Welcome to this week’s episode of the phenomenal career podcast. I am excited to jump into conversation with our next guest, Lola Olaore. I’d love for you to introduce yourself.
I’m Lola and I currently work in the tech industry, at a global consulting firm as a product owner. I help clients build and launch products into the market. So whether it’s across financial services, the hospitality industry or health care, I’m all about launching and building products with cross functional teams.
And what I mean by cross functional teams is working with developers, UX designers, researchers, different clients and stakeholders.
Outside of work, I’m really passionate about inspiring the next generation of young people, especially women, so I run a social enterprise called Ambition, which supports 14 to 21 year olds through different programmes, workshops, and we connect them to fortune 500 companies. So right now we’re working with Unilever and have launched a mentoring programme together, which is a 10 month programme for young girls who are inspired by women in tech or the STEM field.
Have you always worked in tech? What was that journey for you?
I studied financial services at Coventry University but did it for two years and hated it. I ended up taking a gap year to really understand what I wanted to do in life, and in that gap year, I ended up working at the Royal Bank of Scotland for a few months as just a customer service officer. I then found an opportunity to go study in China for six months, which was amazing. It was by the British Council called the First Generation UK Programme which was an incentive to get more UK students to go to China to learn about the culture and education as well as learning Mandarin.
I ended up going to Fujian Province for six months and learning Mandarin so you can imagine 40 hours plus a week learning Mandarin, conversing in Mandarin, writing in Pinyin, and in the characters as well. It was an amazing experience for me.Then after my gap year, I got onto a programme called Google Top Black Talent, which selected 13 individuals from across the UK to participate in this programme.
You were actually mentored by a Googler, and that’s when I learnt about Google AdWords and the whole tech scene. I also applied for an Accenture grad scheme on the technology delivery programme, and got onto it, so started going to networking events and getting support. I did end up going back to university, but changed my degree to global business, so studied global business and moved to the London campus.
Whilst on the Accenture grad scheme, I learnt about marketing and HR strategy, finance – and it was an amazing experience. We went to Madrid for two weeks to learn about tech and were surrounded by senior people and cohorts. This made me want to go into business development even more. I got on to Code First Girls, the beginners course, and learnt about basic coding skills.
I never thought I would actually work in tech because it’s not something I always saw for myself. When you think of a software engineer, or someone in tech, you normally think of a white guy in a T-shirt, but Code First Girl showed me that there’s so many women in technology that have great skill sets and who are successful.
That’s when I started telling my coach within Accenture that I wanted to be on more tech focused projects, so I moved on to developing proof of concepts. That’s when I found my passion for products. I was working with researchers across the globe, and launching really cool products.
That’s when I decided to leave Accenture and move to a digital scale up called And Digital. There it was purely products and working with large clients – helping them with the digital transformation. Then after that I got headhunted by my current firm.
I love that you are so fluid with your career choices. Can you expand on that?
Something we learnt on the extensive training that you are the owner of your destiny, and that’s something that’s always followed me. I really believe that when you join a company, you’re also interviewing them because you need to think – what do you want to get out of it? What skills do you want to develop?
If I see an opportunity, I will apply for it. Going back to the China opportunity, prior to that I had studied in China for three weeks, then went on to another programme at LSE and Ching Hua University. I then got on to another programme which was run by EWU as well. So even if I’m settled, if I find an opportunity, I will still continue to apply for opportunities.
What is your career teaching you right now?
I feel right now I want to take a step back because last year, in the midst of the pandemic, I was furloughed for a couple of months. So that was quite difficult for me because I’m normally a person whose out and about and likes to be busy, and so the pandemic hit my ego a little bit because I was essentially out of a job. So during that six months period, whilst I was furloughed,I focused on finding and defining who I am as an individual.
What I’m doing, and what I am contributing to. I know I do a lot of things – I’ve sat on the Youth Advisory Board for a large bank in the UK, I was a representative for the G20 Youth summit – so with all of these things in mind, I asked myself – what is the purpose of going to these events, networking – coming back to purpose again – why am I doing it? That six month period was just a period of me reflecting on everything that I’d achieved, everything that I had failed in doing, and what I can do better going forward.
Within this new role, I’m taking it a step at a time, because I’m an ambitious person. Within 18 months of working for an organisation, I expect a promotion, or I set myself targets such as meeting XYZ. But this time around, I’m taking a step back. I am taking every single day, digesting it, taking it in and learning.
I want to digest as much information from people that I’m working with as possible. The organisation, the client, the industry. I think before I was on this fast track but the last year has taught me that you can’t plan for anything.
Thank you so much for sharing that with us. Where can people connect with you and find out more about all that you’re doing?
You can find me on LinkedIn and also via my linktr.ee. The next step within Ambition is that we’re really trying to enter the edtech scene. We’re developing a prototype by the end of the year, with the plan of next year, going out to investors who will purchase those products.