the last one to leave. If your colleagues see you working hard every day, they are going to have the same attitude. In addition, I regularly meet with each person to ensure they are happy. For me it is important to have a good work environment and to grow as a team.
We have a strong pan-African vision at the firm. It is important that as the leader of the firm, I ensure that vision is properly executed. My team motivates me as well – their challenges have become mine and I see myself in them. We have a very diverse firm and I think our diversity has helped me and my colleagues to see the world differently and push for a society that is fair, just and equitable.
6. How do you relax?
I like to meditate, listen to music and I love baking.
7. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?
7am. I want to be prepared for the day’s work before all the other people come in.
8. Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership – business school or on the job?
I would say both. It is often said that people are born with the leadership attribute, but I don’t believe that. Leadership skills need to be learned. Business school provides a good foundation for leadership, and once you are in the job you can further improve on those skills. I have learned a lot by seeing the good and bad aspects from other leaders. I am a strong believer in the servant-leadership model, where we enrich others and build better organisations and communities. I saw this when doing internships as a student in the US and it was something that spoke to me.
9. What’s your favourite job interview question?
I want to know from a candidate if he or she would be prepared to work after hours when required. This is very important because in a law firm you can’t only stick to normal office hours. You have to be prepared to work from 8am to 11pm, and even on Saturdays and Sundays. Sadly, that is the reality of Centurion Law Group and the legal profession in general. As a woman I can see it as a challenge for working mothers but I also believe that we have to do our best to meet the demands of the legal profession and grow. In a changing and emerging Equatorial Guinea and Africa, it is the new reality, we have to work harder, so I try to ask this question from the onset.
10. Where to from here?
I want to continue to help grow Centurion’s business – and not only in Equatorial Guinea and the oil & gas industry. We are already in a number of other countries and sectors. Right now the challenge is to further expand our African footprint. I want to fulfill our dream of becoming Africa’s leading corporate law firm.
My personal goal is to use my skills and education from Europe and the US as well as my experience from working as an advisor to multinationals to help improve corporate governance and create an enabling environment for businesses in Africa. I am happy I lead a firm that believes ardently in these ideas and it makes it an easy fit for me as a leader in my firm. I am inspired, bullish and motivated by what Equatorial Guinea and Africa will be in 10 years. It will be great if we all do our part.
Estela Nse Mansogo specialises in corporate and commercial law, with an emphasis on labour matters. She has particular experience advising clients in the construction, hospitality and oil & gas sectors in Equatorial Guinea. She received her law degree from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid and holds a master’s degree from the Centro de Estudios e Investigación Jurídicas. In August 2016, she will earn an LLM from the California Western School of Law in the US.