Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jack of All Trade - Master of Non!

While several of my friends knew what their calling way back when we were toddlers - I am yet to find out where I belong. I have always thought this was due to the fact that I am multi talented. But my friend Amalaye Oyakes comments about me on Facebook got me thinking...

By the way, Amalaye settled for exploring the celestial bodies ever since we left secondary school. So when I heard he was one of the big boys at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Huston, I wasnt too surprised. But, why am I so confused? Whats my calling? Why haven't I settled down yet and focused on one career path? Am I a Jack of all trade... and master...? This comment made we think about my diverse interest, and how I came to be where I am.

  • My first love is music - I am a prolific entertainer - I once lead a brass band in my secondary school. I even went as far as playing on the same stage with world renowned Dizzy Gilespie (twice at the Port Harcourt Jazz festivals. Femi Anikulapo Kuti, Eddie Okonta, Gerald Opino, etc. I was given a scholarship to study music by the Nigerian Navy, but my father would have nothing of it. The only thing that kept me away from being a musician was education. I play (well I think I still can) all brass music instruments, from the Beagle, Trumpet, Trombone, to the almighty Tuba. I also play the guitar, and most wind instruments like the Clarinet. I have written several songs, but havent mustered the courage to enter a studio... yet.
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  •  I have always been an artist. I recall attempting my first drawing at five after watching my Dad draw a human head - I guess its in the blood, I picked up a pencil and tried to do just what I saw and the rest as the say is history. I exhibited my first art piece at the tender age of 15 at the United Nations sponsored art exhibition in New York.
  •  Being a science student in secondary school, I applied for Electrical Engineering & Architecture when I left secondary school. I got an offer to study Electrical Engineering at the Federal University of Technology Owerri FUTO. But that was not to be, cos my family thought I could do better to study art and be my own boss - I wish I didn't listen. I went on to study Graphic Arts at University of Nigeria. I recall my name was on the notice board when I resumed - my head of department wanted to meet this "Mad man" - I must have been mad to enroll for Fine & Applied Arts with Physics, Mathematics, English & Arts. I got an A in all with Arts been the lowest score. I guess I must have made an impression as Prof. Chike Aniako, Prof. Obiora Udechukwu and Prof. Ola Oloidi would become life time mentors.
  • Computer Graphics was a budding career path by the time I left University. In advert agencies of the time, studio heads had to depend on the skills of their "glorified" secretaries to bring their art creations into the digital world. As you may have imagined, this practice did not produce the finest results. With my love for computers, an inquisitive mind and a wealth of creative ability, I thrived in Ad Agency work. After a stink at three advert agencies - Dawn Functions, New Generation & Media Plus International, I realized that I felt like I was being used, while the products I churned out (calendars, Annual reports, Desk Diaries, Product advert, etc) were sold for millions, I got stipends. So I wrote a private proposal to Banks who were the major clients in the industry and voila, Afri Bank (now Main Street Bank) & NAL Merchant Bank Plc. (now Sterling Bank) took the bait. That's how I went to work as the in house Graphic Artist for NAL Merchant Bank.
  • One little known secret is that Graphic Artist helped make the internet what it is today. After Sir Tim Bernes Lee created the hyper-text protocol in 1993 (the http:// you find before the www web url) that changed the aparnet (as it used to be known) to what we now call the internet, Graphic artist were the first group of professionals to apply their visual creations... I consider myself one of Nigeria pioneers having built my first website in 1994.I also designed NALs website in the early 1990s when very few Nigerians knew what the internet was.
  • As the internet grew in complexity, I grew with it. My simple HTML pages designed with WYSIWYG applications gave way to more mature web programming languages like, SharePoint, etc. With several web development and other professional certifications under my belt, I gracefully transited to being called a web developer. Even went on to design the nations Central Bank of Nigeria internet, intranet and extranet websites.
  • As you can imagine, web development is not a core function for banking - so the promotions were not coming as fast, and after 10 years of creating the web communications office and administering an army of content managers, one think stuck out like a sore thumb. "But... you are an artist" was becoming a derogatory statement I couldn't bear anymore. and so even-though I really wanted to study Human Computer Interaction HCI to prepare myself to join the now thriving Nollywood movie industry, I was forced to study Information Systems in Manchester University, United Kingdom.
  • On my return from studies, along with my Project Management PM skills and certification, I jumped into the deep end of project management pool. The PM skills was to see me working on the banks Cashless Nigeria initiative. I had reinvented myself once more.
So while I am sitting here thinking I have derailed a million times already - Amalayes comments clearly shows that my electronics and inventing talents has taken a back seat. If the climate was right, I should be an industrialist and inventor.Its always reassuring to hear your friends describe you in ways you never imagined. I recalled Amalaye near fatal electrocution at my house in the late 1980's when he tried to test my Door Zapper! a device I put in place to detar buglars who had hit my room a few weeks prior to his visit. His recent visit to Nigeria last month may have well Zapped me back to life - I should make plans to attend the exhibition, perhaps, this time, I may have finally settled down cos a rolling stone gathers no moss.