Sam Semako Career Development, People And Career (PAC) “I had to trade what I had for what I didn’t.” – Femi Akintola

“I had to trade what I had for what I didn’t.” – Femi Akintola

Femi Akintola is a business manager, with senior-level experience, in leading diverse FMCG product categories and business divisions including Cocoa-Malt Beverages, Coffee and Confectionery in West Africa i.e. Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia & Sierra Leone with track record of profitable growth.

 

He is currently, Head, Beverages & Confectionery businesses and, member of the Management Committee at Nestlé Nigeria.

 

He is an Alumnus of the Nestlé Leadership Programme at the London Business School.

 

His passion is steadying and steering businesses to sustainable profitable growth in the digital economy.

 

He is a native of Ikorodu in Lagos State, Nigeria.

 

He grew up in a closely-knit family of five children. As the first child of the family, he began his leadership lessons very early in life. His late father never ceased to remind me in Yoruba that ‘agba ma n se bi agba’. Meaning, the older one acts with ‘maturity’.

 

At about the age of nine, he was sent off to the boarding house at Mayflower School, Ikenne where he completed his primary and secondary education with 9 distinctions in WAEC/SSCE and a top graduating student in 1998.

 

In the same year, he gained admission into the Lagos State University to study Philosophy; a discipline in reflections and thought leadership. He graduated with second class upper cum laude.

 

Also, while in the university he enrolled for and completed the Professional Diploma in Marketing at the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria which provided the theoretical foundation for his career.

 

He started his professional career in advertising at Insight Communications Limited as a Mangement Trainee for a year and then later a Strategic Planning Executive before joining Nestle Nigeria as the Brand Specialist for MILO.

 

He moved very rapidly through the ranks in positions of increasing responsibilities becoming a senior manager in record 4.5 years.
He was sent on expartriation to Nestle Ghana with responsibilities for the Beverages Product Division in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Due to the huge success and unassailable market share gains, he was given additional responsibility for the Coffee product division.

 

After a very successful stint abroad, he returned to Nestle Nigeria in 2015 as a member of the Executive Management Committee of the company to lead the Beverages division which was later expanded to include Confectionery division.

 

He has had the benefits of attending many advanced marketing, management and leadership training programnes and seminars in Nigeria and abroad.

 

He considers himself as “an ordinary boy from Ikorodu town”. However, very importantly, he met Jesus while in the university, this was the significant turning point in his life and career.

He believes Jesus took “an ordinary everyday boy and inspired me to be all I have become and all the greater things I am yet to accomplish.”

 

 

Sam Semako: Mr Femi Akintola welcome to PAC!

 

Femi Akintola: Thank you very much for having me on PAC. It is truly my pleasure and a honour to be here

 

Sam Semako: Great! The last time I saw you I was a very small boy.

 

Femi Akintola: It is the other way round. I was the small boy; you were my mentor. I hope you will agree with that? Hahahaha

 

Sam Semako: So, can you tell us about your upbringing.

 

Femi Akintola: I had very normal lower middle class upbringing. Both parents were business people who wanted their 5 children to have better opportunities.

So they struck a balance between discipline and friendship.

We were not spoilt with toys. Partly because we couldn’t afford much of those toys but also because our parents didn’t want us to be distracted.

 

However, they ensured that we could go to the best school they could afford. We were all sent to boarding school very early.

What we didn’t get from our parents by way of toys, we got from our grandparents as pampering and all.

 

As the first grandchild my grandparents were really fond of me. They took side with me every time. It was a good feeling. That’s pretty much growing up for me.

 

Sam Semako Jinadu: Okay. Would you say your upbringing prepared you for the life you have today?

 

Femi Akintola: Absolutely, it was the good insight of my mum to persuade my father to send us to Mayflower School Ikenne, Ogun State, which was known for its high level of discipline, rigorous learning and mentorship. That I believe partly prepared me for the reality of life.

More importantly, it provided an enabling environment to discover myself so early.

 

Just to add that. Mayflower School Ikenne was not in the least an expensive school. Matter of fact, it was a government school with a high level of discipline inculcated into students.

