Goodbye Mary Berry: 5 Life Lessons

It was announced today that Mary Berry will not be a judge on The Great British Bake Off when it moves to Channel 4, whilst Paul Hollywood remains.

I got all sorts of lessons from her actions.

  1. Loyalty. Don’t forget the people who opened doors for you.
  2. Confidence. Don’t be afraid to stand out on your own. You don’t need to follow the herd. Make choices that are right for you.
  3. Courage. This might come with age but to be willing to make a sound decision in the face of pressure from viewers & all takes guts.
  4. Change. When one door closes, another door opens. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
  5. Focus. Stay in your lane. Whilst you may travel on this road called life with others sometimes you might part ways with them to create a new path for yourself.

We will miss you Mary. 😣😣😣😣😢😢😢😢😢

Baking Has Taught Me To Never Say Never

The first celebration cake I baked was for my daughter’s fourth birthday. It was a disaster. Bless her heart, she thought it was the best cake ever and still does. I look at that and think what the heck is that????? If I showed you that cake and said I wanted to start a cake business, chances are that you would laugh me out of your presence. Never mind any dreams of having a café, I just didn’t have the talent.

I baked this cake in September 2012

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Six months later
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A year later

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And this one in December 2013
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In 15 months of practice (not even regularly) and no formal training, I have begun to turn out better looking cakes. There have been days when I’ve been so down on myself and thought there is no chance on earth or in heaven that I could ever ever do this. Who would want a cake that looked like a mudslide? However, A little over a year, I am really proud of what I’ve done. Not because they are the best but simply because I have improved and some people actually want to pay for my cakes.

So I’ve developed some ‘never rules’ to always remember when I’m embarking on a new journey:

      Never judge a book by it’s cover, including yourself

 

      Never be afraid to learn something new

 

      Never stop learning

 

      Never say you can’t until you’ve tried

 

      Never give up because something is too hard for you

 

      Nerve judge your future by a moment of hardship

 

      Never compare yourself to someone else and decide you’ll never be good enough

 

      Never let tears (or disappointment) stop you from getting up the next day and trying again

 

      Never stop trying whilst you still have breath in you

 

      Never lose patience with yourself

 

      Never let imperfection stop you from presenting your work

 

      Never be in a hurry to be a master at what you do

 

    Never fail to assess where you are and determine a course of action to get you to where you want to be.

All this from baking you ask. What can I say? The kitchen is a jungle. 🙂

Lessons from Kendra Harrison’s ‘Failure’

Life is my greatest teacher and I love to observe and learn from the lives of others.  Whilst watching the Olympic Anniversary Games last weekend, I attended life school when Kendra Harrison broke a 28-year-old world record 100m hurdles. More interesting to me was discovering that she did not qualify for the Olympics even though she was the fastest woman in the world.

This spoke volumes to me on so many levels that I’m not sure where to start. I guess the initial encouragement is that the ‘race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong……… but time and chance happens to them all’. If the world’s fastest woman could not make the Olympics, then I think we all need to take is easy on ourselves sometimes. Even with the best intentions, will, preparation and knowledge we may not get it right when we want. We may not nail that job interview or win that business or pass that exam or make that relationship work – even with the best intentions. It’s a sobering thought but also an encouragement to simply go ahead and do our best and that should always be enough.

I also love the fighting spirit in her – the epitome of the comeback kid.  What an amazing way to stick it to the world after fate conspired to cheat her out of her Olympic dream. To bounce back from that and come to the Games and smash a world record is phenomenal. No one can dispute that she is a champion which just goes to show you that the world doesn’t always measure true success accurately. We can’t really call her a failure can we?

And lastly, this is also an encouragement for the rest of us who don’t always measure up or feel good enough. If we are prepared and diligent, our Olympic moment will come because the race isn’t always to the swift. However, the reality is that Kendra was the one to beat; the one that would have had others feeling threatened during the trials. Whilst no one might have predicted she wouldn’t make it through, only the ones who were prepared were able to take advantage of that oppotunity.

Have a great week everyone.

