Saturday, March 10, 2018

On working mums: A baby or a cat? Why not both?

I remember that day in Cologne. It was 2006 and the German football World Cup was playing in Germany. A few of us from work would leave work during the early evenings to watch matches at the various viewing locations across the city. I can’t remember exactly which countries had just played, but it had been an exciting match and we were chatting on the way to the cars.
I can’t clearly recollect what we were talking about, but it was likely about children because a female colleague suddenly turned to me and said “you have to decide what you want, children or a career. If you want a career get a cat.”
I carried the anxiety along with me for years since I am an ambitious woman and I love to push boundaries, but I have always wanted to have children ever since I can remember. So I it was difficult deciding on the right time to have a baby without having to automatically end my career ambitions.

Yes I can finally say it aloud without feeling ashamed that I have a fierce drive for achievement inside me. I was almost 38 when I started to own this part of me that has always been with me since I can remember. I am ambitious and I own my fierce ambition unapologetically. As long as I don’t have to do anything illegal, dubious or harmful to my family, I will give whatever I have to bring whatever I set my heart to to fruition. And I have set my heart to quite a bit. Watch this space.

Luckily, the decision was taken out of my hands and I found out I was pregant in 2008 and I had my daughter. I absolutely loved and love being a mother and she quickly became the center of my life. I took time completely off work for 8 months. At some point I decided to go back to work and I was grateful to work for a company and live in a society that gives parents the opportunity to work part time. Once I started work though, at 10 hours per week, I found that those number of hour were too limited for me to be able to work on anything too exciting or challenging. So I started to increase the number of hours I worked. Eventually by year 2 of my parental leave, I was working 30 hours a week and I was finally working on something exciting, tasking and challenging. I became pregant ith my sn that  year and up until 8 months pregnancy I was commuting once a week and I was often mind numbingly tired but was never bored and never regretted going back to work.

When my son came in the spring of 2012, I was sure I would not be working part time. It was either I was working in a challenging role, which typically meant working full time or I was not going to work at all until I was ready. I had  sent in my application for parental leave for a period when I happened on the perfect role for me. It was exactly what I had been looking for, but unfortunately the timing was a bit off.  As I had expected there was no chance to do that job part time. I had a 5 month old baby and I had to decide what to do.
I spent time in prayer asking for a signal that it was the right job for me to take. For me in the that period, the right signal needed to take the form of flexible childcare. Someone who would come in and watch the baby at home while I worked so I could continue to breastfeed. God answered my prayers and R came into our lives. She had just turned 60 and had been recently widowed. Lonely and grieving, we were as much an answer to her prayers as she was to ours. She has become like a grandmother to my kids, gone on business trips with me and the baby and become a part of our extended family.
I now have the baby and the pet ( in our case two hamsters) and a job that challenges and excites me.
Has it been easy and without bumps? No I wouldn’t say so. But we have found our own solution that has helped us ensure having a successful career and children are not mutually exclusive for me. 
I remember reading a section of an biography of Michelle Obama and she said something to the effect that you need to get it all done, but you don’t need to get it all done yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for or get help in your quest for work life balance. I can confidently say it has not made me a worse mother of less connected to my kids, just a less stressed out working mum. Don’t be afraid to look for your own unique solution.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Good networkers are born

I am an excellent networker. In non work situations, that is. I find it easy to converse with absolute strangers on a whole range of diverse topics and even where I know nothing about said topic, I always manage to walk away learning something new about said topic and have a nice time while doing so.
Some of my closest friends are people I met because I decided to say hello and make small talk in situations where on the surface, there was no reason to "talk". 
Let me share a few examples:
I met O at the hairdressers. She was getting her hair done and engrossed in her book. I ended up chatting her up, found out that she is also Nigerian. We exchanged business  cards and I got in touch. 
 We have become close friends and 10 years down the line, my husband and I are godparents to her second daughter. O also now belongs to my lean in circle and we are sharing tips for career advancement. 
A and I crossed paths as I was leaving the library and she was going in. We smiled, said hi, started talking and decided to go grab a drink together. 
Over a decade of friendship has followed and we get along so well including with our spouses. 
A is an amazingly talented woman and she coached me very successfully when I had two key interviews. Being that I'm an engineer, I am not very good at self marketing and her coaching really helped me learn to tell my story better. 
Apart from the fact that she is a fantastic coach, we value her friendship and that of her husband and in spite of the fact that they moved back to the US, we hope to keep in touch more often in the future
When I lived in Moscow, I made two key friendships in this manner. 
The first one was Sergey. Sergey and I met in a bus on the way from Novomoskovsk to Moscow. This was in the spring of 1998. At that time, I was in Russian language school and I could not speak good Russian yet. Sergey saw that I was reading an English book and struck up a conversation with me. He ended up showing me the Red Square for the very first time. We have kept in touch over the years. 
The second person was Alexander aka Sasha. He just randomly started talking to me one day on the Metro in Moscow ( Russians do that all the time " Devoshka, mozhno s Vami poznokomitsa?" Can I get to know you? is a common refrain any woman who has spent a bit of time in Moscow will recognize). 
It turned out he was a photographer and I ended up doing some modeling for him for some sports and car magazines, which was a cool way to make some money as a student.
 I met his family and also developed a good relationship with them. Just writing this brings back memories of tons of shashlik (grill) parties in the forests of Moscow.  Sasha and I are also back in touch thanks to facebook. 

