Becoming an Innovator - The Innovate for Africa Experience
The journey all started on the 4th of January, 2021 after going through 4 stages of application. I woke up excited to kick start the Innovation Readiness Training program. Prior to this, I had to cancel all my engagements for the week just to make sure I have enough time for the training. It was a four (4) week intensive program and when I say "intensive", it was really really intensive. I went through four (4) different curricula: Personal Branding, Design Thinking , Strategic Analysis and Hard Skills Lab . Believe you me, it was worth the time and engagement.
I used to think entrepreneurship and innovation was just about creating businesses from ideas. Now I know it’s about creating solutions that solve problems. This wouldn't have been possible without Innovate for Africa (IFA).
Innovate for Africa is a platform with a mission to create the next generation of innovators to strengthen the overall innovation ecosystem in Nigeria. It consists of a team of experienced educators, entrepreneurs, and consultants passionate about building powerful learning experiences and preparing students to make a difference in their communities. Our facilitators were a team of individuals with such diversity from Harvard school of education and Sloan school of management.
While we are of different values and virtues, the first thing I learnt during the training was knowing my business chemistry type which was a mix of being a Pioneer and an integrator (PI). This in turn means I build relationships, prefer teamwork, express emotions, display flexibility and trust people & ideas. If you’re more of an infographics person, you might find the chart below very useful. It shows the four (4) primary Business Chemistry types:
I also learnt a lot about the five (5) values that IFA believe in:
Some other key things I learnt about during this 1 month program include;
In the world today, for one to thrive, you need a strong online presence. The world is much more digital than you think and it is very essential you make judicious use of it. We were made to carve out a mission statement, create a portfolio, resume and a blog.
Before now, my resume used to be at least 2 pages but during this branding session, I was able to create a one-page resume. I was also able to redefine my existing personal mission statement, redesign my website which eventually gave meaning to the brand I've always wanted to build around myself. If you care to know more about me and see what I'm building, you can click on the image link below:
Being professional is one of the good work ethic an individual must possess, it entails knowing when and how to communicate with fellow colleagues to boost workplace harmony and productivity. Having a good personality improves your personal brand. Online branding, the other hand, has to do with how you are seen on the internet and this is entirely up to how you present yourself. Using search engine optimization (SEO) and Google search console helped to position my brand on page 1 of Google search. To confirm this, you can input FOBABS in your search.
This part of the training was actually my favorite as I got to work with amazing individuals at my first hackathon.
Doing this involves having to think critically and communicate effectively to pass your ideas across. It was fun conducting market research and analyzing it to find major issues then creating ideas, developing the idea to a solution and building a prototype. It is of no use if no one can hear about an idea you worked hard to develop so we had to pitch these ideas to our facilitators and awesome judges from MIT and Harvard. The two (2) blog posts below emphasized how I used design thinking in creating a solution to the problem of traffic in Nigeria:
- A reflection on the PMR of public transport users in Nigerian cities
- Transix - Next Generation Transport Companion
This requires an extensive detailed research into an organization, outlining their strengths and weaknesses as well as critically analyzing their system processes using a systems flowchart. I also learnt how to develop objectives and key results (OKRs) and use this to develop an adequate strategy for any enterprise.
Using Splitspot as a case study, I was able to understand how major stakeholders interacts through their organisational history, their group composition, and the formal structure. The SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analytical method was helpful in determining the internal processes (strengths and weaknesses) of the organisation, while the STEEPLE (Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political, Legal, and Ethical) method was in turn an importance in diagnosing the external processes (opportunities and threats) part of it.
Hard Skills Lab
There are three (3) tracks introduced to us by IFA:
- Data Analysis
- Product Management
- Digital Marketing
Coming from a software development field, I've always wanted to add data skills to my arsenal and this was a very good opportunity for me to embark on it right away. The era we are is so much dependent on data and companies can't scale without it. There is a popular saying:
Data is The New Oil
Without Further Ado, let's jump on the Data Analysis track. It's a new field for me but not too new as I was already familiar with some tools and technologies used.
One of the greatest decision I believe IFA made was providing me with an industry expert in the field of Data Analysis as a mentor. He made the whole learning curve very easy for me. We were made to work on real-life project working with a startup to help them solve one of their problems using data. This gave me industry experience working with data.
The Interview Process
In preparation towards a meet and greet with the IFA startups, we worked through interview processes such as having the right resumé and being ready for likely interview questions. I enjoyed this part as I had the opportunity of meeting some of the founders of highly innovative startups in Nigeria and beyond, it was quite nice getting to speak with them.
The Guest Speakers
At every session, we had a guest speaker talk to us about several topics ranging from entrepreneurship to branding to working in a startup. It was quite amazing having to acquire that mass of knowledge across several fields and profession.
One peculiar key takeaway for me was the overall program. The exposure to startups, building a personal brand for yourself, the design thinking, the hard-skills lab and the mentor meetup. I intend to keep developing and building on what I have learnt so far to develop myself further as an entrepreneur. Emerging markets need innovation and entrepreneurs to tackle challenging problems for its development, this is how valuable startups are to the economy of the country and so after this training, I've come to have an in-depth understanding of what it entails to be part of a startup and play my role. If you intend creating something iconic in your world most especially in Africa, consider joining the next IFA Program. You will enjoy the experience and never regret it.
Watch-out for the next cohort.
I will be very ungrateful if I don't appreciate the entire IFA team. From Cynthia Obiora who is always reminding me of my deliverables, helping me with tasks and PR Officer to Margaret Wang, the energy lady and my data analysis Coordinator to Maria Jaramilo who helped me with my personal branding to Quadri Oguntade who helped in perfecting my pitch during the hackathon to Omozusi Guobadia who helped with a mock interview session and to others, you are all wonderful.
Finally, to my fellow fellows (Ingenious Trailblazers), Congratulations 🎉🎈🍾🎊!!! Greater things lie ahead of you. Go and conquer your world. I love 😍 you all.