 

 

Redefining Wonder Woman Series 11: Following Your Passion

I can’t believe this is the first in the Redefining Wonder Woman Series for 2016. It’s been such a busy year for me so I guess better late than never!  When I started my blog, my main reason was to encourage women. A while ago, I was contemplating giving up my blog and I got a random message from Keji Aofiyebi, an events and wedding planner. She was going back to school to gain some qualifications and wanted to let me know my blog encouraged her to. Keji has encouraged me every step of the way and I’m pleased to finally have a chance to interview her, a year since that message. Hope her story encourages you.

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RWW: What’s your professional background?
KA: I’m an art and design graduate specialising in illustration. I graduated in the mid 90’s and wasn’t clear on what career path I wanted to pursue. I couldn’t see how ‘Art’ was going to produce an income so I worked my way into IT. For the last fifteen years, I’ve been working as a software tester; the first seven on a permanent basis and the last eight as a freelance consultant.

RWW:  If I’m honest, I was pleasantly  shocked when you said my blog encouraged you to pursue your dream. How long have you wanted to be an event planner?
KA: I’ve wanted to change my career path for at least ten years now. I’m a creative person by nature and for me, being in an office environment doing something I really don’t like feels like a dead-end job; no matter how much I’m being paid.  A few years ago I realised I really wanted out of this field but at the time I wasn’t sure what. Although I’m very detailed and militant in organising my work, I wasn’t sure  how or where to start.  Reading your blogs, I noticed one thing in common with all the women including yourself that had made changes –  they all made sacrifices, they all wanted to follow their dreams and they all worked hard to achieve.

RWW: What was it like studying, working and being a parent?
KA:  To be honest, I had to draw strength from and lean on my faith in God to get me through. Thankfully I have a hands-on husband who is really good with the children and cooks well. On a practical note, I did some assignments early mornings and some on my train commute to work. Some weekends, I did nothing but assignments. My older children literally had to sort themselves out but my youngest one was still a bit physically demanding. Thankfully he’s a daddy’s boy. Everyone has really helped to pick up the slack.

RWW: What would you say are the tell tale signs for anyone contemplating a career change?
KA:

  1. FirstlyI would say a lack of interest in your current income source or job – you really can’t be bothered!!
  2. A lack of vision or a future regarding your current job.
  3.  A lack of drive and the feeling that you’re not getting anywhere in your current job.  Incidentally you aren’t getting anywhere because everything you do in your current job seems a bore!
  4. Most obvious, you really don’t like your job and you’re just doing it for the money.

RWW: So give me three to five practical things someone in a similar situation could do.
KA:

  1. First, you’ll need to identify your dream career.  What’s that one thing you really enjoy doing?  That thing you enjoy doing so much you would do it for free?  After you’ve identified it, find a cheap yet convenient course – could be a one day course, could be a free course.  Nothing expensive, you’re simply testing the waters to see if you’ve identified your passion.
  2. No matter what your dream career is never ever belittle it as someone actually needs what you have to offer.  Your dream career is precious to you so be careful who you share your vision with – there are people that are going to think you’ve lost your marbles.  Get your inspiration from women who are doing what you want to do, the web, reading books, following bloggers, etc.
  3. Put your vision down, somewhere you can see it . Write it and put a plan is place.
  4. Things are not going to always fall into place no matter your plan so be prepared for failure, rejection and mistakes. Give yourself time to assess your failures,only a little time, then dust and pick yourself up and get moving. You must learn to accept rejection and failure before you can accept success.

RWW: How do you manage your time between all your responsibilities? Any tips?
KA: I write a to do list weekly, well I try to. The week of a wedding it’s about that wedding solely.  I’m up very early six days a week.  When I can’t cook because of the business I order home cooked food and  I get the rest of family to chip in big time with housework. I also get the children involved in my business admin and pay them a fee.  I always have a rest day where I do nothing, no matter what, because life is hectic I find I need it.

RWW: As a newbie in the events industry you would have made some mistakes.  What’s the one thing you would advise anyone to do?
KA: The one mistake I would say I’m making is not getting out enough to network. The advice would be when you’re starting your dream career you need to attend exhibitions and networking events. Get out and see what the competition is doing.

