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Mrs. Bose Afolabi-Ajayi is a trained teacher turned Information Technologist. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Peach Systems Ltd., an information\communication technology and consultancy company. In this interview,
she leads Modupe George, into her profession, why people crave for Hi-tech phones, and the need for government to have everything under control before embarking on the cashless policy, among other issues. Excerpts:
You studied Guidance and Counselling, but how did Marketing come into the picture?
ACTUALLY, it all started in 1988, when I graduated from the university. I was looking for something to keep me busy and then, I got a job with a company called PERA\BEAM, an arm of UACN as an office marketer. There, I was given the opportunity to go out and market their products. We were selling office equipment such as photocopiers, typewriters etc. When I left this firm, I got a teaching job at Lagelu Grammar School and I was there for some time. Later, I got married and I went back into the marketing field because there were some things I did not enjoy about teaching; one of them was the fact that as a good teacher, you must teach all arms of your class the same topic without you missing out on anything. Also, I have always loved the idea of being on the move at all times, thus I was prompted to go into marketing.
You were a marketer and now you are fully into information technology, what motivated you?
I have always loved marketing, because the flair for making money has always been in me. I fell in love with selling office equipment at PERA\BEAM, where I first worked because I knew there is no office that would not require the use of technological equipment, even if it’s an ordinary binding machine. Concerning my journey into IT; in the early 90s, computers started being the ‘in-thing’, so whenever I saw vacancy in any IT firm, I would apply. Fortunately for me, I got appointed at KES Computers Engineering Limited in Lagos. One thing I enjoyed about the job was that the managing director really brought me up and put me through the act of IT, because I came from a company where we were only expected to market, but at KES, we were really exposed to the world of IT.
What was growing up like?
It was great fun, it was just like yesterday. A friend reminded me recently on BBM about the ‘ten-ten days’, throwing of kites among other children’s plays. I also remember that during Christmas, my siblings and I would stay outside and sing carols. My father was a teacher and he brought up other children who were not his biological offsprings, so we had a very interesting childhood. Sometimes, at home, the boys would gather and do some ‘wrestling’, but there is this saying that; ‘20 children cannot play for 20 years. We are scattered all over the world now, but those memories still linger. I went to Queen of Apostles Secondary School, Oluyoro, Ibadan which was surrounded by three ‘all-boys’ schools and I won’t forget the Literary and Debating Society days and the annual ‘bazaar dance’. The school would organise a disco party and invite the students from other schools. There was so much excitement; we would add extra starch on our skirts so that it would come out bright and sharp and we would have practised different dance steps in order to “out-do” ourselves on such days.
With your experience in IT, how have Nigerians been fairing?
Trust Nigerians, even if the people who invented technology are not so interested, Nigerians would always show keen interest. For instance, the new Blackberry Porsche, which is being sold for about N350, 000, is being craved for by Nigerians, when a phone of 25,000 can perform the same function. Besides, some people would rather get a computer of N350,000 than that of N80,000 all because they want to prove their status; not knowing that a phone that costs N80,000 could even perform better. Although, the business class prefer to go for the expensive ones because they feel such phones have more capacity for their jobs. Do you know that some of the people who use “BB Porsche” are living in rented apartments? The daily introduction of new technology is something that worries me a lot; for instance, this cash-less policy which says that it is not safe to carry money about except with the use of POS and internet banking, appears to me that fewer people would be needed in the banking industry.
Don’t you think this will make people like you smile to the bank?
Well, there are pros and cons. Electronics and technology can fail sometimes; a new machine can have problems and people may not understand why. I normally tell my clients that even a new baby can have jaundice not because he wasn’t created wholly by God, but because he\she might have been wrongly exposed in the hospital or even infected from the mother’s womb. Nevertheless, some problems can be fixed. There could be a lot of pitfalls in technology; sometimes when one goes to the bank, the server may be down; which most of the time causes delay. If the government wants to operate the cashless policy, she should put everything under control.
