Manager at Philia SA, Oil Trading Company – After spending much of his academic career in Senegal, Daniel Ndiaye went on to continue his studies at the prestigious McGill University in Canada. He began his career at Natixis, before joining Total several years later. He has worked as a Business Development Manager for the trading firm Philia since February 2014; he is also managing the launch of the first Master’s Degree in Oil Trading in Africa. Here, he shares with us what he has learned.

What is the best moment you can remember in your career?

While I was working for Total, I organised one of the first ever campaigns under the Black Empowerment Economics (BEE) programme in South Africa. This campaign was symbolic beyond just the business itself – I was part of Mandela’s dream, I had the opportunity to make my own small contribution to the overall process. South Africa holds a special place in my heart. I have worked extensively with people there in the past and continue to do so in my current role.

If you had to give just one piece of advice to a junior starting his/her career, what would it be?

Always have good friends in your chosen industry and find a mentor! No matter how bright you are, you need to be able to surround yourself with people who have experience and a more general vision of the business. It’s also important not to make enemies. The world of work is small: it takes years to build a reputation for yourself, but only minutes to destroy it. I may not always be right, but I always do what’s needed to make sure I’m not wrong.

Whenever I’ve started at a new company, I’ve always sought out a ‘king’ to help me progress within the firm – someone who is good at what they do and has a strong reputation in the field.

Do you have a Motto/Lucky charm?

‘You don’t have to reach for the stars, but don’t aim too low either’. It’s important to remain humble, while still setting yourself challenging targets and maintaining that desire for results.

What do you enjoy the most in your day to day job?

In my job, no two days are ever the same. I like interacting with my colleagues and the multi-ethnic make-up that we have at Philia. It’s fascinating to see how a piece of information can be interpreted differently by people from different cultures.

There are just 37 people in our team, with 17 different nationalities – it’s very enriching. What we all have in common is an entrepreneurial spirit.

“What we all have in common is an entrepreneurial spirit.” Daniel Ndiaye

If you had to do it again would you choose the same career path?

I don’t think I would change a thing! I could have worked in medicine – that would have allowed me to help other people directly. When I was younger, I wanted to be a pilot, but I quickly decided to study finance. It’s a field that has always interested me – I grew up surrounded by it.

Where is your favourite place on earth and why?

Definitely Florida. It’s the one place in the world where I see my kids’ eyes constantly shining. I love it for the experiences I’ve had there. If it was down to just me though, it would have to be Senegal, of course!

How could you qualify your relationship with Ampersand World?

The culture at Ampersand World is very similar to that found in the world of commodity trading. What I particularly like are their human values. Head-hunters are normally just like trading firms, except that their commodity is people. Ampersand, on the other hand, have a very human approach, whether it’s monitoring a candidate’s progress after recruitment or the way they keep in contact and discuss ideas with you. They’re real perfectionists, and that’s not so easy to find these days…