Power Women: Ronke Majekodumi of Promevo On How To Successfully Navigate Work, Love, and Life As A Powerful Woman
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
…Embracing shortcomings and turning fears into excitement — Mistakes are unavoidable, and my flaws have made me more astute. Acknowledging and owning my failings will continue to help me be a better person and a great leader.
How does a successful, strong, and powerful woman navigate work, employee relationships, love, and life in a world that still feels uncomfortable with strong women? In this interview series, called “Power Women” we are talking to accomplished women leaders who share their stories and experiences navigating work, love and life as a powerful woman.
As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ronke Majekodunmi.
Product Management is at the epicenter of all company innovation. It’s what drives businesses forward, solidifies customer relationships, and changes lives. Don’t believe us? Just ask Ronke.
Ronke Majekodunmi is a powerhouse product manager who is passionate about crafting exceptional products and sharing her breadth of knowledge with up-and-coming product leaders, especially those with diverse backgrounds.
As the current Director of Product at Promevo, Ronke’s responsibilities include frequent collaboration with global stakeholders, leading strategy, and developing new products. She has experience creating product lifecycles and composing product visions, and she has achieved optimal performance levels for products across a variety of industries.
Outside of her 9-to-5, Ronke is a teacher at heart. She’s spoken publicly about product management at dozens of events, writes ardently about her career journey, and records “Product Magic,” a podcast dedicated to showcasing the people that make it happen.
If you’re working on any business pieces about major products, launches, or brand news, Ronke is available for comment or interview. She is also available for longer-form speaking opportunities and to write op-eds on a variety of business- and product-related topics, including mentorship, teamwork and innovation, and management best practices.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
As a Nigerian American who arrived in the United States at age 11, I wanted to excel at whatever I decided to do. One of my earliest mentors was my grandmother. It was crucial to my grandmother that I not only finish high school but also graduate from college. As a result, I began setting goals beyond a college degree and into the career trajectory I’m on now.
Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?
After college, I took a job in tech support for a bankruptcy filing program at LexisNexis, where I supported bankruptcy filing attorneys. Over time, I became the subject matter expert for the engineering team, where they would ask me to represent the voice of the customer, help rank the customer problems, and duplicate bugs in the system. Then, when a content role became available, I applied for it and became the forms creator for the software working with a product manager. I learned a lot from her, and when she left, I was promoted to the PM role.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
In my many years of experience in product management, regardless of the leadership roles that I have held and no matter what accolades I have garnered, feelings of being an imposter, excessive second-guessing, and insecurities sometimes interrupt my thoughts.
I have learned to trust my instincts and recognize my value as a leader, colleague, and mentor. Most of all, I understand the importance of stepping into my purpose, as generations of women have laid the foundations for me.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
My general passion and curiosity are the attributes that allowed me to be a productive product leader. In addition, these qualities have helped me to galvanize my cross-functional teams and motivate my entire organization to rally around our product and its objectives.
Another characteristic of mine that has supported my success is exceptional communication. To bring our product strategy and vision to fruition, I must communicate it through storytelling. But, even more indispensably, the story needs to travel easily through my cross-functional team members. Engineering, design, technical support, customer success, marketing, and sales must be able to repeat the story and convey how our product will solve real-world, consequential problems for our customers.
Similarly, my other trait is collaboration. I want to bring out the best in my colleagues and magnify everyone‘s voices, ensuring they are heard and validated. I recognize that I don’t have all the answers, but I want to work with team members to find the best solutions so we can solve problems for our customers in a defining manner.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. The premise of this series assumes that our society still feels uncomfortable with strong women. Why do you think this is so?
Women continue to make great strides in businesses. We’re seeing more women in C-suite roles, and they are leading in large, medium, and small organizations. Yet, despite these achievements, there still exists double standards regarding women in leadership roles.
As more women move into leadership, it’s unacceptable for people to communicate or voice their uneasiness with these changing roles, as there will be adverse responses. So instead, they bury their discontentedness and animosity. The problem is those inequalities and biases do not disappear. Instead, they become concealed in philosophy and worldviews that people do not even realize they carry with them, influencing their decisions about strong women.
Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?
I wanted to be a product rockstar like Steve Jobs so much that I ran from my leadership role at an established organization to a start-up company. I dove head first and did not do the needed research regarding the organization’s culture. However, once I was in this role, I was cheated out of my total bonus, and when I asked to meet with my boss to discuss it, he told me to live with what they gave me.
During this meeting, my boss also gave me feedback that I dress like an executive, making me look like I am better than others and making them feel sad and inferior. He told me that I didn’t belong in his organization. He also suggested a store where I should buy my clothes from.
I went home and cried all night; I called my mentors, who tried to help me. The following day my best friend called me and told me to hold my head up high and go to work dressing even better than I did the day before and let chips fall where they may. I did precisely that for the next couple of months I was there and came to work dressed up in J. Crew outfits. I was not going to be intimidated or let anyone mute my voice.
What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?
