Blessing Abeng is a Nigerian branding and communications professional, co-founder of the ed-tech nonprofit organization, Ingressive for Good, and co-founder of Disha. “I am all about democratising knowledge and being a catalyst to make people’s lives better”
Known as a multipotentialite who expresses her talents to make lives better, she helps individuals and businesses discover and communicate their value propositions to their target audience.
Her work with Ingressive for Good is geared towards empowering young people in Africa with tech skills, community and resources, thereby increasing their earning power and connecting them to jobs. The organization, partnering with global establishments like Facebook, Coursera, and Datacamp has trained 150,000 Africans in relevant tech skills. “So far, we have built a community of almost a quarter of a million in less than two years.”
Taking us through her career path, Blessing says “I started out wanting to become a Doctor. A Neurosurgeon specifically.” She tells us that she has always wanted to save lives, so she took a Pre-Med course, Biochemistry, at a Nigerian university. She realized, however, during her internship year that becoming a biochemist (or a doctor) did not stoke any fires of passion in her and she started looking for other ways to save lives.
“I found Branding and Communications. A friend of mine suggested it to me after she saw the marketing plan of a Business plan I wrote.” She says, noting that it wasn’t a popular field at the time.
She enrolled at Orange Academy, a Branding school in Lagos, Nigeria and from there worked at an agency where she had the opportunity to work with local and multinational companies across industries. “I noticed that these big companies spent a lot of money on branding and marketing. And I wondered, ‘Small businesses who don’t have money, how will they compete?’.”
Realizing that there was a knowledge gap between African founders who were building outstanding businesses and storytelling to their audiences, she decided( with her partner) to build Startup Grind Lagos, a small startup community where she curated intimate events to educate, inspire and connect founders.
She went on to start her own Branding and Communications agency and began creating online content to educate founders and business owners on the topic.
Then Disha happened. The tech product which got acquired by African unicorn, Flutterwave is a product for creators started by her friend who invited her to join as a co-founder. “We created something amazing, built a wonderful community, and scaled fast, and it was acquired by Flutterwave.”
She moved on to becoming one of the founding members and co-founder of Ingressive for Good, the Edtech nonprofit. She shares that the organization started because there was a talent deficit problem in the tech ecosystem. The African tech-sphere has evolved over the last two decades with startups emerging and tech giants moving to the continent, but there was a lack of qualified talent to match this development. On the other hand, many young people had a sharp interest to upskill in tech but found it very unaffordable. She says that Ingressive for Good was created to bridge that gap.
“We want to increase people’s economic power, and tech is providing us with a way to do that.” She states citing global partners who agree that Ingressive for Good’s solution is one that benefits the tech ecosystem and continent at large.
Talking about the I4G team, she says, “My team members are so inspiring to work with. They live the mission and take it really personally. You should see them interacting with the community. They do it because they love it, they get it, and they motivate me with their dedication. I love every single one of them. We are a small team doing mighty work!”
She confides in us about challenges she has faced, mentioning a particular one in 2020 when the organization couldn’t find a donor to back them “We were just starting, but we had $0.”
She explains that they realized they had to prove that the cause was a meaningful one worth fighting for and decided to do it with a pilot program. Through a partnership with Coursera who gave them 5000 licenses, they ran the program and got a surprising turnout of 20,000 applications. She says to make the most of that opportunity, they had to watch closely to replace people who were not taking advantage of the courses with a different set of people.
“The success stories from that program were massive! One of the beneficiaries of that program is currently in a mid-level role at Kuda. He got a job there after this program. The pilot program was such a success that we surpassed all of our pilot goals, and after that, people opened their arms to us.” She shares, mentioning that they were able to get more partnerships and donations to make even more impact.
Blessing cites the impact as the most accomplishing part of her career. “Everything I have been part of has been a vessel of impact.” She mentions her agency that impacted hundreds of African businesses, Startup Grind that impacted 10,000 entrepreneurs and Ingressive for Good that has helped 150,000 young Africans successfully transition into tech.
“People’s lives have changed in diverse ways with stories of people finding hope and happiness again. Going from being a labourer, a painter, a soap maker, to becoming a designer, a software developer, it is so inspiring.”
Her advice to young people looking to start a career in tech is, “Tech is a leveler. It doesn’t care about your age, race, gender, country, or anything like that. It only cares about your skills, and the beautiful thing about skills is they can be developed with practice. You just have to start. Find your path. Don’t limit yourself with things you don’t have. Use what you have now to start and more resources will come to get you to the next level”
Blessing ends the interview with a word to her younger self, “Experiment more. The goal of an experiment is not to be right but to discover. In the world of experimentation, there’s no failure, only discoveries.”