Olujimi Tewe grew up in Ibadan. He lived most of his formative years within the four walls of the University of Ibadan Staff School, the International School Ibadan, and the University of Ibadan. Since relocating to Lagos in 2002 for his NYSC programme, he has worked in five companies and risen to become a Senior Manager in the Nigerian banking industry. Now the CEO of Inspiro Consulting, which he started in 2010 after resigning his top level job at Bank PHB, he constantly seeks to provide career solutions to the unemployment and under-employment issues in Nigeria from a professional perspective. In this exclusive interview with BN Editorial Assistant, Gbenga Awomodu, the author of “Where Did all my Money go?” and “Getting a Good Job Easily”, shares about his journey of self-discovery, phenomenal career leaps, mistakes job-seekers make, marriage and our nation Nigeria.
Meet Olujimi Tewe
“I am Olujimi Tewe, a Human Resource Management Consultant. I am the founder of Inspiro Consulting. I have authored two books: “Where Did All My Money Go?”, and “Getting a Good Job Easily” to help prepare fresh graduates get through the challenging situation of unemployment and getting employed out there. I host a radio show called The Interview every Tuesday on City 105.1FM. I am a Pastor with Kingsword Ministries International. I am an Inspirational Speaker. One of my major challenges is that I hate keeping quiet, though I look quiet to a lot of people, but I love to speak and help people bring out the best in them. I am a husband, married to the most beautiful woman in my world and I have two kids – a boy and a girl. I’m still very young.”
Education and Childhood Dreams
He talks about his childhood dream career and how close observation made him change his mind. “I studied Agricultural Economics in the university. I had wanted to study Medicine because I had a medical doctor uncle abroad, who was rich. I felt motivated. I only changed my mind when I had a cousin living with us who would be reading at 3AM, even when she was not preparing for a test or an exam soon. Back in the secondary school, my best subjects were Agricultural Science and Maths. I could manage Economics, so I picked Agric Economics, but it didn’t take me too long to realize that I was in the wrong place. I did the course for five years plus “x” ASUU years and graduated in September 2001 from the University of Ibadan.”
A Major Turning Point
“Somewhere along the way, I realised there was a lot more to me and I didn’t want to go with the normal course of ‘Oh! Finish school, get a job, get a house, get a car, marry a wife, have children, and die later…’ Reading books, I found myself desiring to become the best that I wanted to be. I had some friends in school who had started a company in 200 Level in information technology. By 300 Level, they had built the Lagos Business School’s website, amongst others, for hundreds of thousands of naira.” Jimi learnt to walk with wise people and hanged around these friends a lot and even travelled with them to attend the CTO at the MUSON Centre in Lagos, as early as 1998. They bought books and he followed suit, even though the books ended up being read by his friends since he didn’t understand what was there. He says, “They learnt how to couple different parts of personal computers for people couldn’t afford to buy whole systems from the same brand. They said, ‘Jimi, you’ve been with us for a while. If you are able to sell computers for us, we’ll give you a percentage on the profit.’ I was excited because of the profit, but unfortunately, till today, I’ve not sold a mouse! It just didn’t work out, despite all that I put in…”
He soon found out his passion. “One day, I was walking to their office, a Boy’s Quarters on campus then and started thinking to myself: ‘You know what, this is not working. What should I do?’ I gave up on that dream. I began pouring myself into what I loved to do. The church I was attending gave me an administrative role to handle so I found myself motivated and driven by that. I poured a lot into that and was able to develop a lot of abilities – talking to people, speaking with people, addressing audiences, from simple things like taking announcements in church. We organised programmes so I learnt things about events. I liked to read a lot of books in management. In fact, in my final year when we did Agricultural Extension which included management, for the first time in five-years-plus-x, I wanted to go to class and I picked my books with the intention to read, not because of exams, but because I wanted to understand the content.”
