Dr. Mrs. Irene Stella AgyenimBoateng, widely known as Dr. Stella, is a C-Suite Human Resource Executive with over three decades of post graduate professional working experience across fields such as Education, Telecommunications, Insurance, Consultancy and Energy. Her skills spread across Human Resources Management, Organisational Leadership and Development, Strategic Management, Business Transformation, Cost Leadership, and People Management in local, multicultural and multinational environments.
Dr. Stella is a passionate leader with strong communication skills and a proven track record of the successful management of the Public, Private and Multinational Enterprises. Her other skills include, mentorship, coaching, public speaking, capacity building, lecturing, and the effective implementation of the HR concepts and initiatives that drive efficiency and employee engagement. She is a member of numerous boards and has chalked over a dozen awards in recognition of her standards of excellence.
Following her appointment as the Deputy Chief Executive (Services) at VRA, Dr Stella oversees a number of key departments and a Unit in the VRA. They are: Human Resource Department, Legal Services Department, Real Estate and Security Department, VRA Academy and VRA Schools, Corporate Affairs & External Relations and also provides administrative support to the VRA Health Services Limited. These departments are headed by Directors who form integral parts of the overall management structure in VRA. Broadly, Dr. Stella’s role is to ensure these departments and units perform their respective functions efficiently and creditably to contribute meaningfully to the overall corporate performance of VRA.
Among others, Dr. Stella is a FELLOW of the Chartered Institute of Human Resource Management Practitioners, a member of SHRM and also of the Executive Women’s Network (EWN). HR Focus Africa was honoured to be granted a few minutes off her busy schedule to give us a glimpse into her life and philosophy as a change leader and HR practitioner. This is what ensued:
HRFA: How did you start out in the HR function?
SAB: Growing up, I always had the desire to develop a people-centred career. Teaching, among others, appealed to me and no wonder I enjoyed teaching as a National Service Person for two years after my Bachelor’s Degree. Soon after my National Service, however, I got a job with the Ghana Post and Telecommunications Corporations as an Assistant Administrative Officer and I thought that could be exciting as well. After taking up that appointment, I realised how important the role was in the corporate world and the fact that it aligned with my career aspirations. As an Administrator, I also came to appreciate the fact that Human Resource Management was broader and more encompassing so I undertook courses and programmes in Human Resources at the Post-Graduate and Master’s levels to become a practitioner in that field and I have never regretted it. So, right from my early career days I have practised human resources and I love it.
HRFA: What three lessons would you say your long career in the HR fraternity has taught you?
SAB: I have learnt so many lessons, it will be hard to list only three. I have learnt the need for effective people management and building trust, the importance of developing leadership skills, capabilities and capacity; I have learnt the need to have gravitas through acquisition of expert knowledge, constant learning, decision-making, effective communication, emotional intelligence, stakeholder management, personal branding and being strategic. As an HR professional, I have learned to appreciate the need to understand business operations and “Speak the language of the Business” and to be on the same tangent with the Business direction and deliver on organisational goals. I try to learn quickly about my environment and pick lessons as I go along. In short, my career has taught me to be Firm, Fair and Flexible, with respect for People at the centre of it all.
HRFA: When you are not performing your corporate responsibilities what is the most likely thing you find yourself doing?
SAB: I enjoy working with the youth. As a corporate woman and a Christian, youth development is of enormous concern to me, so whenever I receive an invitation to address any such Group, either on career development, mentorship, academic work or other matters like family life, I do not hesitate to do so. I am also passionate about supporting people to develop or grow their leadership skills so again, I get several opportunities to give motivational addresses and make presentations on leadership and other varied topics to professional Associations etc. I love to engage in discussions on topical issues in or out of the corporate circles as well.
HRFA: As a woman leading in business, what are your thoughts on work-life-balance?
SAB: I’m happy with my professional corporate life but it is also imperative to have a LIFE. As the adage goes, one needs to “work hard, play hard”. Have time for other aspects of life and make hay while the sun shines. Know how to let go off things that only sapp our energies but produces no added value, pamper yourself, and spend time with God and family. It is important to assess oneself through a holistic SELF-SWOT to ensure that you are well balanced. You can definitely not achieve a perfect balance but work at some equilibrium and not just ‘hang in there’. Enjoy your God-given life. I love reading, writing, shopping, dancing, learning about culture, photography, and most importantly, doing the Work of God, so when I get the opportunity, I do not waste such moments.
HRFA: What has been the main differences in practicing HR in the public sector as opposed to the private sector?
SAB: Both the Public and Private sectors have people with skills and credentials to deliver. However, one striking difference is the processes that one must go through to arrive at a decision which sometimes can cause delays. In HR practice, working with structures, policies, and procedures are a must; but it is time to question whether every line in the process flow adds value; if yes then let’s keep it, whether in the Public or Private Sector; if not let’s park it and move on. There must be speedy delivery of outcomes without compromising on quality, by the way.
HRFA: What does your appointment as the Deputy Chief Executive of the VRA mean in terms of the role expectation?
SAB: As the Deputy Chief Executive responsible for Services, I provide leadership and strategic direction for the effective and efficient management of the Departments in my Branch to ensure the overall success of the VRA agenda as a model of Excellence for Power Utilities in Africa.
HRFA: How would you say your work in the previous role influenced or prepared you for this current position?
SAB: My career spans well over three decades and I believe every step along the way has prepared me for this new role. Twenty out of my many years of HR practice I had been an HR Director and my experiences working with different people across different industries and sectors prepared me adequately for this role and task, Deputy Chief Executive (Services), VRA. In some of the previous organisations that I had worked, notably Vodafone Ghana and Ghana Telecom before then, my role as an HR Director stretched beyond the traditional HR functions. In those organisations, my role as an HR Director included being responsible for other portfolios such as Property management (Real Estate), internal communication, overseeing the Training School, Fleet management and operations, Health, Safety & Wellbeing, etc.
Again, I am a trained Educationist with a Diploma in Education which I obtained concurrently with my First Degree from the University of Cape-Coast. I therefore have knowledge in School management and Administration. Even further, as an HR Practitioner, I have previously worked closely with Legal Departments on Employee Relations issues. My role as a Teacher, an Adjunct Lecturer briefly, a Guest lecturer sometimes and my involvement in Consultancy as well as having been a Director, Human Resource in the VRA have all contributed in no small measure to prepare me for this task of a Deputy Chief Executive (Services) in the VRA. Besides these, other Personal and Corporate life experiences I have encountered have given me sufficient strength, exposure and zeal to handle my new role and position.