My Pivot Journal is a Ventures Africa weekly series documenting people’s career transitions from one industry to another, especially to tech.
Jessica Fortune Oguh was not always sure of what she wanted for a career. But she was sure of what she did not. It took her navigating through media, social media, and working communications in a multi-million dollar Venture Capital (VC) to find a career in tech. Here is Jessica Oguh’s pivot journal.
How it started
After Jessica graduated from the university with a B.Ed in English language and literature in 2017, she could not decide what to do with her career. “Even though I did my teaching practice, I knew I did not want to teach,” she says. “People think education and expect you to want to teach. Maybe in the future, that could change. Who knows? I could be a lecturer when in my sixties,” she adds.
Jessica got her first job as a personal assistant and worked there for seven months. In 2018 she went for her NYSC, working as a news reporter for the Nigerian news agency(NAN) and as a social media manager for another organization concurrently. “I was trying my hands on different things to find out what I like most. I have always liked talking and communication generally. So I figured I would start there. And I just continued doing the different job roles that would come with the same position,” she says. That was how she started her career in social media.
She went on to work as a content manager for Naija startups, a digital hub for SMEs. After a brief break, in 2020, Jessica joined Ingressive Capital, a VC targeting tech-enabled startups, as a communications specialist.
During her stint with Ingressive capital, Jessica got to work with lots of tech companies. She held interviews with founders, where they talked about raising funds to build different products. “I was very interested and intrigued by the entire tech industry, ”she recalls.
So after almost two years at Ingressive Capital, she decided it was time to move on. And since she had caught the tech bug, her next destination was Nigeria’s booming tech industry. “Being on Twitter, seeing all the tech discussions, and being around people in tech that just informed my decision,” she says.
Jessica might have started not knowing the path to take, but at this point, she had become intentional about the place she wanted to be. “I remember I had told a friend I was looking for a job. And he would send me random vacancies, but I did not apply to any of them. One day, he got tired and asked me what kind of companies I was looking for,” she recalls.
She liked working in media and communications, so she researched roles within the tech organogram that she would fit in. She was elated to find that tech companies usually have communication and marketing departments. “I knew there was growth potential. So maybe I could switch roles and grow within the organization. But I used my experience as a social media manager to get through the (tech) door,” she says.
Jessica did not just rely only on what she knew. While she applied for jobs, she spent three months improving her resume. She took social media and marketing courses on Coursera and got certified from Google’s digital training. She also joined a community called On deck, where talents come together to accelerate their ideas and careers, all to improve her chances.
Jessica wasn’t only picky about the industry she wanted to work in. The company size also mattered to her. “I was new to the tech space but wanted to work in big tech companies. The likes of Twitter, Google, Paystack, and Kuda, ” she says.
So, she went on Twitter, the same platform where the tech talks fueled her interest in the sector, to look for job opportunities. She also told her friends about her interests so that they could send any related opportunities they came across. Jessica’s line of action was to go all in. “I just kept applying. Every vacancy I saw, I applied. It did not matter whether I met all the criteria or not. I just applied,” she says.
Jessica went through this process without quitting her old job. So applying to so many different companies took a lot of time and energy. Jessica experienced burnout. “I just got tired at some point. It was exhausting,” she says.
However, eventually, her hard work paid off. She got two offers, both from the kinds of companies she wanted. “The first company required me to do an aptitude test before the interview phase,” she says. “After two interviews, I got an offer. It took two weeks before they got back to me.”
For the second job, Jessica went through a similar process, but with the addition of a culture interview. “First, I had to draw up a strategy for the company. Then I did two interviews. One was to see if I fit into the company’s work culture,” she says. “The work culture interview was a bit nerve-wracking. Working for different companies, you need to fit in. For example, if you are working for Instablog, you have to be able to communicate like them. I think it helped that I had worked around tech people. So it was easier to flow,” she adds.
After weighing her options, Jessica picked a role in the marketing department of a fintech company, Kuda.
How it is going
Currently, Jessica is a social media strategist for Kuda, a fintech company. She creates content for the company’s social media platforms- YouTube, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, and Tik Tok, while working with software engineers and product managers. “The difference has to be the kind of people I work with now and the kind of products we work on,” she says. “Now, I am part of the team building a product. I get to work with people and see how they interact and use this product.”
For Jessica working in tech has many perks- the best part being her growth. But she also gets excited about managing people and their expectations. “And then there is also the prestige associated with working in tech,” she adds.
“The hardest part is getting through the door,” she says. “I have seen people go from marketers to become product managers. Tech companies are springing up every day. But there are not enough talents. Focus on your strengths and see how you can use them to offer value in the space. Some roles do not require coding. Figure out what aligns with your strength and experience. Once you get into the door, it is easier to grow from there.”
“Also, imposter syndrome is going to come. But do not let it get the best of you. Tech is just another industry. See it as one. The same way people were vying to work in oil and gas, this is what tech is now. Keep learning, take internships if you need to, and you will get the hang of it,” she adds.