Are you saying that the cashless policy has come to stay?
I think the CBN is just experimenting with Lagosians before they move to other states. I think with time, everything would be put in place.
How are you coping with marketing challenges and financial implication with the rate at which innovations are being introduced ?
The truth of the matter is that we have to move with technology. Mostly, I deal with HP and it brings out new models almost every week; they call it moving with technology. Just as we are moving, some people are ready to also move with change, though some people still prefer to stay where they are. It will shock you that some people are still using typewriters at this age! When new models are out, we try to push out old ones through sales.
The introduction of handy computerised gadgets like I-pod, I-pad, MP3 among others, has its advantages, but what can you say about the juvenile excessive tilt among the youth?
The excessive use of IT gadgets by the youth is really alarming. They know more than the adults. Even my 10-year-old daughter knows a lot about technology more than I do; but one thing parents should do is to instill the fear of God in their children. You may try to bar them, but the truth is, it’s only when a child is disciplined and knows his\her boundaries that he\she would know what not to do with these IT gadgets. Also, we should be careful what we teach in our religious settings. Recently, I heard a particular pastor said there is nothing wrong with masturbation. If parents can teach their children good morals, I don’t see any problem. I tell my children not to accept all friend requests online, except from those they know.
At what age should a child be exposed to the use of IT?
It should start from the primary school level. Parents should be aware of the sites their children are visiting and tutor them on how to maximise the benefits. I have heard that children should not be allowed to use phone at an early stage, but the best way to handle this is to monitor them. For instance, in boarding schools, the phone is retrieved from them, but the children can still make calls while the teachers are there. There are also universities that don’t allow the usage of phones. However, there are stories of girls who would smuggle their phones into their rooms for night calls to their secret lovers and to receive erotic text messages. Technology has changed a lot of things positively, but we must not overlook the negative aspect.
Apart from your involvement in IT, what other things do you do?
I am also into buying and selling; whenever I travel out of the country and I see nice and unique accessories, I buy and sell to my friends when I return. I like to be busy all the time.
What can you say about the level of exposure in Nigeria to technological innovations?
We are not yet there, but we are getting close.
Can we meet your husband?
My husband is a very private person. He has been there for me through thick and thin. He has been very supportive and kind to me. Our marriage clocked 19 years in May and we are blessed with two lovely children.
Any regret in marriage?
Not at all, I’m happy and fulfilled. Though, a normal marriage would have its ups and downs and that is why whenever the younger generation come to me to tell me they are getting married, I do tell them that marriage is definitely sweet but not “a bed of roses”. I counsel them to be prepared and that with God all things are possible. The Yoruba will say, “ile oko, ile eko ni”. I encourage them to be prayerful, know the type of friends they keep, make their husbands their lords; like Sarah called her husband her lord and above all after God, they should let them be their lord.
What is the secret behind your beautiful looks?
It’s simply God’s favour and I take my time to rest whenever I have the opportunity to do so. I sleep late and wake up early to put things in order at home before going to work. In the office, when there is not much to do, I take time off to relax and read newspapers and magazines.
Any memorable event you would never forget?
My wedding ceremony. It was so great. Whenever I remember the day, I bless God for what He has done, what He is doing and what He will continue to do in my life and home.
Can we have a peep into your educational background?
Academically, I’ve gone through all the phases; from the modern to grammar school, college of education and then to the university, where I studied Educational Guidance and Counseling/Language Arts.
As an achiever, how will you encourage other women?
Women should always put their home first in whatever they do. Every woman must be the backbone of her husband. When a need of N10, 000 arises in the house and the husband drops N7, 000, the wife should be able to provide N3, 000. Whether as a career woman or a business woman, a woman must know her boundaries. You shouldn’t tell your husband you don’t have money while spending on frivolous things. A good woman must support her husband in the training of their children because a child that is not trained, would sell the house you have built. A woman should always put the home first and with support of the husband, put the children on the right track.