With varied interests in business, technology and fashion, Damilola Teidi, CEO/Co-Founder, GoMyWay.com, believes that more women need to be encouraged to take up careers in science and technology. She speaks on her love for technology, her life as an entrepreneur and why she is constantly fascinated by the start-up space.
- Who is Damilola Teidi, and what does she do?
Damilola Teidi is a young, strong and fun Nigerian woman with different interesting sides to her. She is passionate about startups, building small businesses, innovation and the use of technology to create an impact in our society. She also loves music and fashion. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Information technology and a master’s degree in Strategy and Innovation management. She is currently the CEO/Co-founder of GoMyWay.com
- Brilliant! So how did your interest in technology begin?
My interest in technology began in my first year at the university. I studied information technology and funny thing is; I chose to do that course on the week of resumption. Long story but I got into the university for an engineering course and changed that to information technology after a few consultations. Prior to this, it was all about being a medical doctor and a musician. One thing led to another and I was in university studying a course I was not exactly prepared for. In that year, because of how I “stumbled” on the course, I had to quickly learn and deeply understand the basics of the course which was majorly around programming. In the process, I fell in love with it and my interest in technology began.
- You modelled for a bit back in the day; are you still doing that? And how did you combine modelling with being a Tech enthusiast?
I started modelling during my undergraduate studies and when I moved back home after school, I continued to model but I did it part time as I had a full time job as a software developer. Being a tech enthusiast and modeling was not really a problem. One did not affect the other. A lot of people I came across just thought it was amazing that I was a geek and a model so I felt cool (Lol). The hard part was combining both jobs I had. Honestly, I just remember working round the clock. Doing fashion shows straight after work and working on the weekends but it was exciting. The last major modeling job I did was for the makeup brand, Zaron, in 2013 before I went for my Masters programme. I did a few in late 2014/ early 2015 but I stopped completely as I had more responsibilities on the tech/startup side, which has always been my main focus.
- So tell us: What is it about the Technology/Startup space that fascinates you?
I can write an epistle about this but I’ll keep it short. One word – Innovation. The whole process of creating a technology product out of an idea that could be simple or crazy, and go from getting a few people to use it to getting thousands or millions of people to use it, is just exciting. Also, the fact that this thing that was just an idea could have so much impact through technology is amazing.
- You’re the MD/Co-Founder at GoMyWay; tell us about that?
Founded in June of 2015, GoMyWay is a trusted online ride share platform that connects car owners that have spare seats to share with others that need a ride and are going in the same direction, so they all can share the cost of the journey, whether interstate or intracity. With a growing community of users, GoMyWay is the easiest way for car owners to monetize the extra seats in their cars during rides and for passengers to find affordable and comfortable means of moving from one place to another. At the same time, it helps to reduce traffic congestion, promotes a cleaner environment and helps to build our community spirit.
- How has the response been to GoMyWay, and have you established any strategic partnerships to push the brand even further?
The response has been great. We currently have over 5000 users and more than 30,000 seats have been offered by car owners in various states across the country. We are yet to establish any strategic partnerships but we are working it.
- What are some of the lessons you’ve learned in running your own business?
This can easily be an epistle. I don’t think anyone can prepare you for the amount of lessons you learn from running your own business. Where do I start? I have learnt that there’s so much strength within me. At the early stages of running a business, especially if you have a small budget, there’s a lot things you have to do and skills you have to learn quickly. Early stages of Styljunki, I remember I had to learn how to use photoshop. With GoMyWay, I remember distributing flyers at a bus stop around Dopemu from 4.30am to 6am and I live on the Island. I have also learnt the importance of managing resources especially finances. The importance of planning ahead of time, creating a budget and being disciplined enough to stick to it.
Another thing is that I should not be afraid to fail or to get some things wrong. That things happen and what is important is that I learn from it, make some changes and come back stronger. Also, I do not have all the answers and it is important to be open to different suggestions but be able to identify which ones to take on board.
- Would you say that social media has helped to grow your brands, if yes, in what specific ways?
Definitely. Social media has helped to create awareness and engage with members of our community as well as potential users. When the price of fuel went up to N145/litre, we immediately had creative designs on social media to show how the increase will not affect car owners if they shared their ride with others on GoMyWay. We got a lot of attention for it, number of users and activities increased on the platform. It even led to an interview on CNBC Africa and Business Day Newspaper. With Styljunki, we used social media to promote the works of the fashion professionals registered on the platform. So yes, social media has definitely helped.
- If you weren’t in the technology space, what would you be doing?
I will be on stage, singing my heart out. There was a time in my life where I was sure I wanted to do music. I was part of a classical choir and a few music bands. I also composed a few songs.
- You’ve worked as an employee, and are now an employer, what would you say are the key differences?
As an employer, you are responsible for a lot more including your employees. You are responsible for things like building the foundation of your company’s culture, paying attention to the interaction between staff so there’s no “conflict“, keeping everyone motivated and so on. Another thing is, I am now on the other side of the hiring process and that’s a huge difference. Sitting down in a room and being interviewed for a job is a different ball game from being on the employer side. You have to interview so many people, pay attention to every detail, assess different things and make the final decision and then hope, that you have made the right choice. Trust me, finding people to join your team in Nigeria is not easy at all, you start to see a lot of loopholes in our educational system and we will probably need another interview to discuss that.
- Did you have people saying “Oh no, she’s too young for this role” and that, and how did you deal with those kind of comments?
No, I did not get those kinds of comments. Well, if they were any at all then it was not said to my face. Honestly, we are in a time where young people are doing amazing things so I’d like to think everyone is used to it by now.
- How do you think more women can be encouraged to take up careers in STEM?
I was one of the panelists at the SciTech Women Meetup in Nigeria organized by Co-creation Hub and the British council. The conversation was around this topic. Let me approach your question from the technology part, which is what I am familiar with. One thing is our universities need to do better with teaching technology-related subjects. It’s practical and supposed to be exciting not made to feel extra-ordinarily difficult or boring. I find that some women have lost interest in anything technology simply because of their experience studying the course in school. This is why I am happy about what Andela is doing. Also, I mentioned at the meet-up that more companies in Nigeria should have graduate trainee programmes for technology roles in Nigeria. I remember one of the attendees saying that it was easier for her to join a bank through their trainee programme than getting a job in technology with her little experience.
I also believe in encouraging women from the secondary school level about the possibilities for them in technology. Some of these schools don’t even have technology-related subjects asides from the regular computer studies. Why can’t a programming language be a subject you learn in secondary school? So, unlike me, we have more women who can say they became interested in technology from secondary school.
- You’re also the Co-Founder of StyleJunki; what’s the idea behind that?
The idea behind Styljunki is to create Nigeria’s largest online fashion directory, showcase and promote the work of our amazing creatives to the rest of the world.
- Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I see myself as a force to reckon with in the technology space in Africa, so help me God. I also see myself being very involved in volunteering work.
- Words of advice for upcoming female entrepreneurs?
There’s so much strength within you. Once you set your mind to do something and you are passionate about it, just start it. You will be amazed at how much you can do to bring your ideas to reality and take it to where you want it to be. Also, make sure you do your research on whatever industry you are going into and constantly update yourself. There’s so much useful information available online just “waiting” there for you to use.
Follow Damilola on twitter @damiteidi
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes women empowerment and gender inclusion for women of African descent. Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to [email protected] and we just might feature her.