British Nigerian, Eniola Adedapo graduated from the University of Leicester with an LLB degree; for her, that should have meant a career in law practice but you know what they say: ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’, true to this statement, it’s been quite the opposite for the just turned 30-year-old – a testament to the fact that the world is indeed fast evolving and nothing is quite as clear-cut anymore. She didn’t quite enjoy the legal profession but having worked in the banking sector during her gap year, she decided she’d give banking a shot.
Admittedly, she has moved around quite a bit in the banking sector trying out new roles and getting out of her comfort zone-an attribute that every employee needs to possess in this fast-paced era, to have staying power within an organisation – something Eniola has mastered quite well.
I've had a promotion every year for the last 6years…they weren't 'given' to me.. It's been blood sweat & tears and I have earned this without compromising my values.
I'm a great cook
I'm creative & a problem solver
I have looooong legs ?
I'm a Guinness World record holder https://t.co/GEKyT8dw9O
— Eniola ? (@Littlemrs_A) June 28, 2018
As an employee within the Lloyds Banking Group, one of the “Big Four” British retail and commercial banks with branches across England and Wales; she has been promoted not once, but six consecutive times throughout the duration of her 6-year career. But it hasn’t always been so easy.
I started my career in February 2012 as a cashier at Lloyds Bank. It was a role I had to take because my family was going through financial difficulty and I had to support myself and my sister in England – I could not afford to wait and apply for a graduate role straight out of law school. I remember in my interview the woman said to me ‘you are quite overqualified for this role…promise me you won’t be on the counter in 6 month’s time’…I promised her I wouldn’t – and 6 months later, I bagged my first promotion.
In this interview, she speaks to us about maneuvering the corporate world especially as a female Nigerian in the diaspora and we’re happy to take notes:
1 Please tell us a little about yourself? (details such as your full name, education, peculiar stories about your childhood, hobbies, pet peeves etc. please include when and how you started out your career in the corporate world, the name of the organisation you currently work in and your position)
Name: Eniola Adedapo
Education: LLB Law, University of Leicester, LPC University of Law, Chartered Banker Diploma, BPP University (In Progress)
Organisation: Lloyds Banking Group
Role: Business Manager to Distribution Delivery Director, Lloyds Banking Group
Hobbies: Bullet Journaling, running and reading.
Childhood: Growing up I wanted to be a graphic designer…with African parents, no prizes for guessing why that never happened!
Pet Peeves: Inefficiency
2. How would you describe your experience so far in the corporate sphere?
My experience has been a bit of a jungle gym- I’ve not had the luxury of selecting a specialty and focusing on becoming great in that field. Like I said before, the first role I took because I had to and because of that, my first few roles were pretty defined for me. Instead, I have worked in different parts of the bank doing quite different roles. I think this is mostly because I’ve not always had a clear sense of what I want to do and I have been quite happy to try new things and grab new experiences- and I do think this has worked to my advantage.
3. As a Nigerian in the Diaspora, would you say that there are certain odds unique to you that you have had to combat in your career?
Yes- the big issue is integration. In my experience, in addition to doing a great job, success within a team is based on how well you can integrate, whether you are willing to spend time socially with the team, talk about the same interests etc. and that can sometimes be difficult as someone who has not lived here their whole lives- I remember it took me a LONG time to understand British humour – again another essential for success. As a Nigerian woman I was raised to be humble, put my head down and work hard- here you need to be confident about your achievements otherwise you are seen as incompetent.
I have had to fight my upbringing to succeed.
4. As a woman in corporate, are their peculiar challenges you face?
Yes, like I mentioned before, confidence has always been my biggest issue- I’ve always felt like I deserve to be successful but I have always been timid about going for the things I want. It’s taken my husband making me see that I have to possess the blind confidence men usually have… to ‘think like a man’ if you will, and just go for opportunities; for me to come out of my shell, and even doing this is a daily battle.
I have also experienced misogynistic men who think because I am a woman and an introvert that my points are not valid…it has taken a lot of time and strategic thinking to win them over. I am however glad to say that I haven’t encountered many of them within LBG.
5. What are your thoughts on the glass ceiling?
I believe it exists and it is my mission to break it and be an example for women like me- to see it is possible.
6. You have been promoted consecutively for six years at your place of work. Please share with us extensively career tips you have used at excelling in this path?
It goes without saying that doing the day job and doing it very well is the baseline. On top of this, these are the other things I have done that I feel have helped:
· Build relationships– Whenever I have left a team I have kept in touch with people within that team – helps to build and retain my network so if I need anything from them in the future I am comfortable asking.
· Always leave on a positive note– never burn bridges…the world can be quite small and you never know where you will meet that person again. Learning the art of diplomacy and balancing what needs to be achieved with not being a pushover has been a massive challenge but I am learning every day.
· Have a peer mentor you trust who you can moan to, who can give you advice from a different perspective or even check your work or ideas for you before you share them – they will help you think differently, avoid public mistakes and have your back!
· Have a sponsor who is senior to you, they will be the ones who will convince others to hire you or give you a chance. This is a relationship that can be built organically or by going to them and saying ‘this is who I am, what I have achieved and what my ambitions are…I want you to put me in touch with the right people’. I have always made my sponsors organically – they are usually senior leaders I have worked for and made a good impression with. I can call them anytime to say ‘I need advice’ or ‘I’m applying for this role…what do you think?’ 9/10 times if they know the hiring manager, they will put in a good word for you….(again, there is that piece on building and sustaining good relationships)
· Sustain relationships – have lunch/coffee to catch up, send them an article that reminds you of them, support their work – if they are hosting a seminar, go, invite others, if they have published something, share it on LinkedIn, thank them for their contributions to your career- these are little things but I have found them to go a long way especially with a sponsor.
· Stay hungry – sign up for courses, keep learning, build on existing skills, be open to change and new ways of working. Leaders can spot those who will help drive their agenda forward and will usually surround themselves with those people.
7. How do you push through rough times at work?
I meditate- I use the headspace app depending on how I am feeling and I usually find that helps me focus and prioritize if I’m feeling overwhelmed. If I need to unwind, there’s also guided meditation on there…a session as short as 3mins works a treat when I’m short on time!
I’m also not afraid to step away from my desk. If my brain is fried and I don’t have a deadline that night, I will pack up and go home. I am more productive when I am rested so I always prioritize that. Along with strong organisational skills, I am usually able to go home early when I need to!
If I am dealing with a particularly difficult stakeholder, I take time to understand what is on their agenda and show them that I am on their side- I also kill them with kindness….that always works a treat! 🙂
8. What career advice would you give to the younger generation hoping to start a career in the corporate field?
Be resilient- the world is changing at a much faster pace than ever before – the days of having a job for life is gone. Be ready for challenges and constant change and embrace it!
Finally, feel the fear and do it anyway! Whether that applies to taking that extra stretch or aiming for a role you don’t feel quite ready for….resist the comfort zone!