RWW: What do you find exciting about what you do?
KA: Every event is unique, no two events are the same  I really enjoy working from concept and bringing the clients vision alive.  I also enjoy putting order in a mess, it’s like being presented with a puzzle and me putting all the pieces together … Exciting !

RWW: And for anyone looking to get into events and wedding planning?
KA: This industry is not for the faint hearted.  Make sure this is what you really want to do. Find an affordable course there a number of accredited providers out there and go for it.  Don’t leave your day job till you’ve built up your reputation.

RWW:  You set up your business, Keji Aofiyebi Services, in January 2015. What has been your greatest achievement to date?
KA:  Right! My greatest achievement has been stepping out, training up and making the switch.  After a certain age we are told by the world that we are too old to make changes, I’ve literally refused to believe that. I think it’s a big deal to live your dream and I’m on the way to achieving that.

RWW: What are the low points?
KA: Building any business is very challenging and comes with it’s share of expenses.  No one warned me about that!

RWW: Every Wonder Woman has a cheer leading squad. Who are your champions?
KA: My family! They are always curious about my projects and what I’m up to. Plus they’ve all had to chip in with housework and cooking. My husband has had to do all that as well as act as chauffeur, handy man and critic who is not allowed to be critical LOL.  There’s also my good friend Valerie Elliot the hostess of a charity, Time Away With Jesus. She literally saw something in me I didn’t know I had and has been a cheerleader ever since.  I also have other friends who have been encouraging and cheering me on.

RWW:  I understand you are hosting a wedding exhibition.  Tell us a bit about it?
KA: This is me stepping way out of my comfort zone to showcase myself as a wedding plannerIt’s called ‘The Aisle‘, an event to showcase a couple’s core wedding needs for their big day.  I’m collaborating with four other industry vendors.  It’s taking place at Holiday inn Brent Cross, NW2 1LP on the 19th of June 2016.  The other vendors are:

Faces of Bodin – The makeup artist

Myrtle and Olive – The caterer

Ayanski – The aso oke and fabric designer

Lite house – The photographer

These really are the core of planning a wedding day. Everything else is built around these vendors so I think it will prove to be an exciting day.

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RWW: Thanks Keji. I wish you all the best.

Thought of the Day

I came across this quote from Kenzo designer, Humberto Leon and I thought how true.

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I’ve found that if you want to succeed at anything in life, you need a good dose of desire and curiosity. Simply because you have to observe, learn and create.

Without the desire to be a success and curiosity, you won’t go on the prequisite learning path which leads to success.

Success can be a very lonely path but with bright eyes, keen to learn, and a questioning mind, you’ll get very far.

My First Review

I’ve been running my Vision Board workshops for just under three months now and it’s been tough yet fulfilling.

I guess starting any new venture can be a hard slug and there are times when you wonder if it’s worth it; especially when it seems you are getting no where really fast. Yes, I’m a tad impatient. 😊😊

I do always find it quite fortuitous that whenever I have those moments,  someone sends me a review or a note to say how this workshop has been instrumental in shaping their life. That is simply humbling, encouraging, amazing and all those sort of words you could think of. 😆😆😆

Yesterday, I woke up to a review by a blogger who attended the very first workshop; the one I fondly refer to as the just-do-it-afraid-workshop. Such moments are a signpost for me and motivate me to work even harder. It’s even more special because it was unsolicited and unexpected. I just love that people’s lives are changing and I’m a part of that story. 🙌🙌🙌🙏🙏🙏

Here’s the review by What Mummy Wore. A little different but wonderful all the same. Enjoy!

Redefining Wonder Woman Series Seven: Giving Back

This is the first Redefining Woman Woman post of 2015 and I am so excited to introduce my school friend, Ore Somolu-Lesi to you all. Nigeria has sadly had a lot of negative press lately and I’m happy to share one of the many things that gives me hope for my homeland.

