5 MINUTES WITH NKIRU OLUMIDE-OJO
I really wanted to let the other woman know that beneath that gorgeous suit is also a struggling woman- also that the struggle is real.
Although everyone takes a different career path, there’s usually a common underlying move that makes success feasible. Just ask Nkiru Olumide Ojo, a communications expert, one of the founders of The Lighthouse Network and also author of the must-read book, The Pressure Cooker. In this interview with KONYE CHELSEA NWABOGOR, she skirts on several topics, ranging from her foray into marketing and communications, the keys to career success and what it takes to be a best selling author. How did your childhood and early experiences contribute to your professional path?
I grew up in Port-Harcourt which at the time, was a cosy garden city where we pretty much said it as it was, I often joked that in Port- Harcourt you were infused with extra boldness and less layers of filters than the other person your age in another city.
I didn’t know how not to speak my mind nor make requests I thought were due me or otherwise- so I grew up as a young person who said what was on her mind. What led you to your first job, and what did you learn in that position that you couldn’t have learned in school?
As a child I knew I loved watching TV commercials, reading adverts and just generally telling stories- I knew all I liked but didn’t know what it meant nor that there was a profession like that- a friend eventually spoke to me about marketing/public relations/corporate communication and in my service year, I went off to the leading advertising agency in Kaduna at the time to tell them I needed to work there. After the initial shock from the appearance of a forward thinking Youth Corper at their door - they indulged me with a test and the rest, as they say,is history- the biggest lesson I learnt was to simply go for what you want- if I was older, I’d probably have rationalized many things such as ‘but you didn’t study that or you’d need to at least know one person in the company to get in’ or something less helpful. You just wrote a book about your experiences, The Pressure Cooker. Congratulations! What made you want to share your story? Thank You- I wrote The Pressure Cooker out of my personal struggles. I had young children, a fast paced job and many other engagements and I was struggling because I wanted to be the best wife, best mother, stellar worker, a great in-law and even a star worker in church. Expectedly, balls dropped and I didn’t find anyone who was speaking honestly about her struggles- everyone I found looked all put together and winning- so I started writing a column in Business Day lamenting about my challenges. Years later, this morphed into a book. I really wanted to let the other woman know that beneath that gorgeous suit is also a struggling woman- also that the struggle is real. Writing a book is a huge undertaking, and you did it while attending to a full time job. How did you strike a balance?
I like to do my job right and complete therefore I knew it was my sleep time that had to give- I worked on my book mostly at late night, literally sleeping and working. What makes a successful leader? I think a successful leader is one who leads with firmness, fairness and empathy. What’s the best part of the work you do, and what are some of the ways you gauge your success?
The ultimate summary of my job is selling really. Being able to tell a story in a non-obvious way that gets the consumer to buy a vision, product or service. There’s so much struggling for the consumer’s attention all hour round that he almost always has his defenses uphaving to get his attention enough to consider buying your story is a win.
Success meant different things to me at different stagesat one time, it was just to get a promotion, another time it was to get married, and have children- the definition of success evolves for me- but the content still includes, wellbeing, spiritual, physical, material, career- just touching the bar of the indices set in this regard. Any observations about the challenges women face that are specific to the communications industry?
I think this sector is one of the most gender embracing sectors to be honest– completely gender less. Only your ideas define you, you have a voice, your voice is sought and heard. We may not have as much women Chief Executives, as we may like as yet, but we’ve had women who have done really well, Bunmi Oke who was Triple A President, Mrs. T of LTC at the time, Tope Jemerigbe of DKK and the late Alima Attah, most recently Folake Ani-Mumuney who became the President of ADVAN. What do you wake up looking forward to?
Improving on yesterday’s target, finding ways or ideas to alleviate the many challenges/pains that women face. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to any 20-something year old lady starting out?
Get out of your own way. Half the time the things that also chase us are in the mind; just go for it- it is the chances you don’t take that you regret. If you had to choose, what’s the one major takeaway you’d like your readers to get out of your book?
Get emotional intelligence early on in your career rather than waiting for circumstances to teach you. It is a good equipment – as good as your qualification!