Global Courant 2023-05-18 17:38:14
Tunde Omotoye has gained a large following on social media for helping young professionals navigate their careers and providing japa (migration) strategies. At the start of Tunde’s career, however, he was as insecure as the thousands of people who come to him for answers today. A series of events, including a layoff, helped him gain clarity. Here is Tunde Omotoye’s pivot diary.
How it started
Like many others, I grew up wanting to be a doctor. I even applied to study medicine at the University of Ibadan but my JAMB score was not up to the mark. So the school gave me chemistry. I didn’t like the course until my third year – when I sat up and started getting good grades. But it was a bit too late to meet up with what I wanted to graduate with by then. I knew that job opportunities in this field in Nigeria were not great due to low industrialization. There are not so many places for scientists to practice in Nigeria. However, I did chemistry to fulfill the obligation to go to university.
After school I went to NIIT to train in design and 3D animations because I had a passion for all things design. However, their teachers were not as equipped to pass on the skills as they should. So in that regard, I didn’t really enjoy that experience. I completed it and got a job as a graphic designer for a small company in Mushin, Lagos where I earned around N30,000 monthly.
- Advertisement -
A year and a half later, the owner of the company told us that he had gone bankrupt and fired everyone. So I started looking for work again, but this time with no luck for several months. Then, in that fragile state, I reached out to a fellow college alumnus I had connected through social media. Coincidentally, he was an HR staff and his company was hiring. “It’s an entry-level position,” he told me. “But it’s strictly on merit, so you’ll have to take a test where only the best are selected.” I knew almost nothing about HR but still went for the test because I didn’t do anything else. To my surprise, I passed the aptitude test and was selected. During the interview, the manager told me it was an administrative role so I didn’t need any previous experience. And that was my first breakthrough in HR.
After a few months in that role, my perception of HR changed dramatically. I always thought they were just hiring and firing people. But after realizing I could do so much more in HR – from strategic HR, business management, training and development to payroll and compensation – I knew I wanted to build a career in this field. I went to college hoping to become a doctor, but after my first job I wanted to be an HR VP.
I was excited to know there was a tall ladder to climb in HR. However, I didn’t have the educational support to get to this point. I still needed credentials and certificates, and I wanted those credentials to carry enough weight to make my dreams come true. So I started registering for an international certification called PHR for professionals in Human Resources. I did it because my supervisor also had that certification and told me it was great leverage that would help me move up the ranks. Unfortunately, I failed the exam.
But life went on and the learning didn’t stop. I went back to the drawing board, read books and got better at my job. The first book I read, “The Mafian Manager” – which had nothing to do with HR – is my favorite book ever. It explicitly teaches about entering the corporate world, not in a brutal way, but in such a diplomatic way that you never get yourself into trouble as you grow up the corporate ladder. I learned so much in my early days in HR just from reading that book. Richard Templar’s “The Rules of Work” was another major influence.
- Advertisement -
Still, I wanted to get certified. So I took it up a notch and decided to leave Nigeria and go to Canada to study Human Resource Management at Conestoga College. This time I knew the stakes were different. I had to look for a job in Canada after my studies. So being exceptional in school was non-negotiable. What I did differently than any other student was that when I got here, I applied to be a member of the university’s Human Resources Professional Association. I started doing research doing my certification well even while I was in school. I didn’t want to wait until after school when the pressures of life start to get high. Eventually I was hired by one of the largest insurance companies in Canada. But that wasn’t the end.
Because I worked in HR, I had access to employee data. And I started to see that that was the huge pay gap between people in HR and those in technology. I saw that I could earn much more in the technique and wanted to switch. Fortunately, there was a vacancy in the network department of the company. They were looking for someone with HR experience in business management to come and help them with their processes, so I quickly moved on to fill the role. Thus, I embarked on a new career path at the intersection of technology and business management.
How are you
Today I am co-founder and CEO of Human Squad, a startup that helps people study abroad and navigate complex immigration systems. I started my career in HR hoping to become the head of HR for a large company. Eventually I became a manager and department head, which is close, before I resigned to focus on entrepreneurship.
- Advertisement -
It’s both exciting and scary to be in this position. On the one hand, I’m excited about the opportunities that come with running this business. But on the other hand, it is scary to know that there is no guaranteed salary at the end of every month or two weeks. Still, I don’t want it any other way.
Relentlessly improve your skills, prepare for opportunities and ask for help.
My “leverage” came from making my supervisor my mentor and always figuring out what it takes to climb to the next step in my career.