When I started the Gidi Girlboss series, I wanted to highlight Nigerian women in the diaspora making their mark in society. Growing up, I always looked for mentors who were like me and could understand my perspective. Sometimes, having conversation in person wasn’t always feasible (I’m still hoping to do lunch with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie one day), so I looked to interviews and autobiographies to get the inspiration I needed to press forward with my goals, dreams and ideas. However, inspiration can stem from anywhere, especially through non-Nigerian women who I admire. As a writer/blogger, I respect those that have crafted their blogging talent into a career. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it can be oh so rewarding. Today’s Gidi Girlboss, has been an inspiration to me. I’ve been swooning over Cynthia’s, from Simply Cyn, personal style and luscious coils since her Addicted to Etsy days. Not only has her consistent and effortless digital voice been an inspiration to me, but also motivation for other African bloggers who aspire to develop a blog on a broad platform that reaches beyond their local communities.
When a fellow African blogger, Clarissa of This Afropolitan Life, asked me whether she could re-post this post on her blog, I was started my happy dance. #bloggoals. What I didn’t anticipate was getting a like and a follow on Twitter (you can follow me too!) by an über talented Nigerian-American television producer and director. After studying her page, researching every link and wondering why I haven’t come across her before, I knew I wanted to pick her brain about the TV & Film industry and being Nigerian-American.
Sade Oyinade is the co-executive producer of the TV One series Unsung & Unsung Hollywood. Drawing from the knowledge of TV production, Sade started an independent film production company, Flower Ave. Films. In her debut film, Who Do You Know?, she exposes the misconceptions of how to contact HIV/AIDS. For her current film, Yemi’s Dilemma, Sade taps into her cultural background to address sensitive issues like inter-cultural marriage and family loyalty. She and producing partner Deshawn Plair, are currently raising funds through Indiegogo to produce the film, which will feature actress Sheryl Lee Ralph and Akbar Gbajabiamila.
Sometimes when you’re looking for inspiration and encouragement, you don’t have to look far. Jumoke Dada is what I call a professional entrepreneur. Growing up and even now, I look up to my older cousin, because she’s equally a dreamer and a doer. You don’t often find people who can dream up the ideas and execute them with passion and precision while effectively balancing the two. Jumoke has learned how to do just that. Sometimes, it amazes me how much she can get done within 24 hrs. I wonder if my days are shorter, because I’m still learning how to get things done while still making it look effortless. I’ve learned how to be a Girlboss from her and I hope you do too.
G&P: You were pretty young when you graduated from college, what was your first job and did your age affect your career?
JD: Well, I was young when I started college (at 16), because I skipped a year of school. I think starting young (in my case) was interesting, because although I could handle the school work, I wasn’t clear on what I wanted to be my major. I always struggled between being very creative and very analytical; therefore, it took me some time to declare a major. When I did declare, the logical side of my brain won and I decided to pursue a STEM degree. I graduated with a Computer & Information Sciences degree from Temple University to be exact.
I believe making a decision was the hardest part, but once I did everything fell into place. I was recruited by a company before I graduated; therefore, I had a job waiting for me after graduation. I was always a mature and responsible person so I believe that I transitioned well into the workforce. I don’t believe my age affected my career at all.
G&P: Why did you decide to start in a STEM field instead of a creative field?
JD: I love the arts and all things creative. I always thought that I would work in entertainment or law; however, there were a series of events that led me to the decision. I distinctly remember interning at a popular hip hop magazine in NY and when it was over, I realized that I didn’t want to work in the music industry after all. Although marketing came naturally for me, I knew that I would have to utilize that skill in another way one day. The following semester I looked at my classes and noticed that I was strong in STEM classes, so I began looking at career options in that space. Both of my parents worked in the medical field, so although I thought it was great, I knew that I did not want to go that route. It came down to choosing engineering or computer science so I went with the latter. Looking back I see how God was directing me the whole time.
G&P: So your internships helped steer you in the career path you thought was best for you. So, fast forward a couple of years after your first job. You ended up being featured in Black Enterprise for your real estate success, started Signature RED, a technology and marketing company specializing in women-targeted marketing and founded Project ALOE, an initiative geared towards high school girls going to college. Describe how you transitioned from Computer Science to Expert Entrepreneur?
JD: It was God that directed me to where I should be.
My college experience really played a major role in my development. After college, I worked as an application developer / technologist for years before coming to a point where I wanted to move away from coding and do something that would allow me to interact more with people. I remember needing a creative outlet and wanting to move back to New York. I started applying for jobs but nothing panned out so I thought about alternatives.
