Inspirational Women – Veronica Akinyemi

Veronica and I first met years ago when she was employed in a London council and I was delivering some women’s training to that organisation. She clearly stood out as a women who was going somewhere so it was great to catch up with her.

Veronica, you are the founder and Director of Smart Opportunities for Women, an organisation to promote the interests of working women. What inspired you to start this enterprise?
I have always been passionate about motivating and supporting people (especially disadvantaged groups) to develop personally and professionally.  I decided to set up Smart Opportunities for Women (formerly Employ A Woman) as a result of my personal interaction with various bright women who have worked, or still work, in job roles well below their capabilities and potentials.

I observed that certain women give up on advancing their own careers as a result of various issues such as motherhood, cultural influences, unsupportive and discriminatory work environments, lack of confidence, inadequate family support etc., and was keen to make a difference no matter how little.

As part of my academic research, I discovered that the UK is yet to fully tap into the skills portfolio of women. The statistics by various bodies clearly shows that women have a long way to go especially in leadership positions and certain job sectors.

Why do you think women need a site to themselves?
Historically, women have been subject to unfavourable treatment and practices. I believe that initiatives such as ‘Smart Opportunities for Women’ will play a crucial role in bridging some gaps and achieving specific diversity objectives; a network/site/group of events where women are able to meet and network with other outstanding working women within a safe and comfortable framework.

It will give their confidence a major boost and help them to effectively manage their careers despite the obstacles which they might face along the way.

Veronica, you grew up in Nigeria. When did you come to Britain and how do you think that experience has impacted on your career development?
I was born in London but grew up in Africa (the south-western part of Nigeria) before returning to the UK in 2004. My parents made a crucial decision to ensure that all their children gained a thorough understanding of their ethnicity and cultural values.

Looking back now, I believe that they made the right decision. My personal experience of two totally different worlds has helped to shape me into the woman that I am today. I grew up in a stable, loving and Christian environment, and was fortunate to attend some of the best academic institutions.

The African society places a very high value on education and my parents spared nothing to ensure that my siblings and I received the best education. My parents worked in the IT/ Engineering sector, and my brother in the medical field, and this put huge pressure on me to choose a career path along these lines.

I spent close to five years of my life studying Industrial Chemistry that was of very little interest to me. It was a very torturous journey for me but I stayed on as I had no other choice.

When did you finish formal full time education? Did you have any idea of what you wanted to do when you left school?
I finished my first degree in Industrial Chemistry in March 2004. Whilst growing up, I had an interest in a couple of professions such as Journalism, Advertising and Catering. I also enjoyed reading my dad’s management, business and development books.

At this point I knew I wanted to do something which involved a lot of contact with people (not chemicals!), but was not quite sure how this would translate into a career.

Did you follow a plan?
I returned to the UK in May 2004. My first port of call was a careers advisory service in Essex, where I discussed various options with an advisor. Once I started my job as an Advanced Apprentice within the training team of a London local authority, I had a plan!

The plan was nothing complex, just a diagram of myself with various arrows indicating the jobs that I would love to do and by when. Included in the plan were qualifications. I have always been very flexible with my career plan and this has paid off.

You have a gorgeous twenty three month old son and eight week daughter. How do you manage to juggle motherhood with your career?
I don’t know how I do it! I believe God gives me the grace I need for each day. Motherhood is a totally different ball game and one has to be very hard working and plan well in advance. Sometimes I feel like screaming!

What has been the happiest moment in your life to date?
Marrying my first love and childhood sweetheart, Anthony and having our wonderful children.

What do you think is the secret of happiness for you?
I have learnt to be proud of who I am.

How (if ever) do you relax? What keeps you going?
I never miss my daily ‘hot’ (I mean hot!!!) baths. This helps to soothe any sore muscles. My faith also plays a crucial part. Each time my battery needs to be charged, I pray, meditate and sing worship songs.

Who has been the most significant and or influential
person(s) in your life to date?
I have a strong nuclear family network and have benefitted from knowing some very inspirational women. My husband’s belief in me and my abilities is simply fantabulous.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in life?
Our purpose as humans is to live a life of purpose. I have learnt that I can do all things through God’s help. I need to use all my gifts on earth and die empty.

If the present Veronica could give some advice to the 18 year old Veronica what would it be?

Get up Veronica – Turn your ideas into reality! I should have started ‘Smart Opportunities for Women’ a long time ago.

Thank you, Veronica and good luck with the upcoming events! You can find out more about Veronica’s business here.

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Posted on March 10th, 2010 by

One Response to “Inspirational Women – Veronica Akinyemi”

  1. Tosin Alalade says:

    Great interview Jane! Veronica is such a hardworking and inspirational young woman who is truly determined to help others. I have a deep sense of respect for her!

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