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After breaking a 21-year-old record at the Department of English Language at the Obafemi Awolowo Univeristy (OAU), Ile-Ife, Kehinde Lawal has emerged the Best Performing MSc student, Management and Marketing at Birmingham City University, United Kingdom (UK). She tells ENIOLA OYEMOLADE, in this interview, why she decided to study management and marketing, her educational journey so far and her plans for the future.
You emerged the best performing student in MSC Management at Birmingham City University. One can say you are familiar with the feeling of being the best student. But how does this recent feat make you feel?
I feel fulfilled but also challenged to aim for the next big thing, although this time, my focus will be on my career.
You studied English Language as an undergraduate, you also learnt French at a point. What then made you study Management and Marketing, a totally different course, for your Masters Degree at Birmingham City University?
Marketing had been in the picture right from the second year of my undergraduate studies. I had a part-time job on campus where I advertised a foreign language course and got students to sign up. Although on a relatively smaller scale, it built the foundation for my interest in marketing.
My content writing skill, coupled with my good command of the English language got me my first full-time job as a web content writer. That particular role launched me into a whole new world of marketing. It was the first time ever I encountered terms like search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) keywords, and so on.
It was at this point that I realised that there was more to marketing beyond social media content and sharing marketing flyers. I started developing myself by taking online courses in digital marketing, content marketing, email marketing, search engine optimisation, and lots more. I also started learning how to make use of some digital marketing tools. My curiosity led to some exciting discovery that I am glad that I pursued.
And yes! You mentioned French. I was only keen to learn another language because I knew it would open some doors for me (it actually did). Before I finished my NYSC, I already received an offer to work at an IT firm in Lagos State because I had the extra advantage of my French skills. The firm had expansion plans into francophone Africa and also needed a digital marketing executive. So, it was a win-win for me.
Was this change in course difficult or challenging for you at any point?
I wouldn’t say so because I was eager learn and very interested in expanding my skills beyond just being an English graduate. Also, my initial skill sets as a graduate of English were somewhat complimentary to my newly acquired marketing skills. It made me confident with content development and marketing, copywriting, press release drafting, and the likes.
What would you say you did differently as regards reading or in any other aspect that made you emerge as the best performing student?
Considering the fact that I was new to the UK academic system, I made connections with PhD students, lecturers and even some undergraduate students who were able to share useful tips that enabled me to cope well.
Seeking clarity is my forte. My secret to academic excellence, apart from being a serious reader and prayer-warrior, is asking relevant (and I mean very logical and crucial) questions to unlock the answers that I need to pass my assessments.
Would you say you saw this achievement coming?
I aimed for a Distinction but I didn’t think I was working so hard enough to finish as the Best Performing student for my course. I am grateful that the hard work was worth it though.
You received some awards during your graduation. Kindly list them
I was one of the nominees for Outstanding Student Performance for Dean’s Award and Best Overall module mark for one of my courses—Brands and Marketing Communications.
Was it strictly academics for you or you also had time to socialise?
I started my graduate studies in the middle of the pandemic. So, socialising wasn’t even a word to think of. I did most of my classes online but towards the end of my course, I was in school a few times. During that short period, I made friends with my course mates.
You broke a 21-year-old record at the Department of English Language at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) few years back. Do you think this prepared you or contributed to you achieving this feat at Birmingham City University too?
I am certain it prepared me to be tough enough for any life situation at all. Great Ife (especially the Department of English) is not for the weak! If you are strong enough to ride through the storm excellently, then you would be a gem wherever you find yourself.
How has your educational journey been so far?
It has been adventurous, exciting and fulfilling. I switched disciplines but I absolutely love the fact that I am flexible and open-minded with learning.
What did you find most interesting about studying management and marketing?
I was extremely excited to understand some marketing theories and concepts that underpin most of what I have been doing in my previous roles. Since I didn’t have a marketing background, my knowledge of the profession was entirely self-taught and learnt on-the-job. Taking a Masters in management and marketing hasn’t only prepared me to be a marketer but one who can perform brilliantly in leadership roles.
Academic-wise, what motivates you to be excellent?
Failure scares me. I know nobody is perfect and I fail at some things as well. But when it comes to situations that I have control over, like academics, I try everything possible not to fail. The fear of failure drives me to do everything I can to be the best at what I do.
How easy was it for you to cope and mix with other people when you just moved to the UK?
Please allow me to sound my trumpet here. I have a very amiable personality which makes it easy for me to immerse myself into any new environment.
Having experienced two types of educational system, the one here and abroad, in what ways do you think Nigeria can do better and match up with the system over there?
The Nigerian system prepared me for the rigour that a graduate study abroad demands. However, studying abroad came with some perks. I was particularly impressed by the wealth of online academic resources that I had access to. This was inclusive of free membership to read some journals and download e-books.
In addition, the assessment feedback technique was new to me but incredibly helpful. I was only used to receiving my overall grades without specific comments on what I did well or what I could do to improve in future. During my graduate studies, I applied formative feedback from a course to an entirely different course assessment to score higher.
Best of all, my one-year course finished in due time. I sincerely hope that the Nigerian academic system will one day be purged of the intermittent academic sessions due to strikes. I had my fair share of that too, but I hope that a permanent solution is devised soon, as the future of young and talented Nigerians is at stake.
Now that you are done with your Masters degree, what is the next thing for you?
The next thing is to focus 100 percent on career development. I plan to stay learning, build relevant skills and aim for the top.
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