Consulting, Entrepreneur, Women in Law

Career Crush: Adaku Ufere

AUA 5More millennials are dedicating their careers to social impact. Adaku Ufere works at the intersection of energy and gender, and has dedicated her career to development and empowering women. She is a fierce feminist, and is not afraid to voice her opinions on controversial issues!

Adaku is an accomplished International Energy Attorney with global experience in the oil and gas industry. She has worked and led legal teams in many African Countries. She is the CEO OF DAX consult, a consulting firm with offices in Nigeria,Ghana and Liberia, which provides legal and business advisory services to local and foreign companies. She is a Mandela Washington Fellow, was named Attorney of the Year at the African Legal Awards in 2017 and Young African Professional of the Year at the 2018 African Leadership Awards! She holds LLB from the University of Nigeria, a BL from the Nigerian Law School an LLM in Oil and Gas from the University of Aberdeen, a Certification in Public Management from the University of California Davis, a Certification in Energy Sector Leadership from the UNISA Graduate School of Business Leadership South Africa and a Certification in Gender & Sexuality from the University of British Columbia.

She shared her inspiring career journey with LFE!

The legal profession is very diverse, and it can be difficult to chose a sector to focus on. How did you know you wanted to pursue a career in oil and gas sector after Law School?I didn’t know at first because I didn’t really have a plan as to what sector of law I wanted to practice in. I started out wanting to work in Intellectual Property, but couldn’t find a law firm which would let me do that alone so I ended up in Maritime Litigation for my trainee year. While I was doing that, Diezani Alison-Madueke was appointed Minister for Petroleum Resources in Nigeria. I’d always thought the oil and gas industry was interesting but her appointment really fired my imagination and ambition and I suddenly saw how far a woman could take a career in oil and gas.

Which is why representation is so important. If you don’t know what your dreams look like, how do you know what to aspire to.After my trainee year I left Nigeria to the University of Aberdeen to get a Masters in Oil & Gas Law and after that got my first job in oil and gas as Legal Counsel for GE Oil & Gas, the servicing business of the General Electric Company.

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You have worked in many African Countries which is so amazing! How did you find a job abroad and maneuver through the process? I saw the job ad on LinkedIn and at first didn’t apply because the role required someone who was fluent in Spanish and French, which are two of the official languages of Equatorial Guinea, where the role was located.

A friend convinced me to apply regardless and I literally sent in my application the day before the deadline. I received a response a few days later, went through one written interview and one spoken interview and in less than three weeks was hired for the role. Although I didn’t meet one of the requirements, my experience was sufficient and even far outweighed what the role required, that they were willing to waive the language requirement. Which really taught me an important lesson in job applications, prior to that I always stuck to applying for jobs I was 100% qualified for and its apparently the norm for a lot of women. We really need to dispense with that attitude and apply anyway, you never know what you think might not be important might be what they’re looking for.

The firm had an office in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, HQ in Johannesburg and offices in Accra, Douala, Mauritius and South Sudan, they also had strategic partnerships across the continent. This led to my being able to practice significant cross-border jurisdictional law and in the process I have visited over 30 African countries and closed successful transactions in several.

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Thus far, what has been the most defining moment of your career? I’ve had so many defining and pioneering moments that it is actually is difficult to pick one, but one I can definitely say wows me till now, was when I won the Attorney of the Year Award at the African Legal Awards in 2017. To win such a huge honor at the age of 32 was mind-blowing. I was the first Nigerian and youngest person ever to win Attorney of the Year, out of tens of thousands of entries across sub-Saharan Africa.

It’s an achievement I’ll probably have inscribed on my tombstone.

Who is your career crush? Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, she’s currently the Executive Director of UN Women. She was previously Minister of Minerals & Energy and Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa.

What does diversity in the workplace mean to you? It means a company that empowers people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different; in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and national origin. This is actually one of the core values of my firm; DAX Consult, we work to leverage all of these differences, to create safe, productive and inclusive workplaces.

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You have accomplished so much in your legal career at a young age! What advice do you have for young female lawyers who are starting their careers? Take risks. I’ve been included in so many spaces my age and gender would usually exclude me from. But I am bold, confident, have an extremely high opinion of myself, while being perfectly aware of my shortcomings. This gives me the courage to aim for things which might make the average person pause or cause them to overthink.

Be hardworking. My high sense of self doesn’t just come from a place of self-awareness but from the fact that I know I can and consistently provide results. You have to know exactly what you’re capable of, and I know if you put me in any organization I will make an impact and I will excel. It’s been tried and proven, so I know I’m the common denominator. So don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Put the hours in, put the work in, read, research, stay on top of happenings in your industry. Never stop learning or acquiring knowledge and information.

Don’t box yourself into long-term goals. It’s great to have a vision for the future you want for yourself but you run the danger of being stuck in tunnel vision. Allow yourself to be flexible and open to opportunities or experiences that don’t always look like they’ll take you where you want to go.They might take you to someplace even better or to your original goal but through an unplanned route. I’m always open to change and I’ve learned to move with the tide, it’s taken me places I never could have imagined.

Learn to Network. That was a skill I picked up pretty late in my career and I’m still learning it even now. I’m not the most sociable person and small talk doesn’t come easy to me so I’ve had to force myself to learn it. Networking and building connections are invaluable for a woman who wants to get to the top of her career. Reach out to senior people in your industry, they are surprisingly receptive. Attend industry events, mingle, ask questions, participate. Join industry organizations and make yourself useful. Even in the immediate environment of your office, you can put yourself out there, engage in office extra-curricular activities, it’s a great way to mingle with leadership outside of the strict confines of the workplace.

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