I bought my first home after college and I referred a number of people to my real estate agent. One day the light bulb went off and I decided to get my license so that my friends could use me as their agent. I set my mind to it, took the classes, passed the exam and began selling real estate part-time while working in I.T. Prior to getting my real estate license, I never had an interest in networking, but I needed to meet new people, so I started going to young professional events. As I met people, I noticed that I naturally connected with women and, like me, many of them had side-hustles. My marketing instincts and training from selling homes kicked in and when I decided to give entrepreneurship a try, I decided that I wanted to focus on women-targeted marketing. Eventually I moved away from I.T., stopped selling real estate and focused on Signature RED. In the beginning, I built a portfolio by hosting “Legally AMBITIOUS” educational networking events for women but in 2013 my inner geek re-awakened after learning about opportunities for women with STEM degrees so I began incorporating more tech services into my business. Today, I do technology and marketing consulting.
I’ve always enjoyed working with women and girls. In 2010, I decided that I wanted to do something to give back to girls specifically and that’s how Project ALOE came about. Project ALOE is a beauty drive and send-off event to help girls be fit, fab and focused for college. During the summer months, we collect hair supplies, cosmetics, and toiletries for college-bound girls and invite them to an event where they receive advice about campus life from beauty, hair, and fitness experts before receiving care packages. After hosting the annual drive for 5 years, I applied for 501c3 status with 2 other women and founded Signature RED Cares. Project ALOE is now its main program.
G&P: Wow, you’ve taken different avenues with your entrepreneurial pursuits. How have you been able to balance your intellectual and creative energies without burning out?
JD: I definitely don’t have a straight career path and I love that fact. As far as energy is concerned, God keeps me. And as far as balance is concerned… I play A LOT. Believe it or not, I manage my time and projects pretty well and everything falls into a bucket of time throughout the year.
G&P: How do you stay motivated?
JD: I’ve always been a self-starter and motivated by possibilities. It’s not always easy to stay that way so when I need a break or getaway, I take it. I am also a woman of faith. I start my day with quiet time with God. Each day is a gift and if I’m not on the right path, I need Him to tell me. I know that I have a purpose otherwise I wouldn’t still be here so if God has given me gifts, talents, dreams, who am I to say that I won’t use them?
G&P: I totally agree! Each day is a gift given for us to continue pursuing our God-given purpose. What is your evening routine and how do you unwind?
JD: Each evening is different so I don’t have much of a routine but if I’m not working or at a board meeting, I spend time with special people or just relax on my couch.
G&P: Where is your favorite place to travel?
JD: Nigeria with South Africa as a close second. Africa is poppin’!
G&P: It is! I haven’t travel to South Africa yet, but it’s definitely on my list. What business icon would you like to shadow for a day?
JD: She’s not a business icon but definitely Michelle Obama. Oprah would be a close second. Both are such smart, savvy, fun, poised and generous women.
G&P: How has your cultural background influenced your business decisions or entrepreneurial endeavors?
JD: I’m somewhat of an odd ball in terms of my immediate family because for the most part, everyone works in a STEM field. It wasn’t until my uncle visited from Nigeria last year that I saw that I have some of his qualities. He’s an entrepreneur and his mind is always going but he’s also very laid back. The work ethic that my parents have is unbelievable. They do what they have to do and never complain and they have brilliant minds and a lot of faith. All in all, I believe that it has affected me in that I’m a resilient and hardworking individual who is also very grounded. I also know that if God says walk away from everything, I would have to do it.
G&P: What have you learned in the past 24hrs?
JD: God has my back and He is enough. He doesn’t my help to accomplish anything. In the past 24 hrs., He has reminded me that His timing is perfect.
G&P: What would you tell your 21yr. old self about staring a business?
JD: To my 21 yr old self, I would say embrace your geekish ways and pay close attention to how God speaks to you and trust His leading. Pray HARD, get a mentor, and keep coding.
A) Youtube or Periscope?
B) South Africa or Ghana?
Never been to Ghana. It’s on my #DadatheExplorer list
C) Philly or NYC?
D) Wealthy or Famous?
E) Fleek Makeup or Fleek Shoes?
To learn more about Jumoke Dada check her out at JumokeDada.com.
