Interview

INTERVIEW: Why I started a personal branding company — Dipo Awojide

Dipo Awojide, a senior lecturer at Nottingham Trent University has for the past 6 years built a reputation as an advocate for self-development.

In this interview with NewswireNGR’s Oladele Owodina, the man popularly known as Ogbeni Dipo shares how this passion for this led him to build a personal branding company (BTDT Hub) and what it would take him to leave the UK and lecture in a Nigerian university.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.


What was growing up like for you?

I was born in Lagos, but I lived in Abuja for over 20 years. I would say I grew up in an average Nigerian family, but of course as the years progressed, things got better.

When did you realise you were different and your passion lies in academics and self development?

I don’t know if the word is different, but I discovered while I was at university that I had certain strengths. I had a flair for wanting to help people. I studied accounting at the university. I wasn’t so good at accounting, but I knew those things I was good at—business, entrepreneurship, so I built on those areas of core strengths. 

I first came to the UK in 2008 and I went back for my NYSC. I returned to the UK in 2010 to start my Master’s Degree. Having a taste of education in a Nigerian university and a British university opened my eyes to a lot of things. It opened my eyes to what I could achieve personally and what I could help other people. Both in the UK and in Nigeria and of course, the rest of Africa. 

I would say it was about 2008-2010 that I discovered myself, what I could achieve and what I could help other people achieve.

Read: Aisha Salaudeen shares insight into her new podcast, ‘I Like Girls’

Tell me about your trajectory from undergraduate to becoming a senior lecturer.

I studied accounting at the University of Abuja, then I subsequently went to Coventry University where I studied MSc, International Business. I led the class of about 75 students, graduated with a distinction, then proceeded to do my PhD at Loughborough University, a top-five UK business school. 

While I was doing my PhD, I got a job as an associate lecturer. At the end of my PhD which was rigorous, I got promoted to a lecturer and now, I’m a senior lecturer. I’ve been a senior lecturer for the last two years. An MSc student, a PhD student, an associate lecturer, a lecturer and now a senior lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, UK. 

What was the greatest culture shock for you?

I will say the food and the way the people mind their business. Majority of the people in the UK mind their business. You might be dying and a lot of people would not care. Mixing with people from all over the world also made me see things in a different way, other than how I had seen it in the past. 

Tell us about your company and why Nigerians need it?

BTDT Hub is a human capital development company and our vision is to empower and inspire early and mid-career professionals. So, we basically want to help individuals get better. We want to help companies to become more competitive and make more money. We have several products or several services — recruitment, personal branding, training on employability and skills development, enterprise development. We also have services for people who want to study abroad. We deliver training for companies, for individuals. 

As part of our recruitment services, we do employee employment surveys as well. Just to try to help companies to find out what their employees are thinking, how they are feeling and how things can be better. We are passionate about human capital development. We are passionate about personal and professional development. We want to see people become better; we want to see people earn more. We want to see more young Nigerians move from the lower class or bottom of the pyramid into the middle class. We want to inspire more young people to become upwardly mobile. When you’re upwardly mobile, you can jump from one job to the other or switch from one career to the other, because you have the skills, you have what it takes to actually make that happen. 

Why do you think Nigerians need what you do or do you have a similar company like that in the UK too?

We recently founded i-impact careers in the UK. What we do is similar to what we do in Nigeria, but the UK company is more tech-focused. If you look at Nigeria’s Human Capital development index, you will realise that we are way behind a lot of progressive nations. So, because of this, it is important that companies like ours come on to the stage and try to improve our human capital. 

Human capital is more valuable than oil. It’s more valuable than any natural resources that we can think about because the human mind and the human brain is limitless. There’s almost nothing that we cannot do, but we need to have the skills, we need to have the competency; we need to have the training to allow us to do what we need to do. I dare say Nigeria is how it is, partly because our human capital development is not really excellent. We are on stage. We are here. BTDT Hub was created and founded to help inspire, to help improve the human capital index in Nigeria.

There’s this controversy that has been going on about you reviewing CVs with your organisation, for fresh graduates and people attacking your business. How do you feel when you come online and you see that?

I think it’s ignorance and mainly hatred from folks on political Twitter. I mean, I haven’t defrauded anyone or their parents. (They say) This guy supported Buhari in 2015. We are going to try to destroy him. We are going to try to criticise his business every day, saying he’s a scammer, he’s a fraud. 

There are personal branding companies all over the world. The personal branding industry is a multi-billion pound or dollar industry and even in Nigeria, there are loads of other companies who review CVs, cover letters and help people optimise their LinkedIn profile, but we are number one. Because these people want attention, they always want to attack someone who is popular, someone who stands for something. 

Young people, young professionals, irrespective of their level of experience, will definitely need a marketing document. Your CV is your marketing document. It’s a document that you use in selling yourself. Your LinkedIn profile is a profile or a platform that you use in advertising yourself. So if you don’t brand yourself, you’re basically shooting yourself in the foot. It’s okay if you can do it yourself. We actually deliver masterclasses on CV review, on LinkedIn profile optimisation. We deliver masterclasses on these topics, on these services. It’s just hatred honestly because whenever I get an award or do something spectacular, this same set of people have something to say.

They always have something to say and it’s beyond criticism. I am happy to be criticised all day, every day and twice on Sundays, but when that criticism is laced with hatred, when that criticism is vile, derogatory, libellous, calling someone a scam, a fraud, come on.

