After a career predominantly based in the UK financial services sector before transferring her skill set to the bioethanol and sugar industries with Vivergo Fuels and AB Sugar respectively, it was time for a change of scenery. Earlier this year Zoe took up the opportunity to head overseas and take up the role of Finance Director at Maragra Açúcar SA in Mozambique, part of Illovo Sugar Africa and the AB Sugar Group.
We caught up with Zoe to find out what appealed about the role in Mozambique and how she prepared for the huge shift in lifestyle.
“After spending time in various corporate roles within the UK financial and commercial sectors, I was keen to take on a new challenge and do something new. That’s when the opportunity to join the sugar business in Mozambique came along, and it was the type of challenge that interested me straight away.
“The country is well positioned to see economic growth over the coming years, and I felt I could add value to the business and help it to transform. Living in Mozambique was also a great opportunity for my family and me to get to know another culture, learn a new language (Portuguese) and have the experience of living in a very different country to the UK. Earlier in my career, I spent about 18 months in Russia and enjoyed living abroad so I was keen to do it again, and especially to give my children the experience of growing up somewhere different.
“In preparation for the move, I spent a lot of time talking to people who lived and worked overseas to get their advice. I came to visit Mozambique before moving to meet the team and to get an understanding of the country. I tried to learn some basic Portuguese using language apps and online tutors. But to be honest, it is hard to really do much to prepare in advance, I think beyond being open-minded and being careful not to assume anything!
“We’ve now been living here for almost six months and it has been a great move, I feel as though I am adding value to the business and my family and I have settled in well to Mozambique. The timing of our arrival – in March as the coronavirus pandemic started to take a hold globally - certainly added to the challenge of moving, though, with the need for social distancing meaning we have not yet been able to build a strong local network and the children have had to join a new school virtually.
“For me, it’s important to take risks and push yourself outside of your comfort zone – you never know where you might end up. A decade ago, I may never have expected to take up a job in Mozambique but here we are! For many starting their careers now, there’s a lot of focus on working in particular sectors and the differences between industries can create seeming barriers to change, but my experience has been very different. From working at the Bank of England to joining a bioethanol producer and a sugar manufacturer; I think most skills are transferable in some way. When thinking about your career, it’s important to consider where you get the most excitement from and where you are likely to enjoy and get satisfaction from working. You can always move on, but the feeling that you get from work is so important to consider.”
For more information about Maragra Açúcar SA, please visit https://www.illovosugarafrica.com/About-us/Mozambique