So, it is not how expensive but what value does it give students.

 

Sam Semako Jinadu: Mayflower was renown for academic and moral excellence, share with us how that also helped in preparing you for life and career.

 

Femi Akintola: In Mayflower School Ikenne, we were challenged to be our very best in many ways.

 

The late founder, Dr. Tai Solarin inspired us to be great through stories, quotes and speeches.

 

Successful old students graced our community gatherings to encourage us and share their stories like I am doing tonight. We had an annual prize-giving ceremony where the best students across different levels were awarded before parents, teachers and fellow students.

 

There was an unwritten hall of fame for excellent graduating students. You always wanted to surpass the last best result.

 

We had an annual self-reliance programme in the bush where all depended on self for a whole weekend.

Our day always started at 5:15am with physical exercises. We spent more than 60% of our waking moments studying.

 

All these and more created a culture of healthy academic competition among the students and consequently the excellent results that we paraded.

 

Sam Semako: I am interested in this:

 

“We had an annual self-reliance programme in the bush where all depended on self for a whole weekend.”

 

Tell me more!

 

Femi Akintola: The Self Reliance weekend was to throw students into the stark reality of life. If you have watched reality TV shows like ‘The Survivors’ or ‘Ultimate Search’ those were the type of settings.

 

We went with torchlights, books, changing clothes, matches, a handful of uncooked food like ‘garri’ i.e. local cassava flake, rice and a few ingredients to make ‘concoction’.

The bigger your bag the more the weight, you will soon be tired of walking.

The smaller your bag the sooner you ran out of resources and food in the bush.

We learnt balance, we learnt negotiation; since [bctt tweet=”you have to exchange what you have for what you don’t have.” username=”SamSemako”]

 

We made camp fires, ate, sang, took our bath, read and danced in the bush.

It brings beautiful memories as I am typing this.

By the end, we were completely exhausted and most likely completely out of resources.

 

Most importantly, we learnt survival of the fittest.

 

All my siblings and I including our mum attended Mayflower School Ikenne.

 

Sam Semako: Hmmm…that was great one! So, ‘Ultimate Search’ no bi today? Lol.

 

What were the lessons you learned from that SELF RELIANCE WEEKEND?

 

 

Femi Akintola: Quite a lot. As I highlighted earlier,

I learnt negotiation skills, I had to trade what I had for what I didn’t.

I learnt to manage and survive on what I had. I learnt to plan for such an exercise making sure I have the right amount of provisions and resources. I learnt to be strong. As there were many students from wealthy homes they must have learnt what it means to be poor and have limited resources.

 

So much more which time will not permit us.

 

Sam Semako: In your profile, you talked about doing an internship with with an agency, what inspired you to go for an internship?

 

Femi Akintola: It was really a management traineeship programme called the Insight Management TraineeshipProgramme.

 

Every year, Insight Communications Limited which was then an affiliate of Grey Worldwide and known as InsightGrey, a member company of the Troyka Holdings used to recruit a few talented fresh graduates from various disciplines and train them in different aspects of the art of advertising. We were about 10 MTs in my set.

 

I was sent to Nigerian Breweries for client experience. I worked in a media planning and buying agency usually called media independents i.e. Mediacom, a member of the Troyka Holdings.

 

I also worked with Optimum Exposures, also a member of the Troyka Holdings. At that time, it was the largest outdoor advertising agency in Nigeria.

 

I was also at The Quadrant Company, another Troyka Holdings’ firm which was the largest PR agency in Nigeria at that time.

 

I was at FK:G2. I was at Africa Independent Television (AIT). I was at Modern Design, a print production company. I was at Market Trends an affiliate of Research International.

 

It was one year of learning so much and being paid a stipend for that. It brought to life all the theories I learnt earlier in my Professional Diploma course at the National Institute of Marketing.

 

I believe this experience really prepared me for my marketing career at Nestle. I would be eternally grateful to the founders and management of Insight Communications Limited for such an opportunity. Many companies should copy this model to develop Nigerian youths.

