“Nobody Grows In A Comfort Zone, You Get Recognized When You Solve Big Problems In An Organization” -Tomie Balogun, #CareerConversations with LLA.
On this week’s #CareerConversations with LLA, we sit with Tomie Balogun, a FinTech (Financial & Technology) expert with a decade of experience in the corporate world. She created the investment club framework (TM) to help young working professionals take advantage of the power of many and build wealth in the process. Tomie’s career spans four (4) industries: Value Added Technology, Telecommunications, Management Consulting and Banking. She has a successful track record of creating innovative solutions, re-inventing platforms and driving financial growth for client businesses.
Tomie currently uses her platforms to educate millennials in Africa on how to stop living from pay-cheque to pay-cheque and start investing. So if you are clueless on investments or looking to explore the financial sector? Tomie is your best bet. Scroll down to read what Tomie brilliantly dishes out as she takes us on a tour of her career experiences. Enjoy!
Can you briefly describe yourself and what you do?
Tomie Balogun is a FinTech (Financial & Technology) expert who is passionate about educating millennials in Africa on how to stop living from pay-cheque to pay-cheque and start investing. She is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and holds an MBA from the Lagos Business School.
I worked as a business analyst in a boutique management consulting firm for 5 years, after which I enrolled for an MBA program in 2011. In 2012, I had a stint with the International Financial Corporation, advising on investing in Nigerian growth sectors, after which I was recruited into a leadership program in Bharti Airtel Limited.
Seeing the need for financial education, I took on the challenge to establish a financial education company, The Vestract Company, in 2018. The Vestract Company has successfully provided financial education to 15,000+ millennials through mediums such as campus tours, Interactive games, online courses and published books.
I also take out time every year to volunteer at Afara Leadership Centre, an initiative created to teach female college students’ leadership and entrepreneurial skills
This is quite impressive! So how did you start out in your career, and how long have you been in the ‘corporate world?’
I started out pretty much like everyone else. I graduated from university and had my eyes set on working in a consulting firm. Thankfully, I got the opportunity to do that for 5 years. My career has taken turns I didn’t expect and I have evolved over time. Overall, I would say I have been in the corporate world for a decade.
A decade is definitely a long time. From your own experience, what are some of the things that excites you the most about being a career woman?
I love solving problems. This is why I always dreamed of working in a consulting firm. I like the project approach to solving problems in consulting firms and not getting stuck in routine work. I also enjoyed working in teams as it gave me the opportunity to interact and learn from my colleagues in the same work environment. Being a career woman in consulting demands that you always bring you’re a-game when you work on client projects. It kept me on my toes and has made me a life-long learner.
Great! Let’s talk about the downsides – what are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and how did you overcome them?
I haven’t faced so many challenges. I count myself lucky to always have a good circle of bosses, mentors and colleagues who help me make important career decisions. A lot of my ex-bosses remain my friends till today.
I was able to evolve in my career by enrolling for my MBA program once I realized it was a time and got a push from my bosses. I believe in seeking work life balance, but I have never believed you can have work life balance every day. I guess that has helped me manage my career expectations and make the best of each opportunity that comes my way.
What’s your take on cliques or “you can’t sit with us groups” at work? How does one navigate such?
Anywhere we have humans with common things that bind them together such as friendship, habits, personalities etc., you’ll find cliques in that environment. I can’t say I have deliberately set out to create a clique in any of my work environments but somehow, that always happens. However, I don’t do cliques that shame or outcast anyone. That has never been my thing. I like to work in small groups, but I am always open to making new friends or acquaintances that complement me and complements the other as well.
If you find yourself in that circumstance, my advice would be step back and observe the situation. Do you have to become someone you’re not to fit in? If you do, then it’s not worth it. Can you be friends with everyone without any prejudice in that environment? If you can’t, try your best to not be in any group. This will help you stay objective. However, don’t be deliberately un-social. It doesn’t help.
Of course, we’re going to talk about mentorship – what’s your view on it? Important or nah?
