Quit trying to be a superwoman, learn to ask for help —Kemi Ogunkoya

Kemi Ogunkoya is the lead coach, cum business strategist at Hextisuna Consulting and Training and Blife Hub Academy. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE, she speaks about the need for people to invest in personal development.


Did you originally plan to pursue a career in education economics as many students see education courses as their last resort?

I did not plan to study Education at the university. I wanted to study International Relations at Obafemi Awolowo University while Political Science in the University of Lagos was my second choice, but when I was unable to secure admission in my preferred schools, an aunt asked me to explore the University of Ibadan. I got the change of institution forms and fired my shot. At that time, the major lists had been released, and the only available option was in the Faculty of Education. Studying Education was almost a last resort for me if I had to get into university that year. Left with almost no choice, I took my chance and gave it a shot. Technically, I will say studying Education was my last resort, but it turned out to be my best resort. I have no regrets treading the educational path; rather, I am full of gratitude. My faith has taught me the place of divine arrangement or destiny as others may call it.

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When students study courses they originally did not apply for, is this a good approach to learning and does it affect productivity on their jobs later in life?

I can attest that truly it can be frustrating having your dreams built around a path and providence reroutes your dreams. There is a place for interest and passion and its effect on performance. Initially, I felt extremely frustrated caught in the quagmire of studying a course I didn’t want, but considering my options, I chose to tread that path and put in my best. The first degree is the foundation on which you assemble your building blocks. I studied Education, which is an instrumental part of my corporate work as an executive trainer, but I have since bagged an MBA in Management Consultancy, from the University of Wales, Cardiff, UK.  I have attended numerous courses and professional programmes which have sharpened my life outcome and redirected my course.  I implore students to be open-minded and have a flexible approach to life. I believe that how our lives turn out is a choice we all have to make. You can either be bitter that life throws you lemons or you make lemonade from the lemons. I chose to make lemonade and lemon pies from my lemons.


Many graduates are said to be unemployable. As a business coach and strategist, what do you think is wrong and what are the remedies?

Truly, there is a dearth of skillful graduates today. Universities and colleges are churning out thousands of half-baked graduates, such that it would be easy to pass off the majority of them as unemployable, but then, an important question to ask is, what system produced these so-called ‘unemployable’ graduates? It is quite unfortunate that the buck of the effect of our nation’s poor educational infrastructure stops on the table of the employers who may have a hard time finding talent, and when they eventually find, have to grow through endless cycles of training and retraining to get the employees to perform at workable levels. That could be highly frustrating, I have had my fair share, trust me, and I work with organisations everyday to help them deal with the consequences of a disengaged workforce. However, we should note that the problem with productivity in the workplace is more complex than we think. It requires a multi-stakeholders engagement. Government, public sector and even the graduates themselves have to do more and should provide continuous capacity


What price did you pay to get to where you are today?

The price for success is always paid in advance, the price for where I am today was paid years back, and I am still paying every day into the future. There is no magic bullet for success. For me, success is a culmination of experiences; sacrifices, vision, persistence, dedication, and so many other learnable traits. I used to be a very shy person, but then I realised that some traits would never get me the life I desired. I began to disrupt my comfort, disrupting my comfort meant I had to learn to become bold enough to speak and communicate effectively in front of an audience and invest in my awareness journey. Today, I speak both nationally and internationally at programmes, seminars and workshops. I literally had to re-invent myself for that success. I am a lover of personal development and growth; I invest countless hours, thousands of dollars, deposition in people, management of my energy in edifying and productive personal development programmes to be who I am today. I pay the sacrifice of sleep sometimes, denial of attending some social events at a point, denial of watching TV,  denial of acquisition of materials items, rather, I invest more in learning, unlearning and relearning.


How can a woman successfully combine the home front with her career?

To be successful, women need to be guided by values and must be willing to learn the skillfulness, techniques, value play involved in creating  balance in both worlds. In the home front, women who want to build careers must ensure they look for values of support in their spouses. Women should marry partners who can support their dreams and can be there to support them, help in house chores or childcare as the case may be. They must have a great support system of trusted families and allies who can stand in for them in times where they are unavailable.  They must be excellent at communicating their dreams and intentions to their spouses and children as the case may be, prioritise their homes and at no time neglect the home front for their careers. Effectively combining both worlds means women must be excellent time managers and excellent organisers and should be able to allocate and manage their 24 hours more efficiently to give room to accommodate their numerous responsibilities and aspirations. Women need to quit trying to be superwomen, learn to ask for help, find credible allies at work, build systems around home and work and also ensure they  prioritise themselves.


 What is the most defining moment of your career so far?

I have had so many defining moments in my life, but one stands out as one of the greatest moments of my entire career so far. My mother, one of the most impactful influences in my life, always says; “a dream unlived is a life haunted,” This means I had to go for my dream, even in the face of fear. A moment presented itself over seven years ago when I decided to start my consulting and training company. I was fraught with fear, mostly because I was the reserved type, comfortable in my space and hadn’t seen myself as the entrepreneurial type. However, I knew this decision would be a defining moment and would have a tremendous effect on my life trajectory. I did not want to live a haunted life as my mum implies, so I decided to give my dreams a shot; after all, you miss 100% of the shots you do not take. From my younger years, one of the numerous gifts I have been blessed with is people transformation; when I work with people I can create a tremendous shift, which impacts them personally and their organisation as a whole. Impact on organisational performance and individual success further enriched by my investment in Neuro-Science, Human Capital Development and experience from some prestigious human capital development organisations, I knew I would have greater impact and be unstoppable if I could step out of my fear. Also, I wanted to be able to show my children that anything is possible. Following this, I recalibrated and resigned from my job as a Human Resources Manager in one of the top Oil and Gas servicing companies in Nigeria and set sail on my quest for more meaning, value, impact and fulfilment. In retrospect, this defining moment made me a more resilient, impactful, purposeful, focused and agile leader. This moment changed the trajectory of my life and today, even in the face of adversity, my company, Hextisuna Consulting and  Training, can build resilience and find joy by endowing Nigerian businesses with the support needed to groom a more purposeful, productive and profitable workforce.

