What career did you want when you were 15? Did you want to be a movie star, doctor, or lawyer perhaps?

There is something idyllic about having a dream of being that somebody you’d envision from an early age, the world becomes your oyster, and your hopes are boundless.

Until life hits you; then bang! You find yourself in a different career to what you expected. There are so many factors that affect young people’s decisions on their career choices. I’ve been blessed to have many conversations with entrepreneurs and professionals, and I can wholeheartedly say there are only a few who have stated that they’re on the path that they have always wanted.

Hannah Ajala is one of these anomalies.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Hannah Ajala for the past six years, and from the moment we met she has always expressed that she wanted to be a journalist. She was a first-year student when we first crossed paths, and I remember thinking to myself – ‘I left university so confused; not too sure what I was going to do.  Are you sure you are not going to change your mind?’ I kept those thoughts to myself as it was quite refreshing to hear Hannah speak. She was sure about her future endeavours. There were no ifs, buts or maybes; it was only when instantly I knew this woman is going places.

Journalism; her lifestyle

“When I was fifteen, my English teacher told me I have a natural skill to express ideas. She advised me to look into journalism.” And from that moment a young Hannah was motivated by her teacher’s positive reinforcement, she then went onto to make journalism a lifestyle.

She documented her life on social media; created amateur documentaries and followed people who were doing what she craved to do. Any opportunity that she could use to gain experience was a chance to practice journalism and develop skills and knowledge.

Hannah secured her first graduate job at the BBC in 2014, on the lead up to her graduation. Before Hannah had put on her graduation gown, her feet were already through the employment door. What did Hannah know at such an age that most final year students don’t? During her time at university, Hannah diligently networked, she worked at community radio stations and interned at various media platforms while documenting her journey through her blog. She understood early on that development of her skills would not solely occur between the four walls of the lecture room. Hannah was aware that real-world experience was vital to her future.

Her story is not about luck but a firm understanding of self and taking control of her destiny. A true testament to her character, Hannah has pushed her way through the ranks and is a journalist for the BBC, curating and presenting news on the World service programme. She is living her best life; however, journalism is just one aspect of her life.

The journey of faith

Three years ago, Hannah started a fellowship group to encourage togetherness amongst female Christians who live in London. “At that time I was researching the meaning of church. I found that church was less about the building but about the people coming together.”

Hannah took this idea onto social media, and before she knew it, she was arranging fortnightly meetups for Christian women in London. “The fellowship group is a place for us to socialise, express and learn. At our meetups we have speakers come down to talk about things such as health, finances and careers from a Christian perspective.”

What started as just an idea has led to women across London bonding together and exploring their faith. “We also have followers in USA and Nigeria, so we have online meetups with live conversations about celibacy, sex, relationships and marriage.” The fellowship allows Hannah to stay rooted while navigating through life and she also finds it refreshing that like-minded women can get together to share their journey in a relaxed and non-judgmental setting.

It doesn’t stop there for this beautiful soul.

Hannah Ajala BBC Journalist

Pursue your passion.

When Hannah is not organising fellowship meetups, she is also running her social enterprise, Pursue Your Passion (PYP). Her venture helps and teaches young people how to find careers after education (from the age of 16). “I found myself having conversations with students who did not know what they wanted to do after their studies. My business partner Rachel and I were concerned, especially as we knew what we wanted to do going into university.”

Hannah and Rachel knew how and when to apply for jobs during the final stages of their degrees. They knew how to positions themselves so that could transition into their careers. Now the duo use their experiences to help students onto finding their paths and have contributed close to 200 young people to date. “I was shocked when I realised the number of people that do not know what they want to do and are worried about their future.” Hannah and Rachel were able to pinpoint the issue that many young people face, and she feels a lack of guidance from people who have diverse ranges of experiences contribute to their uncertainty.

“We use PYP to run workshops for young people to gain an insight into different industries from people who have strong experience in fields such as finance, fashion, NHS, law, media and any other industry. We also have a mentoring scheme that guides young people throughout their time at university to transitioning into employment.”

The love of seeing young people find their passions fuels, Hannah, daily. She invests a lot of her time and money to make sure young people have the opportunities she was able to manifest when she was at a similar stage of life.

Hannah has made her remarkable journey look easy, but with closer inspection, you begin to understand her secret. She submerges herself in her passions and stays committed. It is never about the end goal; it’s about the journey. Sometimes I wonder does she ever sleep? And in her own words, “I still get 8 hours of sleep.”

Hannah Ajala will be speaking at TEDxSurreyUniversity on the 3rd March 2018 – Click here for more info: www.tedxsurreyuniversity.com

Also, you can connect with Hannah Ajala by visiting her website: www.thisishannahajala.com

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