Art Castle Career Lifestyle People and Place Poems by Ridwan Adelaja

An interview with multiple award winning poet and journalist, Ridwan Adelaja, on making a career switch in the 21st century

Ridwan Adelaja (RA) is a multiple award winning poet, career coach and multimedia journalist, currently serving as tech correspondent and analyst at Ripples Nigeria.

In this edition of Youth Always (YA) with Aderonke Ogunleti, the journalist speaks on his journey as a graduate of Pure and Applied Physics practicing journalism, and how youngsters can make a career switch when their career interest changes as an undergraduate or graduate.

He says career development journey begins at childhood, and underscores the need for parents/guardians to avoid forcefully imposing careers on wards.

Ridwan Adelaja

YA: Tell us about Ridwan-Adelaja, Who are you? – highlighting education, places you’ve worked and family?

RA: I am Ridwan Adelaja, 30th child of my father. Haha! That’s right. I am a graduate of Pure and Applied Physics. I narrowly managed to finish with a 2:1. The only time I practised something related to my course of study was during my industrial training programme when I was engaged at the Telecoms Department of Muritala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.

I have always worked in the media or academia -NTA Ilorin; MCR, New York; Ventures Africa, Lagos; Nairametrics, Lagos, QETC, Hargeisa; and CBA TV in Somaliland. Currently, I lead the Tech Desk at Ripples Nigeria.

YA: Considering your background as a science student, how did your journey into Journalism begin?

RA: I found my way into writing in my early years when I began writing poems. At that time, journalism was never in the picture. I did lots of research, learning to use literary devices to help my knowledge of poetry.

As much as I loved poetry, I particularly loved poetry analysis -the essay and research that comes with it. I joined different literary groups online like WRR, PIN and a host of others.

It was when I got into the university that I picked interest in campus journalism. I started out as crude and as poorly as you can imagine. I only got better with exposure and guidance. Back then, as an undergraduate, I wrote a couple of news stories for the Nation Newspaper under its CampusLife category.

Ridwan Adelaja

In all this, my mentor Mutiu Olawuyi played a significant role in my development. Today, I have an industry qualification diploma in Broadcast Journalism from James Pike International, UK. The journey is simple. I read my way through to this point, and I am still reading.

YA: Fantastic! Would you say having a mentors really helped your journey so far?

RA: 100%. Mentorship is key. It cannot be overemphasized. Today, I tell youngsters to pick, find, go into a niche/skill they are so passionate about, and, of course, that can convert for money. Then, try their best in becoming resourceful at it while seeking mentorship from more experienced individuals.

I got into NTA Ilorin courtesy of a mentor, Mr Tijani Ajara. I got my first international journalism employment through Mr Mutiu Olawuyi. In fact, I was still an undergraduate then. You can tell how much mentorship has help me so far.

YA: Interesting, this leads me to my next question. How would you describe passion and means of livelihood? What’s your advice on both?

RA: Passion means anything one has natural affinity towards. If one knows how to do this thing, we could say it’s a given talent. Otherwise, it could just be something you generally care about.
In this part of the world, we often talk about passion when a person demonstrates a significant level of talent around it. But then, you might have zero talent of something and still be passionate about it.

We exhibit our passion for something by venturing into it or just associating with those into it. In other words, passion might not convert for money almost immediately.

Livelihood, on the other hand, has to do with what you readily do to earn money in order to keep body and soul together. Some people might be lucky enough to get paid doing what they are passionate about.

The rule is simple. If your passion is paying you already, congratulations. Otherwise, life continues. You are on track. You only need to find a means of livelihood to keep fueling your passion.

For me, one of the many other spaces I have always loved to work in is PR management for tech firms or energy sector players but here I am making money and staying relevant with pure journalism.

Ridwan Adelaja I think having the right psych is important. You should constantly do the maths between passion and livelihood in order not to become a laughing stock. You must not forget the end goal, and what is more important is marking milestones and setting tractions to get there.

