Growing up I always knew I was going to be in the sciences. My dad thought science was a good foundation for EVERYTHING. So off to secondary school I went taking classes like chemistry, biology, physics and further mathematics. School wasn’t too challenging for me, because I had good study habits, and always prioritized learning over everything else.
Going into college I wondered what I was going to study. I had a close family friend “Enyinnaya” who was already in college and studying Microbiology. I admired him as a young girl would an older sibling, and I thought to myself, “when I grow up I want to be just like him”.
So I enrolled to study Microbiology at Babcock University, Ogun State Nigeria. However, upon graduation, and completion of the One-year National Youth service Scheme (NYSC), I realized that I still did not really know what I wanted to do with this degree.
You see at the time in Nigeria a Microbiology degree meant that you could either become a teacher or well a TEACHER.
Most of my colleagues had abandoned the sciences and had gone off to work in banks and other industries. At that time in Nigeria, the opportunities for science were quite limited. So I decided to look for jobs outside the sciences. I was desperate to start working and to make my own money.
I remember one day borrowing my older sister’s suit for a job interview I had in Ikeja Lagos, because I didn’t own one of my own. At this point I was interviewing to be a personal assistant to an administrator at that company. My family lived in Ogun state, and the journey to Lagos cost time and money!
When it was my turn to be interviewed, the interviewer told me that I was wasting my time applying for jobs like “these” he said. He told me that I could become so much more, especially after studying at a prestigious university. He told me Microbiology was a great course, and never to abandon that.
Interviewer: Look at your suit; the salary you will make at this company will not be able to pay for another suit like this one…
The whole time I was thinking (just give me the job, this suit is borrowed!).
You see I was just tired of staying at home, I really needed a JOB. ANY Job! Nothing I said that day could convince the man to give me the job. I remember thinking the long walk out of his office was a walk of shame.
I went home that day feeling very deflated, the journey back home consisted of an okada ride (commercial motorcycle ride) to the bus park, and then boarding a 14-seater bus back to Ogun state. I sulked the whole way home. I did not tell anyone how the interview really went, but little did I know that my life would totally change that day.
Few days later, I had recovered from the let-down from that interview, I was waking up at 2 am everyday (Monday – Friday) to study for the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) like my entire future depended on it.
When I had some time I would go online to look for schools that offered full scholarships, and look through the criteria for admission. I knew I wanted to study abroad, but I also knew my parents could not afford it, so it was up to me to get a scholarship.
I did eventually get a FULL scholarship with a monthly stipend to study abroad, and eventually I earned a PhD in Microbiology and Microbial Genetics. Now I am doing things I never thought I could, Working on finding a cure to rare diseases and making amazing discoveries that positively impact patient care.
I AM MAKING A DIFFERENCE!
All this happened because several people encouraged me along the way as role models; my Dad, a family friend called Enyinnaya, my physics teacher in high school and finally a random interviewer at a small company in Ikeja Lagos, Nigeria. I know first hand the importance of role models, and to this day I still seek out mentors to help me navigate my career.
I am VERY passionate about the girl child mainly because from experience growing up as the 6th child in an all-female household, I often heard people advise my father to adopt a male child, one who would carry on his name. They would say things like “female children often would get married and end up in a man’s kitchen”.
As a young child, this made me think that the ONLY way a woman could ever get to greatness had to be by marrying a successful man.
Now I know better. I know that you can make a difference regardless of your gender and background.
I started a podcast called “ The Tales of an African Princess in America”podcast (#TAPApodcast) to share my experience with people out there, especially young Africans girls worldwide.
On the Podcast I advocate for education for the girl child, and talk about career options and topics in healthcare. I also routinely invite professionals in various fields to enlighten my podcast listeners on several pertinent topics.
TAPApodcast is currently available on 13 different platforms (AnchorFM, Stitcher, GooglePlayMusic, Google Podcast,PlayerFM, Apple Podcasts(iTunes), RadioPublic, Castbox, Overcast, Breaker, TuneIn, Spotify, Podbean and PocketCast.)
If you have a dream, go for it! Do it scared, Do it tired, Do it discouraged, but DO IT anyway. You can achieve greatness regardless of your gender. Take the first step today. Click the Player below to listen to the podcast episode on what my life was like 10 years ago.
Do you have a story you would love to share on the podcast? leave me a comment, or an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will reach out to you today.