#CareerConversations: “No Matter How Mundane the Task is, Always Consider it Crucial to the Success of the Project” – Donna Obaseki-Ogunnaike

Donna Obaseki-Ogunnaike is an Energy Law expert, poet, writer and a Partner of ACAS-Law (1st tier Nigerian law firm) possessing over 17 years of experience in Energy and Corporate Commercial Law practices. She consults extensively on a wide range of investment issues for international exploration, oil service and multinational trading companies. She advises on strategy, planning and development solutions to project specific ventures within the oil and gas industry.

She was nominated as a “Seasoned Professional” for the “W” Awards of Access Bank Plc in 2015, was awarded as an “Outstanding Professional of the Year” of the “40 Leading Lawyers Under 40” Awards from ESQ Legal Awards, 2016, and has been consistently ranked as one of the leading lawyers by the IFLR, 1000 for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017 in various categories.

She has been described as the “go to” lawyer for leading and effective legal advisory services and has also been ranked highly by Legal 500 and Chambers Global. Donna was also awarded “Next Generation Lawyer” within the “Legal 500 Hall of Fame”, 2018 among many other awards.

Her contributions to the youth and society has earned her the honour of the Children’s Playground at the Yitzhak Rabin International School, Port Harcourt Rivers State being named the “DONNA OBASEKI-OGUNNAIKE CHILDREN PLAYGROUND”. She is also currently the youngest recipient of the Yitzhak Rabin International Award for Excellence in Leadership (2014).

Read her answers to our Career Questionnaire.

What is your number one hack for dealing with difficult colleagues/bosses?

I take out time to study the person and determine exactly what it is that offends him/her. Having done that, if it is something I can fix by approaching him/her differently, then I make the requisite adjustments without compromising my personal integrity or doing anything that would offend my person. For example: it could be something as simple as giving feedback on a project I am handling – if I keep him/her updated without being constantly asked; would it make them feel less anxious about the progress of the work?

I think as a team member, one must always consider their role as crucial to the success of the deal – no matter how mundane the task is – so it is best to think that the difficult colleague or boss may not be taking things personally but may actually be passionate about getting the work done. I also endeavor to make their work easier by being the consummate professional. If the person is just nasty, you cannot do anything about it, but the work must be done, so be professional and polite. Focusing on getting the work done in an efficient manner has always been my goal.

2 things you do when you are having a bad day?

I take a break.

Many years before I became a partner, one of the habits I cultivated was being honest with my bosses. If I could not continue with the task because my head was saturated, or I was having a really bad day, I would go and ask my boss for the rest of the day off. I think because I had proven myself as committed, responsible and very hardworking, my boss would know that for me to ask, it must be serious. Till date, I have never been denied such a request, but I also never took it for granted and always made up for the time.

Short breaks are very useful to help rejuvenate the mind and re-focus.

If the deadline is tight, I take a power nap and come back to it. It helps that I am nocturnal, so I often stay up working till 3 or 4 am. I would then go to bed and return to the work later in the morning. I try to make sure I have at least 5 or 6 reviews of the initial draft and ask my team members to also give it a critical overview with fresh eyes. As I am not above mistakes and do not possess all the knowledge, I find that it helps to seek the input of another pair of eyes.

The other thing I do is listen to music – loud. Music is my food and has the power to lift my spirits.

When you are creatively stuck, you…?

Ask for help.

We don’t have all the answers and getting stuck is part of growing. I reach out to those who have gone ahead of me; especially if they have done the same task I have in hand – and I seek their guidance. It always helps.

2 tips for navigating office politics?

Firstly, I would say it is important to understand the politics in your own immediate work environment (team, department or group) as well as in the entire company (at the different levels). This is important if you are intent on having a long spanning career within that company.

Secondly, once you understand the politics, refuse to play any part of it that offends your personal philosophies, is unethical or that displays any kind of unkindness. At the end of the day, we are all human and where we work or what we achieve in life is not the sum of who we are.

I strongly recommend that  office politics and system be navigated by

(i) Strategically planning and cultivating specific relationships within the office environment (carefully selected)

(ii) Seeking out and building relationships with mentors and, more importantly, sponsors in your industry who would open doors for your career regardless of office politics. These mentors and sponsors do not have to be within your office, but should either be in your industry or have deep relations with key stakeholders in your industry.

So, understand the game – very well, then choose how to deploy your strategies in navigating your way up in a manner that is not wicked, reckless or intentionally harmful to another human being. Life is too short.

If you could have a lunch date with one woman you admire – who would that be and what would you ask her?

It would be Oprah Winfrey and I would ask her how she was able to convert the ABC Morning Show (which belonged to the station), to become named after her and eventually own the show. That level of strategy and negotiation is something I would like to understand.

If you could wear the same hairstyle to work everyday, it would be?

Kinky Braids or a Mohawk (preferably red).

Your all time favorite book is..?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo.

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