The First National Bank (FNB) Namibia recently appointed Florentia Amuenje as its head of Human Resources.
For a group with one of the biggest workforce in the country, 1800, this is no easy feat, as she now has to manage the overall provision of HR services, policies and programmes for a company, which is the largest locally listed on the Namibia Stock Exchange.
FNB represents a total market capitalisation of more than N$4.9 billion and all that is owed to the workforce, which Amuenje should now take care of.
For someone who attempted and dropped out of nursing school, this appointment has boosted her confidence.
“I spent the first 20 years of my life being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Then I spent the next 20 years finding out for myself. Imagine, I even thought I was passionate about nursing, yet a sense of fatigue and a silent voice kept telling me otherwise,” she says, owing her recent move to patience and ‘taking one step at a time.’
From a family of seven siblings, Amuenje spent a greater part of her formative years in Otjiwarongo. After five years as a State nurse but suffering from a career identity complex, she decided to enrol at Rhodes University in South Africa, for a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Industrial Psychology.
She graduated in 2001 and two years later, she sat for her Masters in Research Psychology.
Amuenje’s panacea to those who struggle with career identity: Don’t look for the right job yet; keep studying!
In 2009, she completed an MBA from the University of Stellenbosch and as her academic barometer rose, so did her career path, paving her way from the hospital to the boardroom.
She got her first taste of the corporate world at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) from where she discovered her passion for skills development (2002-2004). Then Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA) between 2005 and 2006 before finding her home at FNB Namibia in 2007.
“As much as we are leaders at different levels of our careers, we have to acknowledge that once we are entrusted with authority, we cannot only talk about leadership but we must live and practice it,” she submits.
Amuenje believes her professional elevation is significant not only to her but to every other woman.
“Personally, this is a challenge that will provide me with the opportunity to firstly navigate the HR space and then seek solutions most professionals perceive as challenges. Professionally, it means creating new [specific] skills-set, particularly leadership skills that would create a connection between my faith and my work. This should come out in such a way that I will be able to live my faith without ducking and/or without offending,” she explains, adding: “To my fellow women out there, the career journey is not a straight one, neither does it conform to space and time. You may not have any control over how it happens sometimes while at other times, it is best to embrace that which is and move on.”
She is cognisant that her leadership and interactive behaviour have to be different now, she says: “At senior management, we depend more on others than on our own intelligence and/or abilities. I am reminded every day that I depend on others to make it through the day.”
As far as lack of skills in the local corporate space is concerned, she believes the best way forward is for companies to grow their own skills-set. Failure to do this, she warns, will leave companies with recurring negative trends in service delivery in the end.
“Today, most companies run away from recruiting skilled personnel, yet they do not embrace the fact that the best way forward is to grow their own skills-base, hence the outsourcing,” she highlights.
Every employee has the potential to grow professionally but their leaders need to share, coach and listen more, asserts Amuenje whose dream now is to become a full-time life coach.
A married mother of two sons, Hafeni and Panduleni, she is confident she has the right support to give her new role the character it deserves.
Her wealth of experience - including executive management skills as a board member at the National Statistical Agency (NSA) and the Namibia Training Authority (NTA) - weighs in well for her new position. PF