Today on #CareerConversations with LLA, we sit with Tobi Ogunpehin, a leading career lady with over 7 years in the corporate world in PR, Marketing, Brands & Communications. She shares on the downsides of being a career lady, how to overcome them and among other things, her thoughts on how women can lean-in more at work.
Can you briefly describe yourself and what you do?
Well, my name is Tobi Ogunpehin. Most people will describe me as a quirky, positive and focused individual. I currently work in one of the largest FMCG companies in the world in the Marketing Department as a Brand Manager.
Aside from my corporate life, I love nature – plants especially, and I am quite passionate about giving back to people, the environment etc. One of my greatest achievements was when my sisters and I developed a Chase Giving Back Campaign, we adopted an orphanage – The Sought-After Kids Orphanage-Ajah. We created awareness (radio, flyer distribution, SMS, word of mouth etc.) about their needs and organised a new year gathering for the kids. The finale event was attended by some musicians and one of Nigeria’s top movie directors. It felt good! There is still a lot of giving back that needs to be done – watch this space!
Great! How did you start out in your career, and how long have you been in the ‘corporate world?’
Seems like a million years ago! I have been in the corporate world for over 7 years. After my University Degree in the UK, I moved back to Nigeria with the vision to “take over the world”. On my return, my first job was in a Marketing Communications company as a PR executive, after which I had a short experience in a Consultancy firm as a Marketing Consultant. Then I moved to the Brands & Communications department in a telecommunications company – and as they say, the rest is history. Prior to my degree, I had a lot of side hustles, TV presenting jobs, organizing events and all that! I never liked sitting at home. Those were interesting times!
What are some of the things you love the most about being a career woman?
Oh, I love a lot of things about being a career woman. One thing for sure is the financial independence and empowerment. Another is the self- discovery and progress that occurs during the journey. I also like the sense of purpose I get from working towards goals and objectives.
And the downsides – what are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and how did you overcome them?
When I started my career, it was challenging to get people to take me seriously, possibly because of my “jolly” personality. I took notice of this and didn’t let this change my personality. What I did was, improve my work ethics and attitude. I did everything and more. When I was asked to resume work at 8am, I got there 7:30am (sometimes 7am!). When I had to deliver a project in 7 days, I delivered in 5 days. After a while, people started to take me more seriously.
For me, the pressure to deliver and how you are made to self-asses, face your fears and identify your weaknesses – be it public speaking, stakeholder management etc. can make work challenging. However, the best thing about this is, when you are aware of your weaknesses, you are in a better position to self-improve. Nothing is ever 100% perfect, so do your best and let the universe to the rest!
Of course, we’re going to talk about mentorship – what’s your view on it? Important or nah?
Mentorship is important to me, role models have similar positive impact. I don’t think I would have made better career choices without my mentors. Mentors are guides, they have learnt from their life and career experiences and are in better positions to see the red flags before you spot them. I am lucky to have mentors that really support me.
Two things – what have been your best and worst career decision – and what did you learn from each respectively?
That’s easy! My worst career decision was moving from a structured company to a “one man” company. I was drawn to the high pay but, after a few months, I realised it wasn’t such a smart idea. I corrected it a few months later by moving to a new company – unfortunately, I had to start a grade lower but that for me, was the best career decision I ever made. Swallowing my pride and starting from scratch- while taking it as a learning experience.
Do you have a “side-hustle” and what’s your view on having other interests outside of work?
Currently, I do not have a side hustle (Covers face). I think everyone should have other things they do outside work – either as a hobby or for other reasons. I have a hobby which is something I am very proud of. I have an online platform where I bring together plant lovers and enthusiasts. We showcase plants, gardens. Support each other and give advice etc. It’s really refreshing for me.
In what specific ways would you advise women to “lean in” more at work?
Support each other. A bit of healthy competition between colleagues is fine. But don’t try to dim another person’s light – this will never make yours shine brighter. Also, if you see younger women or men in the office, draw them closer to you, be approachable, and never shy away from giving them a few tips on how they can survive in the work place. I wish I had more of that when I started my career, it would have helped develop my confidence at work earlier.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself with more plants – a big garden! Lol! As an advocate of feminism, I see myself collaborating and getting more involved with platforms such as Leading Ladies -taking actions and driving conversations around important issues such as feminism, support of young girls and other key social issues surrounding women empowerment. I see myself giving back more to the society.
What in your opinion are key success principles for upcoming career women, or those just starting out their careers?
Never start your career with the mindset of cutting corners – pay your dues now so when the rewards come, you can embrace them and enjoy them with pride. Be courageous and kind. Treat people how you want to be treated. Ask questions, we are all learners and will continue to learn – no one knows it all. Don’t try to be who you are not – be yourself. Stay positive no matter how scary things get– take it life day at a time and you will attract the right things.
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 email@example.com and we just might feature her.