Photograph — Community by Nasscom Insight

My Pivot Journal is a Ventures Africa weekly series documenting people’s career transitions from one industry to another, especially to tech. 

Growing up, Lateefat Sobowale took a keen interest in creating pretty stuff with her hands. A typical example was when she picked a pair of scissors, thread and a piece of fabric to make her first dress. She was in primary school at the time, a child, and so thought the dress was stunning. But after studying to become a Cell Biology and Genetics scientist, the unwavering sacrifices of motherhood would later help Sobowale to find purpose in Graphics Design.

How it started.

Growing up was fun for me. I have many fun memories of a playful childhood. I had the freedom to explore all my creative arsenals. That helped me bring a lot of my thoughts to reality as a child. I took a liking to arts and crafts, baking and evening tailoring.

But when I got into the University of Lagos, Akoka, to study Pharmacy, I was offered admission to study Cell Biology and Genetics. So, yes, I did not eventually study arts in school, despite my natural flair for creativity. However, I trained as a tailor during one of the ASUU strikes in my early days at the university. That served as a side gig for me in school and helped me earn cash from customers- fellow students. 

So, while I focused on studying something closer to human life, I enjoyed making clothes for my customers. To stand out, I often designed simple Canva banners to promote my brand and get new customers in school. I even joined a small group on campus to take an introductory course in Graphics Design in 2018. 

The knowledge I gained gave me an edge over my competition. I used those flyers to announce discounts and promos. It worked. I did this till I graduated in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. That was when everything changed. 


While studying for my first degree, I got married in 2018. I was supposed to graduate in 2019 but my set could not graduate officially because COVID-19 lockdown that happened in 2020.  Eventually, I had my baby in Novermber 2020. By January 2021, I had officially convocated and was called up for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) by the Nigerian government. Because I was married, I had to relocate out of the region I stayed in Lagos and by marital concession, I could determine whether to do my service year in the locale where my family lived or where the government wanted me to be. So, I opted for the former. But that came at a cost. I had to go off the radar of my client base- the school environs. 

It was at this point I realised that I had a problem. I needed to make money. I had a baby who need every bit of my attention. I was in a new environment where people didn’t know my work. We were also in the middle of a lockdown and no one was making clothes for any event. Even though NYSC was paying my allowances, my account was not looking as good as when I made clothes for clients. 

Then it dawned on me that the people I wanted to reach were online- on their phones. I couldn’t make clothes for them, then, but I could design banners and revamp social media pages. I even opted to immediately help a friend manage her social media page just to prove myself. I realised that I could do all that with my just smartphone and could also monitise the service. 

And that there was my light bulb moment. 

Lateefat Shobowale, CEO Graphics by TY
Lateefat Shobowale, CEO Graphics By TY


Given my circumstances, couldn’t scout for a job. So, I began to advertise my graphic design and branding business on social media, particularly, WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. I just took a leap of faith to do it because I didn’t just want to make money, I also wanted to give my baby the full attention it needed. So, I began to play a lot with the Canva tool. Canva is pretty straightforward to use if you have an artistic pair of eyes. So, I became grounded quite fast and launched my business in mid-2021 with that knowledge.

Gradually, the jobs began to come. In their trickles. I wasn’t a fantastic graphic artist but I had nothing to lose trying. I mean, I had some basic knowledge already. But after I mastered Canva and added Pixellab to my armoury, I also went ahead to learn how to use Figma (2022) and Adobe Photoshop (2023) by myself.

In my earliest days as a graphics designer, I was able to impress some clients but also lost some who were not impressed. I felt heartbreak whenever a client was displeased with my work. Like, this was ‘purpose’ for me and I need to hone my skills. And I didn’t want to lose any more customers. So immediately after the lockdown, I didn’t even bother to look for a job with my certificate. I just simply began to upskill, studying and learning how to use new tools by myself. 

How it is going

Today, I am the CEO of Graphics By TY, a branding and digital marketing company that helps brands to project their identity as per specifications. We produce social media banners, logos, product stickers, Ebook designs, photo mockups and social media consultancy.

My role entails creating stunning social media designs that help businesses stand out to attract new customers. I derive so much joy in my work because it allows me to explore the endless world of colours. When I am at work, it feels like I am swimming in an ocean of endless possibilities. Some days, it gets tougher to produce a simple design. But most days are good.

Career hack

If you are looking to transition to a new field, get ready to learn new things that would make you stand out. Ask yourself, “What tools do I need to succeed here?” Look for those tools and master them.

Do not be discouraged. Make sure you are chasing after what you want to do.


Elsewhere on Ventures

Triangle arrow