Mimi Alemayehou

Mrs Alemayehou was born in Ethiopia and and spent her early years in Kenya before immigrating to the United States. Alemayehou earned her bachelor’s degree from West Texas A&M University and holds a Masters degree in International Business and International Law and Development from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Mrs. Mimi Alemayehou is an Executive Advisor at The Blackstone Group, Private Equity Group. Mrs. Alemayehou serves as Managing Director of Black Rhino, Executive Advisor & Chair of Blackstone Africa Infrastructure L.P at The Blackstone Group L.P. She has been Managing Director at Black Rhino Group, LLC since August 2014. Prior to joining Blackstone, Mrs Alemayehou served on the Board of the United States African Development Foundation, a post she was nominated to by President Obama and confirmed unanimously by the full Senate. Mrs Alemayehou was nominated as the Executive Vice President of OPIC by President Obama on March 10, 2010 and confirmed unanimously by the full Senate on September 16, 2010. Previously, Ms. Alemayehou served as the United States Executive Director at the African Development Bank where she was responsible for executing Board decisions on behalf of the United States government.

Ms. Alemayehou served as the most senior US Treasury official in Africa and was instrumental in pushing for reforms to make the Bank more transparent and to engage more broadly with outside stakeholders. Prior to the AfDB, she was Founder and Managing Partner of Trade Links, LLC, a development consulting firm that worked with clients on emerging markets issues and promoting African exports under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Previously, Ms. Alemayehou was with the International Executive Service Corps where she managed a multi-country trade project in Africa. She also served as a Director of International Regulatory Affairs at WorldSpace Corporation; an emerging market focused satellite telecommunications company. Earlier in her career, she worked as a Legislative Staffer in the United States Congress.

Mimi Alemayehou in her own words

1. Being a part of the Ethiopian diaspora to me means….?

Being part of the Ethiopia diaspora means being part of a vibrant, proud community that shares a rich, distinctive history and culture, even though we are spread across several continents. It is therefore definitely not lost on me that such an extended relationship, one that has both depth and breadth, is so rare in life. As I have had the privilege to travel around the world on behalf of the US government and in the private sector working to increase investments in emerging markets particularly in Africa, I have had the opportunity to meet people from various countries and diverse cultures who have had the chance to spend some time in Ethiopia. I am always struck by the exceptional warmth they show towards me as a result of their “connection” to Ethiopia. They are always eager to share their stories and Ethiopian ties with me, whether their affinity is grounded in our nation’s history, people, religious diversity, tolerance or culture. All this goes to further reinforce the deep pride in my origins that my family instilled in me at a young age and nurtured over the years. When I think of how my brother, along with so many other Ethiopians, has been immediately welcomed with open arms on his return to Ethiopia, I am deeply moved by the blessing we share. I do not take it for granted. Not all diasporas across the world are so fortunate. Many never get to return to their countries of origin or have complicated feelings about them. However, as a member of the Ethiopian diaspora, I feel mainly as though I have been given an incredible gift and a responsibility. As an Ethiopian American, I appreciate and value what America has given me; incredible education and opportunities. I do however feel an unwavering obligation to give back to Ethiopia in a variety of ways. I have chosen the one closest to my heart: mentoring young professionals and students.

2. What advice would you give a younger you?

I would tell my younger self to not be afraid of change. I would tell myself to face my fears head on and to listen to my gut more. I would tell my younger self to demand more responsibility and make my presence known. I would tell my younger self that it’s okay to seek help. I would tell my younger self to GIVE more. I would tell my younger self to take time off more frequently and reconnect with lifelong friends and family.

3. What interest haven’t you pursued, but have always wanted to and what draws you to it?

Music, in particular, playing the guitar. I have always wanted to learn how to play the guitar since I was a child, but I didn’t have an opportunity to learn a musical instrument. More than 15 years ago, I co-founded a record label, C Side Entertainment, with some well-known musician friends, and we produced a few African artists. These days, both my children play the piano, and I am planning to take guitar lessons. One day, you will find us jamming to some Bob Marley music together.

4. What is your message to younger Ethiopians interested in following your career path?

First, I would tell them, don’t follow my career path, create your own. Do not expect opportunities to land on your lap; go out and make them. One of my earliest career breaks came from an article I was reading in Time magazine, about a company that had raised funds to launch a satellite over Africa. I wrote to the company and said I was interested in an internship. It was a startup, and they didn’t really have a proper program set up yet, so I spoke to the HR manager. I wrote up what my own internship would look like and how I could help. I was hired. In fact, I was the first intern hired by the company, and they ended up offering me a full-time job when I graduated from graduate school. Don’t follow someone else’s path. Make your own path.

Second, never stop learning. The world around us is changing so rapidly, now more than ever. You have to keep learning to keep up with change. I love reading articles and books about things I don’t know much about, such as cloud computing, ways to fight tuberculosis and malaria, or artificial intelligence, which I believe will change our lives in such a big way. So keep your curiosity. Be observant about the world around you. Ask questions. Lots of questions! But most of all, keep learning. Third, seek out mentors of all ages and stay in touch with them regularly, not just when you need a new job or a recommendation letter. One of my mentors was the chief of staff to the congressman I interned with when I was in college. We have stayed in touch over 25 years, through so many jobs and life changes. To this day, I always consult him before I make career decisions. Mentors don’t necessarily have to work in the same field as you. They simply need to be someone who is accomplished, and someone you respect and can be open and candid with. I have mentors that are much younger than me. They inspire me and give me new ideas all the time.

Finally, work hard, as there is no substitute for hard work, but also make sure you are also having fun at what you choose to do. Life goes by quickly, and this not a dress rehearsal. Fill your day with activities and work that you are passionate about. If you can do that, I promise you that you will find success.