Resolution statement VS Resolution Plan: My StudentBuild experience 2020

We have a family tradition in my home. On the first day of a new year, January 1st, my family and I gather in the living room and my dad throws the first daunting question of the year. ‘What is your new year’s resolution’’. Over the past years before 2020, my resolutions have been quite easy, ‘This year, I am going to save up to buy a new phone, or a new shoe’, ‘I am definitely going to read 10 books before December’, ‘I am going to be more deliberate about my spirituality’. So many resolutions made, some achieved and some underachieved.

At the beginning of 2020, I surprisingly had no major resolution. I got a new phone in December 2019, I couldn’t make a resolution to buy a new phone this time, sadly. I love reading now, it is now a habit.

Later in the year, here’s what I did. I looked at where I was at the time and imagined myself in the next 5 years. How do I want to look like? What do I want to be doing in the next 5 years? Working in the United Nations has always been my dream so, for my career vision, I pictured myself leading projects that drive sustainability in Africa and the world at large.

Once I successfully created this mental image of myself, I said to myself, ‘What is the first best step I can take to reach this goal?’ I HAD NO IDEA!!!

I had prior experience in leadership and volunteerism, which fueled my career decision and was the foundation of the mental image I created. However, I didn’t know the professional steps to take to get to where I wanted to be.

That’s when I came across StudentBuild Africa. I was the treasurer of my department’s student undergraduate club at the time in January 2020. The President of the club was and still is a very good friend of mine. He informed me that StudentBuild, a start-up in Nigeria for undergraduates looking to develop professional and career skills, was looking to recruit 50 more females into the fellowship program, after the first recruitment process. I jumped on the offer even though I could not fully grasp the purpose of the fellowship program. I figured, it would be great to belong to a community of undergraduates across Nigeria, looking to develop professional skills, just like me.

Fortunately, I was recruited alongside many brilliant minds from universities across Nigeria. Our first task had me very confused. After we were on boarded to the telegram group, we were instructed to download some ‘professional’ applications like Google drive, Google docs, Hangouts, Slack and a few others. I wondered what these tools had to do with anything, however, as we went further in the program, I got to understand how easy it makes virtual collaboration and team work. We were then given a day to take a test that will help us identify our personality type, communication style, team work style, zodiac signs etc. At the time, I wondered what I was even doing here. What were all these tasks for?

When my tests were concluded, I was amazed by how accurate my test results were as regards the kind of person I am and how I relate with others both casually and professionally. It gave me insight into who I am, my strengths and weaknesses in communication, team work and building relationships. Because of these first tasks, I knew this was where I needed to be to begin my professional journey.

For the first 6 months at StudentBuild, we majorly learnt about the soft skills that are needed to thrive in the professional space, like effective communication, storytelling, critical thinking, problem solving, science of happiness, social media engagement and others, to mention a few. It wasn’t all theory because we had hands-on tasks to apply all that we were learning. It was thrilling! We had professionals who know the nitty-gritty of professionalism in tech, business and design, come share with us how important and useful these skills are in the professional space and how it trickles into the casual space as well. We had mentors who were always ready to advice and drive us towards the direction we needed to be in. I especially recall a session we had with Samuel Osho about Storytelling and how we can leverage on this skill to get the opportunities that come our way by captivating the mind of our audience through honesty and authenticity. Ever since, I have applied this mode of communication to reach my audience in hope that someone can resonate with me. I also became more deliberate about my social media engagement and personal brand across all my social media platforms.

The StudentBuild team was very transparent in making us understand what their plans were for us in coming months and what the passion and purpose of this community really was. They explained what they hoped that we could achieve as students, to prepare us for the outside world beyond the university 4 walls, by making us skillful and giving us the right experience. That’s when I realized!

I had a resolution but I need a resolution plan that will help me efficiently utilize the opportunity StudenetBuild was giving. From here on, I identified what exactly I wanted to achieve in the program and how it will add up to my resolution and be useful to my career plan. I became more confident and deliberate about my engagement in StudentBuild.

During the 1st phase of the Incubator, I was opportune to be a part of the content creation crew of StudentBuild. I belonged to the SB Quotes sub team and also led the Interview Crew. Both sub teams were about sharing stories. On the SB Quotes team, we were tasked with coming up with inspiring quotes from our moments in the Incubator coupled with a well as a short caption story that emphasizes and buttresses the meaning of the quote. I also led the Interview team to publish about 2 Interviews with a fellow who won a competition hosted by P&G and the awarded best fellow in the first quarter of the SB Incubator. I learnt that leadership is not about your capability to do all the work yourself, neither is it only about giving orders to you team members and scolding them when they don’t deliver. I realized that leadership is about empathy, building relationships and sharing passion. It is about driving your team towards a common goal and creating a safe space for sharing ideas and collaborating.

After the first 6 months of learning and applying soft skills, during which I built some amazing and positive relationships, all virtually, it was time to move on the next phase which was going to be project based. Moving into the next phase was dependent on your performance in the first phase which included your sense of responsibility on the platform. In the 2nd phase, fellows were to be distributed to various tracks, which included project management, product management, data science, marketing, software development, business analysis and UI/UX. I applied to the project management track.

