Thought of the Day

Being busy does not equate to productivity. In actual fact it is laziness. It’s easier to be busy and going nowhere than to knuckle down and focus on a goal.

– RWW

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.

Press

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/

I Want To Be That Guy!

I love TV. I love the stories. I love the acting and when it’s George Clooney, I literally love the actor! :). I digress. I am drawn into the make believe world that writers create and actors bring to life. I am often in awe of the talent of the writers because at the stroke of the pen they instigate an avalanche of emotions. I have cried, laughed, screamed, danced, fumed and even had sleepless nights over something I’ve watched. I credit amazing writers and exceptional actors for that. My husband makes fun of me because of how drawn into it I get and often reminds me that it’s not real life. Whatever! Everyone needs an obsession right? 😉

And so like many others around the world, I look forward to watching award ceremonies. The Golden Globe, The Oscars, The BAFTAs and of course The Emmys. I watch them for the same reason I love going to a concert or the theatre – I am unequivocally inspired. And this year’s Emmys did not disappoint. I must mention that I have not been as into TV so much as I would have been say five years ago. There is just so much choice and very little time to watch them all. So I must admit that I have never seen an episode of Scandal, House of Cards, Game of Thrones or True Detective and a few others. *covers eyes*. Looks like I have a lot of box sets to get through over the Christmas holidays. However, despite my lack of knowledge of most of the programmes, it was nonetheless inspiring.

In retrospect, given my lack of viewing experience, perhaps I shouldn’t have introduced this post by saying I love TV. Maybe I’m inspired by TV would have been better. ROTFL. I digress again.

Anyway, as I was saying, I find award ceremonies inspiring for a number of reasons. It’s the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice. It’s an honour for your peers to recognise your gift – the moment when others see in you what you’ve secretly thought about yourself. It’s the joy. The dresses – oh my goodness the dresses. The dodgy speeches. But every now and then, someone says or does something that sets me aflame and makes me determined to be THAT guy or lady on the screen.

This year, it was Bryan Cranston, winner of outstanding lead actor in a drama series. In his acceptance speech he said the following about discovering his passion:

I did happen to stumble upon finding a passion that created a seed and bloomed into something so wonderful for me. I love to act, it is a passion of mine and I will do it until my last breath. ……………………..Take a chance, take a risk. Find that passion, rekindle it, fall in love all over again. It’s really worth it.

Yep! I want to be THAT guy!

How To Be Happy In A Job You Hate

5 years ago I decided on a certain career path and went ahead and got the prerequisite qualification. I then approached my boss at the time and asked for relevant experience which thankfully I was given. 2 years later I left the organisation and found that although I had transferable skills, they were very generic and if I wanted to break into this industry I needed to specialise and hone in on specific skills.

Despite my best efforts, I found that I had to start at an entry level position in an administrative role but within the right environment. A job which I did and hated for 18 months. It was whilst I was in this job that I stumbled on an article in Psychologies written by Anita Chaudhuri. It was a sufficient kick up the butt for me.

They were principles that I was well aware of, however seeing it in print that day, particularly within my then present ‘imprisonment’, it hit home. 18 months later, I am now doing what I set out to achieve five years ago and there so much more that I am looking forward to.

Interestingly enough, the article was about how work-life-balance was so yesterday and how blending what you love with what you do for a living is the new trend. A concept propagated by Americans Maneesh Goyal and David Munczinski, co-founders of ‘Live in the Grey‘; a website offering ideas and inspiration for blending work and play. As I was reading it, this line caught my attention –

Although he has made a radical career change, he counsels against making massive changes overnight. ‘It’s OK to start small’, he says. ‘Particularly when you’re just starting out, you need to be open to the idea that your career journey is going to have many different chapters. Your opening chapters are meant to be quite short, they’re meant to be eye-openers’.

After reading that I was hooked and wanted to put it to the test. Being in a job I hated at that moment with very little prospect of advancement, this spoke volumes to me. I knew that I had a lot to learn from the environment but perhaps I was too much in a hurry to pass GO and collect £200.