The information is actually out there. How to review CV’s, how to study abroad. How to do whatever, the information is actually on there online. So anyone who wants to do it by themselves can actually go online and do it. A lot of our clients are actually busy professionals. You know, mid-level managers, who are quite busy and they need a professional to take a look at their profile. And all over yesterday, there were loads of positive comments as well, people who patronized us and have gotten a better job or gotten their first job. They were the ones who were even replying to some of these charlatans on the internet. Ultimately, it’s just hatred. I mean, I really do sympathise with all those sorts of people. Your life must be so bitter and sad for you to try to shit on someone else on days when they are celebrating.

Do you feel down when these issues happen?

Not at all. It rarely, it almost never gets to me, because I have a thick skin and I actually know why these guys are doing what they do. It’s basically hatred out of politics. I don’t support your candidate; I have a different political view from you, so I understand where it’s coming from so it honestly doesn’t get to me. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to sue someone when they make a libelous claim or when they say something that is not true. If I have the time, the resources and I want to make a scapegoat of a few people, I definitely would do it.

Your words across social media platforms reach millions of people, do you now exercise more caution when you want to share messages? 

Yeah, definitely, I am a lot more cautious; I am a lot more mature now. I pay more attention to what I say on social media or the posts I put out on social media because on Twitter, I have 860,000 followers. In 2014, 2015, I had about 2,500 or less than 3,000 followers. It’s a bit unfortunate that these guys on political twitter want to always scapegoat a few people and I don’t see myself as a victim. I’m not a victim. I’m not going to let anybody make me feel like I’m a victim. 

They are the victims because they are sad, depressed and dissatisfied with their lives and they are always looking for someone to drag or someone to abuse. But yeah, I pay attention to what I say now, more than ever before because I know a lot of people actually follow me and my responsibility to my community is to avoid inciting the population, sharing fake news or just saying things that are generally untrue. You would never find me being part of those causing problems on social media, inciting the population or sharing fake news or fake propaganda.

Let us have a comparison of learning in Nigerian and developed countries

The difference is a lot. In terms of entering requirements, in terms of academic progression, in terms of the outcomes. The outcomes would be the graduates, how skilled they are, what kind of jobs they get in the end, the welfare of academics. It’s a lot of issues that the difference is just so glaring. The way academics teach, the way even as a country as a whole, the way we pay attention to the education sector, it’s just so so different. 

Our education sector is not internationalised. We have a lot of Africans who could be coming to study in Nigerian Universities and we will be making money from that. We know all these issues, ASUU strike. But I’m optimistic. We need to get competent, capable and visionary leadership in the education sector. We need to improve the welfare of academics; we need to pay them more. We need to pay more attention to our teachers. A primary school teacher, at a basic level, earning N20,000–N15,000 per month. That money doesn’t even take them home. Their take home pay cannot take them home. There are a lot of things that we need to do, but it starts with educational leadership.

What would it take you to lecture in a Nigerian University?

Wow, that’s a huge ask. If it’s a university where there is a progressive leadership. Be it Covenant, University of Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo University, so long as there’s a genuine leadership in place that wants to help young people get the knowledge, the skills and the experience to advance their lives, I would consider it. 

Of course I would want to earn more wages definitely, but beyond money, beyond the wages, I think it’s just the leadership and the sort of freedom that academics have, because there are some things that I might want to do in the department and when they say Ah, no you can’t do that or this is how we do this here. When it is very restrictive, then, I mean, I don’t want to be in that sort of environment. I’m happy to have sabbatical roles. 

What’s the most surprising thing that people do not know about you?

A lot of people on social media don’t actually know that I’m such a fun guy. Because I tweet so much about education, career, personal development on a daily basis, a lot of people don’t actually know the other fun side of me. I relax, I enjoy myself with my friends, and people who know me off social media. I’m just like your regular Naija guy, who likes to enjoy, who likes to party, who likes to sit in a bar, have a drink and have conversations with friends. 

Where do you go for inspiration?

I turn to my creator. Then, I take out time to think things through. And when I need to gain clarity, I speak to my mentors and my friends. There’s quite a lot of them. There’s Olufemi Awoyemi, Binta Max Benije, Dr. Bola Akindele, Dr. Ayoade Alakija, Frank Nwake Junior, Shola Ajani, there are about eight or ten of them. People I look up to, made a name, built a brand and have had an excellent career in the private sector.

Can you describe a time you had a positive impact on someone?

Advising someone on a course to take, advising someone on an admission application process or advising someone on how to pass, how to ace an interview, actually coaching someone for like 30-40 minutes on how to ace an interview and they calling to tell me that they got the job or me getting emails to say “O, Dipo thank you. I got that scholarship, I got that job, I got that promotion”. This sort of impact makes me happy and there are several of them. A friend of mine recently got in touch with me. There was a vacancy for a branch manager position in the banking sector and I engaged with him back and forth. We exchanged emails, we exchanged some ideas, we spoke on the phone and ultimately, he got this job. Stories like that actually make me very happy that I am doing something positive. I am doing something impactful in my community. 

What is that one thing that you look back and you feel you shouldn’t have done?

Do I have any regrets? I think a lesson for me in the last decade, and I honestly don’t know. I think it’s actually trusting Nigerian politicians. That’s a very tricky one. You trust these people, they swear they are nice. They cry on the television and say they are going to get something done. Then they get into the office and they turn around and do almost nothing. 

I am now a bit more skeptical. I am now a bit more careful with who I trust or with the kind of politicians I trust and just a bit more skeptical about the kind of promises they are making.

What message do you have for your followers and business partners?

It’s to invest in yourself. Invest in as much education, skills, and experience that you can get. The more education, the more skills, the more experience you have, the better chance you stand of advancing yourself. Your career and your life. Continue to invest in yourself and ultimately, it is going to pay off in the end.

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