Fortunately, I was among the 50 fellows that were selected to carry on to the next phase and I was grouped into the Project Management track. For the first 3 months, we were to fill in our knowledge gap in our chosen tracks, making use of the resources provided and any other resource we came across on our own. We read ‘My Personal MBA’ by Josh Kaufman, took courses online and read a book titled ‘Sprint: How to solve big problems in 5 days’.

One very shocking responsibility I was given was the CEO simulation role of the Incubator. I was the first fellow to be appointed this role. Due to my proneness to overthink things and go into hibernation mode, the CEO role was a very scary responsibility. But, thanks to my amazing friend who is the SB Program Lead, I got to understand my responsibilities which included organizing our daily meet ups by 7pm, keep track of fellows’ participation in their various tracks, remove any roadblocks encountered by the fellows if it was in my power to do so, and assist him in overall coordination of activities. My first assignment was to reach out to those who have had low participation rate and find out what the problem was. I could ease into this assignment, however, I did not want to come off as a nose poker into their personal business, but I also wanted to find out the in-depth reason for their non-participation. I applied my interpersonal skills and in the process made some very good friends and got to understand their pain points which informed my decision on how to help.

After about one month of learning Sprints and Project Management in theory, we embarked upon a 5 days design sprint, to identify a problem in an industry sector in Nigeria and create a prototype solution to that problem. I was selected as the Sprint leader for the Health Industry team. Team members were not assigned to the leaders so it was quite a struggle to form a team. I eventually formed my team and we commenced the sprint. With the help of various virtual collaborative tool, my team and I identified a myriad of problems in the Nigerian health sector. We decided to focus on the problem of rigorous access to health care service and the problem of waiting hours and delay in hospitals. We created a telemedicine prototype platform that bridges the gap between patients and doctors over a distance, allowing users to book online or offline appointments with doctors and have their consultations via our platform from the comfort of their technology device. We successfully created our prototype website using proto.io tool and tested our idea with real people.

From our testing feedback, we validated our problem and our solution as well as the feasibility of our business model. After the design sprint, I realized that it’s okay to make mistakes and no good product was built in a day, in a week or even a year. Good products undergo series of testing, iterations and development. Also, harsh feedback about your product isn’t such a bad thing. Of course, it is normal to feel bad when something negative is said about a product you invested time creating, but if you are truly focused on your users and their problems, those harsh feedback are the things you want to look out for. It may just be what your product needs to reach market fit.

After the design sprint we launched to full on Project. We were tasked to create an MVP based off the problem, and solution prototype that was created during the design sprint. This were my first challenges.

1) I had no foreknowledge about medicine.

2) I had no idea of how a project manager should lead production of a telemedicine website.

3) I realized that there were many existing telemedicine platforms in Nigeria and abroad which meant that we had many competitors and there was the fear of how our product would survive in the already tight market. Later I discovered this isn’t such a bad thing. I just makes you sure that there is definitely a market for your product and there are money making opportunities in that market. You just need to find what makes your product unique.

I remembered that Google is my friend and my self-learning journey of ‘How to use Google’ commenced. Based on series of research, I decided to carve a niche in the market and narrow down our target users. I realized that the most common diseases in Nigeria are those associated with women reproductive health and infectious diseases in men, women and children. So we decided to focus on providing OB-GYN and Infectious diseases expertise.

During our user research, we discovered that 75% of our target users already subscribe to some sort of Natural medicine service and would rather use this service compared to orthodox medicine. We incorporated Naturopathy to our value proposition. We completed the development of our website, QuicHealth, on boarded medical experts and patients to test our paltform for free and give us feedback. It was 3 months of motivation, team brainstorming, and series of meetings, call chasing and the beginning of new friendships, all done virtually.

Here is my resolve from this long experience story. It doesn’t matter how young, scared and incapable you may think you are to handle responsibilities. Your devotion and commitment to get things done and done well is what keeps you going as you encounter further uncertainties in life.

Furthermore, people need people. It is very hard to succeed in isolation. You may achieve a few things working on your own, but it will take you less time and effort when you are surrounded by the right people who drive you towards your goal and who you can do the same for. True success is when everyone is a winner (excerpt from Dare Oduale’s Goodwill speech at the SB Incubator Graduation).

Finally, Resolutions, as cliché as they may have become today, are very key to helping you recognize opportunities as they come your way. However, your resolution plan helps you seize those opportunities that you recognize. Remember, it’s okay not to have a new year’s resolution on 1st January. You can take your time and discover what your resolution should be, break it down into small achievable goals and then achieve your goals one step at a time, one day at a time or one month at a time.

So, I ask you, what is your new year’s resolution for 2021 and most importantly, what is your resolution plan?

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A young Nigerian student navigating through life in her best way while looking to impact people by shairng her stories.

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Omotayo Oluwatobi

Omotayo Oluwatobi

A young Nigerian student navigating through life in her best way while looking to impact people by shairng her stories.

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