”I’m a woman born in Africa and raised in Europe. I am known for being a personable human. I like to be challenged to train my mind.” – Aiala Capia
These are the great words of a great woman. She’s on a mission to paint the picture of Africa and change the bad narratives about Africa. Here’s my interview with her:
Can you introduce yourself to the audience?
I have four names but prefer to be called by the first: Aiala.
What are the other names?
Aiala Cápia Nachiwale Tchikanha.
Can you share more about your professional career and experience with us?
My professional experience is quite dynamic. It started with an internship in behavioural analysis and business innovation in a company that belongs to Billy the Group in Lisbon, Portugal.
This the first time when I acquired interest for innovation and entrepreneurship. Once the internship was over I continued with my studies and only started working again after completing my MSc. degree in Vienna, Austria.
I started working for SpeedInvestStudio in Dornbirn – Voralberg, Austria. This is an incubator which belongs to VC SpeedInvest. I worked as an Entrepreneur in Residence. This was an Entrepreneurship Camp where we could really build a company from scratch and have the opportunity to pitch your business idea to experienced investors.
We almost got there but didn’t. It was rough and sad at the same time. I went to Hamburg, Germany for a month and worked in a Restaurant. After that month, I came back to Vienna and started working in small jobs in restaurants and hotels.
In 2019, I got the job at the Central European Cooperative Oncology Group – CECOG. I am Assistant to the Management responsible for information and communication management and event strategy for the Governmental International Affairs Initiative (GOIA). I am currently leaving this role and while searching for new opportunities I started engaging more on LinkedIn.
That’s really an inspiring journey. I saw it on your profile that you are the founder of IAM. What is IAM? And what is it all about?
I would say an unexpected journey but thank you for your kind compliments.
You are correct, I’m the Founder of IAM but soon to be Co-founder.
IAM stands for International African Minds. The idea came to me when I started engaging in LinkedIn more often and strategically. I was not only looking for job opportunities, I was looking for knowledge.
I was quite upset because I thought that I was giving everything I could while applying to jobs and talking in the interviews. I was giving everything but it was not enough.
So while searching for knowledge, I started to get to know a lot of people. People who are just like me but slightly different. Africans from all over the world with truly inspiring stories and remarkable skills. I became inspired by them and I started wanting to be like them.
This came as a total surprise to me because growing up in Europe and having little to no contact with African communities I was not used to admiring black people outside of my family sphere. Most of the outsiders where highly public figures like Obama and Oprah for example.
So I knew something new was happening to me, I was getting to know more and more African people from all over the world who could inspire me with their stories. Who could encourage and understand me because we go through the same struggles in the workplace?
I realized that my unconscious bias was coming from the things I was exposed to. You see the media is used to show us as criminals, poor, uneducated, incompetent, rude, violent and the list goes on and on.
So even when you are black, sometimes this gets into your mind and you start seeing your own community as enemies. Enemies that destroy your perceived reputation before you can even show your character to the world.
That’s when I thought that I wanted to change that and I wanted others to feel and go through the same positive changes I was experiencing. I want to change the way people perceive us without even knowing us. I want to show them who we are through new, positive and trustful lenses.
That’s how IAM started. IAM is set to inspire an inclusive society. IAM is a collective manifesto from Africans worldwide. This the special thing about IAM, it is coming to unite African communities and allow the next generations to be proud of who they are and what they represent.
That’s really a great project which I am sure will be a huge success. So far so good you have started, what has been your major challenges?
I hope your kind words come true. Thank you for that.
Challenges – At this point the major challenges is to acquire funding and get the buy-in of companies and international institutions.
We want to inspire people daily and allow our members to share their stories with a larger audience. The most engaging and significant stories chosen by the public would be transformed into a collective ebook.
We need funding to keep the project going. Moreover, we want to reward the 3 best Authors with a monetary prize or a scholarship so they can keep on developing themselves. I am actively seeking partnerships and sponsors. Already have some confirmations but will be officially announced within the next few weeks.
What step(s) have you taken to tackle the challenges?
One way of tackling the challenge of acquiring funding is also engaging with the community first. Once you can show you have a big community of people supporting you people become more willing to support your endeavors and trust in your initiative.
I definitely agree with you. Where do you see your organization, IAM, in the next five years?
Nowadays everything is evolving remarkably fast but one thing is certain people will have to become more human and engage in inclusive and diversity practices.
I see IAM as a network of the inclusive society. A network where great minds meet online and in-person. A network that connects the world by allowing Worldwide companies to access a network of talent.
Talent that can help companies in the journey of becoming a more inclusive, empathic and productive. But we know that strategies need to be flexible. We will need to constantly adapt the strategy according to changes in the environment and in the needs of our community and partners.
Thank you, Aiala! What would you love to say to the audience reading this interview?
We are all humans and our differences are what make us unique. If we want to thrive in the future we need to foster togetherness and inclusion. This is precisely the focus of IAM. IAM is for the ones who value integrity, inclusion and innovation. If you are a person with those values you should join our cause.
You are right. It’s been wonderful chatting with you. I wish you an amazing week ahead.
Thank you so much for your time and for inviting me to this conversation. I truly appreciate your gesture, Chinedu, and I wish you a happy week ahead as well.