Writer | Author | Marketing Practitioner | Teacher
“Jack of all trades, master of none”. I have heard this often said with a heavy dose of derogation and I have always wondered why it has to be a bad thing to be a Jack of all trades. More recently, there has been a debate within the human capital development space about whether it is better to be a specialist or a generalist. For me, the debate did not start in my adult life. I have had the debate going on in my head since I was a child. Anytime I was asked, “what do you want to be in the future”, I would always say more than one thing. As I have grown older, I have come to realize that focus, more than desertion is a more relevant issue to consider. Focus is a word I like because it reminds me to prioritize as I live in a hyperactive-full-of-distractions world.
I started my corporate journey in administration as a front desk executive and in the space of almost sixteen years, I have held roles in customer service, sales, business development, administration, marketing management, and general management. Leading teams, establishing, and growing business relationships and strategic partnerships, building brands, managing business units, and growing revenue. These roles have been spread from the entry-level to the middle belt of supervision to the strategic level. Mine is a journey that started from not knowing what I wanted to do professionally to being at the cutting edge of my profession.
What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?
My biggest hurdle was my natural disposition. This is a hurdle not because it is necessarily a limitation but because it was something I had to stretch to be the me I am today. I am a quiet person. The ‘technical’ term for that is introverted. I draw energy from within. It is why I like to write. I remember writing from a young age. I write to reflect on the world and my experiences. I write to express my views and opinions. I write to inspire other people. I write to rant about the injustice in this world. I write. Writing is my thing. Public speaking is an offshoot of my writing. I have had to overcome my desire to be quiet and replace that with a compelling sense of responsibility to share – whether in the boardroom, in a small meeting, or to a group of young people. I have come to believe that despite my wanting to be quiet, my voice is a powerful tool to express my thoughts. So, I have embraced my ability to speak. It does not mean I do not like to be quiet and introverted; it just means I have evolved.
I have worked for the longest period in roles that require that I sell. In the initial stages, selling on the back of my introversion was an uphill hike with a double constraint - the force of gravity and the mental pull of ‘natural disposition’. Then I had an aha moment! I recalled lessons from my philosophy class and remembered the tabula rasa – that the mind is a clean slate at birth, and knowledge is acquired through one’s interaction with the environment – epistemology. I am not dismissing the innatism school of thought, but the prospect of intentionally recalibrating my ‘slate’ was appealing to me. So, I set out on a mental journey and decided I was also going to be a great salesperson, great at whatever I was doing at the time. My foundational philosophy of life is “whatever your hands find to do, do it well”.
With a first degree in Political Science yet being offered a sales role, I realized I had a significant knowledge and skills gap. To close this gap, I decided to study and get a certification in Marketing. At the beginning of my marketing education, I had to invest my weekends over a period of five years. It was five years with some breaks to get married and have my first two children. Those five years felt like they dragged on forever but eventually, I was able to study and pass all the required modules to complete the Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing and attain Chartered Marketer status, certified by the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK.
Qualifying as a marketing professional was an achievement, but teaching was my next big move. I have always believed that you only fully know something when you can explain it to another individual for them to understand. So, I am a teacher too…I have taught as an adjunct. To be able to do that, I had to go back to school, again, to study for an MPhil in Marketing. My MPhil journey will make for an interesting full-length movie but for now, enjoy this snippet: it was blood, sweat, and tears. Real, premium tears. I failed two papers. I had NEVER failed at anything in school in my entire life! I was an A student. For my Bachelor’s degree, I had graduated with first-class honors. I had put in the work, and I was a confident student. I had always been, except with math. Math was the one thing I always needed extra help with, but I had never failed at it in a major exam because as long as I put in the extra work, I was fine. Well, until I was a mother of two young children, General Manager of an airline general sales agency, and a full-time student. That was when I failed. Twice. I failed two courses that were hinged on math. I re-sat the exams and subsequently graduated and proceeded to teach – as an adjunct.
What advice would you give to upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?
One of the things I have learned along the way is that nothing we experience is useless and so even when we are faced with difficulties, we must pause to ask, “what can I learn from this?” I truly believe that we can use even our disadvantages as a springboard towards what we want to achieve. Would you always know what you want to do or have your ducks aligned in a row? No. But despite what you are doing, determine to be great at it and put in the work.
There are challenges all around. It is when you begin to offer solutions that we can truly be part of the Africa we want. So, find your one-puzzle-piece of the solution and start. Do not wait for a perfect moment, just start.
I write. My writing is no longer just something I do. I have written and self-published two books – Jungle Dance (a novel) and Sales 101, What Everyone Should Know About Sales ( a marketing reader). Outside of my natural disposition, I have found the ability to be an effective public speaker and frequently make time to speak at events because I believe that we must all contribute to the Africa we want. So I share with other professionals and younger people what my lessons have been in the hope that they will be better. This is the purpose of my writing as well. To share.
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