Stella Sata is Head of Operations at BroadPay, a payments company based in Lusaka Zambia. She’s also 25 years old and has a plethora of accomplishments to her name. She’s a Masters Degree holder, a Mandela Washington Fellow, BOZ Governor’s Award winner and a successful entrepreneur but how did she get here?
Stella started grade 1 at the age of 5 years old. A year later, a move to a new school followed, where her late mother had her write the grade 3 entrance exams, which she passed, prompting her to skip grade 2. While she was in grade 5, at 8 years old, due to her accelerated learning prowess she wrote her grade 7 exams, and passed, which meant she skipped grades 6 and 7 and went straight into grade 8 at the age of 9. This meant she finished High School at 13 years old… Do you still remember what you were doing at 13? Probably not graduating High School we would imagine!
The next step in her education journey saw her begin a Diploma in Business Administration course at the age of 14. By the age of 20, she had her Master’s degree. She cites her mother as the primary drive behind her accelerated education in her formative years but by the time she was in tertiary education, she had developed a personal drive to excel. Some of this drive was drawn from the fact that her mother had fallen ill and she wanted to finish her education off as quickly as possible, “just in case of anything”. Most teenagers don’t usually think in such practical terms but, perhaps, it was indicative of what was to follow in her professional career where she would hold a number of positions in leadership.
At deVere Zambia, she was appointed as Assistant Team Leader at a time when she was the youngest person in the entire office and now at the age of 25, she is the Head of Operations at Broad Pay. At 23, she was accepted into the YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship and even though she did not meet the standard minimum age (25), an exception was made due to her outstanding application.
Why have people continued to put her in positions of leadership? “I think I am very passionate about certain things and very ambitious, so sometimes it might show.” She points out, “People that are in leadership recognize that I can take on something and offer me a role and I don’t say no because I like a challenge (laughs)”
Being a leader can be very challenging. One of the biggest challenges for Stella, so far, has been balancing her personal and professional lives, and not letting any personal problems she may be having affect her work. “When you’re in leadership you are expected to always show up, so you have to set aside whatever issues you have and keep on showing up.” She says, and it’s still a learning process, she points out, “But I think I have done very well. It’s taken a lot of conversations with other women in leadership.
One of the most important issues in the world right now is equal pay between men and women and bridging the gender pay gap wherever it may exist. For Stella, however, equal pay and equal opportunities have been a constant theme throughout her career. “I have not encountered that because all the places I have worked at have been equal pay whether you are a man or a woman in the same position and then they have also had an element of commission which means that if I work harder than the next person, I’ll get paid more.”