Ore Somolu-Lesi

Ore Somolu-Lesi

Ore and I met at Queen’s College (secondary school) about thirty years ago. Although our parents were good friends, we were sort of flung into close proximity by virtue of our height. As tall girls, we often found ourselves together at the back of the line for assembly. At school, Ore was incredibly clever- she seemed to sail through exams effortlessly; serene, strong-willed and really quiet. Whilst life has taken us on very different paths, we’ve kept in touch through the years. Today,Ore is the founder of a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) known as Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC) which empowers girls and women through the use of information technology. I hope her story inspires and encourages you.

RWW: What did you want to be as a little girl?
Ore: I wanted to be so many things. Each week, I had a different ambition and they were all so different: one week I wanted to be an astronaut, the next an interior designer. I guess there was something about each one of these jobs appealed to a part of me or to one of my interests. And I had very many interests. I was fascinated by space and watched every programme that explored life outside of the Earth. I loved to organize things and people. I loved to learn about far-flung parts of the world.

The constants were that I loved reading and liked to write, so I assumed that whatever I ended up doing would involve a good deal of both.

RWW: Please tell us a little bit of your background
Ore: I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria as the eldest child of 3 children (with 1 brother and 1 sister). My parents were both engineers with strong entrepreneurial streaks. My first degree was in Economics at the University of Essex, U.K. and then I went on to study for a Masters of Science degree in Analysis, Design & Management of Information Systems at the London School of Economics & Political Science.

My Masters degree was an interdisciplinary programme that explored the development and management of information systems within organizations and countries. Information systems are made-up of technology, the users, the environment in which the technology will be deployed and any policies guiding the use of said technology. It was a very interesting programme, one in which we studied different theories on change, innovation and management.

Afterwards, I moved to the United States, to gain more practical technology skills and experience. I opted for a certificate programme on Applied Sciences at the Extension School of Harvard University, Boston. In the programme, I focused on programming, web development, multimedia and technical writing. I gained skills that led me to a variety of exciting volunteering opportunities such as helping a small non-profit design and manage their electronic newsletter. I also taught web design at a community technology centre.

My first real job was at a non-profit organisation called Education Development Centre (EDC) Inc., where I worked as a research assistant looking at the different ways men and women used the Internet for learning. I moved on to building the website and managing the technology resources for another department within the same organization. It was a time of incredible learning and stretching for me and I gradually came to realize that I could do so much more than I thought I could. However, it always meant taking myself out of my comfort zone.

RWW: Having lived away from home for so long, what motivated your move to Nigeria?
Ore: I lived abroad for eleven years (five and a half in the U.K and the U.S each). I knew ultimately that I wanted to move back home to Nigeria. From my work with community technology centres in the U.S, I had seen my students grow in confidence from learning how to use computers. I had also seen my former students go on to get jobs based on what they learnt in my classes. My work exploring the potential of using technology for change in the U.S encouraged me to see how women and girls in Nigeria could also learn how to use these tools for learning and empowerment.

RWW: Did you have a plan?
Ore: I got a job offer in an oil and gas consultancy firm. This was a very different industry from the one I had been working in. I wasn’t quite sure what I would be doing there, but it was a job and I had found that it wasn’t very easy getting a job from the U.S. However, I managed to get a job before moving home and was grateful for it. My immediate plan was to complete the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme as soon as I moved back home.

RWW: How did you go from an Economics degree to advocacy?
Ore: In my final year at Queens College, I had to pick the degree I wanted to study in university. I didn’t have a clue! I danced around from degree to degree.

The general thinking then was that the smart girls chose Medicine; the girls who can talk and argue go for Law; the business-minded girls chose business and commercial degrees like Banking & Finance, Accountancy and Business Administration. Then, everyone else gets in where they can fit in. I had no idea what I could do, but I thought “I’m quite smart, so I should pick medicine.”

This was a hilarious decision considering that, all my life, I had an aversion to blood. I closed my eyes during the gory parts of films. I also was not particularly enthused by physics and chemistry.

In the end, I didn’t get high enough grades in Physics and Chemistry to study Medicine. Although, it was such a humbling experience, it turned out to be such a blessing in disguise, because then I could give more thought to what I really wanted to do. I honestly still couldn’t figure it out, but opted to study Economics because I was very good in Economics and Maths. I decided that I would try many different things while at university and so hopefully, by the time I graduated, I would have figured things out a bit more.