Powerful women need to call into question conventions, customs, characterization, and the perceived roles of women. We need more environments that foster the conception of powerful women as par for the course.
When faced with setbacks or hindrances in accomplishing your dream please do not give up. The generations of women who came before us always looked behind to see who was there and who needed help, and they pulled them up. When there was no opportunity, they created one to make our path much more accessible. They were only able to do that because they persevered. Therefore, we must continue to develop new opportunities for the next generation of women that will need our help to shatter the glass ceiling.
We must promote other women by passing on the extraordinary gift bestowed upon us. We must pay it back by ensuring that we listen and offer assistance and advice to young women coming into the workforce both inside and outside our organizations.
What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?
Studies have shown that when leaders are adamant about supporting gender equity, equal opportunities, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace, powerful women feel more encouraged and have an increased sense of belonging in their teams and their organization.
Organizations that champion, develop, and facilitate this corporate viewpoint make it possible for women to trust, be respected, and stay more engaged. Likewise, they are more inclined to stay and grow their careers in companies where their roles are the norm. Seeing a powerful woman who looks like you on the leadership team can have profound psychological effects on diverse employees, allowing them to see who they can become in the future.
In my own experience, I have observed that often women have to endure ridiculous or uncomfortable situations to achieve the success that men don’t have to endure. Do you have a story like this from your own experience? Can you share it with us?
A couple of years ago, I was having a 1–1 discussion with my engineering counterpart about practices we could include to test our products better so our customers can have a better experience. I will never forget his response to me. He said, “You don‘t need to be emotional about it.”
I was taken aback. Expressing concern for my product was seen as emotional. He made that statement to me in the hallway of our office with people coming and going. He never apologized for that comment.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Egalitarianism in the workplace is still among the most significant challenges for women leaders. Another is imposter syndrome; my female colleagues and I sometimes still feel ineptitude, regardless of our honest and tangible accomplishments. Using our leadership voice to speak unequivocally and unconcerned about what others might say, we still fear being shunned or rejected for speaking our truths. Another challenge that many women leaders face is being compensated fairly. We are afraid to ask for promotions, negotiate our salaries, and get pay raises.
Let’s now shift our discussion in a slightly different direction. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your personal and family life into your business and career? For the benefit of our readers, can you articulate precisely what the struggle was?
Although my significant other supports me in accomplishing my goals and dreams and pushes me to work towards what I think may not be possible, my biggest challenge has been carving out time.
To mitigate this and ensure that we spend time together, we save weekends for date nights. Likewise, we book multiple trips early in the year, so we have something in which to look forward.
What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal life? What did you do to reach this equilibrium?
The tipping point was when I realized I had gone a month without seeing my significant other. Although we lived together, we were both busy traveling for work. We missed each other, so we changed how we traveled and communicated. Now, we talk an average of eight times during the day while away from home.
I work in the beauty tech industry, so I am very interested to hear your philosophy or perspective about beauty. In your role as a powerful woman and leader, how much of an emphasis do you place on your appearance? Do you see beauty as something that is superficial, or is it something that has inherent value for a leader in a public context? Can you explain what you mean?
My philosophy or perspective about beauty is that everyone should make their own decisions on what makes them comfortable and happy. The pandemic has changed things; some of us have worked from home for over two years and have not bothered to wear makeup for virtual meetings.
I believe in dressing for the job I want and not for the job I have. I still look presentable and don’t wear makeup when I work from home. When I travel for work, I dress very well, wear heels, and wear makeup because it makes me feel like the powerful woman I am.
How is this similar or different for men?
My thoughts and experience based on the organizations I have worked at are that men and women often dress business casual or casually. In organizations of all sizes, some men and women dress nicely for work, and some wear hoodies and jeans. In my case, the roles I was in required seeing customers, and we had to look presentable.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Powerful Woman?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Embracing shortcomings and turning fears into excitement — Mistakes are unavoidable, and my flaws have made me more astute. Acknowledging and owning my failings will continue to help me be a better person and a great leader.
- Cease engaging in upward comparison — The enticement to compare myself to my female colleagues, who I perceive to be better than me, is hard to disregard. However, I have learned not to make impractical and unreasonable assessments because these actions reinforce my insecurities.
- Use my leadership voice — Because I once relied on the work of other leaders, I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to use my leadership voice to help shape the next generation of young women. I look forward to making the transition easier for them or even blazing the path ahead. After all, when we use our voices, we can create lasting change that impacts future generations.
- Be fearless — To become courageous, we must do things that scare us. We’re fortified as leaders by doing what was deemed impossible, allowing us to elicit change and making the journey much easier for others who want to walk the same path.
- Mentor young women — I get excited about supporting young girls in grade school, women starting their careers or even the women I work with daily and about how those actions can lead to more significant statistics of women reaching the C-Suite. This makes me extremely happy.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Meghan Markle. We watched the exceptional, remarkable, formidable, and worthy moment she entered. The sheer amount of courage, bravery, and stalwart it took to be prepared for such a big moment, which she met with such rectitude, excellence, gracefulness, and gentleness, is impressive.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.