5 MIN­UTES WITH NKIRU OLUMIDE-OJO

THISDAY Style - - COVER -

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!

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