“Olujimi’s first Consulting Salary”
“I did my final year project quite late because I wasn’t motivated to do it. When I finished it, the business centres were all full, so I had to go meet my friends. They had laptops back then. They told me to come on Friday and I was there about 6PM to type on their laptop. By 8PM, the five were all present to meet and decide the future of the company. They had no problem having me around, so while I kept typing, I was listening. The first two believed the company (Information Cyberspace, now Websoft) could be the next Microsoft; the third wanted to run some other businesses for his personal profit, but would love to do stuff for the company; the fourth guy wanted to do his Masters and then decide thereafter whether to stay with the company or not; the last guy was ready to join in doing whatever they all agreed to do. They kept discussing and it became an argument and the only thing they were not doing was throwing punches at each other because the first two felt that the others were silly. ‘Did Bill Gates do a Masters, so why are you wasting your life?’, they asked. The one who wanted to do his business felt strongly about it while the first two wanted him bring all the businesses.”
Somewhere in the middle of the argument, someone suddenly realised there had been someone listening all the while, so he said, ‘Jimi! What do you think about this?’ Jimi spoke for about four minutes saying, “One thing I’m certain about is that when a man is convinced about what he wants to do, very little will deter him. This guy who wants to do his business might tell you that he would stay with the company, but might be doing it alongside, without your knowledge. Then one day, you’ll find out and it could affect the organisation. He could be a partner and you make his responsibilities clear as well as profit sharing. The one who wants to do his Masters; you can keep his head in Nigeria, but his mind will be where he wants to go to. Let him go and do his Masters. The internet is up anyway, so he can be a consultant and eventually decide what he wants to do. Let the last guy flow with you.”
Call him a prophet or not, “Today in Ilupeju, Lagos, there is a company called Websoft started by those two guys. They are still together and are doing very good business. The third guy has his IT company, but in a different area from what Websoft is doing right now. The guy who went to do his Masters has not come back from ‘Masters’. He’s been there working in IT also but doing something totally different. The last guy is in the US also. That day, when I finished talking, it was as if God spoke. They were quiet for some time and the first guy said, ‘I think we need to pay you for this advice’ and they gave me N1,000. That was a miracle because I needed the money that day. I thought, ‘If somebody can give me N1,000 for this advice, someone can give me a million naira. So, the idea of management consulting came to mind. When I came to Lagos on January 7, 2002, though there were over 80 Banks in Nigeria, banking was the ‘in-thing’, and there was money, I made up my mind to do consulting and got a job at Restral Consulting.”
A Journey in Management Consulting
At Restral, his experience and skills from church became much more useful in management consulting and HR. Within a year and eleven months (including NYSC) he spent there, he helped to start up the Youth Leadership unit and started running programmes for youths. He says, “The thing about youths became stronger in me, but there was an extent in which they (Restral) were willing to go and I wanted to go further so at that point (that’s why I tell people that once your organisation is not able to give you what you want, it’s an indication that you probably have to leave that organisation. The challenge with most is that they don’t have what they want and what they get is what they have…. That informed my moving to become a programme coordinator at Junior Achievement International, which had collaborated with Restral previously. The focus was empowerment for youths and I worked at Junior Achievement for a year and a month because, along the way, I realised that there was more to the youth than economic empowerment that the organisation could not do for me. I applied to Accenture and got in as an Analyst and worked for a year and eleven months. Every time I get into an organisation, I ask myself how I want to do in the organisation and that informs the time frame so I begin to ask myself questions when it’s getting towards that time”
At Accenture, the schedule was quite hectic. Like Jimi says, “That time I spent in Accenture built me tremendously and opened me to different fields of HR. I was in the Human Performance Workstream and worked with a project manager and just about the time I felt my time was up in Accenture, I happened to speak with him about my intention to leave Accenture and incidentally he was going to leave to head HR at UBA. He had forced me to learn Job Evaluation skills and UBA needed to do a lot of job evaluation and job analysis projects. Interestingly, I was an Analyst at Accenture, but I became a manager in UBA. People have sometimes questioned the idea of an Analyst (the lowest level in Consulting) becoming a Bank Manager. Usually, it takes about 8 to 10 years of work/banking experience to get there, but I tell people: irrespective of industry, skill is what matters; people will be willing to pay any price for you and I was good at it so that was good for bargaining. I soon became a Senior Manager after I finished the HR transformation project. Once you are versatile, you can be used in different areas; it will task you (I spent several hours at work) but I got promoted and this was just five years after NYSC; and I tell people, the only limit you can place on yourself is the one you place on yourself.”