So why am I writing this seemingly  random post? The fact is that I am not as effortlessly adept as I am in Networking on my private time, when it comes to professional Settings.
 I have been giving a thought to why that is the case and have come up with tips that will help you as well if you struggle in the same manner.
1) be authentic: I know it may sound like a cliche, but this is really key. My authentic self likes people. I enjoy learning about people collecting their stories and I am never too upset if they decide not to share. However, in my experience, sometimes we tend to put on 'work personas' which dictate what types of behaviors are appropriate at work and what are not. 
I have committed to being myself absolutely in every networking situation. That means if someone catches my fancy I won't hesitate to try to get into conversation. Just try it and you will see most people are intrigued and you will be chatting on before you know it. This is how I met my best career mentor to date.
2) take the first step: I just read something recently about giving a little first. Many people feel just as awkward in professional networking situations so smile first and say hello first. You'll be surprised at the responses you will get. 
3) make eye contact. Not in a threatening manner, but in an open friendly manner. I find that many times when I'm preoccupied I tend not to make eye contact and it automatically creates a barrier and puts people off from talking to you. 
4) Small talk can lead to interesting discussions, so don't be afraid of small talk. 
5) cultivate a friendly welcoming exterior. Even if you are too shy to take the first step, looking welcoming will embolden others to take the first step in talking to you. 

6) you are as good as everyone else: in certain types of upbringing older people or more successful people are the top of the pack. So younger or more junior people would typically wait to be approached or try to be introduced to them. Shed that behavior and attitude fast. It will not help you advance in your career. Always feel on equal levels with everyone.
Of course I am not encouraging you to be inappropriate, so learn to recognize the thin line between inappropriateness and self confidence. 
If these tips help you, please let me know and share any tips you may have with me in the comment section. 

Stay safe, x.

Read this article on Networking:
Book tip: 'How to work a room. Your essential guide to Savvy socializing.' - Susan Roane

Friday, April 22, 2016

Random musings: on my love of languages

Yesterday night at a work dinner somewhere near the Donau a colleague complimented me on my German. She had been surprised to hear I only moved here as an adult after university. I was tickled, as I am sometimes when German friends calling our house phone are sometimes surprised that it's me on our end because my phone voice apparently sounds very German, lol. I don't think my German is perfect though (lemme write a disclaimer here)writing work emails in German is a painstaking task, probably has to do with having a streak of perfectionism in me.

The Walhalla

I never knew I had a gift for languages while I was growing up. I spoke only English until secondary school. I understood Yoruba, because my parents spoke it at home, but I only really started learning it in JS 1( I did have it in primary 5 where I was even worse than my Filipino friend). I loved learning about Yoruba culture and was absolutely fascinated by Yoruba proverbs. I eventually took the subject for my SSCE and even made an A!

I had French in junior secondary. I wasn't too bad, but I wasn't too good either. I think I got mostly comfortable Cs. I do have mildly fond memories of my French teacher. She was from somewhere in French speaking west Africa, married to a Nigerian man and had a fascinating foreign way about her. I still retain some words, I can say hi and introduce myself and say I only understand "en petit peu" ( a little bit) of French.

So I didn't see it coming that I would become fluent in Russian and German as an adult. I love languages, I love the understanding of a culture and the mentality of a people that comes with knowing their language, culture, history and proverbs. It might also have something to do with the fact that the half of my personality that I got from my dad is absolute extroverted.

