Spotlight: Meet Terhas Berhe
Tell us a bit about your background?
As I was born and raised in Asmara during the Eritrean armed struggle for independence, my upbringing was a mix of immense luxury and joy on the one hand and insecurity and fear on the other. Right after I finished high school, I migrated to Canada via Athens. And 10 years later, I moved to the UK. I could say that in my background, a direct path was something I never had. To live and thrive in three continents, I had to be extremely adaptable.
Who did you most admire growing up?
Like most people, my parents, no doubt. My father was a lawyer, a banker, an educator, and a sportsman, to be precise, a football star. He played at a club and national level. He taught mathematics in his younger years before he became a banker, and also went on to teach commercial law, part-time at Asmara University, in addition to his full-time leading private law practice. Most importantly, he was also a dedicated and active member of our struggle, an upright, passionate man with a big kind heart and a brilliant mind.
My mother is also a successful businesswoman. She completed her degree in management after having six children. She became a CEO and a senior executive at leather and shoe processing plants and manufacturing industries before setting up her own very successful businesses, mainly in the travel and tourism sector.
So most definitely my parents I would say.
Now you’re the CEO of brand communications, what was your motivation for setting up brand communications? And what’s your long term vision for the business?
I would say it was always a given to have my own business one day. And I also love the creative industry. It could be because I grew up surrounded by strong and entrepreneurial women, from my great Aunties and my aunties on both sides of my parents to my grandmother, mother, and siblings.
I want to create, push boundaries to make things happen. But what motivates me the most is a desire to be an agent of change. Ultimately, my vision is to create a successful and widely used digital currency, which will enable me in the long term to build model towns across Africa that thrive on creativity and design with their own medium of exchange.
You could say, will I get there? I know for sure I will, no matter how long it takes. I hope to live a healthy and productive life and to Richard the grand age of 120. And, of course, God willing.
This digital currency sounds like our own African homemade cryptocurrency. Obviously, you know, I see where you’re coming from, because we do not yet have that common system of soft currency across the continent. You’ve got a hugely successful career, although from what you’re saying, you still got some way to go to get to where your vision is taking you. But what’s your greatest achievement to date?
To have built the agency of choice for leading Pan-African Financial Institutions, including Eco Bank, Africa EXIM Bank, Africa Finance Corporation, Africa Trade Insurance Agency, Vista bank, and many more. Also, to have gathered a team of highly experienced, dedicated, and top-level professionals of 50 or more, at any given time, in the heart of London, the financial centre of the world.
In my early years in business, I had no backing, and it was a daily struggle with the stress of juggling bank and credit card debts in a new country, learning new systems, and in a language that was not my mother tongue. So I would say what I consider my biggest achievements so far is that over the period of the last 18 years, I have built Brand Communications from a one-woman band to the successful company it is today.
What advice would you give to women who work and who want to progress? What are the three top tips for women who want to succeed in your sector?
My top 3 tips:
1. Always take a long-term view, add value and deliver excellent results consistently in whatever you do. If you put in the necessary hard work, no amount of bigotry will stop you from reaching your goal.
2. Never compromise your professionalism. Your clients and your colleagues are not your friends. You earn your respect; you don’t expect it or ask for it.
3. If you encounter a challenge, my advice is to stay focused on the job and ignore the sideshow.
How do you see yourself achieving your work life balance?
This is a tricky question. A truth, if I’m going to be honest, is that I didn’t. I never had a work-life balance. This was my biggest weakness. My work was my life. However, the pandemic changed things, and I’m on a mission to reorganise my life to make sure I have a work-life balance going forward.
So, it’s work in progress. I shall report back to you soon!
How do you manage your finances? What’s your attitude to savings and investments?
Personally, I split my personal savings. So, I keep some aside for emergencies and put the rest where it can work harder for me. I believe if you don’t save or make your money work for you, you will be in trouble in the future. So, I use investment vehicles. I am now also saving and investing with wealth8, a brilliant platform. It allows me to access many savings and investment products that offer different risk levels and reward in one convenient place.
But most importantly, as a businesswoman, it also allows me to access my funds if the need arises instantly. So, I really am a big fan of wealth8 as a saving strategy.
Talking about work-life balance. What do you enjoy outside work?
I think my work has always taken up so much of my time, but my way of relaxing is getting together with friends. Entertaining and eating out. I love fine dining, travel, and all kinds of music. I’m an avid reader — I particularly like biographies.
We’re celebrating International Women’s Day this month, the theme this year is ‘Choose to Challenge’. Tell us what that means to you and what do you think of the whole idea of International Women’s Day.
To me, it means to celebrate and actively support each other, and I believe I apply this in practice in my business every day. Brand Comms is one of the most diverse companies with over 50 employees. We have women in senior positions, and even our makeup is predominantly women. We also speak over 20 different languages collectively. So, we celebrate an inclusive world every day but, it’s beyond celebrating. What it’s saying to me is actively support each other.
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