The article had some key principles but the ones that inspired me were as follows? You can read it in its entirety here.

  • Identify what you love doing and blend personal and professional. Just because you like baking doesn’t mean you have to set up a baking business. You could start by baking cakes for meetings or giving them out as incentives to people who hit targets. – This was one example I took to heart for obvious reasons. The office used to run lunchtime workshops where cross learning could take place. I recommended that in down seasons we could have cupcake decorating sessions which was in line with the health and well being agenda of the organisation. Baking is very therapeutic ;). My boss liked the idea and I was able to run these with a colleague of mine. We had the highest turnout of willing participants at our sessions.
  • Everyone matters. Break down the barriers and see people as human beings first and foremost. Relate to the security guard as your peer and make it your business to know what’s going on in the personal lives of your colleagues. – I started to be a lot more conscious about the people around me. They were certainly more interesting than the job I was doing. 😉 The next day at work, when I started to chat with a colleague, I realised that this was one of the things that made me feel alive at work – getting to know the real person and moving from simply being colleagues to possibly friends. You learn about their spouses, children; you know their names and get updates about what’s happening in their personal lives. You connect and it makes work lively and not so dull. I even started striking up friendships with people in other departments that I had never met but emailed on a regular basis. Careful not to spend all of the company time chatting though. 🙂
  • Action Trumps Intentions. What is holding you back from doing the things you love doing at work? What makes you fulfilled? You need to do more of that.– I was clear about what I wanted to do, I just needed an opportunity to do it. So I started to approach various team leads and just chat to them about what I needed to do to advance my career. Then I offered to help out on various projects if they needed help. This got me good experience that was not necessarily in my job description but crucial for my personal development. Also I made a conscious effort to live in the present which in this situation meant learning from even the most boring task. This helped me to focus on the experience I was getting rather than where I would rather be.

I’m very sure your  interpretation of the article will be different from mine but where I was at that point in time influenced my perspective greatly. I might interpret it quite differently now.  Nevertheless, I started to apply these principles with the best effort that I could. It wasn’t easy and I fell off the wagon a fair bit but I stuck at it.  And this is what made a boring job, interesting for me.

However difficult it may be, I think it is important to use every opportunity to improve yourself. Be strategic about the opportunities you need to exploit. If there is someone who you can talk to in a role you like, ask them for career advice.  Don’t despise the days of little beginnings.  Don’t judge your future by a moment in time.  And most importantly, don’t ever give up!

The Day I Quit My Job

It must have been one of the lowest days I had ever had at work.
Boredom greeted me from the moment I stepped through the door.
It permeated every orifice, every conversation, every task.
It was just there – ever present.
An omnipresent heavy laden, weighty inertia creeping through my veins.

Humans were not created to be bored.
They were made to be productive.
I had tried everything I could to make a positive out of the situation.
I had flexed every mental muscle imaginable.
This glass was not half full, it was empty.
It was simply time to call it quits.

So goes the day I made a plan to quit my job.
The day I, once again, took the reins from the hands of fate.
And became the manager of my own life.
The day that started with a simple thought.
One of another possibility, another life.

I reached out with arms wide open.
Determined as always not to be one of the herd.
My head shot over the parapet.
And if I get shot, it would be better to fail as a result of taking a risk than to remain in this misery.

The day started as an ordinary one.
I braced myself to battle the customary dearth of engaging work.
In between quarter past nine and half past four.
I was besieged by thoughts of my life, forty plus years away.
Ordinary day was suddenly eclipsed by a moment.
A single moment of clarity.
I quit my job – firstly in my head.

It started as a thought.
A life changing thought.
A thought that would go on to reaffirm my belief.
I am worth more than this!

Redefining Wonder Woman: My Mother My Hero

Welcome to the first of many Redefining Wonder Woman (RWW) stories from ordinary women who have done extraordinary things. It would be remiss of me to start this series without acknowledging the influence of my mother on my life – just in time for Mother’s Day too. It was an interesting experience interviewing my mum as a woman and not as her daughter. I discovered so many things about her that I never knew and came to understand her a bit better. She has always and will always be my epitome of a strong woman. I hope you are as inspired by her story as I am.

