#CareerConversationsWithLLA: “Think about how you would like people to experience you. And then deliver consistently,” Nkiru Olumide-Ojo, Executive Head, Regional Marketing and Communication of Standard Bank Group, South Africa.

Image Credit: Nkiru Olumide-Ojo

When you talk about personal branding in Nigeria, one of the foremost names that readily come to mind is Nkiru Olumide-Ojo, a personal branding aficionado and Executive Head, Regional Marketing and Communication of Standard Bank Group, South Africa.

In this interview with Leading Ladies Africa, Nkiru, who is an Author and also the Founder of The Light House Women Network (an organisation that focuses on workplace optimisation and readiness for young females, as well as provide mentoring for them), discusses among other things, lessons she has gleaned from the corporate world, work-life integration (especially as a working mum), personal branding tips and the importance of volunteering, especially when you don’t have a job yet. Lean in!

1. Can You Briefly Describe Yourself And What You Do?

My name is Nkiru Olumide-Ojo, a multi-passionate professional. I am a wife and mum, among other things. I currently work in a financial services firm in South Africa, overseeing the Marketing and Communications activities for a region. I also run a female networking group (thelighthousewomennetwork) which focuses on workplace optimisation and readiness for young females. I speak on this same subject. I’m an author, blogger and love writing.

2. What’s A Typical Day Like For You?

It’s eventful sometimes and uneventful at other times – I wake up with gratitude, read my Bible, pray, connect to the day’s news, look at my schedule and then get cracking. Sometimes, I am travelling within the region for work; otherwise, an average day is meeting-filled, even extending to as far as work dinner. My nights aren’t spared from work as well – I catch up on work and mentorship calls/sessions.

3. Going Through Your Instagram Page, We Noticed A Part Where You Mentioned Not Getting A Job For Some Time. What Advice Will You Give To Women Who Are Currently In This Situation? How Can They Make The Best Use Of Their Time Before They Get A Job?

I had an active life before going for my Masters, and of course, during the study. I returned home and didn’t have a job and it was challenging to go from a hectic and structured schedule to an unstructured one. I didn’t find it funny to not doing anything when everyone else had something to do, except for you.

When I quickly realised no one was coming to save me, I structured my day to make time for the different important pieces of life until something else came along.

I remain particularly grateful for that period as it was a lifelong ‘grounder’’ for me – a real reminder as I went back to work that people are about the role- not about you. So, you shouldn’t get the position confused.

So here’s my advice:
i. Structure your day- bath and prepare like you would if you were going out to a job. Put in time for lunch, the children etc.

ii.  Volunteer your skills and time. It is always comforting to see that you do hold a value that others need.

iii. You should at least, send out your CV to find vacancies or persons of openings daily. Knock on every door and realise that sometimes, you hold the available whilst you chase the ideal.

Image Credit: Nkiru Olumide-Ojo

4. As A Personal Branding Expert, What Personal Branding Tip Should Every Career Woman Imbibe?

Defining your brand message and how you deliver it is a serious peeve of mine. We each make an impression when we connect or relate to people anyways. So, why not give it further thought? Who is your target audience and what brand promises are you making to your target audience? What consistent steps would you need to take to be able to deliver on this?

Two tips I’d give are: “Define your brand, including the brand values and your brand message.
Think about how you would like people to experience you. And then deliver consistently- consistency is extremely important in brand building.”

5. How Do You Balance Work-Life Responsibilities?

I read on this subject often and research about it. And while there are many theories; honestly, it is a constant juggle for me – some phases are tougher than the others. In all, I think being honest with your self- defining what matters to you and how much time you can give those is important.

Also, be realistic enough not to beat your head over the head about things that you are unable to do. Personally, I believe in work-life integration and I learn to apportion quality vs quantity time to different things. We also cannot underplay the importance of having a strong support structure.

6. What Career-Related Books Do You Read/Have Read?

Atomic Habits by James Clear – Habits determine how far you go in life. So, this book in the simplest way guides you on how to break and build good habits.

My latest is “Everything is Figureoutable, by Marie Forleo” – so literal; and yet, provides you with a solutions mindset.

The Art of Woo by Richard Shell and Mario Moussa teaches you how to use strategic persuasion to sell your ideas. Every facet of my job is about selling ideas; hence, this book is a constant feature in my library.

7. What Are The Secrets Behind Getting To Where You Are Today?

Firstly, I attribute my success to God’s grace, as there are 7 billion people in the world and I’m sure some a lot sharper, cooler, and perhaps more intelligent.

A strong belief in yourself – As you grow up, you’ll shockingly realise that the world hasn’t dressed up daily to come to cheer you on. Therefore, you’ve got to believe in yourself for your self- regardless of what the external environment is saying.

Courage – You need courage, to start, to keep going, to get up when you fall and then to rise and get going again. I feel like I’ve been blessed with a good dose of courage. There’s an old but important cliché- “Do what you have been assigned very well- reach for more.”

I have also been blessed with an amazing spouse and great bosses, who have both supported my career growth. Nothing is as good as having a spouse and manager who both want you to succeed!

Image Credit: Nkiru Olumide-Ojo

8. Strategies That Can Help Women Achieve More Prominent Roles In Their Organizations?

I used to have lots of theories. However, I know that many great women are literally “under the duvet” because there aren’t platforms for them. We need organisations and countries to provide policies that help women take up these prominent roles. Only then would we have taken deliberate steps towards gender equality in the workplace. While this is important, it also shouldn’t preclude women from being adept at their jobs. Being visible and networking is important as well.

9. What’s One Leadership Lesson You’ve Learned In Your Career?

I’ve learnt that leadership is a privilege to serve. Therefore, you must treat your position with such care as your influence is far-reaching. People carry scars from bad leadership into every facet of their lives.

10. What Advice Do You Have For Women Aiming For Leadership Positions?

Let’s lend our voice so that deliberate policies to support leadership equity for women are created. Just as Rwanda has done with a 50-50 parliament; I think in the meantime; women should occupy’- Show up, give your best and use your voice for more than yourself.

The Leading Ladies Africa weekly Career Conversation series focuses on women of African descent, 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.

Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to lead@leadingladiesafrica.org and we just might feature her.

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