Bukola Babajide: ‘Organisation that Doesn’t Embrace Tech Will Go Extinct’

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Bukola Babajide, a Techpreneur and a business transformation consultant, studied Economics at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and had her Msc IT Service Management from the University of Northampton U.K. The winner of “Inspirational Entrepreneur” at the African Entrepreneur Award UK 2016 in this interview with MARY NNAH talks on how her global movement is on the path to get 50,000 females into tech and empower them

Bukola Babajide started her career in banking and has worked in different capacities. She is presently the Programme Director of her company, Crystal Options Limited, a digital consultancy and software development company in the U.K. and Nigeria, where according to her, future-thinking entrepreneurs and professionals launch their digital products and services.

She is also the founder of female techpreneur “a global movement for leading ladies leveraging technology to disrupt the Status Quo. The platform helps to empower female tech founders, professionals and start-ups to launch and scale their business successfully.

How did an economist end up a techpreneur and what made the transition possible?

Although I studied economics at the OAU and started my career in a bank as a bank officer at the then Magnum Trust bank I think it is now sterling Bank, I was set to become a banker and moved to study ACCA but somehow ventured into tech when I relocated from Nigeria to the UK.

I didn’t choose Tech, tech chose me because everyone around me then was into IT and as I tried to find my way and settle to live in the UK it was easier to get the necessary support and guidance and it didn’t seem a hard nut to crack, of course, it pays well too.

Tech is the future! And you can express technology in every industry be it in art, banking or music so am still not far off. I have also been fortunate in my career journey to still have worked within financial institutions

Virtually all businesses claim to have embraced the digital revolution but as a specialist in this line, what constitutes real digitalisation?

Go digital or die! It may seem harsh but any organisation that doesn’t embrace tech will go extinct. If nothing else, the pandemic has shown us how much we need technology, it has helped to keep things going when everything else was in lockdown. It also fast-tracked changes that we reluctantly now accept as the new norm such as remote working and telemedicine etc.

So what is digitalization? Digitalisation is when you use digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities. When you completely automate your processes and systems from physical to digital for example converting papers checks to e-payment.

How can it help me?

Digitalisation is now not a “nice to have” is a “must-have” for everyone, it saves time, creates opportunities and makes life easier, if anyone can combine the 3 elements and provide these in their business or even profession then will be valuable.

It is also important to say that technology is an enabler, so let me put a spin on this, technology is nothing without the people, process and organisation. So we need a holistic view to ensure adoption and successful change.

What’s the challenge you face in helping entrepreneurs and professionals launch their digital products?

I will not say I have a challenge because that is why they came to me, so I am a problem solver and I utilize my business analysis skills to simplify any complex or ambiguous challenges experienced by my clients. I have managed digital transformation change activities across a multi-client/multi-product environment in a complex landscape with the team in dispersed remote locations.

One of the key areas that I find that experts or organisations need the most help in, is developing their concept or identifying what value proposition they actually have to be converted to a product, program or service. I usually tackle this with a strategy session to understand the core need for their ideas and if indeed we can uncover the potential and translate that to a viable business proposition.

Also, systems and process improvements, potential clients need help with identification of where they can make savings or cut out losses, to operate to optimal capability to generate ROI. So I help with identifying gaps, bottlenecks, excessive hand-offs, manual activity, duplication and mapping of roles and responsibilities this would allow for automation.

Lastly, tech skills and tools application is also an area that more can be done to provide support.

You’re a real inspiration to women in tech; what aspect of your background set the tone for your career path?

To be fair, nothing particularly prepared me for this career path as I just found myself here, back in the days there weren’t any career coaches/advisers. We were just told to study medicine, law or accounting etc. those were some of the popular choices then.

But the soft skills that I learnt from my mother who is now a retired teacher helped me to develop a passion for lifelong learning, tenacity and not giving up when things aren’t going my way. I also became better as I started to teach others, when you teach, you learn.

The truth is if it wasn’t tech, whatever and wherever I find myself I always want to add value and achieve success. It was a combination of fierce determination, commitment to learning and sharing what you know with others.

How are you contributing to tackling the gender representation gap in tech?

I launched a community called “female techpreneur” a global movement of ladies leveraging technology to disrupt the status-quo. This is to create awareness, role models and a platform for more females to get into tech either as a career or to launch their tech idea. I also speak at events to create awareness and demystify the idea that tech is for geeks.

Our agenda is to continue to create initiatives that allow the girl child to explore possibilities in tech as a career or have the interest to pursue their tech idea as an entrepreneur.

And also support career changers and tech founders to network and be with like minds to boost confidence and share best practices.

In what visible ways has this initiative yielded results?

We are fairly new, launched March 5, 2020 but we have been able to continue even with the pandemic disruptions to hold virtual events, start-up boot camps, masterclasses and networking events to help connect and support non-tech, aspiring tech founders’ launch and scale.

We have also managed to host pitch sessions where start-up founders seeking funding support have been able to present their business for assessment.

We launched our talent hub to provide unique product development for start-ups to create a minimum viable product.

How are you giving back generally as one whose business is locally and internationally successfully established?

For female techpreneur, most of our initiatives are free to attend, and all facilitators have been supportive to also give their time to share their expertise and I host a career and employability programme in Nigeria under the umbrella of Business and career network to help graduates learn employability skills. We also offer internship opportunities to graduates for work experience. We offer mentorship and education programmes plus we have a pipeline of programs to help launch a tech idea.

Let’s talk about your childhood; what was growing up like and in what city did you grow up?

I grew up in a loving and caring environment; I’m the 4th child of five and the first girl of the family. You can imagine how my older three brothers would have been thrilled to have a baby sister, I was told they all doted on me and still do. I have a younger sister who is like my twin.

My parents weren’t particularly rich, but we never lacked. I grew up in Ile-Ife, one of the best places to live at the time, and even now.

Life was so much easier and gadget-free unlike now. I have so many fond memories of my growing up, and most of my friends that also grew up in Ife would attest to it being one of the best parts of the world to be in and it played a balanced part in my life journey! Plus, my mother is also a Princess of the “source”, so I have a special affinity to the town.

What were your dreams and aspirations as a child?

A small girl with a big dream, my aspiration was very simple… to make an impact. I didn’t know how, when and where but I was so determined to make a difference.

I decided very early in life that I wasn’t going to settle for mediocrity, I was going to push boundaries and make the best of whatever situation I find myself.

I am still a big dreamer, still on the journey and I heard if your dreams don’t scare you it’s not big enough!

Steve Jobs says, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” So, what are you passionate about, able to do and provide value? Dream big!

What drives you daily now?

I am driven by the purpose to level the field in tech and ensure we have more females in tech. The World Economic Forum (WEF) states that by 2030 there will be digital skills shortage, how do we mitigate this?

I want to be the change! I want to see and facilitate the amount of work that needs to be done to drastically reduce the gap and create more awareness and support for the underrepresented group to be more involved, not only do I desire the change but to be the catalyst for the change.

To have a forum to see more male advocates, organisations and government agencies supporting the females to excel in their tech pathways whether as professional or entrepreneur.