ON STARTING OUT
In the beginning, I was a seeker and dreamer. Like many other people I imagine, I was at a point where I wasn’t quite sure who I was. I tried very hard to be everything I thought everybody wanted me to be, to fit the mold that was prescribed for me, to align to the rules, regulations and expectations of others. And yet, the desire to follow my dreams was there. I was blessed with the opportunity to explore, to try so many different things until I found out which was truly me.
For instance, in secondary school I always dreamt that I’d go on to get a Master’s degree and then work as a Diplomat. Then I decided that I really wanted to be on TV. At a point when I watched Oprah’s shows, I was SURE I wanted to host my own talk show. I was an explorer and a seeker until I discovered what I really wanted to do.
I have since figured out that it doesn’t really matter what you study as a first degree. It is just the foundation. You build your career based on who you discover yourself to be and what you love. Leaving school and starting out in my career, I discovered that I really wanted to be a Communicator; I wanted to be a connector.
When I worked as the PR manager for IKB Industries, I wanted to learn more about this exciting profession, so I took a professional course at the Nigeria institute of Journalism just to understand PR better. This is when I discovered so much to love in Public Relations. Finally I had found where I wanted to build a career. If I had to choose, I will pick it over again.
I studied International Languages – Modern European Languages as it was called at that time, at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. What I really wanted was to study Mass Communication and work on television, but I didn’t make the JAMB cut-off mark. By the end of my first year studying the French Language, I was hooked! I wanted to continue exploring this exciting new world of French Literature and Civilization.
Russian language was actually an elective. I was in shock in my first lecture – I kept wondering what I was doing there! Imagine … I discovered that I had to learn how to learn new alphabets in Russian! It was like starting school all over again. I remember breaking into tears in one of my lectures and needed counseling to get it all together, lol … Anyway, I made up my mind to give it my best shot and discovered it was a beautiful language of a people with a rich history.
Being bi-lingual has certainly been an advantage in my career. The majority of countries in the west and central Africa are francophone. Yes, fluency in the French language gave me more opportunities in the sub-region. The communication skills were a plus too!
THE MANY FACES OF CAREER
At the beginning of my work-life, I won’t say career, I just needed a job so I could meet my financial responsibilities. I wasn’t sure exactly where I was headed, but early on, I learnt a lesson from one of my mentors who said to me, “Don’t keep your eyes on where you want to go next, be focused on here and now. Allow yourself to explore and be the best at what you are doing here and now, right where you are.” That has really helped me ‘give my all’ to every job I have had the privilege to do, including my current role.
I started out as the Personal Assistant to the CEO of a Logistics company and was promoted to the Operations team. Six months later, I became the International Operations manager. I knew that I really didn’t want to remain in the Logistics business, but I gave it my best.
From Logistics, I had stints in Beauty and Healthcare, then on to Nollywood, and to content production for TV, then music.
I then spent about ten years in the ICT industry before joining the food and beverages industry in 2016. Transitioning from ICT to F&B was quite an experience … I love food, so that really helped, lol. I have learnt so much about the food industry and I’m amazed at the opportunities that exist for innovation and renovation. I am having the time of my life!
One thing that has helped is being prepared when the opportunities came knocking! Investing in personal development is important. It is true that sometimes people are prepared but the opportunities don’t show up; this is where grace comes in.
To me, leadership is about achieving results with others while helping them achieve their dreams and objectives. Leadership is a journey and a process. It is also about continuous, intentional learning and self-development. It is about genuine interest in people and in their development. There are couple of things that have helped me on my journey.
I believe that everyone has potential and that if equipped with the right skills and given the right opportunities they can achieve their dreams if they really want to. I have learnt to recognize those who want to fly.
I also believe strongly that leadership is not by force. It is not about you. It is about those who choose you as their leader. You can be a boss and not a leader. You can only lead those who choose you. This is a humbling truth for me, and I do not take it for granted.
One very important thing is that I do not take Grace for granted. Grace has brought me to the right place at the right time. Grace has helped me out of tight corners when there seemed to be no way out.
I love to read, I love writing … this is one of my happy places. I read fiction-psychological thrillers and courtroom sagas, romance. I read business books, marketing, communications, personal-development, everything. But there is one book that has made and continues to make a lot of impact in my life: The Bible. It’s definitely a must-read.
Another book I would strongly recommend to everyone who wants to take charge of their lives is “Recreating Your World” by Reverend Chris Oyakhilome. It helps me to refocus and plan for the year ahead. I read it over and over again.
ON STRIKING A BALANCE
A lot has been said about work-life balance, but can you really strike a balance between work and life all the time? I am not so sure. There are a few things I am sure of however.
We have one life and we express ourselves in different ways, in different spheres of relationships. Sometimes there is a lot more to do in one sphere of responsibility or relationship than the others. At those times, it is important to be clear about what matters most in order to make the right decision. I have learnt to prioritize and focus on what matters at every point in time and to focus my energy on getting that done.
My relationship with God is very important to me. My family is very important to me, and I make the effort to be a present, intentional parent. Church is very important to me. My job is very important to me. Can I pay equal attention to all of them at the same time? No.
I pay more attention to who/what needs my attention at various times and I’m intentional about that.
I have served in Church for over 20 years and I am very passionate about that. I build my life around my relationship with God, my family and my job. My work in Church comes from a place of love and gratitude. God has been gracious and kind to me. The least I can do is to also be there for others, to help them find this higher and better life. That’s why I do what I do in Church.
Another important thing I have learnt about achieving balance is making time for yourself! There are times when you need a break, be wise and take time off. Sometimes you need time just for you. You need to create the time and space to recoup your energy in order to be the best for everyone around you.
ON BECOMING A WONDER WOMAN
Be true to yourself, have a vision, write it down, engrave it in your mind. Don’t be distracted, continue learning. Volunteer and learn. Whatever you do, keep your dream in front of you. Don’t let anything kill your dream because at the end of the day your sense of self-worth is knowing you fulfilled your destiny and you did it right. Just keep it real and if you fall down get up. Whatever you do, don’t stop.
Lanre is a writer and digital media enthusiast, with a flair for anything related to empowerment. He is also the Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer at The Spark.