It still seemed so surreal reading the mail that I had been selected after I had come to terms with probably not making the cut as I had waited so long to get a response. If anything, it reinforced my belief that with commitment and discipline, you can achieve anything. Tony Elumelu once said, ” The future we all want for ourselves is one of our own makings”. I was going to work hard to craft the future I wanted and not hold back.
I finished my NYSC in March 2020, about two weeks before the effects of the pandemic were being felt around the world and before the nationwide lockdown began. I didn’t envisage it would be that tough to get something definite to do as I was just fresh from service, but companies were being very careful about recruitment owing to uncertainties arising from the pandemic.
Towards the end of the year, I got a good offer. I worked there for about a year, but I was eager to try something new. Considering my finance and accounting background, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do and the career I needed to advance myself. I wanted more than I was getting at the time. I felt like I was just scratching the surface and I needed that big break, so I put in applications to organizations looking for roles that’d suit me and I applied to the Heirs Holdings Graduate Trainee Programme amongst others. I knew the company was owned by Tony Elumelu but that was all the information I had about the organisation. I mean, the thought of working in a company owned by a world-renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist is always going to be a good opportunity… scratch that, a great opportunity. I did some extra research on what the company was really into and how I could possibly fit it and contribute, in the grand scheme of things, to the growth and success of the organisation. Yes! you read that right. I was already looking forward to working and contributing having just applied. I had spoken to a few friends and believed that with all things being equal, Heirs Holdings was where I wanted to be. I believed it would afford me the opportunity to touch different career bases and develop myself and advance my career and I was quite confident I could get into the programme.
The recruitment process was quite rigorous. There were three phases to the recruitment: the online cognitive test, a case study hack, and the assessment centre. The assessment centre also included three phases: a PowerPoint presentation of the case study, a group exercise, and the competency-based interview. I slowly but steadily moved through each phase and completed the whole process. Passing each phase only strengthened my faith that I was doing something good.
Now, all I had to do was play the waiting game. Days turned to weeks and weeks into a month. My anxiety had gotten the better of me. I asked around and realized some applicants had gotten an email to upload their documents. This came as a shock to me as I was really hoping to get in. I got so anxious that I put a call through to one of the numbers that reached out during the recruitment process, and I was told the process was over. I was crushed. I confided in my mum, and she asked me to believe, “Maybe, they’re reaching out to people in batches, keep up the hope. If they don’t eventually get back to you, I believe in you, and you’d definitely get your big break” she said. To be honest, I accepted what seemed like my reality and moved on. I got accepted by another organization from one of the applications I had sent out and started there. It was also an opportunity other people would kill for, but I mostly felt like I was settling as this was supposed to be like a last resort or a second option. Well, what do they say? “When life gives you Lemons, you make Lemonade”.
On the 4th of March, I got a call from HR personnel telling me I had been accepted into the programme and was asked if I’d be available to resume the following week. I was shocked and didn’t know what to say. Doubt began to creep in, “Tobe, are you sure this is what you want?”, “Do you think this is worth it?”, “Why don’t you just stay where you are? You are beginning to get comfortable”. I quickly snapped back to reality and asked I be given some time to give an answer. I quickly made a few calls to my parents, friends, and a few senior experienced individuals I had access to. I didn’t get the kind of answers I was looking for. Ultimately, the decision rested on my shoulders. I wondered why I was having second thoughts because this was what I had wanted right from the start. I cussed at myself for having doubts and put in a call back to HR to give the affirmative on the offer. Not long after, I received a mail and had my medicals done. I love oranges, life was giving me oranges and best believe I was going to make the best orange juice possible.
The programme kicked off fully on the 9th of March to coincide with the launch of the Heirs Academy and we were the pioneer set. Out of 18,000 candidates who applied to the programme, only 61 of us were able to get in. Talk about feeling special. The real work had just begun. The Chairman, Tony Elumelu was at the launch and spoke to us. He reiterated how he wanted to make CEOs of us in the next 5-10 years. “Well, this is going to be one heck of a fun ride”, I thought. The launch ended with a cocktail event where we got to mingle and speak with the group CEOs and staff of the investee companies. I’m sure you’re wondering if I had the opportunity to speak with “you know who”, well I couldn’t.
It’s only natural that so many people would also want to have an opportunity with such a successful person. Well, not to worry, I’d have many more chances for that, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. The next three weeks were full of classroom sessions where CEOs, directors and staff from the group and investee companies came to speak to us and deliver exciting and insightful presentations on the general Heirs Holdings culture as well as their experiences while working. Lol, I now live and breathe the 3E’s (Excellence, Execution and Enterprise) that guide the operation and workings of the group. Being able to meet other Graduate Trainees from diverse backgrounds, bond with them and continue to build my network was one of my favourite things about this classroom period. The highlight of it was getting Peter Ashade, the CEO of United Capital and Somachi Chris-Asoluka, the Director of Partnerships & Communications for Tony Elumelu Foundation to take me on as mentees. Talk about progress.
I’m currently on my first functional job rotation with the Marketing and Corporate Communications division of the Tony Elumelu Foundation. It’s been an amazing first week as I get to work directly with Somachi Chris-Asoluka.
Unfamiliar territory? Yes, nevertheless I look forward to working across the group and picking up on all the skills I’d need to develop my all-round abilities.
~ Author: Tobenna Etumnu