RWW: And did you figure things out?
Ore: Before I started university, I went to a computer school to pass the time until I could start school again and learnt how to use a computer properly. A fascinating new world of knowledge was opened-up to me.

When I got to university, I started a business typing essays for other students. It was hugely empowering to make my own money with the skills I had. Then I started thinking about how other women could use technology in their lives for their own empowerment.

I decided to study Information Systems for my Masters degree to gain a better understanding of the role of technology in social and economic development. While I was doing my Masters, I got to learn about how few women were working in the technology space. This included creating technology, developing technology-related policy. Even in terms of access and usage – the figures for women were very low. I was intrigued to know why and to do something to help close that gap.

The idea that would eventually become W.TEC started to take shape. This was firmed-up when I moved to the United States and worked at EDC and my volunteering role at the community technology centres.

RWW: Explain what W.TEC is all about?
Ore: The Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC) is a Nigerian non-governmental organization set-up in 2008 and which encourages Nigerian girls and women to learn how to use information and communication technology as a means of empowering themselves socially and economically. Our programmes include technology literacy workshops; skill-building projects; and research examining pivotal issues related to African women’s use of technology.

Our programmes are a combination of technology literacy classes, mentoring opportunities and research. We offer young girls a technology camp each year as well as after-school clubs which help to extend and deepen the initial learning they receive from the camp.

Through a mix of classes, workshops, presentations, excursions and leadership exercises, we endeavour to build strong, intelligent and focused young women, well-prepared for living and working in an increasingly technology-driven world. Our girls learn how to program, create applications for mobile devices, build websites, make short films, etc. They also participate in career talks led by women working in technology jobs or who use technology in interesting ways for their work.

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W.TEC in Action

RWW: And what do you offer women?
Ore: For women, we have the Entrepreneurship & Technology programme, which is designed to equip current & aspiring female entrepreneurs with relevant business & technology skills to build and manage a profitable and sustainable business.

RWW: Why girls and technology? Why not poverty, health or education in general?
Ore: W.TEC was set-up in January 2008 and conceived in response to research that showed that although ICTs significantly contribute to a nation’s development and growth, women – who make-up approximately half of Nigeria’s population – are severely lagging behind in their knowledge and use of technology.

Over the last two decades, Nigeria has experienced a rapid growth in information and communication technology (ICT) jobs, however women are less equipped to participate in this space. Available research shows that female enrolment in the technology and engineering courses of Nigerian higher institutions is lower than men’s (Punch Newspaper, January 5, 2010). This disparity continues in industry, with women accounting for less than 20% of ICT jobs in Nigeria and tending to occupy mostly junior or non-technical positions (Development Information Network, 2006). This means that women are not benefiting from technology’s economic and social advantages.

Research also indicates that in order to ensure that more women are working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths careers; it is important that the interest of girls in these subjects is kept and nurtured through secondary school. That is why we pay particular attention to working with girls aged 11 to 17 years.

RWW: Every career or cause has a humble beginning. What form did W.TEC take in the early days?
Ore: The precursor to W.TEC was a project I set-up in 2006 with a friend Sokari Ekine called Blogs for African Women (BAWo). This was a 6-week project that taught secondary school girls how to blog. In doing that, we helped them gain more confidence using computers. As a result, I gained the experience of running a project from the concept stage to the implementation , monitoring and evaluation stages.

A while after the project ended, I saw a Call for Proposals for a small grant that would support projects that helped to strengthen networks. I built on the BAWo project and submitted a proposal for what would become W.TEC’s first project: the Networking for Success project (http://www.w-teconline.org/nfsblog). The Networking for Success project would teach women how to use Web 2.0 tools (essentially social media) and other ICTs to effectively develop and advance their work. We shared a lot of the learning materials online and created a blog where the network of women would discuss their use of the various tools we were learning about.

Thankfully, we were selected to receive the grant in 2007 and at the end of the year, I resigned from my job to set-up W.TEC. In January 2008, I started work full-time on W.TEC. Looking back on it now, those were very exciting times.

