Adenike Ajao

Adenike Ajao manages cross functional teams to attain efficiency in product/ service delivery through constant stakeholder collaboration to create business value. She loves ideating and collaborating to solve problems. She employs creativity, adaptation, facilitation, coaching, etc. to lead people, teams and organizations to achieve better outcomes.

She is also a writer, and likes to describe her head as a creative hub. She enjoys writing, story telling, technical writing, etc. She also critiques books. Blame it on her attention to detail and her analytical traits! She draws and sews leisurely as well. 

She is generally adventurous, and loves to try out new things, explore new places, learn new skills, etc.

Above all, she is passionate about people management. She says that, “People are at the center of everything we do, hence, I generally do all I can to positively impact those around me.

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative. 

Growing up was fun! Extremely so. I was the naughty child in a family of 7. Most families had my personality type, you know that child who would creatively say precisely how they felt in situations, that was me. My Dad, a lawyer and mum, is a relentless business woman. Our house was the typical family house everyone came to for holidays. I like to say having a family that wasn’t so conventional in the typical ways of doing things contributed heavily to developing my character as a person. 

I have amazing siblings and I never got into a fight. The only thing that looks remotely close was one disagreement I had with my sister when I was 13, I made up my mind never to attempt fighting again after that. She raised her hand at me and I honestly felt I was going to be murdered (laughs).

There was absolutely no fear of being smacked for being outspoken. While my Dad would typically be perceived as that no nonsense man, he was a softie who disguised that aspect with shouting. That never fazed me and of course, my mum has always been a sweetheart, only short of some occasions.

You know, I have always been influenced by people conquering the world of business. They usually managed to look so formidable and smartly dressed at all times. It looked like they could take on just about any challenge and come out unscathed. Then I fancied being a banker, their mode of dressing fit into the aesthetics I wanted at the time. 

I eventually studied accounting and after about 2 years, I knew I wanted to do more. In my bid to discover what “best fit” for me, I sampled designing, cloth making, even singing (believe me, you never want to hear me sing- you might go beautifully deaf), professionally writing, proofreading, etc. I eventually “discovered‘ Project /Product Management. I realised I had been doing that all along. I eventually transitioned and I’m glad I did. PM brings my natural competencies to fore. People management, problem solving, creativity, amongst others.

My lifelong desire is to become one of the women leading business conversations globally. I like to believe I’m on the path of actualising that goal and one day, you’ll look back and smile when you juxtapose the future image of Adenike Ajao you’ll come to know in the coming years with the mindset of the young talent writing this now.

I’m constantly inspired by Folorunsho Alakija, I call her boss lady. I love her success as a business leader and importantly, I love her dedication to selfless service. She exemplifies success for me. I also love Ibukun Awosika, she is such a powerful and classy force.

I particularly love the leadership style of the GCEO of AFEX, Ayodeji Balogun. I see his works from a distance, but even at that, I can perceive the quality of leadership he exemplifies. His collaborative approach to everything AFEX does is a social proof of his leadership.

Yemi Faseun? Please meet him or at least, engage with him. In all honesty, he is unbelievably humble! It is so unreal. He is impactful, collaborative, supportive, etc, I can honestly go on and on. YF continuously creates and engages on platforms to water young minds. He has been contributory to helping so many young talents cross and grow. He wears the leadership hat so well.

You’ll find that I am particular about service and leadership. I honestly believe people are at the forefront of everything and to get the best of people for any endeavour,  you have to be invested in leadership and have an excellent work culture.

Tell us something about your initiative/business. What is it about and how is it helpful for people?

Project/ Product Management is basically about leading teams to solve problems. It is about creating products or services that generally improves the quality of life of its users. I’ll say we are comfort givers. Everything we currently enjoy and use in our day to day activities is a result of people (Product/ Project Managers) who wanted to make life easier than it used to be. We see a need that may or may not necessarily be identified as a problem yet and provide easy ways around it.  We facilitate ease and generally offer comfort.

