My life as a Middle man

My-Life-As-A-MiddlemanStrangely, I have always found myself in positions where I mediate between two parties. Let me just say that it is not always an exciting experience.

When I was younger, I was the middleman between my parents, bearing the brunt of the anger on behalf of the receiving party. I was also the middleman between my sister and her boyfriend, transporting sweet and bitter messages for the lovers when needed, and now that I’m all grown up, I get paid to be the middleman. Officially, it’s called being a Client Service Manager.

To use a village scenario to describe my job, the clients can be likened to “gods” of the land, the “dibia” is myself (ordained to talk to the gods and also act as the eyes of the gods) and the “villagers” are my team members, who exist to do the will of the gods, but would never want to talk to the gods directly.

If the villagers do not deliver what the gods’ expect, the gods summon the dibia and unleash their anger on him. The gods then give new, and sometimes ridiculous, instructions to the villagers. The dibia takes “the divine message” back to the villagers and the villagers in return vent on the dibia, who happens to be the bearer of bad news.

That’s the summary of my job.

There was a particular day I had a “divine meeting” with the client – the gods.  The client wanted us to do the undoable with his brand. He wanted us to smash old records and break new grounds, putting no limitation whatsoever on our creativity. This was totally strange to me; the gods are never this free with their instructions. So I asked further, “O wise one, are you sure this is what you want? I think we need to draw a limit to what can be done.”

“No! Don’t put yourself in a box! Be free, speak the language of the customers,” he responded.

I got back to the village and summoned the villagers, “Be free! Be creative! Jump into trendy conversations! Be yuppie! Be you!” I exclaimed, “These are the words of the gods”.

There was a moment of silence.

“Are you sure?” they asked, and I assured them that this was the will of the gods.

From then onward, the villagers went all out. They crossed the seven forbidden oceans, broke all ancestral customs and introduced the white man’s technics to their work. They were truly free, indeed.

The gods noticed these things and realized that they were not, in reality, ready for the changes. And so, they called for an emergency meeting with the dibia.

“Stop! No more! Delete! You misunderstood,” they screamed.

Guess who had to break the news to the excited villagers.

 

 

My Dad happened to Me

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At the age of 13, my dream was to become a medical doctor.

Today, I work in an advertising agency.

I didn’t see it coming. As a teenager, I had my life figured out. I wrote my plans down just as I was taught to at church. I was going to be a doctor, just like the one in my birth story, which my mum told me over a million times.

“When you were born,” she would say, “I carried you and pointed at the young doctor who helped in your delivery and said, one day, you’ll be just like her.” Every time she got to that part of the story something in me always leapt; Yes! I was born for this.

With this in mind, I struggled to make it into science class, as it was the key to my medical dream. I studied for my junior WAEC like my life depended on it, to ensure that my dream of becoming a doctor was actualized. I still remembered the day my results came out…

As I got to the school gate, Ugochi, my favourite friend screamed, “Eka Eka Eka! It’s out!”

She pulled me in anxiety and I was forced to run at her pace. We stopped at the board where the results were displayed. I scanned through the results on the board and, yes, my name was on the science list! I was super excited and did the famous Michael Jackson moonwalk as I celebrated my victory.

I got home in high spirits and shared this great news with my family. They all congratulated me.

And then, right after the celebration, my dad said, “Eh…Eka, you should be a lawyer, you know, you talk really well, and we need a Lawyer in the family.”

I laughed as he said it because I thought he was just joking. For five weeks I continued in my science class happily, until one Tuesday morning as Mr Agu, the chemistry teacher, taught, my dad walked into the classroom with another teacher. I was shocked to see him. The teachers whispered between themselves and one of them called my name.

“Eka Victor!”

I stood up, and the teacher said, “Please take your bag and follow me.”

I grabbed my bag, wondering what was going on. I followed my dad and the new teacher. My dad said nothing to me as we walked through the corridor until we got to the front of the ART class. Then he turned and said, “So now, you are in the art class, I have settled everything.” I looked at him in amazement, words failed me as I walked into the classroom and sat in my new seat.

