ROLAKE ROSIJI: Technology Will Bridge Skills Gap among School Graduates


BUSINESS Interview

Chief Executive Officer, Jobberman, Rolake Rosiji, speaks about her vision for quality Job placements and the plans to leverage technology to bridge the skills gap between the employed and unemployed graduates across Nigeria and beyond. Emma Okonji presents the excerpts:

You were recently appointed as the new CEO of Jobberman. What new developments should job seekers and employers expect moving forward?

They should expect excellent customer service and fast response time. In terms of focus areas, we will broaden the impact beyond the white-collar space to leading on blue-collar services. We continue to work closely with Jobberman’s impact partners to tackle youth unemployment in Nigeria. We will do this by leveraging technology to cover more ground and bridge the skill gap between employed and unemployed graduates.

We continue to expand our executive recruitment, HR consulting such as Succession Planning and Salary Reviews.

We will continue to create transparency and access for both employers and jobseekers. Our online platform will continue to be easy to use and provide accurate up to date information – which has been filtered through carefully by clever algorithms and our in house team of recruiters.

Additionally, expect a lot of innovation and surprising approaches from us. I look forward to steering the company vision to build a diverse and inclusive market of greater technology adoption, democratic access, and transparency to handle dominant challenges, particularly youth unemployment and underemployment in Nigeria.

You’ve worked in the business services industry for several years now. What gaps have you observed in sub-Saharan Africa’s job market, and how can these gaps be closed?

The most significant gap is caused by the disparity in access to opportunities, which is closely followed by a wide skill and educational gap. The second is a consequence of the first. While some benefit from high and diversified growth, the vast majority are trapped in low-productivity environments that do nothing to improve their employability. In a country like ours, the only way to bridge these gaps is to extend opportunities to low and middle-income communities while empowering them to take advantage of these opportunities through proper education, skill acquisitions, impactful training and empowerment programs, and adequate funding. In achieving this, we will create a more inclusive job market that will provide gainful employment for Nigeria’s teeming youth population across various social classes.

As one who has taken on a couple of roles leading up to this present one, how will your experience in the past roles influence the growth and development of Jobberman?

I have 10 years of experience in the UK, Nigeria, USA, West Africa and Europe. I have worked in FMCG, fintech, renewable energy, management consulting and development. In every experience, I have gained new technical expertise, commercial capabilities and emotional intelligence in dealing with people at all levels in a range of sectors and organisations. This will mean Jobberman’s development will be bold, daring and focused. We will use technology to secure our leadership in Nigeria and to be used by people who had not considered online recruitment, exec recruitment HR consulting such as salary surveys succession planning before.

In my previous role at M-KOPA, I led a business to provide solar power kits and Samsung smartphones on flexible loans to customers in Nigeria. I built a sales force of around 200 sales agents and a commissions and incentives system to motivate loyalty and productivity from the team. I handled complex digital payments to enable customers to repay the loan in small instalments and executed several strategic partnerships with leading fintech companies in Nigeria. Working as Head of Strategy for Arla Foods, I have been responsible for large scale expansion projects that have contributed to the company’s progress and have led to other digital and technical transformations. In both roles, I have also been successful in raising funding from organisations such as The World Bank, REA, DFID, and DANIDA. In these roles and many others I have occupied, I have gained a wide and varied leadership experience in business and learned how to motivate people towards a collective goal, which are essential to moving the vision of Jobberman forward. I intend to utilize these invaluable skills to create more synergy between Jobberman and other leading companies and organizations in the country, consequently improving employability contributing to the career growth process of youths in sub-Saharan Africa.

It is evident that there is an existing gap between education and employment. How can businesses and organisations bridge this gap?

I firmly believe that there needs to be more synergy between the world of education and the world of work. Educators and employees need to work together to create innovative initiatives that can help bridge this gap. Professionals across various fields should take career talks to several schools and colleges across the country. Internships are also a great way to help young people learn more hands-on skills useful in today’s workplace.

Many businesses have experienced several setbacks due to the pandemic. Do you think there’s an upside to this unfortunate turn of events?