As a Sunday School teacher and former Youth Leader at my church, I hear it time and time again, “My parents want me to study [medicine, engineering, nursing, pharmacy, accounting or any other profession they can brag about]…but I want to be [an artist, a writer, a musician, an actor or any other creative endeavor that seems more like a hobby to them than a career].” I was in the same boat when I attended my university. My mom had it all planned out for me. I was going to study Pharmacy, graduate and earn a lot of money. Career decision done. However, I initially told her, around the age of 10 I believe, that I was going to become an Advertising Executive. After a long talk about her sacrifice to move to this country and how Nursing has provided for this family, and this and that, my dreams were crushed, so I thought. After much rationalization, I decided that law would be a happy medium. I went through school, starting practicing and realized that I would have much preferred a career in Marketing. So, I decided to hustle and started a dual career in Marketing & Blogging while still practicing law until I branch out full-time. Looking back, there were some things I did while in school that I’m glad I did and other things I wish I had done.
1. Minor In Your Preferred Major
If you’ve been trying to convince your parents that majoring in Dance will eventually profit in large dividends and they aren’t convinced, don’t worry. Remember, higher education is really about learning first and a salary second. It doesn’t hurt to major in Biology, after all, you do need to know where your heart is located, but it would be wise to minor in a field you want to pursue in the future. If that won’t work, than get a Masters. However, you may need to take a few prerequisite courses before you can qualify for graduate school, but it’s a small price to pay to pursue your dreams. What I learned about life is that you never know where you will end up. You may become a dancer who eventually specializes in physical therapy for other dancers. Having an understanding of multiple disciplines helps you to stand out and create a path that’s uniquely yours.
2. Be Strategic About Your Electives
You already have to take electives. Schools require them to encourage students to have a well-rounded degree. This is an opportunity to be strategic and focus your energy on courses that feed your own interests. Even though, I majored in English and Psychology, I took an Acting course just because I was interested in pursing it. The sky’s the limit with electives. They are like creative freebies. Electives don’t affect your major and it’s already built into your tuition. I wish I took a graphic design and marketing courses while in school rather than paying out-of-pocket for them as a professional. Utilize the opportunities you have while they are there.
3. Intern In Your Dream Field
While in school, I had some amazing internships. For law school, I purposely only applied to schools in NYC, because I wanted to be around the fashion industry. I always wanted to do something with design and fashion, so I strategically positioned myself to be at the forefront of those opportunities. While my classmates were working for judges and district attorneys, I became a Public Relations intern with Christian Louboutin. I wanted an out-of-the-box experience. I was able to meet Mr. Louboutin himself and some other designers, dropped off shoes at the Vogue offices and called Rachel Zoe’s office a few times during awards season. As an added bonus, because I was a law student, the Communications Director saw that I had a unique skill set for the position and gave me the task of monitoring Christian Louboutin’s Intellectual Property matters too. I not only learned a lot about Fashion PR, but I also learned from the company’s attorneys too. It was a win/win situation for me.
Another memorable experience was my Visual Merchandising internship in Bloomingdales’ Marketing department while in undergrad. I had to arrive at 7am to dress the mannequins and change the promotional displays before the store opened for the day. I learned about how marketing campaigns affect consumers’ buying decisions, just by setting up displays. It was a rewarding experience, and one of the first steps towards my Marketing career. Overall, my internships were eye openers. I figured out that I preferred Marketing over PR, without majoring in either fields or even taken a course. Internships are a great way to test whether the field you admire is a good fit for you.
4. Network Outside Your Major
I don’t know about you, but I’ve pretty much obtained most of my jobs and internships through someone else. There is so much information out there, that it’s easy to overlook some great opportunities if you’re not aware of them. Networking in fields outside your major, can help you secure internships and jobs you wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Who says only Business students can attend a Future Business Leader of America meeting? If you’re an Engineering major who loves going to art museums, than attend an Art History seminar. Expand your inner circle of influence and be creative. Conduct informational interviews with people in the field you’re passionate about over coffee to get an inside scoop of their everyday routine. Volunteer at events or join a committee. Meet as many people as you can. Soon, you will be surrounded by a network of people that are related to the career path you want to pursue.
5. Let Your Expertise Influence Your Parents
Nigerian parents would prefer their children to focus on certain professions, partly because of the stability and financial potential. Doctors, lawyers, engineers and nurses aren’t going anywhere. Those professions are needed for society to run effectively in one way or another. That’s why these professions have good salaries, because those professionals have trained long and hard for a tough and consuming career. However, society is changing. The highest paid people aren’t just doctors and lawyers, they are also people who influence society, period. Nowadays, social media personalities are singing to the bank, because they have created a brand that influences followers to pay attention to what they have to say and offer. Many started as students and have become professionals doing what they love. However, this doesn’t happen overnight. They continue to develop an expertise in their area, which influences people to support their brand. This also applies to parents. If you become an expert in a particular field that you are passionate about, your parents can be influenced by it and become supportive too.
