Humans of Careerville – Tobenna Menakaya, Vessel Chartering Manager, Sahara


One of the most coveted job opportunities for young graduates is getting into a graduate internship program, regardless of how highly competitive they usually are. And this is rightly so because Graduate trainee programs are a fantastic way for fresh graduates to settle into the world of work as Companies typically invest heavily in them, offer beneficiaries tremendous support, a chance to rotate through multiple departments (this is fab cause most grads are yet to figure out exactly what department to pitch their tent) and many other perks.
All of what I explained above are a few of the perks Tobenna Menakaya enjoyed through the Sahara Group Graduate Trainee Program. Little wonder why he has spent 10 years of his career at the same company with tremendous growth up the ladder! Tobenna talks to us about his career journey, stepping out of his comfort zone at work and a fabulous win he has had in his career!

You’re going to love this one! (I know I always say this LOL. but have I ever lied? You definitely will!)

You’ve had a rewarding career at Sahara Group for almost 10 years now. Would you say coming in through the Graduate Trainee program gave you an edge? 
Yes, I’d definitely say that Sahara Group’s Graduate Management Trainee Program gave me an edge at the start of my career. Personally, two advantages that stand out are; the access given to young professionals and the “real world” model of the program. The program gives the trainees a detailed overview of the businesses Sahara Group operates and it puts the trainees in the shoes of a Sahara staff faced with spontaneity in a challenging and fast-paced business environment.
The Sahara Group GMTP puts the trainee in the driver’s seat and challenges them to think up creative and fresh ideas which can be applied to real business issues.

Haven taken up quite a number of roles within Sahara group; do you believe it’s important to have diverse experience?
Absolutely! But I must say that just as people are different, so are their career paths and choices. I’ve always had a flair for business and learning new things, so I’ve welcomed every new role as a challenge that will develop me. Some people, depending on their backgrounds and passions, would much rather prefer a one-track career path which is fine! I think it’s a gift to be very clear about what you want to do.

What’s a typical day in your life as a Vessel Chartering Manager like?
Unpredictable! And, for me, that’s what makes it interesting. You never know what to expect, you could be sailing smoothly one minute, and the next a Tsunami hits – literally! You just have to be quick on your feet and prepared at all times.

Do you believe it is important to speak in meetings and ensure your presence is felt when you work in teams? How has this played out for you?
It is very important to speak in meetings, but I’d say only when you have a contribution to make. The business environment today is quite demanding and highly competitive. Just remember that you are in that meeting or team for a reason, and it wouldn’t be the same without you. You may not always have the solution to a problem, but you might ask that question that would ignite that solution within the team. Most people say “there are no stupid questions”, but the truth is that this typically applies to a “newbie”, from a certain level a lot is demanded of you.

I’ve heard a few times that no matter how much you love your job, there will always be tasks that come with it that you don’t enjoy. Is this true for you? What’s that work task that you absolutely dread?
This is true. While, you could love what you do, be reminded that it’s work. So, it won’t always be fun and games. Personally, I believe in stretching one’s self. Knowledge is never lost. What you learn today could be of use years from now in things you never thought of.
I absolutely dread making sales, simply because I’m not a people-person. Now, this is laughable because most people don’t know this. However, my role is commercial and it requires me to constantly chase business so I understand this and have “programmed” myself to ensure I get this done.

How do you keep your energy level and passion for your job high, particularly when the pressure comes?
Well, with regards to energy levels – I’ve always been a high-energy person, but I find that regular exercise and healthy eating also go a long way. I’m huge advocate for a healthy and active lifestyle. I think that passion for your job can be fueled in different ways and is relative to the person involved. Some people are self-motivated while others need a bit of a push. I’m one of those self-motivated ones. For me, regardless of what I do, I need to see the value I add. I think three things – do you job like God himself gave it to you, make an investment of your personality in others and always look out for opportunities to learn.

What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
It’s really difficult to pick one highlight as I’ve had several in the course of my career, however, for the sake of this interview I’d say my one-year secondment to Geneva, Switzerland. I was given the opportunity to broaden my understanding of our business by working in and with the different departments that make up our trading office. This deepened my understanding of the importance of team synergy and strategic partnerships in achieving business sustainability.

For people reading this, who aspire to cop a job like you yours, how would you advise them to position themselves for such opportunities?
I would say “don’t”! Don’t position yourself for a job like mine. Why? Someone else in this job might be frustrated out of his/her mind!
What I’d say is;
i. Find what you enjoy and start to develop your capacity in that area. It could be academic, arts, music or sports related, figure out what you love and try to commercialize it.
ii. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Some people miss out on great life-changing experiences simply because they are comfortable where they are in their cubicles.
iii. Start every day open and willing to learn something new. Make an effort to learn something new every single day.
iv. Be you – fearlessly! No one else could ever do it as well as you.

Tobenna is right? I think so too! I hope you enjoyed reading this and more importantly are taking away some fab lessons you’ll apply going forward in your quest to hack this career thing. If your answer is yes please share this with someone, leave a comment and most importantly apply the lessons o! #LessTalkMoreAction.


Sinmisola NY.


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