Mentorship is important. It will help you make better choices in your career and avoid some unnecessary setbacks as well. However, don’t force it. A mentor needs to be interested in you. If you try to force your way in, you will not get value and you’ll keep having to prove yourself.
So seek out mentors (Join a structured mentorship program at work or in an external organization if you can), ensure that person is interested in you and your growth and make it a win-win relationship. Think of how you can add value to the person’s life or business. Don’t be a taker and not a giver.
Two things – what have been your best and worst career decision – and what did you learn from each respectively?
My best career decision was my decision to leave a certain organization when I realized I wasn’t learning anything new and if I stayed on, I would become redundant. I looked around and realized most people were stuck at jobs they didn’t like but could not leave because they didn’t have transferable skills and no other organization would pay them what they earned for the basic work they do. That was a wake up call for me and that led to a scary decision to join a start-up. Joining that start-up was the best career decision ever. I learnt so much that I wouldn’t have learned if I had stayed in that multinational organization. Key lesson- don’t stay stuck in a place where you’re not relevant.
I can’t think of any bad career decisions except, maybe, not finishing my ACCA qualification as my mother wanted me to. I realized after writing a couple of papers that I didn’t want to be an accountant and enrolled for my MBA instead. But looking back, it wouldn’t hurt to have finished and have that qualification to my name.
How do you advice girls facing harassment in any form, from their superiors at work to handle it?
Seek help! Get internal help if you can and if you can’t, reach out to an external network or a women focused organization for counsel and help.
Do you have a “side-hustle” and what’s your view on having other interests outside of work?
Yes, I did have a side hustle while working 9-5. I blogged. I loved how I could express another part of me and I was always encouraged by comments or people sending me a thank you email for sharing on my blog. That evolved into workshops and more events over time.
I absolutely think it is great to have other interests. It gives you a refreshing way to express other facets of yourself without losing a sense of who you are. If not in conflict with what you do at your 9-5 (It shouldn’t be in conflict actually. That is good ethics), it will complement your work and help you be better. Blogging helped me build my writing skills.
In what specific ways would you advise women to “lean in” more at work?
Take on the big difficult and challenging tasks. Don’t wait to be given, ask for it and execute excellently without bias. A lot of women wait to be given challenging tasks, but the truth is it might not happen, so you need to observe and ask for it. Nobody grows in a comfort zone and people get recognized when they solve big problems in an organization or contribute significantly to the bottom-line. Seize every opportunity to be outstanding.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself riding the current wave of the rise of women in business, leadership and tech to fully express my dreams. I plan to build a Fintech company that would rival the best anywhere else in the world, move people out of poverty and impact my local economy significantly. So help me God.
Do you think personal branding at work is necessary? If so, how do you build it?
Yes, it is necessary. Personal branding is simply being known for something in a social or formal environment. What are you known for? Are you known for getting things done or simply the fashionable member of staff. Being fashionable is great but that won’t get you into the board room. Be known for a clear purpose in your organization and your name will come to mind for more significant opportunities. Don’t chase visibility without substance. Let your substance give you the right visibility.
What in your opinion are key success principles for upcoming career women, or those just starting out their careers?
First success principle, be a lifelong learner. The work environment has changed and will keep changing significantly. Stay relevant by always adapting and learning.
Second principle. People matter. Don’t let your ambition blind you from having 360-degree interactions with everyone. Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking about yourself less so build relationships on your journey.
Final principle I’ll share is be global minded. Don’t be limited to what’s going on in your country or continent. Learn global best practices and be the standard.
What’s your advice to entry-level/interns new to organisations, what should they look out for or try to achieve?
On your first day of work, sit down with your boss and ask what success in your role means to them. Don’t assume, ask them what it means to be an excellent staff in that department or organization and go ahead and be that person. Do that for every new level or new boss and keep the success principles I shared close to heart.
The Leading Ladies Africa #CareerConversations Series is a weekly interview series which focuses on Leading women of African descent in the corporate world. It showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes women empowerment and gender inclusion for women of African descent.
Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we just might feature her.