RWW: What did you want to be when you were little?
Mum: As a child I didn’t really think about it.  When I left grammar school, I thought I wanted to study dentistry.  When my father sent me to England to study, he said I had to study Law. I protested and told him I would rather be an accountant if I couldn’t be a dentist. However, not having the prerequisite grades meant I would have had to complete a preliminary course before University. My father promptly told me he only had enough money for a three-year course and that’s how I ended up studying law.

RWW: Did you like it?
Mum: I enjoyed it even though it was tedious.  There was so much case law to get through and you had to constantly read journals and newspapers to keep abreast of current issues. In retrospect, I don’t think I would have enjoyed accountancy as much. For instance when I heard Tony Benn had passed away, I remembered that the renunciation of his peerage was one of the cases we looked at whilst I was at school. Daily occurrences made law a very interesting subject.

RWW: So no regrets about studying law?
Mum: Not at all.  I was very thankful to my father for forcing me to do it. Eventually it worked out well.

RWW: How did you get into Insurance?
Mum: After I graduated, I worked for the Board of Trade (now the Department of Trade and Industry) within the insurance division for about four years. Then I moved back to Nigeria in 1970 and attended Law school there. Before I left the Board of Trade, I asked my bosses to give me a recommendation of Insurance firms to work for. As soon as I got back, I contacted the two companies I was given, had interviews and secured a job offer with Royal Exchange before I graduated from Law School. I started work there on the 1st of June, 1971 and worked there till 1995 when I retired; almost twenty-five years.

I started out as the Assistant Legal Officer and within six months I was promoted to Company Secretary, Legal Adviser when the incumbent went back to England due to an illness. I subsequently became the Company secretary and I rose from Assistant General Manager to Deputy General Manager and eventually became an Executive Board member; the first female executive in the history of Royal Exchange, worldwide.

RWW: I find it incredible that you worked at the same organisation for almost twenty-five years. Why didn’t you move elsewhere?  
Mum: Should I say it was loyalty? I enjoyed what I was doing and I had everything I wanted in a job. I had a lot of autonomy within my role and I had the privilege of flexible working hours which meant I could do the school run and start work about 9.00 AM. I was also one of the top professionals in the industry with a good rapport with the Heads of Units at the Head Office in England which was very important in terms of longevity at the time. And you’ve got to remember that during this period there was the divorce, and I needed job stability. And to be honest, I didn’t have problems at work and there weren’t many companies at that time that operated flexi-time and that was very important to me.

RWW: What challenges did you face as a woman in the workplace?  
Mum: Internally, I found that men didn’t respect women or their opinions. They found it hard to accept a woman was their boss. Externally, when I went to meetings, people (men) looked down at me and I found that I had to put forward my views forcibly in order to be heard. However, since I dealt with trust investments, they soon realised they had to work with me.  

RWW: Can you recall an occasion where this was overtly displayed?
Mum: Yes. I remember a meeting with foreign investors and a much older Nigerian gentleman told me to shut up. He brushed my opinions aside and carried on with the meeting. I was livid, but I knew I had to be calm and avoid a slanging match. So I said very calmly that what he said wasn’t nice and he should accord me the respect due to me. I was proud of the way I handled it and at subsequent meetings, he addressed me appropriately. Ironically, eight years later, this same gentleman was embarking on a venture that required my approval to succeed. Suddenly my opinions were valuable to him as I was an instrumental party.

RWW: LOL

RWW: After you retired, you started a travel agency in your early 50s.
Mum: Yes. I used my severance package to invest in a Travel agency because I loved travelling. I ran that successfully for about ten years and eventually sold the company. I had no regrets when I sold it. It was the right time to do that.

RWW: Speaking of travelling, what countries have you explored?
Mum: Australia, Brazil, Venezuela, Jamaica, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and other places in Europe as well as several American states. A few of those trips were done when I travelled round the world in six weeks with one of my best friends.

