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Movers and Shakers (Naija Edition): Interview with Students Of LinkedIn Co-Founder Blessing Adogame

Zulaikhah Agoro

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Blessing Adogame

Blessing Adogame is a Computer Information Systems undergraduate at Drexel University, Philadelphia with a minor in Security Technology. Alongside a host of on and off-campus extra-curricular, she is also the co-founder of Students of LinkedIn (SoL), an organization that seeks to educate, encourage and expose students to build authentic personal brands and unlock their potential through LinkedIn. Founded in January 2018, SoL has grown to have 6,000 members and has hosted several webinars and panels at Drexel University, the University of Maryland, Microsoft and a host of other schools and organizations across the US and Canada. Blessing is a Rewriting the Code Fellow and has work experience across global firms like Bloomberg, LinkedIn, Morgan Stanley and Comcast Centre.

In this interview, she talks about her identity, how Students of LinkedIn has evolved and what impact really is.

 

You co-founded SoL last year and you have already made major strides. How did you achieve this?

The #StudentsOfLinkedIn campaign started around February 2018 as a hashtag I wanted to build more awareness around. It was about encouraging more students to be actively engaged on LinkedIn and at that point, it was mainly just me using the hashtag in any piece of content I produced. After a while, a lot of other people started using the hashtag too and it circulated around not just the US and students therein, but also the world and other professionals as well.

When I first started this, it was not necessarily a goal to turn it into an organization or a business. I wanted to bridge the gap between the classroom and career, by creating more content around things like how students can interview successfully, or talk to professionals.

Later on, people started recognizing me for that hashtag, and LinkedIn itself got curious about what I had created. I realized the impact I could make and I knew I needed to do something to bring it to the next level.

Around October 2018, I brought on two co-founders; Charles Arday and Ledo Nwilene.

Blessing with co-founders, Ledornubari Nwilene and Charles Arday

We had the idea of making this bigger and better, and ultimately creating a community where this content that I create, as well as the content other students from around the world create, is in a centralized space.

In January 2019, we launched the company page on LinkedIn.

It has been great to see how SoL has evolved from a hashtag campaign to a community of almost 6,000 members. To have been able to do that in 9 months is incredible. It gave me confirmation that there is a need for information that is applicable.

I wouldn’t say that a lot of the content I produce is completely new. It is just unique to me. There is so much information online, but people don’t know how to get it and don’t think they can apply it to their lives. That really just shows how Students of LinkedIn has been able to impact so many lives.

It got to this point because I realized I couldn’t do it by myself. I had the hashtag campaign for a year. To get to the next level, I had to bring other people on-board. I had to build a team that could fulfill this vision with me instead of just doing it by myself.

It has been a great journey so far. I just hope that we will continue to have a global impact on people, where they realize that they have enough potential in them to be successful by their own definition.

 

From Nigeria to Scotland, Germany and now the US, how do you define your identity?

My identity has always been something that I have struggled to understand and explain.

People would always ask me where I come from and I would never know what to say.

When I was living in Germany, of course, I would say Nigeria. When I was living in Scotland, I would say Germany. Now that I live in America, I say I am from Scotland.

It is always not knowing whether to pinpoint it to one specific place or to give everyone the whole spill;

“Okay, I was born in Nigeria, but I lived in Germany, Scotland and now I am here in the US.”

I got fed up explaining it because some people don’t understand. Some people are close-minded and it hurt me that they would judge me based off of my upbringing and my background.

Then, I realized it was just about sharing my story and that turned everything around. It is part of who I am. I’m not there yet, but I am slowly getting comfortable with identifying myself with multiple homes.

It is a really tricky thing, but I have realized how much advantage I have just having experienced different contexts. For example, I have learned so many different things in the US that I can bring back home to Nigeria, or things that are being done in the UK that America might not have seen or heard about.

I walk in the advantage of my identity and leverage it, instead of seeing it as a disadvantage.

