Have you ever dreamt of working in another country? You may have thought about it or even know somebody that has made that transition, but there are a lot of things to consider. Where will you live? Is it safe? Will you get along with your new colleagues? What are the living costs? Will I make friends?…The list of questions can go on. However, the more questions I ask, the more I realise that not many of us would leave what we know and love for something completely unknown.

I didn’t need to look far to speak with someone who has made this life changing decision. At 5.30 am before the sun had even had a chance to rise I set off to London, Heathrow airport to bid adieu to a very good friend of mine and someone who I respect highly, Abiola Olajide.

For the past 15 years and counting that I have known Abiola, he has always been financially savvy. Even when buying sweets as kids, he was like a human calculator offering financial advice so we could make our money stretch. By the age of 16 he earned a placement at Credit Suisse, from then, it was not an if, but when he will become an accountant.

Abiola, the Nigerian born, London raised accountant for DigitasLBi, took a leap of a faith and left his home in London to venture into one of the most ultramodern cities in the world; Dubai.

Kofi: What made you leave London to work in Dubai?

Abiola: When the opportunity arose a few months ago, I knew it would be a great step in my career – it was a no brainer. The kid in me was like ‘Oh hell, Yes’ however I knew I had a lot to think about before making this decision, but I knew deep down that this was my calling.

K: How do you feel now that it is time leave?

Abiola: Scared may not be the right word to describe the way I feel entirely, but I would use that word for now. I’m scared to be on my own, but at the same time, I’m intrigued by it. Change brings growth, and me being alone doing something I have never done in my life will bring that growth.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve put myself out of my comfort zone in my work and social life, so I’m looking forward to this experience.”


K: How have you coped with the idea of leaving loved ones behind?

Abiola: To be honest I try not to think about it and push those thoughts to the back of my mind. I don’t know if that is healthy but only time will tell. My family is excited for me especially my mother; we are close, so I know at the same time it ‘s hard for her to see me go. She understands that this is something I have to do for myself to grow as a person.

The reason why my mother and sister are not with me right now on the way to the airport is that it will be too hard to say goodbye.

K: Why is growth important to you?

Abiola: {Laughs} Because I want to be successful.
The way I see it, success comes with the ability to be fully able to provide for my family and close friends – I’m not successful until the people around me are okay.

K: Is there anything, in particular, you’re looking forward to in Dubai?

Abiola: My mind is open to the whole experience; social life, work life, food, culture, and living alone.

Being in this situation will force me to think outside the box and I think being by myself will give me time to reflect and that’s something that we all need.

K: Have you changed your working environment in the past?

Abiola: Yes, I have. I currently work at DigitasLBi, but I actually moved to a more corporate job 2 years ago. At that time, I felt I had outgrown the role I was in and felt the need to develop my career further so I made the change. I left a creative based company for a more corporate company and in the process I learned a lot about myself; that I could survive in any environment.

K: I find in general creative companies and corporate companies have different cultures most notably the dress code, how did you find the change?

Abiola: In general, the culture of a company will differ regardless of their sector. For me, DigitasLBi has a laid-back and cool environment whereas the city job had a very serious and formal mood. With that in mind, I think that my personality is much more suited to DigitasLBi’s culture; it’s cool, creative, easy going, a think box for ideas, and has great synergy to produce great work.

I love fashion and believe you can tell a lot about somebody by the way they’re dressed, i.e what their personality may be like or what their interests are. Whilst working in the city I felt like another number, another person in a suit, a small part of a big machine to keep it going. I just didn’t feel like I could be myself and I knew that’s what I needed to produce my best work; when I realised this, I knew my home was at DigitasLBi.
Don’t get me wrong, I could have gone to another corporate company and had a totally different experience. I know a lot of people in corporate jobs that love what they do and thrive in that environment, but that’s them.

K: You must have left your job at DigitasLBi on good terms, did you feel like you were going backwards at all?

Abiola: {Laughs} I did question myself – ‘am I going backwards?’ but ultimately I decided to put my happiness and well being first, and that’s a decision I’ll never regret.
I went back to DigitasLBi and within 6 months I was promoted to a managerial position, then another 6 months later, I have been promoted and now on my way to Dubai. I have nothing to lose and I can’t wait!

It was a surreal moment to see Abiola walk through the departure gates; he waved walking forward and didn’t look back – at this moment I realised, Abiola has moved forward in his journey in life. A young man born in Nigeria, who grew up in his teens in London, Hackney, went against the grain and took the opportunities as they arose.

“Kwame Nkrumah – We face neither East nor West: we face forward.”

Subject – Abiola Olajide, accountant and finance manager
Writer & Photographer – @Kofi Dwaah

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