My Pivot Journal is a Ventures Africa weekly series documenting people’s career transitions from one industry to another, especially to tech.
As a child, Uche Martins dreamt of gracing the stage, but life had a different script in mind. He ended up trading the spotlight for the art of sales proving that life’s stage can be found in the most unexpected places. Here’s Uche Martins’ pivot journal.
How it started
I have always had a passion for the arts. As a child, I was very expressive. I dreamed of becoming a famous actor, or even a director. I eventually studied theatre arts at the University of Benin. I was part of several school productions that were well-received. I thought I had found my calling and was ready to pursue a career in the arts. After I graduated from school, I worked as a performance staff, at the Bayelsa State Council for Arts and Culture. It was my NYSC year and my job was to perform at different government events. It could be dancing, or stage plays, we just had to perform.
I loved performing. However, reality soon hit me hard. It was after my service year, that I realized that I could not make a living from my passion alone. I had bills to pay, and responsibilities to fulfill. I needed a more stable and lucrative source of income. Beyond arts, I have always been someone who loves meeting new people and interacting with them. In Nigerian colloquial, I have a sweet mouth. I decided to lean into that. I applied for a sales officer position at UBA, one of the leading banks in Nigeria. I was nervous about the interview, but I capitalized on my communication, and persuasion skills to get the job.
After I got the job, I had to undergo a rigorous training program set up by the bank. That was where I learned the basics of banking, finance, and marketing. I also had to familiarize myself with the products and services offered, such as loans, savings, investments, insurance, and more. I had to study hard and fast, as I had to meet sales targets and quotas every month. But it wasn’t too challenging to transition because of the training that had been done.
However, I soon discovered that being a sales officer was not as easy as I thought. At first, I felt like I had betrayed my passion and sold out to the corporate world. I missed the excitement and freedom of the arts. I had to adapt to a new environment and culture that was very different from the creative industry. I had to deal with numbers, data, and customers every day. I had to deal with different kinds of customers, some of whom were rude, impatient, or skeptical. I also had to work long hours and cope with stress and pressure. It was hard to balance my work and personal life.
However, I found some rewards and satisfaction in my work. I realized that being a sales officer also required creativity, communication, and problem-solving skills. I learned that I could use my artistic flair to market and sell the company’s products and close deals with clients. I already enjoyed meeting new people and building relationships with them. And I felt proud when I helped customers achieve their financial goals and dreams. It helped that I was earning a decent income and that my colleagues and managers were supportive and helpful. I decided to make the best of my new career. I eventually moved from UBA to YHS Financial Institution, a microfinance company that catered to small and medium enterprises. I worked with YHS for a few months before I got a job at Wema Bank, another commercial bank. Each time I moved to a new job, I underwent training set up by the institution. As I gained more experience and confidence, I decided to explore other opportunities in the financial sector.
How it’s going
I am a sales officer in the financial sector. I work at NOLT Finance, a fintech startup that offers digital banking solutions. My day usually starts with a dose of motivation and preparation. I wake up early enough to mentally prepare for the day’s tasks. I work in a hybrid situation, which means I don’t have to go to the office every day. Then I get to review my client list and identify potential leads. I have to meticulously analyze their financial profiles and identify areas where NOLT FINANCE’s products and services could provide value. Then I have to contact them and tailor my pitch to the specific needs of each client. This is a bit harder than it sounds because I work with a fintech, and people are usually skeptical if it is not a traditional finance institution. Usually, at the end of the week, we analyze sales performance, evaluate strategies, and set goals for the upcoming week.
I have grown professionally and personally, and I have gained valuable experience and knowledge in the financial sector. I have also made many friends and connections along the way. I hope to continue up the ladder in this space. This means I have to keep expanding my knowledge to increase my capacity. In fintech, it is not just the clients that learn every day. The fintech landscape is ever-evolving, and I have to constantly expand my knowledge base. That means doing things like staying updated on industry trends.
Growth will always start from somewhere. But first, you have to be willing to take the step.