Interestingly, UBA was where he worked the longest – 2 years and 4 months. He soon got tired of the environment and moved to Bank PHB to head Recruitment, where worked for a year and three months before leaving to start his own business. “PHB could not help to deliver what was in my heart. Don’t change jobs because of money; you change jobs because there’s somewhere you are going to and when where you are cannot give you that any longer, you need to move forward.
Salient Career Lessons
Having worked from February 18 2002 to September 8 2010, about eight years and half in 5 companies, he often tells people that the quest to get employed is one of the worst perspectives people can have. If what you are thinking is ‘I want to get a job’, that’s one way you approach it. Otherwise, you can say, ‘I want to become this, so what do I need to learn to develop, get to where I am going, or raise finances for where I am going to.’ You’ll stay with that job if it keeps satisfying you and you don’t want more in life. That’s why you find people who have spent ten years in an organisation. They say: ‘The place is fine; it’s okay.’ Unfortunately, one day, some people are asked to go because they have ceased to add value to the company. There are many industries where people just become complacent. When you enter into a place of comfort, complacency normally follows. I thank God for where I am, but there is always something ahead of me. If you start a business and it becomes profitable, you want to move from there to the level where you ask, ‘Is this business impacting lives?’ That’s my own personal philosophy.
Common Mistakes Young Graduates Make
When I ask him, he quips, “Mistakes young graduates make. Are you ready to spend five hours with me? …Instead of talking about mistakes from an action point of view, I like to talk about them from a mindset point of view. If you can correct the thinking part, the action can be reviewed and corrected. The biggest problem is that our educational system does not prepare young graduates for the real life, so they are often ill-prepared. I don’t think there are no jobs in Nigeria again; if not, Tuesday and Thursday Guardian would not be selling fast. People don’t just wake up and say they feel like advertising every week. There are actually jobs; but, they are not looking for people, but for the skills. Interviews and tests are just trying to find out whether people have those skills. Young people need to understand what skills they have – whether you were a leader of AIESEC or whatever group in your school..”
He continues, “Recently, in one of my organization’s programmes for fresh graduates, I found out people are still very clueless. I took a session and did an overview of thirteen industries in Nigeria – where the jobs are and what kinds of jobs are there and how to get those jobs and I had people just staring at me like they had never heard about it before. I am not looking for a job, and I know all of these, and there you are looking for job and you don’t know any of these? Obviously, you are not going to get it. If you have to go interview somewhere, when you show up there and say, “I did this, I did that, I did this…” “I did” means I have the ability to do, so if that’s what they require there, they say ‘we have the right person’ that has the knowledge and the skills. …And also, the right attitude – because that’s another dimension. Many young people want the job primarily because of association. ‘Oh, I work with Zenith Bank, I work with Chevron…’ They want names, association, prestige, and to collect salary while they don’t mind going to just to browse Facebook, but they are not thinking about adding. Stop being a job seeker, become a problem solver. Find out what problem you are designed to solve; develop your capabilities in that area; look for who needs those capabilities; you don’t need to attend every interview.
“If you have several abilities, find that area where you can fully deploy yourself and add the best value. A lady once came to me on referral, looking for work. I looked at her CV and it was empty. I just dropped it asked her, ‘Tell me; what do you love to do?’ She said, ‘Well, I actually like planning parties. It’s so interesting that when I’m in school, from home, when there is a party, they call me to come and handle it. My friends too call me.’ I said, ‘Beautiful! There are some event management companies in Lagos. We’re going to see how we can get a job for you.’ Her countenance changed. She said, ‘I want a job’. I was the head of recruitment for Bank PHB. In her mind, all I needed to do was wave a wand and she would get the employment letter. I was never going to do that because I had that responsibility to my own organisation. I also had the responsibility to tell her the truth because if she had joined one of the growing events management companies in Nigeria, she would grow and build a network and eventually create her own company. Unfortunately, she couldn’t see it. I don’t know what she’s doing today. Maybe she has a job now… Then, if you doctor your resume, one day it will tell. I know someone who was 39, but claimed 29. What if one day he falls on the job, because they expect you to work as a 29-year-old. One day the stress will tell on you. It will affect you. Where the truth cannot get you to, don’t bother going there. Mentorship is also very important. Throughout the course of my career, I’ve had people that I follow actively. I seek them because I want to do things, the path of which they have toed. I might be going farther than them, but, at least, they are ahead of me. I can still learn from them.”
