In this honest, authentic piece, written by David Obi, alumni of MEST Africa, cofounder of Joluud Maintenance Management and one of my favorite mentees; David shares his inspiring “Rags to Riches” story – from having nothing to being able to take care of himself and his family.
Tough times will come but if you push through, you’ll succeed.
Q: Thanks for being here, David. Please share your story in your own words.
A: I was born in Lagos, Nigeria. One day, my father travelled for work and never came back.
My mum was advised to retire to the village, but being determined not to quit, she vowed to give all her children the privilege of a secondary school education. She gave me a window that has shaped my life over the years.
I went to a mixed boarding school with the help of my uncle but never blended in or got close with anyone. I stayed mostly by myself and developed a survival instinct such that I fear nothing, not even death. This sounds crazy, I know – but it’s true.
In March 2005, I was in Senior Secondary school and (as usual) I knew no one would make it to come visit me. I was running out of provisions and had to think fast.
One day, my friend’s father Toochukwu came to visit him; I walked up to him and said: “Sir, I teach your son in school, so if you must bring provisions for him, please bring for me also or he may fail.”
The father agreed and that was a huge accomplishment for me – the fact that I could negotiate, sell myself, products or services, and use the knowledge and skills I already have to bring in supplementary income.
“Because I never feared death, I didn’t live each day fulfilled, I was lukewarm – no mission, no reason to do anything greater than me, as I waited for death to come to claim me. — This was my first mistake.”
Fortunately, I was good in academics and graduated, winning awards at graduation. Everyone knew me as the quiet, confident and calm guy, but inside I was paddling so hard to stay afloat. I used to imagine that that no one would really accept me if they knew I couldn’t blend in. I wanted to just vanish into thin air and be free.
My university experience was better. I got accepted into University of Nigeria in Nsukka to study Electronics Engineering. In my first year, I was the best in the department with 13A’s and 3B’s but I still didn’t feel accomplished; I still felt nothing. Everyone but me sees me as a success wth limitless potential but truly I felt lost. I needed a vision, I needed independence and, with the odds in my favor, that was when MTN Scholarship opportunity came knocking and I applied.
During my Internship, I walked the streets of Lagos searching for a company to take me in. I was lucky to live close to the airport and fortunately, Mr Mohammed of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) picked interest in me and directed me to where to submit my application; and that set off my first role in the Aviation industry.
That was the beginning of my life as an intern/professional. I ran errands for almost 2 months without knowing what an aircraft is or how it felt. But I was determined to do my best – I became so good at running errands that no one could compete, not even a car (!), and that made me a favorite.
What keeps me grounded in life and business now is this:
Trust in something, your guts, God, family, whatever but keep pushing, and believe it would all be better someday.
Before MEST, I wanted to be an innovator, a disruptor – building things the avaerage human wouldn’t even think of.
I didn’t want to only exist, and I am always on the look-out for significant impact. I was learning avionics but doing ICT because no one else knows how to do one or both.
I feel that the magnitude of the impact of ICT in basic operations, like sales, marketing, partnership, its roots are so endless and for the first time, I felt powerful.
MEST happened after I discovered my passion and it was a great enabler. I currently feel like my whole world has exploded right in front of me and I must say this: I am not sure what the future holds, I am not sure where I am going afterwards, but I know one thing I know for sure. it would keep getting better and better.
Currently, I’m working on my young startup, Joluud, It is a facility management software tailored to the underserved markets in Africa and I aim to make significant impact on the continent.
It never starts out perfect, and the only reason my past still exists is because the future has to be better.
I am really grateful to a lot of people in my life, but I congratulate myself for discovering first that I had a problem and then reaching out and implementing solutions.
I want to share my story anywhere and everywhere because lots of people are just like me, and if I could they also can. And hey, want to talk to me about Joluud, please contact me via this link.
David Obi Kenechukwu, a Cofounder and Mid-Business Inbound Growth Specialist at Joluud Maintenance Management. This post was originally published on his Linkedin page and is republished here with his consent.