2021 - Three years plus x.

Adeola Afolayan
6 min readJan 5, 2022


Every step I’ve taken since the past few years has led me here.

At Mest, Ikoyi, Lagos

The years preceding 2021 were filled with lots of confusion, answer-seeking, and low self-esteem. It looked like I was doing so many things without any tangible results or progression. Between 2018 and 2020, I had taken courses on HTML, Java Programming, SQL, Python, Data Science, and eventually Digital marketing.

In our end-of-year review meeting, I remember telling my colleagues that 2021 for me felt like 3 different years rolled into one. I think it’s because I transitioned across different phases of my life in one year. I got certified in professional marketing, celebrated my 30th birthday, decided to walk away from a love project, got promoted at work, moved to a new city, met a lot of amazing people, and dived deep into product management.

I was facilitating a training program.

I had a strong need to learn professional marketing because of my past work in digital marketing and a brief stint with an e-commerce startup in the year 2020.

So in the last quarter of 2020, I began the CIM Professional qualifications program (Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK) and wrote the first and only exam in the 3 modules required for level 4. The first two quarters of 2021 were spent studying and writing assignments for the professional certificate. I got to learn and appreciate the fundamentals of applied marketing as well as practical approaches to customer insight and campaign planning during this program. It was quite tough and very hands-on.

During this period, I was working remotely full-time at JASS Academy, a company focused on Talent Development & Digital services Outsourcing. You see, I started working at JASS in 2017. I was employed to train as a Specification writer and offer remote services to a Specs Writing firm in Dallas, USA. I have transitioned and grown into different roles since then and learned so much. Currently, I work with top management to build and promote the company’s brand value as a means of growing revenue and expanding capacity.

Specification writers describe to builders the different types of materials used in construction projects. They also instruct builders on how to use the materials. These descriptions or specifications cover everything from the type of concrete used in the foundation to the type of paint used on the front door. Source: Encyclopedia.com

I would also dash out every other day of the week to improve my culinary skills. I fell in love with baking during my undergrad days at the university and spent the past couple of years investing valuable resources to build a Cake & confectionery business.

But this time around, I was going to do an objective analysis of the Cake business, it was either a big yes or no. While learning, I started to evaluate my own capabilities, the business requirements to succeed, as well as the industry outlook. I got more hands-on exposure into the industry and learned that despite the low barrier to entry, it is highly demanding and competitive yet with lots of overheads. With this realization, I resolved to focus on my professional career going forward.

Meanwhile, in April, I celebrated my 30th birthday with friends and family.

With "improving my baking skills" out of the way, and the Marketing program completed, I decided to take an objective look at my interests and competencies. A role in marketing didn’t jump at me. I also do not like the traditional marketing space because I couldn’t see the flexibility and clear growth path I desired in a career(I was focused on the Nigerian market😏 and maybe I’m wrong)

I examined my innate aspirations in a career. I started from my current role to identify the things I excelled at and perhaps enjoyed doing and remembered my very first project management experience.

About 2 years ago, I worked on my first website revamp project as a project assistant. The goal was to optimize the client’s online presence by creating a new website, optimizing the client’s social media and other communication channels.

I remember compiling the meeting notes at the discovery session with so much ecstasy and identifying the project milestones to quickly share with the team. It was my first introduction to project management. I was responsible for managing the scope, stakeholders and monitoring timelines for the project. I worked with the team to source vendors and facilitated ongoing communication with all stakeholders.

This Yoruba proverb best describes my feeling on that day!

Ti won ba ghesin ninu mi, koni kose — meaning if someone rides a horse in my stomach, the horse will not miss a step.

Literally meaning, I was filled with much joy and a horse ride will be very pleasant without any form of mishaps.

I have managed many other projects afterward and gotten better at them. Today I conduct project discovery sessions, Initiation, planning, execution, and closeouts with little to no supervision. I am very grateful for that opportunity.

Fast forward to July 2021, I had a performance review with my boss and that boosted my morale to learn more about project management. I set out to acquire as much knowledge as possible to improve my skills and enrolled for the Google Project Management Specialization Program on Coursera. The program has been very eye-opening and somewhat intensive for an online program. I wrapped up the final course in the specialization 6 months later, in December.

Unlike the Marketing program, I didn’t wait to complete the Project Management Specialization before I started seeking out opportunities and researching the career path. Interestingly, search results for product management kept popping up.

I discussed this concern with a few friends even after 2 different encounters to inspire me to learn product management. The first one was during the ProductDive orientation while the second encounter was a client who explicitly recommended a career in Product Management to me.

Personal research, my work experience, interests in technology solutions, flexibility(hybrid work style), and growth opportunities are my biggest motivations to transition into product management.

I completed the virtual learning experience training for product management by Entry-level in October. I also joined communities online, shout out to everyone at People in Product and 33 Product Teardowns. I have leveraged insights from people and resources across the internet like books, webinars, YouTube videos, and a number of other short courses to fill my knowledge gap.

I must say at this point that I am thankful to everyone who has been a part of my journey, my family, friends, my boss, and colleagues at work, and everyone out there creating or sharing resources and doing their part to make the world a better place.

Looking ahead, I will continue to update myself with relevant knowledge and work to impact others too. I am excited about what 2022 brings!