My life changed in that very moment, and now I’m here. I don’t know why it happened but I am determined to make the best of where I am now. What I have learnt so far is that in Life, anything can change, even our dreams. But through it all, we must never give up on ourselves.

And, slowly, I have fallen in love with the path that chose me – Advertising.

Oh, and, Daddy, I am still not a Lawyer. *Tongue Out*

At this point, creativity eludes me

 

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When you work in the advertising industry, you’re allowed to be anything but uncreative. There are no boxes to consider when thinking; the more disruptive, the more pats on the back you get.

Ever have one of those days where you wake up in the morning brimming with ideas? You spend 25 minutes in the shower just because you’re thinking of several angles you can use to tackle a problem, another 45 minutes to get ready for work – most of that time spent tying up the loose ends of your shower-inspired plans. You swear you’re only gonna need 2 hours to clear out your desk, but the moment you step into your office…

All that creativity suddenly flatlines. You can almost hear the ‘beeeeeeeeep’ from your mental ER team trying to resuscitate your creativity, to no avail.

When that happens, you know it’s gonna be a LONG day at work. You take 30 minutes to set up your work desk. That’s when you start twiddling with your pen, checking your social media feeds twice a minute, playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on repeat, all in the search of something, ANYTHING, that can provide that inspiration you so desperately crave.

See, the thing about creativity is that sometimes when you’re actively searching really hard for it, that’s when it goes AWOL. All those times you were sharing a drink or three with your buddies while bouncing ideas off each other, your creative juices were flowing non-stop like wine from Dionysus’ chalice. Now that your current employment status sorely depends on farting out an execution plan for a client in the next 3 hours, inspiration is using you to play hide and seek.

So you watch the day slowly drag by while you try to remember your thoughts in the shower. Was it a 2- or 3-staged campaign? Was the campaign supposed to start on Facebook or SnapChat? How many influencers did you intend to use? So many questions, so little answers!

Finally, it’s 5pm. You’ve managed to cook up a half-done, watery ‘pot of beans’ for your boss’ evaluation.

“I know you can do better than this. There’s so much missing from this presentation,” she says.

Sigh. What a day. You’re the first to shut down and slam your pc shut. You race to your car because you can’t wait to get the hell out of here.

And what happens the moment you start your car and slowly start moving? It all starts coming back. The platforms, the phases, the whole plan, everything! Do you risk going back to the office and starting your presentation all over again?

I would suggest doing what I did and using this new-found creative spark to write about the ordeal you had to endure all day.

My Boss Happened To Me

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I started out with lots of energy and enthusiasm. As boring as the JD (Job Description) sounded on paper – Admin/PA – the job was challenging and filled with opportunities to grow beyond the current role into a career path I truly wanted – Marketing Communications. My colleagues were bright and dynamic young people with tons of ideas and we could discuss anything and see it come alive. It felt like an enchanting fairytale that held new and exciting surprises for me. I looked forward to our Monday meetings, as they were always fun and engaging.

For someone who had never worked as a PA, with very little administrative skills, I was doing amazingly well (Google was, and still is, my best friend). My boss was a public figure, so my work extended beyond the office. She was involved in speaking engagements, radio and TV shows, and I loved the fact that I could move around. She was hardworking, passionate about her career, could juggle a million things at once (ok, that’s exaggerating it) and I really admired her work ethic. She always said that a woman’s life was all about balance and being able to connect her world in a way that allowed her to find both peace and sanity in it.

Soon, I began to have more responsibilities and I took each one head-on, loving the challenges buried in each of them and being able to find solutions. With each new challenge, my boss would say, “There’s nothing you can’t do if you put your mind into it.” I became a Project Manager overseeing a new office site, a part-time accountant and then moved to my favourite area, Content.