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YA: So, being a graduate of sciences, what was it like entering the industry?

RA: Journalism and tech have achieved something other professions are struggling with. In tech and journalism, we respect whoever can do the job over certification. You can have the certificate, but what is more crucial is your ability to do the job. All I do each time on the journey is to show what I can do. And, where I do not meet up, I miss out. Where I do, I get in.

YA: Did you face some challenges especially while starting out? If any, what are these challenges? And how did you overcome them?

RA: Maybe lack of opportunities which is a general challenge in this part of the world. The work space is crowded significantly. In the industry, you can only get in when you display an appreciable level of expertise.

So, I had to do a lot of personal development and the understudying of leading professionals. Today, what I call my biggest challenge is my strongest point today. The many things I committed myself to learn now open doors.

I was once interviewing for a position, and all that was instrumental to getting in was the fact that I could use WordPress professionally.

YA: How were you able to adjust to remote working culture during Covid-19?

Funny enough, I have been working remotely even before the pandemic. My organization is amongst the few media house that has perfected its remote working culture.

Our staff members are free to work into our office in Ikoyi just as they could work from anywhere on planet earth. What is key is delivery. Perhaps, we envisaged a time like this long ago, and had prepared for it.

YA: So, what you’re saying here is regardless of whatever one studies at school, one has a tendency of being relevant elsewhere?

RA: Very correct, especially when what you studied isn’t generating an income for you yet. The life line is to be skilled. I advise undergraduates to learn both soft skills and hard skills that can convert even while studying.

No time is too late but during one’s university days can be a big time to seize to achieve this. It’s all about building tractions right from school. Nothing should stop one from making money right from school. In fact, this has nothing to do with you graduating with a good grade. For me, every grade is good when we use our head.

Ridwan AdelajaYA: What advice would you give to youths out there, in terms of building their career and what opportunities to look out for? We would love you to be as practical as possible.

RA: Let me first address our parents and guardians. I need to do this because a number of youngsters now know what to do but their parents and guardians are their sand in the shoe. Parents and guardians should be there to guide but not to force career path on wards. It sucks.

For the youth, please, be ready for opportunities. I have seen more youths who WANT to be great than those who are READY to be great.

The internet is now a learning place. You can beat your best. There are varieties of courses ranging from digital marketing courses, social media strategy, content writing, Data analysis, UI/UX, to Frontend/Backend course. With time, you become a highflier.

Asides having the knowledge and certification, one can begin to seek for internship opportunities to put all of these skills to work while one gains traction to position oneself for bigger opportunities.

Our youth should endeavour to put in their best in whatever they do, find love in it, be prayerful and respect time. That big dream might not come early but get busy while waiting for your big breakthrough.

YA: So much has been said about mentorship as a missing block in the current dispensation. This has also been linked to the drastic fall in the development and growth of our ever increasing youth force. How do you see mentorship in the equation of nation building? And, are you open to mentorship?

RA: Like I said earlier, mentorship is key. It’s helps us get ahead faster in terms of accessing resources and opportunities that have worked for our mentors.

Getting started is easy too. First, be relevant and useful to people you want to pick as mentors. You don’t have to tell someone to be your mentor, look for ways to appreciate their works, ease their work or simply contribute to their field significantly.

People are watching. Let them find you focused and worthy of their time and engagement.

Personally, when I like someone and love their achievements, I read more about them, engage them, attend conferences they are likely to attend, or just send a shout out. Often, I continue with my personal growth, and naturally opportunities happen which bring me closer to them.

Yes, I am open to mentor folks who flow with my drive.

YA: Thank you so much for cutting out time to engage with us through this interview. Youth Art Initiative will keep looking out for you. Keep making the news. Kind regards.

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About the author

Youth Art Initiative

Youth Art Initiative (YAI) NG is a youth-led social enterprise with an ambition to develop the youth force and their immediate communities through the facilitation of various empowerment programmes.

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