“We can’t change our nation by staying away from it.” – Ugonwa Ekugo

Hi guys, my name is Ugonwa Ekugo and I was born in Germany to a medical doctor father and a banker mum. I moved back to Lagos a year later with my parents and siblings.

I attended Queens College and the University of Lagos where I studied the Humanities (English). I also did a short certificate course in Social Sector Management at the Pan-African University, sponsored by the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and Africa-America Institute. I moved to England for my Master’s Degree in Management from the University of Hertfordshire. While I was there, I was one of the student reps and was also part of the peer mentorship program.

Nice to meet you Ugonwa! Would you like to share some of your fondest memories from childhood?

Sure! I grew up in Lagos, and my fondest memories are: going to the country club with my siblings, playing Mario Brothers for the first time,

and subsequently playing it every day when my brothers and I eventually got ours; we played it and other games every day until the adapter blew up. I also loved watching NTA’s memorable children’s programs and also remember playing at our neighbor’s, in the compound, on a daily basis.

That’s great! Seems like you really enjoyed your childhood. Why did you leave Nigeria?
I really wanted to develop my career as far back as when I was an undergrad in Unilag. The reality is that organisations are looking for employees who can drive their businesses forward, helping to achieve its goals and objectives. Knowing this was key in my new pursuit, which is why I decided to explore the option of studying in the UK. For me, it was not just about an overseas certification, but about the level of impact, value and exposure I would be bring back home.

Being naturally observant and full of ideas, I knew that I could identify one or two novel ideas in any sector in the developed world and apply that in my home country.

That’s understandable. So how did you kick off your career?
I started my career in Employee Relations and then moved into Recruitment with the career development agency of a CSR based organisation, where I worked for 5 years before proceeding to do my Master’s Degree Program in the United Kingdom. My stay in the UK gave me the opportunity to work in various organizations like the YMCA, Deliveroo (E-commerce food delivery start-up), and Goldman Sachs.

I worked in various capacities, such as a volunteer coordinator at the Trussel Trust Food Bank, at the YMCA as an admin support, and at Deliveroo as a customer service personnel. After my dissertation, my next agenda was to get into a well-structured global organization to learn. Fortunately I got into Goldman Sachs where I worked in its Human Capital Management division. Some of my duties involved background checks and employee screening which made me understand a bit of the UK’s data protection and employment legislation. The work experience also exposed me to life working in the City. You talk of Friday after-work drinks and weekend vacations. Unfortunately, I was not really a part of the weekend vacations. Anyhow, I got exposed to the corporate culture and HR strategy of a Fortune 500 organisation and the fantastic welfare, and wellness packages for its employees. Generally, these organisations have fantastic work-life balance even though it’s a busy environment. For me, my work in these various organizations has broadened my mind, giving me a new definition and orientation to work culture and ethics. I have also learnt that dedication and commitment to people management is key to creating an employer brand.

What do you currently do? 

It’s only been a few months since I moved back, so I am still trying to find new opportunities. In the meantime, I volunteer in a group which is a community of Christian ladies, involved in activities geared towards spiritual, social, emotional and professional improvement.

However, in the shortest possible time, I intend to make a positive impact in my country by introducing all I have learnt and experienced in the various organizations I have worked in. I would love to contribute to helping organizations in their HR policies and strategies. I also hope to someday contribute in the area of infrastructure development (power, sanitation, railway, education) as well in the civil service reform.

How have you been able to cope with the traffic & power situation since you returned?

I just try to cope but it’s not cool to see little or no improvement in these two areas. Unfortunately, the power cuts have become worse since I moved back. To mitigate this, I’m hoping to get a rechargeable fan for ventilation and buy a better rechargeable torchlight…lol.

As for the traffic, so far I have not resumed into full time employment so I wouldn’t say I am really experiencing it. The Lagos state BRT buses have their own lanes on the road so I think that helps a bit to avoid the traffic somewhat. A functional and modern railway system will prove more effective than having lots of cars on the roads though.

What city do you currently live in, and what is your day to day routine like?

I live in Lagos on the mainland and my daily routine involves browsing the internet for inspiration and opportunities. Shortly after my return back to the country, I started brushing up on my driving skills. I start my day by going to driving school, after which I return home to do my volunteer work with the ladies group I mentioned earlier. Basically I work remotely from home and other times we have physical meetings that run through the night through our sleep-overs in order to deliberate and strategize on events for the upcoming year. I am the business development analyst and handle quite a lot as I also work on the social media platform and do some monitoring and evaluation of past programs. In addition, I involve myself in corporate communications which I do by trying to liaise with some organizations who can partner with our group to actualize our goals for the year.

Do you have a favorite relaxation/fun spot in Nigeria?

I love adventure parks, and I did some research and discovered that we do have one in Nigeria called HI-impact planet which seems pretty cool. I haven’t been there yet, but I hope to do so soon.

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