On setting up Inspiro Consulting
“There are some people that don’t need training, but to be sacked from their organisation. They are not meant to even be there in the first instance. I care about those people. Inspiro actually means “Inspiration” – one of the definitions speaks about ‘being awake’. This organisation was created to become a platform where we can help people to become aware of who they are and how they can match that to who they want to become in life. We are currently focusing on certain target markets and tailoring programmes and solutions to meet their needs.
On Life’s Decisions and Mistakes
“I will share two of my best decisions: one is having a real relationship with God, because irrespective of what you do, I realised that the height of your potentials cannot be reached except you work with the person who created you. The second best is meeting my wife. Until I met her, I wasn’t complete. We’ve been married for a little over five years now and I’ve never regretted meeting her. I’ve had to make decisions that my wife’s simple thought or discomfort with my own thought about has helped to create something that has now benefitted me. We’ve been friends since I met her in 2002. We got married about four years after. I’ve made several decisions along the path of my career, but when it comes to life – God and my wife.”
So, has he ever made any wrong career decisions? “This is a bit tough…” he says and draws a long pause. “I still question whether I should have gone to Junior Achievement, because somewhere along the line, I felt I could have been better somewhere else because the organisation was not right, but I guess I wasn’t right for the organisation. I guess I was having some challenging situations at Restral and based on my expectations of the organisation, I probably made that decision out of frustration. I gave my best while I was there… I took a role in Development and Public Relations (at Junior Achievement) and that involved raising funds and doing a lot of media stuff and those are not my areas of strength. Somewhere along the way, it began to show that one day my boss called me into a meeting, ‘Jimi, I want to talk to you. Jimi, what’s wrong with you?’ (laughs). That’s the only time throughout my career that someone has asked me a question like that. I was deflated. I was like ‘What!? Something has to change’ I took time to think about it. At that point I realised how good I was at organising programmes. I spoke to a colleague who was overwhelmed with organizing work and my boss agreed that I help her handle the Venture In Management Programme (VIM) in partnership with the Lagos Business School. I succeeded in this area such that when I was going to resume at Accenture, my boss looked at me and said, “No! Not when I’m beginning to enjoy you.” So I guess it got corrected at the end of the day. I shouldn’t have gone into that PR role. I should have stayed with the Programme Coordination which would still have allowed me to still do what I eventually did. So I learnt a lesson, ‘Jimi, you’re not good at everything’.”
A Charge to Young Nigerians
Young people, your greatest assignment in life is to discover who you are and to become what you are meant to be. Discovery is not an event, it’s a process. It takes time, but try to use every part of you that you’ve discovered to do good to somebody. It comes back to you. It can be a salary for a while, after a while it can be income in your own organisation or it can be recognition. Give yourself to something of noble cause. Money is a reward for something – an exchange for value delivered. Seek the value you can deliver. Find who needs that value, exchange that value and money will come to you. Please, let’s be people of integrity. Your personal integrity eventually affects a lot more people than yourself. And we need to get people back to the point where we are thinking that a good name is better, far better, than riches. There are a lot of politicians that have a lot of wealth; people don’t really want them, except people who are sucking up to them to get their money. One day, those politicians will realise that people don’t them. In fact, many now know, so they begin to manipulate people. If you lose your money, there’ll be nothing left. So, get a good name!
Gbenga Awomodu is an Editorial Assistant at Bainstone Ltd./BellaNaija.com. When he is not reading or writing, Gbenga is listening to good music or playing the piano. He believes in the inspirational power of words and pictures, which he explores in helping to make the world a better place. He blogs at Gbenga’s Notebook (www.gbengaawomodu.com).