Of course. The economic slump was a significant windfall for companies smart enough to take advantage of it. Several companies have made some of their largest gains in this period. In terms of technological advancement, it has drastically changed workplace dynamics and has also opened our eyes to see the possibility of working remotely yet being effective in our roles. While I am aware that many lost their jobs, many others have started their businesses and have become employers in that time. Sometimes setbacks are opportunities shrouded in challenges.

There has been innovation in remote working, part-time working and flexible working which has saved costs for businesses whilst maintaining productivity. This is the future of work. If you’re not moving with the remote work trend you’ll be left behind.

How can small and medium enterprises harness technology to improve their businesses?

The world is becoming a global village and technology is fast becoming a major tool for business growth. SMEs and other startups can leverage it across all business processes. For example, from recruitment processes to HR management. Jobberman has an online platform that businesses can log in to manage the jobs they’re recruiting for and to manage their candidates.

I encourage SMEs and start-ups who probably don’t have massive funds to use our online platform for recruitment and talent management. They can also access very useful online courses. Jobberman provides free soft skills courses on our platform via Coursera and Thinkific. We also ensure candidates or employees take a test after to prove to employers they were successful in the course. We use algorithms support by over 600 assessment tools to identify the best candidates for employers. With the COVID-19 lockdown , we have special discounts and some free products .

You have served in various leadership roles in different companies. What advice would you give to women who aspire to serve in leadership roles in their fields?

The truth is it is hard for women. And in Nigeria it is a special type of hard. However – there is also a climate where women can advance faster than men if you are bold and smart. Look at all the smart women advancing in the press recently like NOI and Ebi Atawodi just to name two.

Firstly, be excellent in your field. Do the hard work and research and always show up with value to add. Combine this with emotional intelligence and putting yourself out there and the sky is your limit. Second, don’t see your gender as a limitation because that could stop you from putting yourself forward for big opportunities that come your way. The third thing I will tell you is, stand out. Invest in personal development, hone your skills, get more certifications and give them something more to talk about, other than your gender.

Understand that there is no limit to what you can achieve, so don’t place a ceiling over your accomplishments. You also have to self-promote, we live in a very competitive world where you cannot be shy about your accomplishments, learn to promote yourself on LinkedIn, conferences and events and in fact whenever you meet new people. And network smartly. Decide where you want your name to be known and be intentional about meeting the right people.

One of my favourite quotes right now is “A ship in harbour is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.”

As one who has grown through the ranks in her career, what advice do you have for youths seeking to be employed and enjoy a progressive career journey?

I believe it is essential to have a vision as a young professional. Know what you’re passionate about and what the big problems you want to solve with your career. I love the line from the Mary Oliver poem “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild, and precious life “.

The second thing is to put yourself out there and network hard and smart Send your CVs but also make sure you meet the people who you want to work with or to become like.

The third thing I’ll advise is to be a connector and provide advice even when you are not being paid. Being a “free” consultant is a fail-safe way of improving your skills. People will remember what you’re good at and come back to you when they have paid opportunities. Whilst in my position at MKOPA I had peers in the sector who I gave advice on investments and business strategy, I was later elected to be Treasurer of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigerian in a democratic vote. That would not have happened if I did not volunteer information and guidance for free. Keep developing yourself and give your best anywhere you find yourself.

The most important thing is to put yourself out there. Jobberman is a great platform to start your job search as we provide opportunities to connect you to employers. We will also train you on soft skills so that when you meet employers you have an added advantage.

Yours is one name that has been on the lips of many in recent times. So, tell us, who is Rolake Rosiji?

Well, I am Rolake Rosiji. I joined Jobberman in February as the CEO. Prior to this, I worked as a country manager for M- KOPA Solar Nigeria, an asset financing platform focused on smartphones and solar energy. In the last 10 years, I have garnered vast experience in strategic leadership and operational expertise in positions in Nigeria, Europe and the USA, and I look forward to utilising these skills for the growth and development of Jobberman.