Project coordinator, Toyin Ajao, our office assistant, Nkechi Nnamchi, and I we set-up the structure which was the foundation for what W.TEC is today. We implemented the Networking for Success project in May 2008.

RWW: What experience did you have at the time to run the organisation?
Ore: All I really had was a very little idea about what it took to run an organization, but I learnt as I went along. At the time, it was quite nerve-wracking and I always feared I would be ‘found out’ as someone who didn’t really know what she was doing. But, it seemed to others, that I looked like I did. I was very, very passionate about my work and I realise that definitely helped buoy me through the times where I was very uncertain about myself. I handled 90% of the training in those days and all our beneficiaries commented on how well I was able to teach and how much I seemed to love my work.

Over the years, we have grown in staff strength a little (we are now four with a sizeable team of volunteers). We have some more structure in place, but still flexible enough to make decisions fairly quickly and adapt to changing circumstances.

RWW: What challenges have you faced in terms of changing perceptions of women in IT, particularly in Nigeria?
Ore: When W.TEC started in 2008, there was very little knowledge about the gender digital divide in Nigeria – why it existed and why it was important to close it. W.TEC was one of the few organizations working in this area and we have engaged in a lot of awareness-raising over the years through training, speaking at conferences and other events, interviews in the media, and presenting the results and alumnae of our programmes as strategies to educate the wider public about the importance of gender equality in ICTs.

There were many people who did not understand why closing the gender digital divide was even important. They felt that if there were fewer women working in technology than men, then it must purely a matter of choice. There was no understanding of the role of female role models in technology. There was no understanding of the unique challenges that many women and girls have with respect to access to technology, having time for the study and practice required to learn the skills. There was no thought given to the factors that cause many women to drop put of technology jobs within the first 10 years of their careers.

Now there is more understanding about the benefits of closing the gender digital divide and more government agencies and companies are expressing interest in supporting initiatives to encourage more girls and women in ICT learning – it’s use and careers.

RWW: You’ve received several awards. Which has meant the most to you?

Ore: Maybe the very first one, which was the Change Agent award from the Anita Borg Institute. There is something extra-special about the first thing and so I will always remember this first award I received.

The Change Agent award is given to women who are supporting other women in computing. I was invited to the Grace Hopper Celebration, which is the largest gathering of women in computing anywhere in the world and is an annual conference organized by the Anita Borg Institute. I was given the award in a glamorous ceremony by the president and CEO of the ABI, Telle Whitney and Alan Eustace, Senior Vice President, Engineering & Research, of Google at the time (and Board of Trustee Member of the Anita Borg Institute).

My sister Ayoola travelled with me for the conference and having her there made it so so special for me.

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RWW: What is your hope for Nigeria and young girls in particular?
Ore: I really want girls to be all that they want to be. They should have the ability, access to opportunities and education that can make this happen. I want Nigeria to be a place where girls and women have the support and encouragement they need to realise their dreams. Although my work is more focused on how girls and women use and engage with technology, I care about the total girl and the total woman.

The vision of W.TEC is a society where Nigerian women and girls are able to create and use information and communication technology for learning, activism, entrepreneurship, and professional activities effectively.

RWW: Thank you Ore.

You can learn more about W.TEC from their website at: www.w-teconline.org, YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/watchwtec and online album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wtec/sets/

Pay Attention to Random Thoughts

Is there such a thing as a random thought? Last night I watched a bit of You’re Fired, the Apprentice’s after-show, and listened with great interest about how game board creator,Rachel Lowe, got her idea for her business.

She used to be a taxi driver and whilst on a shift, she got an idea for a board game called Destination. Ten years later she has won many awards, had 21 editions of the game and received an MBE. Not bad for a random thought!

Makes you wonder how many random thoughts you might have dismissed along the way. I know at least two ideas that I dismissed for seemingly valid reasons, that are now thriving businesses in the hands of people who took the risk.

I got a random thought this afternoon that I’m going to explore. It’s not the first time I’ve had the thought which makes me think perhaps it’s time to pay attention to it.