Accelerate Your Career

Tayo Alofun – Copywriter, InterSwitch

  1. What inspired you to start writing?

My sister. I have an elder sister who read English Art at Lagos State University. In her days she was the best. She was practically the most competitive and disciplined woman I have ever seen in my life. While I was in JSS 1, she compelled me to find two new words starting from A-Z weekly making a total of 52 words. I must also use each words intelligently in a sentence. That is in addition to 2 letter writing and two narrative essays weekly. At first she will give me the tittle for the letters but after a while she stopped giving me. It was a fierce training. Through it I became a better writer in secondary school, won a couple of competition and by extension decided to pursue a career in writing.

  1. Tell us a little bit about your background and your passion for writing

Like I said, the foundation of my writing career was laid by my sister but when it comes to professional writing, I was challenged by a friend, his name is Ayodeji Sunday Adeshina-a rare genius (I think he should come on this segment to tell his story too). In my first year as a communication student I asked Sunday for his objective comment about my writing and he told “If I’m an editor of a newspaper company, you will never get a job, as far I’m concerned you are not employable” Sunday proved his point in light of the fact that my investment on books and the reading of other people’s work is poor. I didn’t take his word badly but I saw it as an opportunity to improve. Two weeks later I had about 4 dictionaries, countless number of books and I started reading population commentators in the newspaper. Two years down the line I became the first African student to write a Lead article for UPI (The third Largest news agency in the world), that same year I was one the 5 Nigerian students selected by CNN for the ireport University programme, even my friend Sunday himself applied and he did make the list. He came back to commend how far I have improved. I have since continued to write till date in different capacity, as a PR person for an NGO called Human Development Initiatives (HDI), and later for eCommerce website and currently for Interswitch groups as a copy writer.

  1. Have you ever faced the “writers block” and how did you overcome it?

Almost every time. Sometimes you just have this great idea in your head but you don’t know how to start it. Especially some of us that are very critical when it comes to literary work, we tend to imagine that everybody will look at our work with similar critical attitude. In order to avoid being gravely criticised, we strive for perfection, in a bid to get out the perfect piece we end up doing nothing. However, over time I realised that the best way to start is to start anyway and when you get stuck don’t push too hard- For me I will either go to sleep, go and stay under shower or just listen to classical music-Enya or Yanni to be precise.

  1. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years in the media industry?

By that time I should have my PhD either in literary criticism or Communications for Development. From that point I will only be partly in the industry and fully in the academia. I need to give back to the system and produce a better me.

  1. What are the values which you abide by?

The fear of God. That is my only value, every other thing is a subset of that central value-Integrity, discipline, dedication, just name it, they are all subsets of the fear of God.

  1. Do you intend publishing a book soon?

Yes, two books actually. The first one is academic and the second is based on my Christian belief. The first one is titled ‘The 21st century Journalist’ while the second one is ‘The Gospel of the Kingdom’

  1. What opportunities do you see in the media industry for upcoming writers?

Quite enormous actually. I think upcoming writers should think of writing best sellers rather than best articles or book. Ask yourself, if I was not the author of this book or article and I stumble on it by the roadside, will I be willing to pay for the content? How much as I’m  willing to pay for this content? If you cannot justify why your content is worth paying for nobody is willing to pay you for generating such contents. So, there are enormous opportunities for people that can think entrepreneurially in the field of writing.

  1. Which ways do you think writing can reduce poverty, unemployment and illiteracy in Nigeria?

All three problems are products of information gap. Interestingly, they are relatively linked.  Illiteracy is removed by the incoming of knowledge or information if you will. The product of the acquisition of that knowledge is not just literacy but ability to translate the knowledge into something of monetary value. When knowledge is given financial value opportunities are created which we popularly refer to as employments, vacancies, job offers among other things. When people engage in these opportunities intelligibly, they will shake off the shackles of poverty. Government can really eradicate poverty because if you give a man N10 billion and he has zero financial intelligence he will still go back to penury it is just a matter of time.

  1. Looking the standard of writers in Nigeria today, do you feel they can sit at par with international writers and why?

Yes and yes and yes. Nigerians are legends in the writing world. Chinua Achebe’s things fall apart has been translated into 50 Languages of the world. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun had a funding of N340 million to film the book. Tolu Ogunlesi has won CNN award more than once, Dele Olojede is the first and the only African that has received Pulitzer price. The list goes on and on. More people of the 21st century divide only need to step up their games and that includes me.

  1. What is the one thing you wish you knew before getting into your career?

The one thing i wish i knew was that writing is not just a medium of expression but a skill with financial proposition. I wish i knew early that writing is a serious business in monetary value so that i can position for it. I was busy in my early days trying to cause controversy, command emotion, have some fun and all that. There were people that i thought about blogging back in the University and they have developed it into an enterprise today. In any case i thank God i didn’t realize it too late.

11. Would you recommend career coaching and mentorship to the younger workforce and why?

Direct or indirect we always need a coach or a mentor. It is one thing to know how to write it is another to get a platform of expression that will push you to the light. Having a mentor saves you the stress of making their mistakes otherwise you will make both their mistakes and your mistake and the burden of such heavy failure may be so overwhelming that you can lose interest in what is supposed to be your calling. Femi Adeshina has been my mentor since he was director of publication for Sun Newspaper. For a very long time I wrote exactly like him but at some point following his advice I had to carve a niche for myself but even today he is still my hero. My writings today follow a little more to the side of my second mentor-Dele Omotunde, the popular writer of Opilogue for several years in Tell Magazine.

  1. What last words do you have for aspiring writers and entrepreneurs?

They need to think like entrepreneurs as well as writers. The content has to command some measure of financial value for any employer to be able to put a price tag on the skill.




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