Ayotola Jagun is the Chief Compliance Officer & Company Secretary at Oando PLC. She is also a Board Member of the United Nations Global Compact Network, Nigeria and a member of the Independent Directors Committee of the Institute of Directors in Nigeria. She chairs the Corporate Governance and Compliance Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association’s section of Business Law. In this interview, she talks to us about journey into Corporate Law, beating the odds and making a success out of her career.
My Driving Force
I started off my legal career at the chambers of Chief Rotimi Williams. I always knew from the beginning that I was interested in Corporate Law and everything to do with Corporate Governance.
My interest in Corporate Law stemmed from growing up in an entrepreneurial home, seeing my father start and grow his business from his bedroom and turning it into a large corporate employing thousands of staff and operating throughout the country. I learned the value of hard work and excellence from him. My father is a sucker for excellence and that somehow rubbed off on me. His hard work and tenacity have always inspired me to push for more.
I’ve learned that it is okay to be vulnerable. It is normal to feel a little bit uneasy when you start in a new role or embark on a new business venture. A lot of us like to be at ease, but when you are at ease, you don’t change or grow. There are no new challenges, and over time, you become very comfortable. It’s okay to be in an environment where you are constantly challenging yourself to change for this is when creativity blooms, and innovation is birthed.
On Women Empowerment
I am passionate about creating a level playing field for women because other women who have gone ahead of me have strived to create a level playing field for me. My predecessor was a woman. I remember when she was ready to leave this role, she looked for her successor and I was one of the people she put forward. I was fortunate enough to be employed to take on that role. So I have had a woman who has paved the way for me, on whose shoulders, I should say, I have stepped on to get where I am today.
It would absolutely make no sense for me not to do the same for other women. I am particularly passionate about women finding their voice and fulfilling their purpose. This is because I have found out that to a considerable extent, women are not allowed to achieve their potential and do what it is they were put on this earth to do. A country cannot achieve its full potential if the women in it are not empowered to succeed. So, if we really want Nigeria to thrive, we need to allow women and not just women, but the men too, an equal opportunity to be everything that they have been created to be.
But, because we live in a patriarchal society, a lot of women are not considered. I’ll tell you the story of a young woman that I’m currently sponsoring; this young lady came to work for me as my house. The day I interviewed her, I asked about her parents and discovered her mother was late. She also mentioned that on the day she was born, her father walked out of the hospital, and out of his wife’s life because he didn’t want a girl. I keep wondering how differently her life could have turned out if she had all the opportunities to complete her education. She wanted to be a doctor, but couldn’t continue because she had nobody to help sponsor her education.
This has made me particularly passionate about young women from disadvantaged communities. Once there’s an opportunity to sponsor them, I make sure I take advantage of it. I have a number of girls who are the first in their generation to attend a university. You can imagine how that will transform and lift families out of poverty, when they eventually complete their degrees and get decent jobs.
Growing up as a child, I was nicknamed a Lawyer because I would argue with anyone and everyone until I made my point. I used to read the dictionary, pick up new words and use those new words in my arguments. But somehow, I ended up struggling through secondary school and when it was time to get into university, my teachers at the time, didn’t think I had the intellectual capacity to study Law.
So they tried pushing me to study Performing Arts. But my parents would not hear of it. My parents had much confidence in me, and this made me put in extra work. My father made me believe that I could achieve whatever I wanted to. I believe these were building blocks for my career. I have been able to grow into a successful Lawyer, and this is something I am very proud of. I was able to do something that people around me felt I couldn’t achieve.
One other milestone that stands out for me is acquiring my Masters degree in Corporate Governance and Business Ethics. I made that decision when Corporate Governance was not the topic of the day, but I was able to identify, from sitting in board meetings, that there was a lot to be gained in organizations being properly structured, and governed.
At the time I was running this programme, I was also working full time, and had a child. It was a very tasking period and mentally tough too. But, I am grateful for the opportunity to have done this degree, which was very timely and has opened up many doors of opportunity to me on a global level. I was able to learn a lot and grow, and it has helped me solidify my career path.
I know there are many women who are wondering how exactly they can attain success The key thing is to concentrate on being yourself and doing what you are passionate about. The commitment, hard work, and positivity that you display when you are following your passion is what leads to sustainable success in life.
Ayotola Jagun is the Chief Compliance Officer & Company Secretary at Oando PLC. She is also a Board Member of the United Nations Global Compact Network, Nigeria and a member of the Institute of Directors in Nigeria. She chairs the Corporate Governance and Compliance Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association’s section of Business Law.