 

YBLNigeria on Twitter: “The Milo Brand Manager, @NestleCWAR #Nestle Nigeria Mr Femi Akintola also took us through the Milo Brand.

Sam Semako: From your experience, what will be the steps you will highlight for an undergraduate or fresh graduate to follow in order for him/her to live his/her dreams?

 

[bctt tweet=”Your maker made you with a purpose in mind.” username=”SamSemako”]

Femi Akintola: First, go to God in prayer for direction in life. Your maker made you with a purpose in mind. If you will let him, He will order your steps.

 

[bctt tweet=”Go to God in prayer for direction in life.” username=”SamSemako”]

Once you receive Godly inspiration on your career, immediately begin to prepare as an undergraduate student. Read up about successful practitioners. Read relevant articles. Register as a student member of the professional association and begin to take their certification courses where possible. Even though I was studying Philosophy, I had completed the Professional Diploma of the Marketing Association before I graduated. Little wonder my career path has been Marketing.

 

[bctt tweet=”Read up about successful practitioners. ” username=”SamSemako”]

Get a mentor, this is not someone that will give you money but someone that can guide you on how to succeed in your chosen field and in life. Do not make the mistake made by many young people who are looking to exploit their so called mentors by making financial demands.

 

[bctt tweet=”Get a mentor!” username=”SamSemako”]

 

[bctt tweet=”Get someone who can guide you on how to succeed in your chosen field and in life.” username=”SamSemako”]

 

If you burden them, you will turn them off.

 

As a young Christian, I used to sow money into the life of my mentor who was a successful accountant in a major oil company.

 

Apply for jobs and don’t give up applying. I didn’t get the first job I applied for, neither did I get the second, third or fourth but I never gave up until I got my dream job.

 

Rejection is not a reflection of who you are, it just means God has a different plan for you.

 

Today, I am grateful to God that some companies rejected me. They would have derailed my destiny. Some of those companies are no more, some of them have worked for me.

 

Be ready to volunteer or earn stipends, the experience will be invaluable.

 

[bctt tweet=”Be ready to volunteer.” username=”SamSemako”]

Sam Semako: What are the career lessons you can share with us from your career journey?

 

Femi Akintola: Remember Apostle Paul planted and Apollos watered but it is God that giveth increase.

 

So while God is able to give you speed and grace to succeed, do your part.

 

Your part is preparation, hardwork and quality work.

 

Don’t look for short cuts. Soon you will be at the top.

 

The Bible says ‘Seeth thou a man diligent in his work, he will stand before kings and not before mean men’.

[bctt tweet=”Diligent men and women’s works are valued by kings. ” username=”SamSemako”]

 

Your good quality work multiplied by God’s Grace will transform you from obscurity to prosperity.

 

It is working for me and many Christians, I encourage you on this.

 

Sam Semako: To PAC members following this conversation, if you have questions drop them here. I trust that Mr Femi Akintola will come back here to answer them at his free time if he can’t answer them now.

 

Femi Akintola: It has been a pleasure sharing here on PAC. I would be happy to take your questions and comments now or later. God bless you.

 

Sam Semako: I believe you will create time again so that we can do the part 2. We still have lots to learn from you. I know you are a very busy man.

 

YBLNigeria on Twitter: “The Milo Brand Manager, @NestleCWAR #Nestle Nigeria Mr Femi Akintola also took us through the Milo Brand.

Thank you so much for coming to PAC!

 

Femi Akintola: It is really a honour to be here. As someone who has benefited from the mentorship of others including your good self, I would always be glad to return here to offer my thoughts and point of view to others on PAC. Thank you for having me.

 

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Author: Sam Semako

I am a Career Development Consultant who mentors those who are confused regarding what to do with their lives, or frustrated about their work or struggling to find what they need to do with their lives. I also help train them to become experts in their fields by providing them with significant career-based information, resources (in form of opportunities and networks), and training relevant to their fields in order for them to live their dreams and make a lasting impact in a space of 1 year and beyond.

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