Foluso Gbadamosi is the Director, Business Process & Technology, Prime Atlantic Group; Co-Founder at 8191 Solutions and Serving with Love Foundation. Her career spans over 15 years in the Telecommunications, IT and FMCG industries. In this conversation with ADERINSOLA ADENIRAN of Leading Ladies Africa (LLA), Foluso shares her corporate experiences, highlighting how she has integrated her professional pursuits with her personal life, with some success nuggets for women who want to navigate the corporate world.
Tell us a bit about growing up and your upbringing.
I am the first of four children. I grew up in a home with open doors to everyone and parents who expected the best. My parents instilled humility and love for people in ways I find hard to describe. I learnt a lot about being responsible, loving people, the importance of family, being content, being generous and so much more from my parents. The truth is, children learn from our actions more than our words, most of the values I have today are from seeing my parents in action. Gender was never a limiting factor in our home and I was raised to know that nothing is impossible.
You are Director, Business Process & Technology, Prime Atlantic Group and Co-founder at 8191 Solutions that provides technology solutions to SMEs. That is a lot. How did you set out in the corporate world? Did you have a plan from the get-go, or did you just move with the flow?
I entered the corporate world just like most people do: I graduated from University and started working. During my years in paid employment, I have developed a better sense of what I really love and enjoy doing. I am a people-person and traditionally, people in technology tend to be more heard than seen. I believe I’m thriving in the industry while staying true to myself.
You have been in the corporate space for over a decade, based on your experiences, what would you say are the core principles anyone looking to have a fulfilling career must abide by?
I am a strong proponent of self-awareness. If nothing else, I think any professional should work on becoming more self-aware. In Nigeria especially, there’s a tendency to fit people into some sort of mold and many people have a hard time expressing themselves because they think they should be a certain way. While building a career is important, it does not define you entirely so it’s important to be self-aware as you build that career. For instance, you may work in finance-a stereotypically cut-throat industry- and have a very nurturing personality, so while you are “doing deals” and “killing it”, you also find yourself mentoring people in your organization and caring for them in a way other finance professionals don’t and that’s completely fine-you don’t have to fit into the mold. We should not identify ourselves solely by our professions/industries.
Still on career, would you say there are specific challenges females face in the corporate space and if so why? Can you share some recommendations on how to solve these challenges?
I think for most women with children, a major challenge is finding this so called “balance” between work and family. I honestly don’t believe in balance. I think we just have to try our best in every season of life and make the most of our individual circumstances. My greatest recommendation to anyone who is having a hard time balancing is to create support systems. The thing about support systems is that you have to be willing to appreciate, remunerate, motivate and love on those “systems”. For example, if your support comes in the form of a domestic staff, sister-in-law, sister, brother, mum, mum-in-law, dad, cousin, friend or colleague, you must reciprocate by treating them well and being extremely tolerant. If you naturally have a short fuse or are very fussy, you will need to learn to manage that.
A supportive spouse and family are imperative to success in the corporate world. For single women, I strongly advise being very careful when dating and focusing on the right things. The reality is that your choice of spouse is a huge determining factor of your overall success.I should also highlight the importance of networking with like-minded women who keep you focused. If you have vision and I really hope you do, you must always focus on that vision, so you do not lose sight of that which God created you to do. Sometimes, the voices we allow in our space are the very ones that keep us from being all we can be.
What advice do you have for young women stepping into the corporate world- what should they look out for?
I’d advise any young professional to find a career mentor–someone who can provide guidance, perspective and advice, someone who is a source of experienced insight and a sounding board for future plans.
Can you share some career mistakes you have made on your journey and what you learnt from them?
Absolutely. I once used not ‘liking’ a particular subject matter as an excuse to not learn it. To rise in your career, there are many things you will have to learn outside of your technical comfort zone or job function. It is very important to learn those skills when training opportunities present themselves. As you discover areas you’re lacking, be sure to explore training opportunities and cover the cost if your employer wouldn’t. To pay for these training and learning opportunities, you must plan and save. You spend money on what you value!
How do you navigate family, work and other secular obligations? What counts as ‘balance’ for you?
Structure! I am big on structure and I am also big on support systems. I have those in place and alter them as required with each season of my life. Balance for me doesn’t exist, it’s really getting what needs to get done per time per season in my life. There was a particularly slow season of my life where I felt so empty and now, I wish I spent that time more wisely. I think it’s about seeing the bigger picture and seeing everything that is happening in your life as preparation. Balance is also having a supportive spouse, which I have been blessed with. We both pick up where there may be gaps. Particularly with our children, we both do what needs to be done to achieve a balanced life.
Let’s talk about parenting, what has been the highlight of your motherhood journey so far?
I have two daughters and just seeing the sheer God-given differences in them amuses me to no end. I think it’s beautiful and wonderful how God has made us all so different, all for a unique purpose.
You run “Serving with Love Foundation.” What informed its creation and how has the reception been so far?
Serving with Love is almost six years old now and it was created out of a sheer desire to help our community. There are so many problems to be solved around us all and if we all played our part, I really believe the world would be a much better place. The reception has been wonderful, we have received immense support and our membership database keeps growing. This has also helped us really strengthen and expand our various initiatives.
The future is digital, and most of the Nigerian youth are unprepared for the future of work. There is a real need to provide technology training to young children in Nigeria especially those from low-income families, who would otherwise have no access to computers or digital training. We launched a Digital Life After School Program (DLASP) last year and the objective is to bridge the digital divide and provide much needed technology education to children from low-income families, thereby giving them employable skills and an outlet to express their innovation skills.
If you could speak to your 25-year-old self, what will you tell her?
I know you like things to happen quickly but realize that purpose is a journey, mainly of self-discovery–discovering who God created YOU and no one else to be. You are the solution to many problems; you will discover them as time goes on. Make the best of every season of your life, no matter what, there is always something to learn.
A lot of women understand the essence of mentoring but do not know how to seek mentoring /stay mentorable. How would you advise young women to seek mentoring and stay mentorable?
The first step is to determine what the mentor is for, it could be for career, personal, business, spiritual, family, etc. purposes. I have mentors for specific areas of my life. Some mentors may be all-encompassing- covering all areas, but you must not miss out on a great career mentor because you are fixated on having a mentor that covers all areas, for example.
To seek a mentor, you must be as willing to give as you are to take. Don’t be a parasitic mentee. I also see a lot of people who try to outsource their lives to a mentor. Understand that if you want someone to be your mentor, the person is likely a very busy person and cannot handhold or babysit you. Schedule meeting times, maybe monthly or quarterly, and each time, have specific updates from previously agreed ‘next steps’ and specific issues you would like to address.
In seeking a mentor, it’s often a good idea to find someone accessible within your network. If someone declines your request to be mentored for one reason or the other, don’t take it personally. Ask God to help you in your search and keep your eyes opened. You could also explore structured mentorship programs operated within firms for their employees, or by independent organizations, whereby mentors are matched to individuals over a specified period.
Away from career, family and faith- tell us, what does it for you when it comes to unwinding and having fun?
Hanging with my friends, travelling, watching movies, dancing and reading.
What is your greatest pet-peeve?
People not realising who and whose they are, and trying to be someone else. The lack of realization that we were all created for a unique purpose has destroyed many lives. That is my greatest pet peeve.