Fast-forward a couple of months later, the marketing team seemed to have hit a roadblock as to how to carry out a certain campaign. My boss wanted fresh perspectives and asked if I wanted to assist the marketing team. We all sat, brainstormed ideas and found new ways to tackle the plan. It felt exciting, fulfilling. The brainstorming sessions made me feel alive. Something in me was awakened; even my colleagues seemed to notice too.  Over time, I started getting more involved in regular brainstorming sessions and client meetings. My interest was piqued as I reviewed content and actively participated in strategy sessions. Soon, I approached the company to review my JD to marketing. Sadly, I couldn’t at the time because there was no vacancy in the marketing department, but I was given liberty to stay involved with them.

One fateful day, one of my colleagues, Tunde, approached me and asked if I had ever considered a career in marketing communications. Of course!  I had always wanted to but didn’t know where to begin. He told me about Orange Academy and I got very interested.

I signed up for Orange Academy and discovered a world of possibilities, and I was introduced to the world of digital marketing. Digital marketing gave me an entirely different perspective in the world of communications and its ability to reach millions with a few words or images. Armed with this insight, I made a decision to pursue it head on.  I spoke with my boss and told her of my plans. She had mixed feelings but was happy I had found something I was truly passionate about, based on our frequent discussions.  I resigned from that job and began my journey into Digital marketing.

Even though I started my career in a field I knew very little about, working with her helped me discover and focus on what I truly love to do. I had thought I had my entire life figured out, but when my employer happened to me and challenged my abilities, it changed me forever.

If you’re stuck in a role that seems completely unrelated to your passion or talent, don’t be discouraged! Just stay focused and keep working hard; you never know what life-changing opportunities may come your way. *wink!

21k Changed My Life

 

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“J. K. Rolling, get off that phone and come help me in the kitchen!”

That was my mother’s voice, one of the many voices that constantly brought me back to reality from my obsession with the Internet.

It all began when I joined Facebook. I had just finished secondary school, so it was great to see what was happening in the lives of my classmates, and I eventually became a Facebook addict. I would stay online all day commenting on status updates and posting pretty pictures of myself, and soon enough I became quite popular on Facebook. People would see me on the road and recognize me! It made me feel extremely important and gave me a sense of self-worth at the time.

A few years into my second year at the university, I became aware of another social media platform called Twitter. Apparently, Twitter was the next big thing and everyone was on it. I had even seen something on CNN about it so I decided to go check it out, but my first experience was pretty disappointing; the layout seemed drab and all I kept seeing were links and something called a ‘hashtag’. I tried to understand Twitter but soon enough, I logged out and soon forgot about it.

I got interested in Twitter again when I got my first Blackberry; a friend showed me how to use it and from that moment I was hooked.  All of a sudden, I lost my love for Facebook and I would jump on Twitter trends and conversations. I had a voice; people found me interesting and my follower count started to increase.

A few months later, I got a message from another Twitter follower asking if I would like to make money from my tweets; at that point I was having money problems so I jumped on the offer without a second thought. He added me to a Blackberry group and we started tweeting for money. I started to develop my account; I jumped on trends more and became more commercial with my tweets. I even became an admin for the student website at my school! I became known for my social media presence, and by the time I was in my final year I had over 12k followers.

It was this love for social media that led me to my career path. Having studied microbiology in university, I was technically unqualified to work in advertising or digital media. But when it was time to apply for work after graduation, it was my follower count that got me the most attention.

And with no formal training, I started my first real social media job, all because I had 21,000 followers.

“J. K. Rolling, get off that phone and come help me in the kitchen!”

Sorry, mum, I’m working!

Imo Happened To Me

 

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If you’re a nine-to-fiver, you know that salary is never enough.

To effectively make the best of your salary – and still get the things you need, and still afford the things you want – is almost impossible. I learned this the hard way.

I was posted to Imo state for my youth service, despite plans to stay in Abuja – where I would have had maximum comfort, right down to having a driver take me wherever I needed to go. However, knowing that the comfort zone does not breed success, I was determined to make it work: I moved to Imo and embraced the challenge.

It took me ages to find a house; the agents seemed determined to drain the life out of me. With N2,500 per agent to look at one or two houses only, and with all the agents showing me the same houses over and over again, the costs quickly piled up. It didn’t seem like much at first until I’d paid like 10 agents! But I finally found a house.

