Getting down with a Telecoms Planner/Project Manager of a rare breed – Bayodele Olotu
Hello Mr Olotu. Can we meet you?
My name is Bayodele Abimbola Olotu, born in the mid-late seventies at Ikere-Ekiti in what was then Ondo State. My parents were/are teachers and I have what can best be called a lower middle class background. I am happily married to Temitope, who I have clearly identified as the main proof of the fact that God is rather partial to me. I have a lovely baby daughter – Darasimi.
Thank you. I know you grew up in Akure but please let us into your years growing up. From Primary to Secondary School.
I attended St Peters Primary School, FUTA Staff School and Federal Government College, Idoani.
What about University and courses/certifications thereafter?
I am an alumnus of OAU, Ile-Ife. I am Microsoft Certified and a PMP among other things.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned about education from primary till date?
There is always something new to learn. I learnt to read wide and converse with those who are ahead. This broadens your scope and enriches your vision. However, you have to define what you will focus on and build expertise in – when push comes to shove no one needs a General Practitioner/Counsel/Manager.
Some people tend to think University is only for books. Can you share with us the effect of extra-curricular activities in Ife on your personal growth?
My dad, who is practically my wisest counselor, told me that in the olden days the Yorubas pray for your head, feet and chest. Your head symbolizes destiny; your feet will take you there, and your chest determines your friends/associations. I knew of the firt two but the third was new – and so true.
In Ife I met and thankfully chose good friends. I attended the ECU and served in various capacities including Drama, Organising, Small Business Management, etc. I also served as PRO of my Departmental Association.
These taught me faster than any lecture room about the challenges of life and the place of personal drive and innovation. I also learnt to give and assist others. Today, I happily support others’ vision and derive joy in being a positive influence. I have lost count of the number of ‘small jobs’ that I got through friends – and my last 2 main jobs were via same.
You studied Mechanical Engineering in the University, how come you always wanted a career in ICT?
Well…did I always? I wanted to attend Ife and study Engineering …the tougher the better as I had a knack for not reading much but doing well in Idoani. Ife cut me to size – First I came in for Chemistry and 100L cut me to size, and after changing to Mech I enjoyed life better but had to play catch up. I am very practical so lots of the ‘forces’, ‘moments’, ‘torque’ that was only on paper nearly did me in. I stuck to it but was more interested in Drama and later, computing. These were more real to me at the time.
You managed Shekinah Ventures in OAU and did it very well- what lessons came from that experience?
Shekinah was into computing, internet services and photography. From part IV to my extra semester, this small cubicle shaped my life. There, I learnt computing, ran a business, cut my first deals, understood coordination and how to manage employees, etc.
I learnt to take opportunities as they don’t last forever. I learnt to believe God to grow a business. I learnt that ideas actually ruled the world. I also learnt a bitter one – that businesses don’t exist in a vacuum and when in a tough position, having a great Christian in authority who doesn’t understand people and politics can be a total liability.
What is the importance of starting something in life no matter how small?
I cannot over-emphasize it. You don’t know yourself until you face the odds and DO SOMETHING.
We will love to hear about your first post-NYSC job in Lagos
Ah! Datasphir. Midway into NYSC I started buying Guardian. I didn’t have Lagos connections and could not stand to be unemployed, so my applications flew fast and furious. One day I got called for a test – I’d applied as a Linux Admin and instead got taken as a web apps developer. This was where I saw Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP in action and learnt advocacy with the Nigerian Linux Users Group, rolling into UNILAG, LASU, NTA etc. I moved on after a year, but this was the real school that I attended.
Salary wasn’t great but did I learn a lot? Definitely!
Tell us about your Huawei days including how you got the job
Sheriff and I worked together in Datasphir before he moved to Huawei as a Software & Solutions [IN&VAS] Engineer. He told me when the next batch came out; I applied and got in.
There I learnt SS7, NGN and Telecomms from scratch. It was a puzzling, funny, tough, paradoxical, fantastic experience. I mean, these guys literally throw the book at you. I think if they paid more and kept their guys happier, fewer guys would exchange the jump-about work of an equipment vendor for a static desk in some telco.
What does your present job in ZAIN entail?
I am involved in Technical Planning for Value Added Services & GPRS. It involves quite some platforms and services and interfaces with Switching, BSCs, Charging, Mediation etc, so I have to know about those. As a business it also involves product development/management, contracts, financial processes, security etc. So I know something about those too. Full deets are at www.linkedin.com/pub/2/b26/669
Interesting – please share with us the necessary ingredients for a successful Telecoms career
I would say curiosity and the willingness to learn new things and not repeat mistakes. A relevant degree is a big plus as well, but this is dependent on what you want to do. There are PR/sales/marketing/etc functions in telecoms, and in the next few years these would be the majority.
As a man with many talents – highly technical and an array of skills ranging from product and project management to processes; how can one get to learn all these?
Keep reading, keep improving, keep learning. No one is too small to learn from. A book or two to ground you on telecoms end to end [yep even the aspects that aren’t your specialty] would surely help.
Some people are interested in Project Management – can you describe the job of a Project Manager to them?
I think www.pmi.org will do a better job.
However suffice to say that Project Management is a coordinating activity that requires a variety of competencies which are necessary in order to deliver time-bound objectives at the right cost/quality.
You are one of those who practically learned ICT skills on their own – how can one do this?
I think all that is required is access to a computer. You start from what is closest to you and take it from there. After getting a general understanding you choose what looks best to you to pursue, and give it all you have. ICT is fun; you shouldn’t have to be bored doing it. A small employment could accelerate things too. I agree with Segun that schools are for those who don’t have access to computers constantly.
Some people would look at you and think your parents must have known people in high places for you to be where you are. Any advice for them?
My parents know the Lord – for which reason I am blessed. They have also helped lots of folks and I attribute much of the grace that their children enjoy to this. As per people in high places, nah.
What is your favorite quote?
Dem plenty. But I particularly like these two – ‘God hasn’t failed in 6000 years; He’s not about to start now’, and ‘The sky is big enough for every bird to fly’.
What are the values that guide your life?
Hardwork, Fairness, a fun-loving nature and Personal Responsibility.
You are married with a daughter. Does that slow your career growth?
No. in fact a smile from her is good for erasing the pressures of the day. I now think a little bit more responsibly and take slightly fewer risks though – I think.
What kind of books do you read?
I read novels to relax, technical books and nowadays, business/strategy/project books.
What do you do for leisure?
I read, browse the ‘Net, visit and spend time with my two girlfriends [Tope & Dara]. Lately I have been doing some community service via free CAPM Trainings in my church.
A young person is in a Secondary school and she wants an ICT career. Please give her a candid advice on the way forward.
First she needs to get her Maths and Physics right. Then she should work on getting computer literate – holiday classes are great for that.
Final advice to young people who don’t understand that anyone can reach their goals.
Go and read ‘The Audacity of Hope’, and every back-issue of the New York Times that you can find online. If a man who would have been a slave free of charge 200yrs ago, whose father didn’t even wait to bring up, who lived in Indonesia and Hawaii, who was the only black man in the Senate, whose opponents all discounted because of every reason you care to name, who has no family tree/landmark legislation/foundation/illustrious relative to boast of, can rule America and inspire the whole world, then your dream to be a success isn’t too great, is it?
Thank you very much sir
Same to you.