If you ask my dad, I got it from him: he likes to tell us the story of how he went for his youth service in the north in the 70s and mastered Hausa in the one year that he was there. So perhaps it's a genetic trait?

My professor in University was a huge fan and widely propagated the fact that African students learnt Russian so quickly so well. My theory is that because most of us grow up bilingual, we have an ear for languages, especially when immersed in it.

The immersion bit is important, or at least has been for me. I have tried learning Dutch while not living in the Netherlands, it hasn't worked as well sadly. I'm just too lazy to study a language just because. I know enough to show off though, lol.

If you happen to live anywhere where a different language is spoken, I would encourage you to learn. You never know when you might need it, plus, frankly it opens up new fascinating worlds.

Friday, February 12, 2016

BT stories

He got on at Halfenbach strasse tram stop. Dressed in a light black summer jacket, in spite of the cold winter rain outside, he immediately caught her eye. 

As her eye ran slowly up and down appraising his light jeans, partly pushed up on one leg to expose his ankle, and the grey with speckled ankle socks which looked like they were stuffed with some material to prevent water or cold air from entering his worn out black and red Nike shoes, she began to feel sorry for him. 

"Poor guy, I wonder if he is getting off at the same station I am at." 
"Perhaps I should offer to buy him new shoes. But how does one approach a complete stranger and offer to buy them new shoes?"

Then she stopped in her mental tracks, struck by the prejudice- the pre-judgement that she had undertaken. 
There could be many reasons after all, and perfectly legitimate reasons too why he was dressed as shabbily. 

"Maybe he is off to the football pitch"she thought, "people sometimes dress down to play football." 
"Or maybe he is painting his new apartment this evening and of course has dressed down to avoid damaging good clothes. Hmmmm, but he doesn't have any baggage that looks like painting supplies. Just a cloth gym bag. 

Perhaps he is a drug addict and spends all of his money chasing that next high. That would explain it, and well I would be willing to buy him new shoes but definitely not give him some money.

As the different thoughts went through her mind, each new thought more ludicrous than the previous one, the tram rolled slowly to a stop. 

" This station is Zurich Central" please be careful when leaving the train" announced the driver as the tram drew slowly to a stop. The doors opened and the young man left the train leaving her with many unanswered questions. 

But she didn't have too much time to brood because the next station was hers and she hurriedly scampered out and promptly forgot about him. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My skincare regimen.

 Top tips for caring for my oily combination skin. 

I have always had oily acne prone skin. At least since I became a teenager. Since I had my kids, my skin has changed such that it's not only oil and acne I have to battle, but now dry patches of skin as well. Sigh. 
So I've been doing a bit of research on how to improve my skin condition. One of my aims for this year was to go for a facial every 6 weeks or so. Alas with a busy work schedule and trying to spend every spare moment with the kids, I just don't have time to go for facials. So the last time I had a facial was in April or so. 

So here are the basic things I've learnt

1) Never sleep in make up. Unfortunately, I've had to break this rule more than once due to sheer exhaustion. However, it's immediate obvious whenever I have slept in make up. Pimples start to pop up all over. Keep a pack of facial wipes for when you are too exhausted. 

2) have had very good experience using an oil balm to first dissolve the make up before washing it off. I highly recommend Clinique "take the day off" balm. 

You can also make your own cleansing balm, there are many tutorials on YouTube. 

3) Do not use a soapy/foamy face wash even if you have oily skin. These dry the skin excessively and don't really help the acne problem. Instead, use creamy cleansers. Thoroughly massage your cleanser on slightly pre wetted face and then take of with a face towel that had been soaked in warm to hot water. You will find that your pores open more to get the impurities out. 
I have used creamy cleaners from the body shop, Dawn Lorraine (in the cover photo of this post), Mary Kay etc. I used all may left over foaming or soapy facial washes for my body. 

4) Use a toner after cleansing your skin. In fact, use two toners: a moisturizing and an exfoliating toner. You can also alternate with the moisturizing toner in the morning and exfoliating toner  at night or vice versa. The "lotion P50" from Biologique Recherch√© is one I can recommend. Clarins Duox exfoliant is also a good one, albeit slightly irritating for my skin. 

5) Use facial masks at least once or twice a week. In addition to clay masks, I recently discovered yeast masks. 
Masque Vivant from Biologique Recherch√© seems to be a cult favorite. I have tried it twice this week as recommended for acne prone skin: mixed with a bit of water and baking soda. I am surprised at how open my pores are. 