Writing for me is in the same vein, to provide comfort. Either entertainment, support, motivation, etc. I write to create a positive impact, hence, the birth of Niqqi’s corner and BTM. Niqqi’s corner is more of the entertaining arm of writing for me while BTM is crafted to be a supportive wordsmith. BTM is that place where you’re sure to find a supporting word or two when you are in need of a boost.

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?

Initially, the break associated with the pandemic was a needed one for sanctity for me. I had not taken a leave in almost 2 years prior to that. Afterwards, it was time for inspection. I knew I wanted a change but wasn’t sure what that should be. I took sample courses, and paid more attention to fashion designing. I had just paid for a design class when the pandemic hit so youtube became my friend. I’ll draw up styles and wonder how to birth it to life with the help of youtube and mathematics (maths is very important in measurement). The period exposed me to the beauty in doing what gives you premium joy and peace. I wasn’t doing that so there was a lot of restlessness which ultimately led me to the path of self discovery. In all, I’ll say the period was one for self discovery. Learning and unlearning and sampling different things to decide the best fit for me. 

Another highlight of the pandemic was my love for community service increased. I have always been a people person but that period completely changed the narrative. I mean, it gave perspective to a lot of things. In spite of the losses and hardship associated with that period, you just better appreciate life in itself and realise the blessings in the little things we ordinarily would disregard. 

My workplace at the time was actively invested in providing support to the less privileged. At home too, we would randomly cook and take to targeted areas and the joy was always too transparent. 

The pandemic better exposed that people are truly at the forefront of everything. The world at large just put together political/personal differences and provided support to one another. That is the most profound take out for me, the limitless possibilities of collaboration.

What has been the response of the users/consumers towards your venture? 

I am exceptional at people management. A large part of everything I do is tied to people, starting from Product/ Project Management to being a Scrum Master and of course, building a community that’s a safe space to anyone needing that extra support. The feedback has been awesome! My personality reflects even in my professional dealings and that extra show of empathy gets across more than the most carefully thought out strategy. 

At the end of the day, we are all emotional beings and getting across to the intrinsic motivators of people does wonders.

How has your life changed because of your initiative/venture?

It has empowered me to be focused on consistency in value delivery even in the face of uncertainty. It has also given me the freedom to be bold in the face of problem solving.

Then writing, I am humbled when people reach out to say my words, providing them comfort and solace. That’s what I consider to be an impact, helping others.

Do you have anyone who is the biggest support system in your life? Please let us know.

My Friends and Family, that is cliche but yes, I have really amazing people in my corner.

I recently told my friend to hold me accountable for a goal I want to tick off my list soonest. She asked for a progress report the other day and I gave a dodgy response, she has been threatening to have me arrested since then (laughs). 

I have an equally amazing Family who constantly cheer me. Love is exceptional.

Of course, there is Adenike, the group CEO of my emotional and physical faculty (laughs). I’m chipping this in so the need for self awareness is reinforced. In spite of the external support and love, you must find new ways to fall in love with yourself on a regular basis. No amount of love and support from friends, family and acquaintances will compensate for lack of self love. So please, love and support yourself.

It’s as little as saying words of encouragement to yourself daily. Even on days that are not great, remind yourself how awesome you are. I say to myself “You are the best that ever did it“. Please don’t ask me what I am the best at (laughs). The point is to offer yourself the support and love you give to others.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity? OR Share a motivational message for the audience/women who are reading this.

One of my favourite lines is “seize the day“. It is the title of a movie I watched as a teenager and I’ve since adopted that line. So, seize the day! If there is something you’ll like to see, something you would love to change, then be the catalyst. Start with yourself, do something worthwhile with your day as regards effecting that change. Little effort compounded over time creates magic. So, set the magic into motion.

I conned this recently; “let your love be bigger than your fears“. It was something I told myself at the point of making a decision I was very uncertain of. I was scared to be honest. I asked what I wanted out of the situation and if I’ll ever get it if I don’t try. You can guess my answer, no right? So, do you!  Recently, I’ve been committed to trying out anything and everything I possibly feel strongly about, I don’t want to constantly wonder what could have been if I wasn’t so scared. Hence, I’m committed to doing it afraid but doing it irrespective.

It’s liberating to know you tried, so try. Let your love be bigger than your fears. I am constantly rooting for you.