My Pivot Journal is a Ventures Africa weekly series documenting people’s career transitions from one industry to another, especially to tech.
Olukunle Aboderin has always had a strong affinity for numbers. However, his passion for entertainment ultimately led him to a successful career as a DJ. After several years of spinning records and touring with chart-topping musicians, the uncertainty of the future prompted him to return to his expertise: crunching numbers. Here’s his pivot journal.
How it started
Growing up as a child, I possessed a natural affinity for numbers, far more than I did with words. Yet, beyond academics, I found great joy in social activities and entertainment. This led to my appointment as the Social Prefect during my secondary school years. When the time came to select a field of study at the university, I opted for Physics. It was an area where I excelled, with my core strengths lying in calculations and quantitative skills. Consequently, I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Physics from Osun State University.
However, it was during my university years that I embarked on a parallel career as a DJ. I honed my skills and became known for playing the latest Nigerian pop music, garnering a substantial following. I was awarded the Best DJ in Osun state in 2011. Alongside DJing, I hosted radio shows, including the most popular game show in Osun state at the time, and presented a music video countdown program on television. I had the privilege of working closely with renowned hip-hop artists like MI, Blaqbonez, Loose Kaynon, and Beatsbyjayy at 100 Crowns, a subsidiary of Chocolate City Music.
As much as I wanted to continue DJing, I knew I needed to build a career that offered a more stable income than the entertainment industry offered. DJing was my passion, but I couldn’t rely solely on it to support myself long-term. This motivated me to uncover my skills in a more lucrative profession. During NYSC, I served at an early-stage fintech company in Lagos and eventually got retained as a full staff after my service year. This pretty much set the foundation for my career in finance.
Transitioning from DJing to finance was not a walk in the park. However, because I had a natural inclination towards numbers and mathematics, it made it easier to navigate. I took a lot of financial courses online and got certifications across several areas of proficiencies. I recall a six-month period during which I dedicated a substantial portion of my evenings, often extending well into the late hours of the night, to complete these courses.
I enjoyed the challenge, primarily because it involved working with big numbers. Suddenly, the algebra and calculus lessons from my school days began to make sense. My focus shifted towards becoming proficient in statistics, adept at managing large numerical datasets and applying them to solve complex payment-related problems. This determination led me to pursue a master’s degree in Actuarial Science at the University of Lagos, where I developed expertise in risk analysis and quantitative modeling.
Following my graduation, I spent several years at the company that retained me after NYSC. Subsequently, I gained experience working with multiple banks, including First Bank, FCMB, and Skye Bank, across various departments within operations, technology, and data. These diverse experiences equipped me with diverse technical skills and cross-functional exposure within the finance sector, which significantly accelerated my professional growth and how formidable I have become in my career so far.
How it’s going
I currently work as the Associate Vice President of Financial Operations and Treasury at Flutterwave, a payment infrastructure for global merchants and payment service providers across the continent. Our mission revolves around leveraging payments and foreign exchange (FX) technology to bridge emerging and frontier markets with the rest of the world. This involves facilitating more convenient money transfers and providing access to the most competitive prices and the swiftest settlement times for individuals in these markets.
Working in emerging markets presents unique challenges due to the complexity and ever-changing nature of regulations and infrastructure. I believe that the devil is in the details. It is important to get things right the first time, which can be challenging, especially when you’re a first mover in a new market.
Over the years, advancing my degrees and certifications has equipped me with invaluable knowledge in finance, statistics, and computer science. Recently, I acquired another master’s degree in Data Science and analytics from the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom. I believe learning is a life-long process. That’s why I am committed to investing in my growth.
Rather than chase after society’s definition of success, focus on identifying and developing your innate talents. For instance, if you love numbers, work in data analysis or accounting, if you love designs, focus on UI/UX, and so on.
When it comes to transitioning, it’s essential to segment your path wisely. Ensure you have transferable domain knowledge when transitioning to a new industry. For instance, moving from healthcare to the tech sector can be smoother if you transition into the biotech domain, rather than making a leap into fintech from healthcare, and vice versa.