Focused, driven, and refuses to be outworked. These are a few ways one could describe Nichole Yembra. After working with several international companies, she founded The Chrysalis Capital, a $15 million African tech fund, to support African tech companies building globally relevant institutions. She has been recognised by the Obama Foundation and Forbes Africa, among other prestigious organisations, for her work.
Nichole shares with us her work routines and habits, hacks for getting things done and mantras that keep her thriving.
Current role: Founder and Managing Director, The Chrysalis Co which houses Chrysalis Advisors and Chrysalis Capital
Location(s): Nigeria and USA
Computer(s): iMac 4K 27 inch for office. MacBook Air for laptop.
Mobile: iPhone Xs Max
Describe how you work in one word: Efficiently.
Tell us briefly how you started out and how you got where you are today
I’m a problem solver at heart and a generalist (Jane of all trades, a master at most), so it was only natural to start my career in consulting at Ernst & Young LLP (EY), Atlanta. At EY, I worked with large and small companies across manufacturing, retail, hospitality, energy, and so much more across 22 countries.
When I was living in Brazil in 2014 and Thailand in 2015, it dawned on me that these countries were a vision of what Nigeria and so many African countries could be if people came together to solve our problems rather than run away from them. So, I moved to Nigeria four years ago, added technology experience to my people and process expertise as CFO of a pan-African fintech and managing partner of a fintech dominant fund.
In 2018 I was a part of the inaugural Obama Foundation Leaders Africa class and, alongside my cohort from 44 countries, saw how critical collaboration across our countries was and wanted to double down on building for the continent based on doing the right thing. I got here by being hyper-focused, disciplined, and simply working both harder and smarter.
Walk us through a typical workday
I spend over 50 per cent of my time travelling, but looking at when I’m in the country, I wake up at 4:52 a.m. daily to work out (and check Twitter to ensure America and my friends are still standing).
My brain is sharpest in the morning, so I catch up on emails, time block the day, get on a few calls, then catch up with my team on the status of our work for our clients across the continent. I try to get some FaceTime with our domestic clients like Olugbenga Agboola (Gb) at Flutterwave or Tomilola Adejana at Bankly and ensure that we are exceeding their expectations, so that sees me battling Lagos traffic to make sure they’re good.
As I sit in the car, I’ll look at our team tracker for documents in my review-queue and work on them when I’m back at the office or at home. I love cooking and hate leftovers, so I try to make a 15-minute healthy dish at some point and if I’m stressed, bake three chocolate chip cookies. I usually have calls with Adegoke Olubusi from Helium Health and other investors mainly in NYC or San Francisco in the evenings to end my day.
What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you do without?
I love Apple and the Microsoft Office suite. I run my entire life from my iPhone and my Apple Watch helps me stay in tune with my health goals. I try to keep my phone down in meetings, but I subtly glance at my watch for anything pressing without people feeling disrespected.
What’s your favourite shortcut or hack?
Favourite hack: talking to my therapist weekly. In life, there are no shortcuts.
What task(s) do you dislike but still do?
Status reporting. I drive my team nuts asking for meeting minutes of literally every discussion plus we send status documents to all clients every Friday and meet twice a week. I hate the administrative nature of it, but it’s so crucial to outline expectations, ensure everyone is in the loop, reiterate our values, and just keep everyone motivated to work towards our shared vision.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
I live by my calendar on my phone and my notebook. If a meeting or even hangout isn’t on my calendar, I will totally forget. I also hate unplanned calls and meetings when it comes to working. For my tasks for the week, I jot them down in a notebook and love crossing them out with a smiley face next to it.
How do you recharge or take a break?
I like to stay at home and watch TV shows and eat pizza on Fridays. Mostly though, I book a trip when I’m stressed and I’m especially fond of the beach.
Besides work, what do you spend time doing? What do you enjoy?
I’m pretty boring, lol. I love cooking and eating, working out, reading, and travelling. I am most at peace in the sky and I swear, my brain works 37% better outside of Nigeria.
What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to? What do you recommend?
Reading: Need to Know by Karen Cleveland. I ONLY read fiction and love mysteries and thrillers.
Watching: You (Netflix), Top Chef, and rewatching Harry Potter.
Listening to Megan thee Stallion’s All Dat with Queen Tiwa sprinkled in. I love Sherlock Holmes but for more modern lit, I’d recommend Gillian Flynn (most famously known for Gone Girl). Gillian writes these deeply complex female characters including my favourite fictional woman who has an INTJ personality like me.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Going to share three, but the first two are basically saying the same thing.
(1) “Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper.” – Beyoncé
(2) “Living well is the best revenge.” – My mom and dad. ”
The third is by my idol Kobe Bean Bryant, “I have nothing in common with lazy people who blame others for their lack of success. Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No excuses.”
That Mamba mentality has driven me for 23 plus years and is why I have accepted that the path to my dreams might be lonely, but my fate is in my hands.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
How to be both long-term greedy yet enjoy each moment. I feel like most people are super short-sighted and only make decisions based on what they can see today vs planning for the future or playing the long game. But tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, how do I make sure I am happy both today and in the future? How do I smell the roses today yet plant more trees for the future? That’s a big one for me.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Maria Rotilu (GM Branch Nigeria) and Anu Adasolum (GM Rensource Energy).
NEW: Nigerian startups raised $377m in 2019, more than twice what they did in 2018. Find out more when you download the full report.
Early-stage startup? The 2nd cohort of Techpoint Startup School is coming in March. Apply now.