We have successfully done this nationally and internationally serving corporate establishments, government and individuals. I believe that as long as people are willing to create their future and make the decision to move forward, everyone can create their defining moments.

Kemi Ogunkoya

Human capital development is essential to facilitating development. How do you think this can be fully achieved in Nigeria’s public and private sectors?

No economy develops without skilled human resources to drive their growth. Developed countries like Canada, the United States of America (in past times) Australia invest billions of dollars developing their human capital while also clamouring for the entrance of skilled human resources through immigrant programmes. Nigeria is lagging in behind its human capital development, rather, it is losing the few capable hands to developing countries attracting our human resource with the hope of an enticing future. Nigeria is ranked 152 out of 157 countries on the World Bank 2018 Human Capital Index list. Nigeria is sharing the bottom of positions with countries like Chad, South Sudan, Niger, Mali, and Liberia. If things continue this way, it is only a matter of time that we attain a full systemic breakdown. As mentioned earlier, building our human capital requires a holistic approach rather than sectional. I strongly believe that education and health are fundamental objectives of growth in any country; however, they are dependent on other variables.

In the public sector, the government has to rise to its responsibilities and begin to adopt the constructs of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), that may be a good place to start. We need to begin to build our institutions rather than enriching the pockets of a few. We need to reduce our recurrent expenditure, cut frivolous costs of running the government and rebuild our people.


The social media and internet explosion are also changing the game in industrial places, many who left school a long time ago have not updated their knowledge to fit into today’s demands and are still top managers in their establishments, how can they give what they don’t have?

Truly, you cannot give what you do not have. Today, more than ever, no organisation can afford to rest on its oars. We are in the era of Innovate or Die. Right in front of our very eyes organisations like Kodak, Blackberry, Nokia and many more went down and are still struggling to find a spot in the market place today. I remember during my NYSC days in Niger State, my place of primary assignment was in one of the old generation banks, The bank experienced a major shakeup, and a mass tsunami swept a lot of employees away.  Majority of the affected were managers who had become dinosaurs in the system, with little or no investment in professional development over the years, it was a major blow for many.

No doubts we live in a ‘VUCA’ World, an acronym which stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. Technology is here to stay, and there will be no slowing down on technology and its possibilities. Today’s world is constantly changing, becoming more unstable, unpredictable, dramatic and complex each day. It’s becoming more difficult to anticipate events or predict how they’ll unfold. The only constant thing is change and organisation leadership, nor its strategies are not spared in today’s VUCA world. Knowledge, Skills, Experiences, Dogmas and Paradigms must all come under scrutiny, and surely the dinosaurs will keep going extinct. Organisations that have dinosaur managers as opposed to digital leaders will die a natural death. Organisations need digital leaders who are always connected, disruptive, flexible, curious, responsive, collaborative, values and outcome driven, not the dinosaur manager who is stuck to past wins, ideas and knowledge.


What advice do you have for unemployed youths in Nigeria?

Our system no doubts has failed the youth in terms of education, opportunities, providing an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, infrastructure and others. As young people, we can either wallow in pain or start creating our destiny.  To the unemployed youth, A major mindset change must happen, and there must be a transition from job hunting to legitimate job creation.  There are numerous untapped opportunities in the land, and with the advent of technology, there has never been a time where truly our destinies lie in our own hands. If you have a mobile phone and data, you have oil, brick and mortal structures are eroding due to technology. Learning a profitable skill, build products and rent a shop on social media for free. Do not engage in illicit and illegitimate businesses. Yahoo, Yahoo is a No. There are 1001 businesses that you can engage in to make clear income. The average Nigerian thinks resources, yet resourcefulness is the key to unlocking potentials and creating wealth.  Don’t go through school only to come out looking for job, be the job that would be sought after. The average Nigerian youth has future misalignment, investing time that should be used for productive personal development in unproductive personal enjoyment; watching TV, Series, Entertainment, Partying rather than converting their recreation time into recreation time. Vocational skills and entrepreneurial skills should be added and mandated in the school curriculum.


What will you say is the secret of your success? 

There’s no secret formula for success. It’s not like you can go to a laboratory and mix some chemicals, drink a few shots and become successful at anything, it doesn’t happen that way, neither does success gets bestowed overnight. Success is based on adopting growth principles and applying them consistently to produce the desired result in various areas of life. For me, the special combination has been; Grit, Grace, Values and Resourcefulness. I am a visionary hard worker who believes that people can achieve anything once they put their mind to it and give it their best shot;  idleness is an abomination for me and those around me. Also, I am a highly spiritual being, and I believe success cannot be separated from one’s level of spiritual vibration. I commune with my Creator, and He directs me, this gives me an edge over circumstances and situations. Upholding my values have also been instrumental to my growth journey.


From your wealth of experience, can you share with us tips on how to have a successful career?

To have a successful career in any chosen field, a lot of work has to be put in. You cannot wish yourself into success; you have to put in the work. A lot of people want to succeed in business and their careers by putting in the barest minimum effort. You cannot succeed in business or your career only if you work only on the days that you feel like. To succeed, you need to be able to do the work required of you and train yourself to put in the work even on days you don’t feel like working. The first obstacle to conquer in the journey of success is the obstacle of SELF. We cannot become an expert at what we do until we become an expert at who we are. Hard work is essential for success. To be successful, you need to have the right mindset; our thoughts create the pathway for our reality.

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