Tomi Otudeko is the Head of Innovation and Sustainability at the Honeywell Group. She is also Director of Itanna, a venture investing platform for tech startups. She opens up on her life and finding success within failure.
I can trace my success back to my childhood; being raised by a mother and father who never told me I was limited and encouraged me to pursue whatever goal I chose for myself.
I wouldn’t say there was a clear plan; the only thing I was truly clear on was that I would make impact and leave my imprint on this world. I believe that each of us is here for a purpose and once we find that purpose, things fall into place.
As a young child, I had difficulty with reading, spelling and writing. When I read letters, (particularly P, D, Q & B) sometimes floated on the page and made it hard to follow, while my writing and spelling were poor. It caused some people to label me as “slow” and got me punished for the quality of my work. It affected my learning and led to some difficult times in primary school.
I changed schools to a more nurturing environment and at 11I got tested and was diagnosed with dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. It’s a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing. It tends to affect each person differently. Unlike a learning disability, intelligence isn’t affected.
My diagnosis was the “best” thing that ever happened to me. It made me realise that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. I was just different and learnt differently. From then on, I had great support and started creating structures to learn effectively given my difficulties. Over the years, I have come to see dyslexia less like a challenge and more of a blessing because it made me understand that irrespective of a setback I could rise above it and still attain my goals. This mindset has helped shape me into the woman I am today.
Success from Failure
The spark to my success came from my first real taste of failure. Growing up, I had a thirst for knowledge and despite my learning difficulties, I did well. Without much effort, I left secondary school with 3 A’s in my A Levels and entered university. What I didn’t realise was that university wouldn’t be as easy as secondary school and getting the grades I wanted and expected would require me to work harder. By the time I started to put in the work, it was too late and I ended up leaving university with a 2:2. For me, that was “failure” because I knew I hadn’t worked as hard as I could and performed lower than I expected. It severely affected my confidence but was also the turning point for me. It made me realise that I had to take my success into my hands. I saw the power of hard work and knew that things wouldn’t just be handed to me. Since then every success I have had has been underpinned by hard work and grit.
Vision is critical to success. A great man once said, “empires of the future are the empires of the mind.” Everyone must be encouraged to dream, to cultivate and nurture vision. So for me, it all starts with a clearly defined purpose. There will always be challenges but rather than dwell on them, we have to ensure that we do not lose sight of the overarching objective.
In recent times, I have set personal goals and tried to map out the skills, people and experience I need to help me achieve these goals. I work towards preparing myself, so that when God presents me with an opportunity, I am ready to take advantage of it.
Circle of Success
You cannot do it alone and I am supported by friends and family that have allowed me to be who I am today. I am one of seven siblings. I also have friends that have become like family. My family – biological and non-biological – is the core of my network. They are “My People”.
My people are my cheerleaders, my sounding board and the people who keep me in check. You need people like that in your life, people who remind you who you are. People who hold you accountable and encourage you to be the best you can be.
In my career, I have experienced the power of your network. It is important to be available to help others in your network, and don’t be afraid to tap into your network so you can achieve your goals.
There have been so many memorable days. In recent times though, seeing the work we are doing at Itanna come together with our first demo day at the end of last year, was the most rewarding experience. It excites me that I am supporting new companies while also helping to secure the future of one of Nigeria’s foremost indigenous companies.
To African Women
Never allow yourself to accept the status quo, look for solutions to problems around you. As we already do, we must leverage on the culture of hard work that is expected of us early in life. We must be knowledgeable, resourceful and value creators. With that, we cannot be ignored and society will have to give us our rightful place on the table.
What She Said
- You need people who remind you who you are. People who hold you accountable and encourage you to be the best you can be.
- Work towards preparing yourself, so that when God presents you with an opportunity you are ready to take advantage of it.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.