Oladimeji Balogun started life with dreams that didn’t work out but found other ways to gain the fulfilment he wanted. He planned to impact lives by saving them, literally. But now, he impacts them by managing them. Here is Balogun’s pivot journal
How it started
My early ambitions were clear: I wanted to be a doctor. Not just a doctor: a surgeon. People always told me I looked like one. And I desired the prestige that comes with the profession. Saving lives makes you very valuable to the society. I dreamt of spearheading medical breakthroughs and being one of the best surgeons alive… until that dream wore me out.
After secondary school, I applied to study Medicine and surgery several times and didn’t gain admission. Most of my childhood friends were getting into school while I stubbornly chased this medical ambition. After a few rejections, I decided to try other routes. I applied for Biochemistry and optometry. Nothing. So, I went through the A-Level Interim Joint Matriculation Board (IJMB). I got 12 points, which was enough for Nursing. I needed 13 points for Medicine. So, I thought: “Let me go for Nursing Science”. I applied to the University of Ilorin because schools in the Northern region accept IJMB. I was very optimistic this time. But my admission letter offered me Microbiology. This time, I decided to move on. While studying microbiology, I knew I wasn’t going to practice it.
My first job out of NYSC was as Head Cashier at Emirates Hotel in Ilorin. I spent only three months there because I wasn’t enjoying it. Then I moved to teaching. I taught A-level students at different institutions across Kwara State. I also lectured at Kinsey College of Education.
I still wanted to pivot to a medical career. Like I said, I was stubborn about it. I applied to get a second degree in Medical Laboratory Science. But while waiting for the admission cycle, COVID struck.
So, I was back home in Lagos with no job or income. But I had a laptop which I only used to watch movies. I came across the Google digital marketing certification and was surprised it was free. After taking the course, I started applying for digital marketing roles but ended up as a sports writer for a news organisation. I was one of their first writers, so I had room to learn many things about media and the digital space. The job was exciting until it wasn’t.
I spent three years with this company and never had a paid leave. There was always work to do, even on weekends. It also didn’t help that my take-home wasn’t growing. I knew it was time to pivot when side gigs started paying better than my main job. Community management was one of the closest fields I could move to because I could transfer my skills there.
My transition had started happening long before I decided to pivot. All my brothers are tech-savvy, so they often inspire me to learn. While working as a writer, I picked up several skills. I learnt graphic design, video editing, social media management and even web administration. Some were because of my job, but others were out of sheer curiosity. I just wanted to upskill.
I wasn’t earning a lot, so I couldn’t pay top dollar for most things I learned. Most of the time, I took advantage of free certifications from Google and coupons on Udemy. I also took some courses like digital marketing on LinkedIn. It took me over a year to fully pivot from media.
Community management is not a single skill like coding or data analysis. The biggest myth about this job is that you’re just an admin on Telegram or WhatsApp, so you’re fit once you have good communication skills. You’ll need a handful of abilities to function, and many of them will only be gained through experience. To become a community manager, I had to learn copywriting, email marketing, people management, design, customer care and social media skills. Yet another company might have different requirements.
How it’s going
Today, I work remotely as a community manager for the African Corporate & Government Counsel (ACGC). In retrospect, leaving the media industry was arguably my best career decision. My productivity is much higher now, and I don’t have to work round the clock for that to happen. I’m also earning better and have become more confident.
I laugh sometimes when I look back at my medical dreams. It’s very possible that I would have pivoted from it. But I’m glad I have a science background. That’s what informs my ability to observe and think critically about problems today.
However, my biggest win is that my growth path is much clearer now. Not only can I grow as a community manager, it’s easier for me to switch lanes within the digital space. That’s why I’m learning UI/UX already. I know the possibilities are endless.
My advantage really comes from my stubbornness. I’d never give up easily on anything. There is no ceiling for the person who never gets tired.