Friday, April 12, 2024
Ignite the mind.


My media Journey: Be assertive and intentional, don’t play the victim card, show why you are worth it – Azeezat Olaoluwa, BBC Senior Journalist

For Azeezat Olaoluwa, being assertive and intentional is a skillset every woman who wants to succeed in the media space has to cultivate and develop. Her commitment to a craft she never considered as a career option speaks more about how hidden gifts can be elusive to those who possesses it, yet go on to make a lot of difference.
In this Exclusive Interview with us at LightRay Media on the Nigeria Women in Media Project Series, she shows us how important in every professional move one makes, it has to contribute to one’s big overall career picture. She believes in not waiting for anyone to tell your story. So, sit back and enjoy this cruise as Azeezat Olaoluwa, a Seniour Journalist with the BBC News in West Africa, who tells original content for tv, radio and digital, narrates her own unique media journey.


You recently completed your masters and did a programme with Her Tech Trail. Tell us about why this was important at this time in your career and why tech, AI, and digital skills are important for a journalist?

We are in a knowledge-based society so it’s important for every career person to continue to upskill in order to improve their value. Alot of employers will always consider what qualifications you have when deciding on your pay offer. Also, tech in penetrating all professions including journalism, therefore, we have to reskill to scale up or just pivot into more fulfilling career paths.

When was the first time you knew journalism was going to be your passion and career?

I know this will shock many people but I never wanted to practice journalism. Yes, I studied Mass Communication but I focused on Advertising. I was one of the best students in Advertising that my lecturer even gave me a recommendation letter but getting into that profession without someone holding your hand and opening the door is quite hard.

Azeezat, covering Nigeria’s 2023 election.

Olaoluwa: I heard somewhere that if you don’t treat your employees well, they will use your internet most of the time to search for jobs.

The first person that said Journalism would be a good career path for me was my Economics teacher in secondary school. The day he told me, I cried and begged him not to prophecy such. Lol. I saw that profession as a poor people’s thing.lol. As I grew older, many more told me the same thing and so I started considering studying Mass Communication. So to answer your question, many people knew it before me. (I smiled at her response as it struck a Profound cord in me).

At what point did you feel your career was no longer just a job you showed up to? How did you pivot or even change the course of your career?

It was the day I covered the flooding that destroyed homes in Ikorodu due to the opening of a dam sometime in 2010. Seeing how the victims desperately wanted to see how the flooding had destroyed their homes and property made me feel I had been entrusted with their voices and I needed to speak for them . That was at the earliest stage of my career so that experience made me become more interested in telling human angle stories.

What were some of the struggles for you in the early stages of your career, and how did you overcome them?

A ridiculously low pay with very long work hours. But because I needed to grow my experience, I gave it my best. I ended up getting poached by a bigger Media organization two years later.

Azeezat Olaoluwa: Celebrate your milestones. Every win matters so learn to put yourself out there more. Be assertive and intentional. Let every professional move you make contribute to your big picture. Again, do not wait for anyone to tell your story, you already have the voice, use it. Don’t play the victim card, instead show why you are worth it. Offer to help on big projects, complain less and proffer solutions. Simply be your own number cheer leader. Family is everything to me, so I have been able to manage my life well thanks to my supportive husband.

Do you still have any current challenges you’re trying to overcome?

I don’t think I do. I feel like I have gone 360 degrees when it comes to Journalism. Do I want to move to the administrative side of it or just transition to a new career path is the big question in front of me.

What are some of the barriers you think has prevented you from hitting the career target you’ve set for yourself?

It may be a lack of work experience. A number of employers want to know you have done something before in any capacity before they can give you a chance. Some would tell you we can see you are very intelligent but unfortunately you haven’t done this before and the person we need at this time can’t afford to learn on the job.

What is the best plan to overcoming these barriers?

Keep trying, keep pushing. Sometimes, it may just not be the right time to make ‘the’ move, another time, you may be approaching the wrong people.

What are some of the stories or projects you’ve done that was the most impacful in the course of your career?

Some of them are Sex for Water, the Effect of Covid-19 Pandemic on Sex Workers, All-Female Lawyers Helping Awaiting Trial Inmates, The Perils of Female Artisanal Miners in Sierra Leone, Cost of Living Crisis in Sierra Leone, the Role of Market Women in Nigerian Elections, the Vaccination Tracker Saving Nigerian children, Omugwo: Nigeria’s Historical Practice, Stingy men and Dating etiquette in Nigeria, Nigerian Women Say Enough to SGBV.