6) At least once a week, use a moisturizing mask, or start using night creams designed to infuse moisture into your skin, especially as you approach your forties. 

7) Cleanse your makeup tools regularly, especially your foundation brush, otherwise you are only incubating bacteria to recolonize your skin. 

8) Let your skin breathe every opportunity you get. For me, that means staying make up free when I'm at home. As I work half a week from home office, that helps a lot. 

9) Last but not least, sleep well and at least 7 hours daily. Sleep is the best facial. Still working on this last tip myself ;)

I hope these skin care tips were useful. Comment below and share your own tips.

Copyright: Tolu Lush

Thursday, October 1, 2015

How to pack for business travels

I have been a regular business traveller for 3 years now. While traveling for work was something I thought was exciting when I didn't have much business travel, I must admit the excitement wears off pretty quickly. Nights in hotel beds is overrated and it's rare to get the opportunity to actually see much of whatever city I'm visiting. 
Anyway, this post is not about the pros and cons of business travel, but about some tips for packing for business travel. 

1) Being a mum of fairly young kids, I want to get fairly in and out, which means that for short trips, I almost always stick to hand luggage.
 Waiting for luggage can cost you precious time, especially if you have a connecting train. 

2) if you are going on a long trip and need to check in your luggage, make sure you carry some essentials in your hand luggage. A couple of years ago, some female colleagues had to attend a Monday morning meeting in their trainers and comfy clothes ( which were not even close to business casual :) because the airline lost their luggage between London and Amsterdam. It took so long to get their luggage that they had to do some clothes shopping. 

3)most hotel chains have good basic toiletries, so most times you only need to take the barest minimum with you. My facial care products, deodorant, toothpaste and brush and make up. I also carry a dense cream or Shea butter in a small repurposed Vaseline tin because I have dry skin and most hotel creams are light. 

4) even if you will be wearing heels for the office, always pack a pair of flats. You never know if you might have to walk a lot. If possible, travel in flats because God  forbid, if there is an emergency, your heels might hinder you. 

5) You can either hand wash your tops or use the hotel laundry service, so you don't need to pack too many items of clothing. 

6) invest in a small card holder for the minimum number of cards you will need on your trip. Always have some cash on hand, you never know where you will need an out of pocket expense. 

6) even if it's an easy going trip, always have a blazer or jacket with you. You can dress it up or down, but it will help you look polished. 

7)always carry a tampon or sanitary towel in your luggage. I am so busy I often don't realize it's that time of the month. I have had cases when Aunt Flo decided to visit when I was away from home. Get some diaper disposal bags for used sanitary products. They usually smell so nice. 
8) always have some hairpins handy. You never know when you might have a bad hair day. For the same reason, also have a small tub of hair gel. 

9) I always take some teabags with me. I love to drink tea. 

10) a silk scarf can be used for many things. I always pack my favorite blue silk scarf when traveling. 

11) fold a cloth or plastic bag and keep it in your luggage. You might need those for dirty clothes. 

12) rather than carry books, you should download an e-reader and buy Ebooks. That will help you save space in your luggage. 

13)if possible, get your boarding passes and any tickets via mobile apps. This saves you lugging papers around or losing your ticket. Some apps I use are passbook, DB navigator, my taxi etc. 

14)since you will be using your mobile a lot, get yourself a power bank. Or at least make sure your phone is fully charged before setting off. 

15) also on the issue of electronics, get yourself a travel charger for your laptop. They are slimmer, can be dismantled for easier packing and the one I have also has a usb connection so I can charge my phone and other devices on it. 

16) where possible, book your trips via your company authorized travel agencies. If, God forbid, something happens on your trip, it would make it easier to trace you. Also, it helps establish who you are. I recently forgot my wallet with my IDs and credit cards in my car at the airport in another city, but I had no problem checking into my hotel, because I had done the booking properly and I could even check out without my card as the number was given in manually and I signed off. 

I will be updating this post regularly should other tips occur to me. Cheers. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Obamas welcome Pope Francis and.....

....what instantly struck me about the first set of pictures is that I love the skirt the younger Obama daughter, Sasha was wearing ( I'm not usually this shallow, but I love great clothes ;))
Image credit: Tony Gentile/Reuters
I have since found via Google that the skirt she is wearing is the Kate Spade Colour block skirt. 

Off to search for a warm dupe.....