I had roommates, learned how to live with people and learned tolerance. I saw suffering in the rural areas, away from my “perfect Abuja”. I saw people struggle to live from hand to mouth. I got better at standing up for myself, and my empathy threshold increased. Life is not perfect; people enjoy, people suffer, but we all find ways to make our situations work.

Imo was a real learning experience: I learned to survive with N19,800 only. Because of my time there, I’m better at planning my expenses, living alone, standing up for myself, relating with colleagues and more. Imo prepared me for a 9-5, and for the constant struggle of never having enough money. It taught me that things won’t always be perfect and situations may not be ideal, but we can rise above it, learn and evolve into better people.

Thank you Imo.

 

Getting Past The Front Desk

 

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“He is not on seat.”

“Pardon?”

“I said, Oga is not on seat!”

If you have visited any offices in Lagos, you must have, at some point, had this conversation. It’s even funnier – or more frustrating – when the person you came to see walks right out of the office, just at the moment the receptionist told you he or she isn’t “on seat”.

You stare at the receptionist, look at the person you came to see, and then look back at the receptionist and she’s staring right back at you like,

What?

 You’re like, “Isn’t that…?!” and she replies you with the confidence of a thousand gods, “Like I said, Oga isn’t on seat.”

In some instances, people walk right into the office to see the person you’ve waited to see for the past hour, with cheers and hails from the same receptionist who kept you waiting.

At this point, you probably think it’s what you wore… but, nah, it can’t be, ‘cause today was one of those days you nailed it. You look at the receptionist once again: this is the 8th time you are making eye contact with her. You hope she senses the plight in your eyes and speeds up your meeting with the person you came to see, but it doesn’t work. She will attend to you when she’s ready.

Finally, she calls you up.

“What’s your name again?” she asks, ignoring the fact that this is the third time you will be introducing yourself and you’ve already filled a visitor’s form with your name written in all caps on it.

“Hello sir, a Mr Tunde is here to see you… Okay, I’ll tell him.”

Then she looks right at you and says, “He said you should give him 5 minutes.”

I’ve had my fair share of these interactions with receptionists and secretaries. You may not admit it, but right after the CEO, they are unofficially next in charge. They are the gatekeepers, the fictional Heimdall of Asgard, the guardian of the Office, defending the office personnel’s doors from any intruders, and some of the most trusted staff of the CEO.

And if like me, you’ve been stalled by numerous secretaries and receptionists, I have good news: there’s a cheat sheet for getting past them! I’ll share a few:

BE POLITE. It’s really that simple. Being polite and courteous actually gets you extra points with receptionists and secretaries. Often times you might encounter slightly rude receptionists, but the trick is keeping your cool and constantly throwing in “please”, “thank you”, “ma” and “sir” where appropriate, and watch it get you past that door faster than you think. Trust me, it works.

FURNISH THEM WITH COMPLIMENTS. I remember rolling my eyes and sighing a lot when my colleague and I walked into a lobby, and he immediately started complimenting the receptionist on her looks, dress, etc. I was like, “Can we just do what we came here for and bounce!” – but it turns out those compliments got us favourable responses from them.

Try it out: express gratitude and give compliments constantly in the process of interaction and watch doors open. It’s kinda like how foreplay… nah, ignore that. But if you know, you know.

TIPS AND GIFTS I don’t think they’re allowed to accept gifts or monetary offers… officially, but who has ever said no to a lovely tangible or monetary gift? Especially the way the economy is set up these days. They might not accept cash, but branded gifts and office items might work. Trust me, you will be remembered and in the words of Adam Levine, you will be loved.

FOLLOW-UP (Off the job) If it’s convenient and appropriate, maintain off-the-job relationships with receptionists and secretaries, especially when you constantly interact with them on-the-job. A healthy off-the-job relationship will encourage more goodwill.

And if none of these get you past the front desk with ease, look for an interesting app or engaging game on your phone and get comfortable on that couch as you wait.  I may be the one seated next to you. Say hi!