Azeezat Olaoluwa: Ignore the trolls. Once you respond, you make them feel they have power. If things take a scary turn that you feel unsafe, go to the police.

What career projection are you setting up for yourself you intend to meet up?

I am holding that close to my chest for now. But getting a Master’s degree was the first step towards my next big thing.

What training programmes or short courses have you attended, which you applied on the job that made the most impact for you?

The Free Press Unlimited/Wole Soyinka Report Women Fellowship stands out for me because of its focus on women journalists. It helped me to sharpen my Gender lens and made it easy for me to get my first role at BBC News as the Women’s Affairs Journalist for West Africa four years ago.

What suggestions will you give media owners or heads of media business to help boost morale, effectiveness, and reduce toxicity in the workplace?

Discourage internal politics, reward hardwork, give fair pay, facilitate lots of career trainings, encourage career growth, pay attention to staff welfare, etc. I heard somewhere that if you don’t treat your employees well, they will use your internet most of the time to search for jobs.

If you were to reimagine your career, what would you do differently, starting today?
I would probably take another career path. Lol. Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets. So since I have enjoyed journalism, what I would do differently starting today would be to network more and apply for more training programs.

How and what can women in media begin to do differently and better to hold their own space within the media industry?

Celebrate your milestones. Every win matters so learn to put yourself out there more. Be assertive and intentional. Let every professional move you make contribute to your big picture. Again, do not wait for anyone to tell your story, you already have the voice, use it. Don’t play the victim card, instead show why you are worth it. Offer to help on big projects, complain less and proffer solutions. Simply be your own number cheer leader.

Olaoluwa at the McMillan Memorial Library in Nairobi filming the digitisation of the people’s history.

Azeezat Olaoluwa: The brown envelope tradition needs to go. When people see that they can’t influence Journalists, there will be more respect and dignity. News must never be transactional.

What tips in personal development, career pursuit, network strategies, and wealth creation would you advise other women in media, including men, to tap into?

Improve your digital presence, leverage the opportunities on LinkedIn.

How do you balance your personal life, work, and family expectations? Which aspects give you the most challenges, and how were you able to overcome them?

I try to strike a balance, but what has helped me, although it’s unhealthy, is to always push demanding tasks to when my family has gone to sleep. I keep in touch when I am away and make sure I am fully available when back. Family is everything to me, so I have been able to manage my life well thanks to my supportive husband.

Tell us something about the media industry you would like to see change for the better? And why is this change important?

The brown envelope tradition needs to go. When people see that they can’t influence Journalists, there will be more respect and dignity. News must never be transactional.

In the next 3-5 years, where do you see yourself?
Ha! I see myself hopefully in another profession but still related to Communication though.

How do you think the Nigerian media can up its ante to compete more favourable with international media organisations?

There are many ethical and editorial issues they need to get right.

In your years on the job, have you ever experienced burnout, mental fatigue, or mental health crisis? How did you handle it? How can women and men in the media reduce burnout, mental health breakdown, or prevent it?

Who hasn’t in this profession? (we both laugh and roll our eyes at her response). I have learnt to detach myself from the job, although it’s hard sometimes, especially if you usually produce emotive human angle stories. Having your organisation readily provide support is very important to journalists. This is one of the things local media can do more.

Azeezat Olaoluwa in the field creating amd producing for the BBC.

Azeezat Olaoluwa: A number of employers want to know you have done something before in any capacity before they can give you a chance. Some would tell you we can see you are very intelligent but unfortunately you haven’t done this before and the person we need at this time can’t afford to learn on the job.

Let’s talk about online harrasment… have you experienced it in any form? Or any other threats on the job? How did you deal with it? What steps can women in media take to prevent or deal with online harrasment, and so on?

I did many times while I was at TVC News. I was targeted online and this particular person kept asking for me to be sacked because they felt I wasn’t loyal to my employer due to the way I used to drill politicians on one of the programs I presented.

If you were to suggest women, and for journalists in general, how do you think they can up their ante on online security? And how can women deal with online harrasment, what tips would you give?

Ignore the trolls. Once you respond, you make them feel they have power. If things take a scary turn that you feel unsafe, go to the police.

What are some common mistakes you have observed journalist make in the course of their career you’ve observed? And why do you think this happens?

Staying too long in their comfort zone, not being too ambitious and not getting more skills.

Azeezat Olaoluwa: For the Nigeria Media, there are many ethical and editorial issues they need to get right.

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