Priscilla, who started as a business student, is now an expert in the field of environmental sustainability through her 12-year experience in HSE (Health, Safety, and Environment);
Hi Priscilla, thanks for accepting to share your story with us. I was excited when Angela told me about your positive response. Thanks for joining us!
Hello Winnie. Yes, Angela told me about you and the work you do. I’m glad to share my story with you.
Who is Priscilla?
My name is Priscilla Adomako-Kwabia from Ghana. I am the Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) Sustainability and Security Manager at Vlisco Ghana Cluster – a textile manufacturing company. Before joining the textile manufacturing company, I worked with a leading multinational Fast Moving Consumer Goods company for about 16 years in various roles in Ghana and across Central and West Africa (22 countries) in Logistics, Supply Chain, and HSE. My experience, therefore, spans from food to textile manufacturing.
As an African child, how did you end up in the field of HSE?
It is very interesting how I ended up in a STEM career. Growing up, my teachers used to tell us that those who are good academically had to pursue a STEM-related course. I, therefore, developed some love for STEM because my grades were very good. So, I decided to take up a science program in senior high school. However, my father had different career aspirations for me and so made me pursue a business course instead (Economics, Accounting, and Business Management). I started my senior high school in a science class because I had been selected to study science but was later moved to a business class upon the request of my father.
I later obtained a bachelor of science degree in Business Management at the University of Cape-Coast, Ghana. For my national service, I had the opportunity to join one of the factories of a leading multinational Fast Moving Consumer Goods company. I started with Logistics operations which was quite different from what I studied at the university. My career evolved and I was given an HSE role as part of the company’s transformation journey which I have been practicing for about 12 years.
What are some of the challenges have you faced while building your career in HSE?
When I started my HSE career, it was a very difficult one due to my educational background – a business-oriented person now moving into a STEM environment. Remembering my love for STEM made me realize it was an opportunity to now live out my childhood dream of pursuing a STEM-related career. I also had very good mentors who nurtured me and gave me the necessary support. I embraced the new challenge with the right mindset that I would succeed in my new role at all costs.
HSE is a male-dominated field (even now) and so did not have a lot of females to inspire me when I started my career then. I usually felt odd anytime I participated in workshops or training. There were times when I would be the only female in a training. Surprisingly, I have male colleagues who encouraged me after seeing great potential in me. They kept on telling me that I could do it, even do better. They kept encouraging me to inspire females to move into the HSE space.
What has inspired you to move forward?
My love for STEM when growing up inspired me to take up the HSE career. HSE is also about driving excellence in behavior and implementing initiatives that will ensure that everyone goes back home to their families safely at the end of every day and also protect the environment for the future. It means going the extra mile to identify initiatives or projects to make the workplace safer, deal with behavioral issues in different creative ways, and also protect the environment.
The value I see being added to the workplace by making it safe for everyone and also ensuring that our activities do not negatively impact the environment inspires me.
Tell us about your achievement, awards, and moments of recognition in HSE
I successfully led my site to achieve its first ISO certification in 2011 – ISO 14001:2004 (Environmental Management System) and OHSAS 18001:2008 (Occupational Health and Safety Management System). ISO certification in the industry then was very rare.
With the behavioral change initiatives I implemented, my site achieved 4 years (about 1,460 days) without any accident. This was before I was transferred to a different site.
Digitized reporting of HSE issues through the development of an HSE App – hence observations were captured on the go and followed up to ensure their closure. This was also enhanced with some PowerBI analytics to further analyze the observations for decision-making.
I also initiated weekly HSE tip communication to share expected behaviors. These were discussed at various levels of the organization during the week.
I led a project in my previous organization which led to 33 sites achieving international certification for ISO 14001:2015 (Environmental Management System) and ISO 45001:2018 (Occupational Health and Safety Management System) across Central and West Africa. This resulted in great savings for the company.
Who are you outside work?
A wife and mother. And guess what? I still practice finance – I served as a director of finance for my local church for 8 years. Recently, I was appointed as a director of finance in my church’s organization – a level higher than my local church. I believe there is some STEM in finance that’s why I am still attached to it.
Currently, I am a director at Femafricmaths, an NGO which promotes African Women Mathematicians. Seeing more women in STEM is one of the things I love. I helped in designing and sponsoring a program for Femafricmaths to promote mathematics education for young students in a junior high school in my local community called “YƐPƐ MATHS” (in one of the Ghanaian local languages) which means “WE LIKE MATHS”.
I am also a career coach for young people in my community where I give guidance in their career aspirations.
What is your favorite quote?
“You make a difference” (anonymous) so always strive for excellence in everything you do. We all have unique talents and potential whether educated or not. However, we can only make a difference with the right mindset and behavior. So go after your dreams, never give me, overcome the barriers, and most importantly strive for excellence.
How do you encourage a young girl who wants to join the HSE field?
Do not give up on your aspirations. Do not lose hope, persevere and strive for excellence. STEM currently is male-dominated but just look at the few ladies who have made it. Let them inspire you and we can all add up to the female numbers.
Thank you, Priscilla, for teaching us about HSE. You are among the few people who have successfully transitioned into STEM from other fields. We wish you the best with your career.