Name: Fiyin Williams
Country of Origin: Togo/Nigeria
Current Location: Lagos, Nigeria
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Fiyin Williams; I’m originally of Togolese and Nigerian parentage but I was born in Paddington, London. After my birth, I moved to Lagos with my family where I attended Primary and Secondary School. I was a very outgoing and outspoken child who enjoyed dancing, acting and all sorts of social activities. At the age of 15, I returned to England to attend Sixth Form where I studied Psychology, Mathematics, Biology and Chemistry. I wasn’t 100% sure about what I wanted to study but having always been an inquisitive person I decided to pursue a BSc in Psychology with Ergonomics. This I enjoyed, but during my second year, my love and passion for all things communication was stirred and all I could think about was pursuing a Master’s in Public Relations which I did right after my BSc. During my stay in England, my fascination with other cultures led me to travel to 15 countries across 4 continents.
What does Sponge do, and what does your role with them entail?
Sponge is a full service independent Mobile Marketing Agency specialising in helping brands create innovative mobile and digital marketing campaigns. The company was founded in 2002 in London, England. Since then, Sponge has delivered over 10,000 different campaigns in 18 different countries spread across 4 different continents for over 250 household brands. In 2009, Sponge opened up an office in Lagos, Nigeria; in this period it has worked with clients within and outside Nigeria including Coca Cola, Diageo, Reckitt Benckiser, MTN, Etisalat (to name a few) to deliver some of their biggest, most successful and impactful campaigns.
As an Account Manager; working across all key accounts, I ensure that clients get the best service possible and that we always respond to their briefs with timely and top quality proposals. I also circle the new Business front and am instrumental in landing new clients into the company. Overall, I straddle the strategy, management, client services and reporting units. I also work closely with interns and associates to train, manage and ensure they are growing, blossoming and contributing to the company’s overall success. In this business, sometimes you need to be a Jane of All Trades; Master of all!
How did you get the job?
Networking! A family member who works at Google said I would be the perfect fit for Sponge. Even though, they were not hiring, he sent my CV over and I was asked to come in for an interview with the CEO.
I was extremely nervous as I knew nothing about Mobile Marketing but I tried to be confident and highlight my other areas of PR knowledge. I thought the interview went reasonably okay until I was offered the job on the spot and was asked to start the next day.
What does your average day at work consist of?
- Get into work, check and respond to emails – client requests, briefing suppliers, liaising with team members in regional offices and so on.
- Touch base with clients to give them up to date information on what we’re doing.
- Look out for new business, send proposals to prospective clients. This is something you never stop doing.
- Meetings – There’s always a meeting with a client; to discuss a past, current or future campaign (sometimes all three).
- Presentations – Either responding to a client brief or pitching a new idea to a prospective client. These I enjoy because you get to see the clients in awe of your ideas and receiving their feedback is always imperative in progressing your thinking.
- Internal Meetings – Due to my managerial role, I constantly have to meet with the other account managers and associates to be kept abreast of the activities on all accounts.
- Pitches – we get visits from several vendors and suppliers pitching the next big thing. Have to skim through these proposals and presentations to see if any of these are right for us.
What would you say are some of the most exciting industries are to be a part of in Nigeria at present?
Right now, I would have to say that the creative industry is so exhilarating, everything is changing. Due to the influx of technology and developed minds, the industry is a lot more mature. Brands, clients, blue chips are all investing, leading to rapid growth. The digital and technology industries are also emerging. They might not be quite there yet but brands are now seeing the power of technology and the internet. This is the digital age and Nigerians are finally getting it. Everything is going digital, mobile and it’s just so electrifying to be at the forefront of this.
Do you think it’s actually possible for the generation of Nigerians making the move back home to make a difference in the country, or do they just end up getting used to the way things are there?
I think you just have to come in with a positive mind; positive but realistic.
You can use your education and experience to make a change. There’s no point having gone away and invested so much into your persona and allowing your cultured experience to lie dormant. There are many areas where we can make a difference; so many. The opportunities are there and believe it or not, things are changing and we need to be at the vanguard of positive impact. Don’t blend in, stand out for good reason!
What were your reasons behind making the move back and how difficult (or not) was the choice for you?
Three years before I moved back, I found myself traveling to Nigeria ever so often. I spoke to a lot of friends and family who made the move back. I spent a lot of my time garnering work experience, networking and speaking to leading professionals in different fields and I was so convinced that it was right to move back because I wanted to be a power broker in my industry. I wanted to be a game changer; one who would make an impact. Although the decision was bittersweet because I love England and was so used to everything, I was extremely excited to move back home.
Is it mandatory for everyone to serve in the National Youth Service Corps, before beginning employment? What did you have to do, and how did you find it?
Some companies take people on without NYSC, while a lot of the huge companies don’t budge. Personally, I decided that I wanted to serve. I had to register in Abuja as a foreign trained graduate and a few weeks later, I collected my call up letter. I was posted to Lagos; thank God as I was a bit worried about moving away from home due to the security risks. The year was one of the most remarkable, eye opening but yet stressful years ever. I met so many amazing people and as part of the NYSC Skills & Acquisition Programme, I learned how to sew. I was the Vice President of my Community Development Group which was a fulfilling experience; we raised money to refurbish the Library of a Local School. The year was not without its challenges; the weekly meetings, monthly clearance and a lot of sporadic and random encounters but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I made so many great friends, had fun, gave back and made my mark! Would I do it again? Hmmm; not sure. But I would advise every Nigerian graduate to serve. The year goes by so quickly and you would love the experience. Just be prepared for long queues and lots of photocopying.
What advice would you offer those who are seeking a career in marketing in West Africa?
The industry is ever changing and growing. There’s a lot of development going on and it’s such a fun, dynamic and innovative business to be in. Be ready to learn, learn, learn! Read, research and explore. You need to be flexible, adaptable and aware of the ever changing nature of this fast paced world of marketing. Be confident, diligent and well put together! Be ready to work hard, work smart and spend long hours but the fulfilment, excitement and perks make up for it. Nothing beats having a light bulb go up in your head and three months later, seeing it translated to a mobile campaign, billboard or print advert which changes the opinion and behaviour of millions of people who to love your idea! It’s about the best feeling in the world.
Destination: Africa! aims to inspire our readers to make the move back home, through a series of interviews with others that have recently made the move successfully.
We are always on the lookout for inspiring stories of individuals that have successfully made the move to West Africa, so do get in touch with us, if you would like to share your experiences.