BACKSTORY: Aida Diarra
We question Aida Diarra, senior vice-president and group country manager at Visa, Sub-Saharan Africa region
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
Always listen to your client’s or stakeholder’s need rather than coming with a prescribed proposal.
What was your first job?
Counting cars on a highway in Paris (during winter). In relevance to my career: marketing lead at the welding institute in Roissy, France — an eye-opening stint in a completely different industry to finance, which I had studied.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
I really can’t remember. Traditionally you give your first salary to your parents as a recognition for their support and sacrifices until you become independent. My parents were kind enough to allow me to keep it.
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
Do not underestimate the importance of networking in an organisation.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I’m competitive, but I like to win not as an individual but as a team and for the greater good.
What is the one investment you wish you had made, or made earlier?
In my health — exercise with more discipline at a younger age.
What is the hardest life lesson that you’ve learnt?
The importance of finding the right balance between social life, spirituality, family and work.
What is something you would go back and tell your younger self that would impress them?
"Yes, you can!"
Was there ever a point at which you wanted to trade it all in for a different career? And if so, what would that be?
Yes. At some point I wanted to be a surgeon.
If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
Leading a country is a huge responsibility with multiple considerations to keep in mind and certainly a challenging role. The one thing I can venture to say is that SA can play a bigger role in the pan-African agenda from a political, economic and cultural standpoint.
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