Rimini Haraya Makama is a walking ground of possibilities. With extensive experience in technology policy, strategic communications, market expansion and business development, Rimini currently leads Microsoft’s global market expansion efforts for Cloud Gaming (Project xCloud), a part of the Microsoft Gaming organisation.
Her impact in organisations earned her a place in the Forbes “20 Youngest Power Women under 40 in Africa” List of 2014. But beyond these achievements, her eyes light up when she talks about films and music. A huge fan of the Nollywood industry, she is also the executive producer of the award-winning films, “Green White Green” and “The Lost Okoroshi”.
As a child growing amidst brothers, some of her daily activities included karate, military drills, basketball, and tree climbing. These sports have several things in common: tact and precision. As she grew older, these skills would influence and strengthen her resolve to engage in forward-looking opportunities.
Despite gaining a law degree, working as a Principal Legal Assistant in the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) in France, she continued to explore the opportunities presented to her, which saw her move to communications and then infotech where she managed clients including BlackBerry. In what she described as “the privilege to be flexible with my interests,” she explained, “I always try to define what success in each role means to me and work towards it. I constantly stay curious, even when it’s hard. Also acknowledging that my success can only happen when everyone around me succeeds is a powerful drive to collaborate more and learn from others. I’m not afraid to ask questions or admit when I’m stumped. I’m very open to failing forward so I take risks and tell myself it’s okay to fail as long as I learn from it; it is a stepping stone to success.”
Today, she is leading the international market expansion work for Project xCloud (cloud gaming) as director of Market Expansion at Microsoft Project xCloud. Now called Microsoft Cloud Gaming, it is a method of playing video games using remote servers in data centres, and does not require download and installation of games on a computer or console.
Described as a prominent voice in the gaming field, Rimini says she wouldn’t describe herself as such. Yet, as a lot of hard work has gone into her growth she says there is also a ton of luck and being prepared for the opportunities as they come along.
“More so, in order to create an enabling environment for the digital transformation of national economies to stimulate local innovation especially in a growing one like ours, she says there is a need for the Nigerian government to adopt technologies with long-term benefits such as cloud computing (the public cloud) as it will benefit both the Nigerian government and citizens by providing “reduced IT costs, improved responsiveness to citizens’ needs, increased transparency and increased efficiency in the delivery of public services.”
“Access to the cloud and the freedom of cross border data flows is especially important for SMEs because it can enable them to compete against larger businesses and reach customers around the globe in ways that have never been possible before. Studies show that small businesses that have adopted cloud solutions have doubled profits and increased revenue by 25 per cent,” she added.
Behind the scenes
She is just as passionate about film production as she is about gaming. Her passion for the film industry started because of her attempt to tell stories of events happening around her as well as impactful stories that people can relate to.
So what is the story behind her given interest in film production?
Her first interest was her father’s decision to transfer her and her siblings from a Jos-based Nigeria school to a Federal government school because of his concern that they were “becoming too American.” Interestingly, she only recently found out that “Chijoke is not pronounced as Chee-joke-key and Kosai – the Hausa word for Akara is not pronounced as ko-say.”
Fortunately, his desire to see them retain their African identity translated to her and her brother, ABBA, producing films with cultural appreciation- “Green White Green” and “The Lost Okoroshi”. Besides The Lost Okoroshi’s great reviews, it is also ranked 88% on “Rotten Tomatoes”.
While her brother remains the brains behind the films, she is responsible for the marketing. “I have no creative bone whatsoever. My brother is the creative one and I prefer to leave it to him. I do the boring paperwork; marketing, PR and sales when I’m off my day job.”
We wonder if it has ever crossed her mind to venture into full time film production. She opines that while she believes in the mantra, “Never Say Never”, she is happy with what she is doing now.
Fran Lebowitz once said being a woman has been the same from Eve till about 2019 when the Me-Too movement began. Women are becoming fierce and standing up for each other in all aspects, including careers. Although the fight for the same rights as the male gender, there has been considerable growth. There is no denying that technology has aided in bridging this gap.
“Technology has also helped close the gap and allowed access for women to conversations and things that weren’t possible before. Girls are being encouraged to explore their interests and have careers and families simultaneously, if that’s what they want. Mentorship for women, especially in this industry, is important but everyone has a different approach to it.”
On the other side of the coin, she decried how the government aids in reducing women to second-class citizens of society.
“It is hard being a woman, but it’s even harder in Nigeria. From a government perspective, I will advise that we stop categorising women with children. Most of the time I hear of an initiative or representation increase for women it often comes as a bundle – for women and children. We need to be treated equally and not classified in the same category as children.
“The onus is not on us to do better – it’s what men and the rest of the world need to do – they should do better for gender parity, they should be working harder to close the gender gap. Men should strive for equality, and for the representation of all sexes. Feminist Caroline Criado Perez said maleness is not proclaimed or announced because it represents the default setting of the world – the world is assumed to belong to men. This assumption disregards half the population on earth – women. I read somewhere that women rarely have to die to be forgotten, we easily become hidden figures. That made me think that so many women have come before me and have done the same as me, or even better, and yet they are not celebrated or remembered. It makes me want to work even harder to ensure you will remember me, but not just me, all those with me and those who will come after me. You only live as long as the last person who remembers you; do not allow yourself to be forgotten.”
Besides this, she notes that having a peer-to-peer mentorship is very valuable. In this light, she says that she looks up more often than not, to her close friends- whom she values and respects for their experience- for guidance on a foundation of transparency about their journeys. Not discriminatory, she also sees younger people as people who bring fresh eyes and unique perspectives when approaching problems.
“Personally, I have enjoyed a lot of what can best be called ‘sponsorship’. People who have taken an interest in my career growth and take a chance on me by sometimes recommending me for a role, pointing me to the right opportunities or dedicating time to provide me with career guidance. It has been very crucial to my growth, I also try as much as possible to be a sponsor to others.”
Unravelling COVID Opportunities
COVID-19 has dealt a serious blow to most major industries and it has been a very difficult time for many but for the governments, it presents an opportunity to digitally transform. She opines that there is no better time than now to establish an enabling environment that will stimulate economic development and “increase digital employment by supporting SMEs, organisations, FDI, and skills development for all. This is a great time to implement appropriate policy and regulatory intervention that includes sandboxing to fast-track the adoption of innovations like blockchain and dynamic spectrum. This is a good time to focus on policy and legal interventions in data protection, cloud adoption, health care, education, financial services, and government services that would enhance the use of technology in responding to the challenges and hardship of COVID-19. For businesses, it presents an opportunity to reduce operating costs by considering maintaining remote working structure. This now means they can access skills from different parts of the work and penetrate new markets.”
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