Parents would be more willing to let you major in Art if they see you practicing daily or taking some type of initiative. It’s hard for your parents to support your endeavors, if you say you want to be a music producer, but sit on the couch watching TV for 5 hours a day. If you want to act, join a local theatre, engage them when you’re practicing your monologue and invite them to your rehearsals and plays. Begin to develop an expertise they can’t ignore. Soon, both of you would be proud of what you are doing. Plus, being a passionate expert could also increase your earning potential, which would have your parents sleeping easier at night. They can relax knowing you won’t be asking them for money much longer.
Lately, I haven’t been reading, as much as, I want to. I used to be an avid reader, before I went to law school. But it was something about being forced to read chapter after chapter of ancient case law, tedious briefs and monotonous legal opinions that sapped my energy from reading writings that celebrated creativity. Year after year, I fell into the habit of reading more academic prose than literary fiction. Now, I want to get back to reading for pure enjoyment.
In university, one of my majors was English and I concentrated on literature of the African diaspora. My concentration was a no-brainer for me. However, during my time, I found it difficult to find books by African authors who gave tribute to the American immigrant experience. So, I have a habit of searching for complex African literature that either speaks to my dual cultural experiences or teaches me about my African heritage in a way that brings life to my history. If you’re like me, you probably have a standing reading list on Amazon or another platform where you can store books in reserve that peak your interest. Here are five literary sweets from my list…
1. Every Day Is For The Thief // Teju Cole
About a young Nigerian living in New York City who travels back to Lagos to visit. His happenings and observations in Lagos leads him to an introspective path of truth and reconciliation.
2. The Thing Around Your Neck // Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A compilation of proses about Nigerians in America and how they cope and live with their piece of the American pie.
3. Boy, Snow, Bird // Helen Oyeyemi
Although this book is not about African culture per se, it addresses the issues of passing as an element of cultural divide and the essence of race and heredity.
4. Chike and the River // Chinua Achebe
A children’s book that sparked my interest, so much so, I included it on one of my Christmas gift guides. It follows a sheltered Nigerian boy’s quest to travel to Asaba, a city he has never explored, which takes him on an adventure through quintessential Nigerian experiences.
5. Foreign God’s Inc. // Okey Ndibe
A desperate Nigerian cab driver living in New York plots to steal a statute of an ancient deity from his village in order to sell it to a NYC gallery. On his trip, he faces dichotomies of the Christian faith versus ancient beliefs, the modern life versus the exoticism of tribal living and the shifting nature of memory.
What African literary works are you reading?
Happy New Year G&P readers! To start off the year, I am determined to get super organized with my projects and things. Recently, I started setting goals based on my birth year. It allows me to see the bigger picture and compare my past desires to what I have actually accomplished thus far. However, because a slew of people tend to make resolutions at the beginning of the year, planners are in abundance right now.
Planners can be fun and pretty to look at, but at times they don’t offer enough substance to motivate me to get the goals done. An alternative has been life-setting planners. These planners go beyond a calendar wedged between soft leather binding with minimal free space to actually write down goals. Some have positive and motivating messages to inspire each day. Others have space to express our creative juices or to jot down what we are grateful for each day. These planners go beyond a daily to-do list by getting personal and meaningful.
These planners will do more than set your day, they will SET.YOUR.LIFE!
This planner is designed by The Lara Casey Shop and their goal is to help women make what matters most to them happen plain and simple. The sections are broken down into monthly, weekly and daily goals with areas that examine your vision, dreams and memories amongst other introspective prompts.
2. Passion Planner
Passion Planner was created by a millennial who was at a state of confusion about her purpose post-graduation. The planner has sections to express our gratitude, to doodle or sketch and of course to plan. She wanted to create the planner as a tool to help people clearly define their personal goals and dreams. She did a great job doing so. The testimonials of the ambassadors can prove it.
The LifePlanner by Erin Condren is more reminiscent of a traditional planner, with the exception of inspirational quotes sprinkled all around. The icing is in the customization. These planners came in many colors including trendy rose gold and they can be personalized with your name of choice.
What do you use to set your life goals?