RWW: Let’s get personal. What was it like raising four girls on your own?
Mum: It was hell on earth!
RWW: LOL
Mum: Not because you were bad children but primarily because of my own fear of making a mistake.  I wanted you all to turn out right. There was the fear of whether you would excel at school, and then university and then life. I spent a lot of time being anxious for each one of you. I was constantly wondering if I would ever get this thing right? There was also the fear that people would say you would have been better off with your father. With a lot of determination and God’s help, it turned out right even when things were tough financially.  I have no regrets as far as you children are concerned.  It was just the pressure to look after the family that sometimes got to me.  Even with all that pressure, I still count myself very lucky to have had the four of you as children. I know people in similar circumstances who did not have the same ending. I count myself very lucky indeed.

RWW: Would you say you were successful?
Mum: LOL. That would be for other people to judge. I think I set out to do what I wanted to do as far as Law is concerned. I have done everything I wanted to accomplish. Even though I didn’t want to do it, I have thoroughly enjoyed being in the Legal profession and have no regrets at all. I met many Nigerians who were much older and pioneers in their professions through Law; older members of the society who acknowledged my success and accorded me my due respect. I’m happy with all I accomplished.

RWW: Although you are retired you are still quite busy for a woman in her 70s.
Mum: Yes, I’m very much involved with a few church committees and several charitable organisations. I’m also a non-executive board member of an investment company and a school governor for a boys secondary school in Lagos.

RWW: What concerns you about young women in Nigeria today?
Mum: I think there is still room for women at the top of corporations. I pray for a time when women will not have to make a choice between being there for their family and work. These days, it is difficult to marry your home and your job. It’s very difficult for women to get professional jobs with flexible working hours. I feel there is going to be a time when things have to change as they have changed in England.  

RWW: What is most important to you?
Mum: My name.  The fact that I can go out today and hold my head up high without any shame.  I didn’t steal or cheat anyone. My name counts for a lot. 

RWW: Thank you mummy.

Mummy collage

What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up

This is an odd question for an almost 40 year old to be asking herself. The thing is I’ve never really wanted to be anything in particular. I wasn’t one of those kids who wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or a singer. Although I had always expressed myself in writing, it wasn’t something I considered as a career. I just wanted to be successful. I did want to be a supermodel at some point though because I was super skinny but that ship has sailed off and sunk.

I’ve always been very clear about what I’ve wanted to experience or do and chased that instead or a specific role. I look for a role that has all the qualities that I require to be fulfilled. I’ve let my motives guide me and found jobs or opportunities that fit. I’m an idealist I know. When I decided I didn’t want the plaid life of an accountant I pretty much set myself free from a ‘career’ or the ‘real ‘world’ as it were. Now that my husband is a student, I’ve been thrust back into that world and the path I’ve chosen has glaringly obvious downsides. Employers need to be able to pigeon hole you so they know where you fit in their organisation. The world hasn’t quite evolved that much yet. Skills and experiences are only transferrable within a defined trajectory. The normal way would have been to get a job and then wait for an opportunity to express myself. I suppose if I had stayed in accountancy then by now, I would have had a more varied role. Perhaps but I’m not convinced. In any case, I was a bit too stubborn to even consider the option of sticking it through.

I think the difficulty for any parent advising their child on a career path is that you want the very best for them and naturally you want them to succeed. However, not everyone wants a typical career. And some people would be stifled within an organised structure. The upside is that I have a lived a more varied life than I would have had if I remained an accountant and I do have invaluable skills and experiences that are transferrable. It hasn’t been financially lucrative (yet 🙂 )but it has been amazingly fulfilling.

I’m giving the whole career thing a shot now, in the second half of my life as it were. You could say I’m a late bloomer but I like that being mature means I’m not perturbed by the shenanigans of line mangers and office politics. Mainly because it’s a career on my terms; I know what I want out of the experience – ah ah! See that’s the motive rearing it’s head again – and frankly I’m too old to care about what anyone thinks about me. We’ll see whether I choose to remain in the real world or go back to my ideal world. Something tells me I’m going to find a way to combine the two.