 

You recently launched Blooming Lasting Careers (BLC). What is the idea behind this venture?

BLC is the bigger picture that stemmed from SoL. We realized that we are building our business using someone else’s brand. It’s not exactly sustainable when it comes to business purposes. BLC was born out of our desire for something of our own; something that doesn’t pigeon-hole us to LinkedIn or just students, but touches everyone around the world from young professionals to students on different platforms and in different contexts.

There is so much knowledge we have as students and through the community that we have built. We want to share that with people either through SoL as a branch or through career coaching, resume building, interview prep and things like that.

We want to help people bloom in their careers. A lot of students and young professionals see their careers in very linear ways.

“Oh, I get a job at Google. I get a job at Microsoft, and that’s it. I’m satisfied.”

They don’t realize a career needs to be watered continuously like a flower. It’s a process. We want to emphasize that with our community.

It doesn’t end when you get the job. You have to continue to learn, to network and to grow. You need to be able to grow with your career, and not have one overtake the other. That is what we are pushing with this venture.

We realize it’s not just about networking, job searching and interviewing, but also being self-aware and having a growth mindset. I think those two things are really vital in your career.

You need to be self-aware and realize that you are not like everyone else and that is okay. It’s your own gift.

So maybe you don’t know this. Maybe you didn’t make the cut.

It does not stop there. You continue to learn and get where you want to be.

 

What is it like working and living as a Nigerian in the diaspora?

I like to see it as a privilege and pressure. I had the opportunity to step out of the context of Nigeria, learn something new, gain experience, and network with people outside. However, a lot of people now ask questions like, are you going to come back and make things better in the environment you left?

I think the pressure for a lot of Nigerians in the diaspora is that they don’t want to go back, because in places like the UK and the US they are better off. Going back to Nigeria, there is a lot of push-back, even if you have gained a lot of knowledge and would like to implement that in the Nigerian ecosystem. There are certain things that don’t allow it.

Students like me are now in a place where we are thinking, why would I go back when there is going to be resistance against something I want to do to create a positive impact in my community?

One of the things I want to do in the various places I have lived is to give back. I feel like the more Nigerians that leave Nigeria should make it a point to give back to the community in any way possible, through whatever work that they do.

There is always something and it’s never too early to give back. Some people think they have to be a CEO or make a 6 figures salary first, but it could literally be something as simple as going back to an old high school and talking to people, helping them understand that their life is more than what they are living or going through.

 

How do you reconnect with home?

I always tell people I was born in Lagos, but I only lived there for two years before I relocated to Germany. A lot of people look at me and say, You are not a real Nigerian, you probably don’t know much about home.

In all honesty, I have never properly lived in Nigeria to understand hardships or joy. This is mainly because I didn’t have a choice about staying or leaving. I have made a point to reconnect with home, especially with having Nigerian parents.

Living in Germany, there wasn’t much of an African community but my mum would still cook Nigerian food and we would speak the language. Going on to the UK and the US, there was a bit more of a Nigerian presence. I was able to surround myself with Nigerians who could update me and share their experiences of living in Nigeria. In those ways of living through other people’s experiences, I was able to reconnect.

I also go back to visit and see how things have changed. I have a few early memories. I know that is where I come from, that is where my parents come from. It is my home and my identity. I make it a point to live in that identity and stay in touch with it, so I don’t lose sight of who I am and where I come from. That is the most important thing for me, having lived in so many different places and being torn by different perspectives and ideologies.

I think it is important to stick around it and remember, this is who you are. Despite who you might be now, there is always something that should lead you home.

 

You can connect with Blessing on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Hey there! My name is Zulaikhah Agoro. I write and edit direct response email sales copy for Real Estate and Lifestyle brands seeking to connect with their audience. Currently, I curate the Movers and Shakers (Naija Edition) interview series where I have insightful conversations with Nigerian-born social entrepreneurs and innovators living and working in the diaspora. Shoot me a mail at zulaikhah.agoro@gmail.com, or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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