“You need role models close to your reality. Then you realize you can also succeed”
Meta thrives on connections. She provides lynchpin support for Accenture sales teams on new innovative business opportunities and does the same for budding entrepreneurs from the African diaspora in Belgium via her Afropreneur incubator program.
Meet Meta Nabou Cisse, Sales Project Management Officer at Accenture Belgium & Luxembourg.
‘When Congolese people hear my first name, they immediately know I’m from the central region of Kasai in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Outside of that context, I like the fact that Meta is pretty neutral. It’s short and international, everyone can use it and be creative with it… metamorphose, metaphor, metaphysics…!’
"Without realizing it, I had gained highly relevant skills in my student jobs"
‘I moved to Belgium from the DRC aged three and I lived in Wallonia and Flanders before settling in Brussels. The capital city matches my worldview: it's a melting pot of cultures and all these people need to be able to connect. I wanted to be that link, which is why I began studying to be a translator/interpreter. Although I was technically perfect, I decided to pause my studies and take a two-year trip abroad to really ‘live’ the language. But I first needed to find some work in Belgium to finance this… I registered with several interim agencies, did multiple tests but was realistic about the job opportunities I would be offered without a degree. Within a day I received a call from a recruiter saying I had a really nice profile! She made some calls and set up four interviews; one of them was with Accenture.’
‘I had no idea what Management Consulting was, but I gave it my best shot. Looking back, I think what convinced my interviewer (who became my Career Counselor) was that I was calm, good at making conversation, I spoke several languages plus without realizing it, I had gained highly relevant skills in my student jobs: responsibility and initiative: as a babysitter I had to deal with plenty of difficult situations and find solutions alone. The bottom line is happy children and happy parents. What happens in between is up to you; project management: I had worked in multiple restaurants and even ended up running one. I learned to set priorities, keep a cool head at times of crisis, handle all the logistics on time and deal with a wide variety of stakeholders; and last but not least, I learned punctuality and discipline as an office cleaner.’
"I wasn’t looking for a career but here I am, more than 10 years at Accenture, and still loving it!"
‘For the first seven years, I worked solely at Accenture Operations clients, providing a wide variety of short-term to long-term back office services, ranging from data analysis to stock control. During that time, I saw many different company cultures. I knew Accenture had a specific culture and I wanted to experience it first-hand. I mentioned this to my Career Counsellor, and he suggested joining our Project Management Office team. It was a good choice.’
‘Today, I’m on the other side of the table, based in the Accenture office, and responsible for the financial aspects of a portfolio of Technology and Digital projects being delivered at our clients. Specifically, I liaise between the Sales teams and the Leadership, ensuring that whenever action needs taking relating to a client request or new opportunity, everything is well-documented, and everyone is on the same page. The value adding role of Accenture Operations has now expanded to New IT, from the digitalization of existing services to Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Process Automation and helping clients to implement new Oracle/SAP products. I wasn’t looking for a career but here I am, more than 10 years at Accenture, and still loving it!’
"We don’t just say we are multicultural; we are multicultural"
‘In my current role I get the chance to be actively involved in other Accenture initiatives. The one closest to my heart is our Inclusion & Diversity program, where I currently lead the cross-cultural team. We don’t just say we are multicultural; we are multicultural at Accenture. You are judged on your role and skills, not on your origins. Openness and collaboration come first. Nevertheless, it’s not always easy for different cultures to work together. The cross-cultural team attempts to address this, for example, via our “Doing Business With” series with external speakers who take us on a deep dive into a region and its cultural aspects. So far, we have explored China, the Middle East and Africa. Each year, we invite colleagues to play BaFa BaFa, a role play designed to improve cross-cultural competences. We’re also launching a Buddy Program to optimize the experience of colleagues from other countries on assignment in Belgium. It’s great to work for a company that values diversity and empowers us to take initiative. All you have to do is come up with an idea (and a business case) and you can do it!
"Our aim is to boost young talent in the African community in Belgium"
‘I see a lot of people in the African diaspora who want to create companies but feel that it is impossible or too difficult. The big success stories we all know about seem too far away. You need role models close to your reality. Then you realize you can also succeed. To address this, I co-founded Afropreneur in 2017, and our aim is to boost young talent in the African community in Belgium. Afropreneur is one of a series of initiatives being taken by Renaissance Africaine, an association I created with two other women (together representing Congo, Cameroon, Ethiopia) in 2016.’
‘We organize meetups, bring inspirational speakers into the community and last year we launched our first one-week Bootcamp for 10 entrepreneurs, comprising marketing, pitching, communication, business and financial models. The idea is to give them the tools and inspiration they need to evolve a fun idea into a structured business plan. This was followed by coaching for six months. The three most promising ideas were chosen for the first edition of the Afropreneur Awards in Brussels, where, after pitching to a jury and an audience of 200 people, a winner was chosen. All three are now in the testing phase of their own businesses! Accenture supported us through its annual Giving Through You program that recognizes and rewards employees who are personally engaged in projects that align with its Skills To Succeed goal.’
‘As project manager of Afropreneur, I applied for a Giving Through You grant again this year and won first prize! Thanks to Accenture, we can now fund our second Bootcamp. And we are starting to have an impact beyond Belgium. The buzz created by the Afropreneur Awards 2018 is resulting in requests from people in Italy and France who want to start similar projects. Meanwhile, I’m pursuing another dream to apply the lessons learned from Afropreneur to develop talents in Africa. I never did that two-year trip but with my latest MetaConnexions venture, perhaps that trip is on the cards after all!’
Meta Nabou Cisse (1983)
Studied: Interpretation at ISTI (Institut Supérieur des Traducteurs et Interprètes), Executive Secretary ICC (Institut des Carrières Commerciales), Enterprise Management at EF PME (Espace Formation PME) in Brussels
Started working at Accenture: November 2007
Relationship status: Single
Gets annoyed by: Negativity
Favorite food: Manioc. In 2014, I worked as a volunteer in a manioc field amongst other activities during a one-month trip focused on social impact in the DRC
On my nightstand: My phone
Listens to: Depending on the mood, Congolese Rumba, Kizomba, Coupé-Décalé, Kompa, Kuduro, other Afrobeats, Jazz, Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop, Reggae, Dancehall, Reggaetón
Would like to sit next to in the plane: Tony Elumelu, founder of United Bank for Africa (UBA)
Life-changing event(s): Each new beginning: starting life as a student, then as an employee, now as social impact leader and (I hope) later on as a business woman
The best lesson life has taught me: Resilience
What I learned last week: A project is strong if all the team members bring the best of themselves and commit to the cause from the word go
Most beautiful place on earth: African Great Lakes Region
Hobbies/passions: Traveling, meeting and learning from entrepreneurs
What nobody knows about me: At the end of the day, I fall asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed
Life motto: I keep going as long as I can be proud of myself