By Vivian Onyebukwa
Yetunde Adeshile is the Founder and CEO of “The Next Chosen Generation CIC” (TNCG CIC), and the Director, “RJ Emmanuel Ltd”. She is also the United Kingdom Chairperson for Phenomenal African Woman (PAW UK), STEM Ambassador for UK schools, and member, Forum for African, African Caribbean and Asian Women in Politics (UK). A Project Management consultant and an inspirational speaker, Yetunde is equally on the board of Advisory Executive Council (AEC) for the International Women Economic Forum. A full member of The Association for Project Management, she achieved a feat recently when she was appointed the first black woman member on its UK board. In this interview, the international multi-award winning author of The Youth Evolution, spoke about her career, her life, particularly as a mother, and on many other issues.
You were recently appointed a member on the board of the Association for Project Management (APM) in the UK. How do you feel and what does the appointment mean to you?
It is an honour to be appointed to the board. Right now, I feel privileged to hold such a position, especially as I did not get on the board via the election process. There were many people who applied through the election stage, but only three people got elected. I was number four, missing the election by less than 100 votes. I had planned to go through the election again this year, but God was ahead of me. He got me on the board by appointment, sooner than I thought. I am delighted and forever grateful to Him for the opportunity.
How did you get into Project Management?
I stumbled on Project Management after graduating with my first degree in Social Policy and Management. I had to do a temporary job while looking for a permanent job. My temporary job was as Project Administrator. Whilst supporting project managers, I got curious about Project Management. At the time, project management was very new to the UK and my instincts told me the profession was here to stay. I attended internal project management training and looked out for role opportunities that would be my first step into the profession. This opportunity came within months after I made up my mind that project management would be my new found career, especially as things were not working out with human resources management, my first choice career. Since that decision, I continued to develop myself in the field and never have I once regretted it or looked back. I am now a registered, chartered Project Professional, a full member and an appointed board member of the Association for Project Management.
Did you have a mentor or support structures in place when you started out?
Throughout my career, I have had many mentors who have impacted me in different ways. I love learning from other people as much as I like training and developing others. I have an open mind. So long as someone is more experienced than I am, I am always eager to learn from them. Most of my line managers in the past have mentored and supported me. However, I must say that I am also self-driven. The number one person that drives me the most is my husband, Pastor Peter Adeshile. He always encourages me to go beyond what I think I am capable of achieving. He always says: “Your project management will take you places.” I think he still wants me to deliver an international project abroad somewhere. He has been exceptionally supportive over the years.
More than half of black executives across the world are alleged to take much bigger risks than other leaders had to in order to advance their careers. What was your experience?
I would say they are right, especially in the western part of the world. I was trained by my dad to always work hard, no matter what or where I find myself. He always used to say: “Whatever you work for will always be yours and the good works of your hands will make way for you in pleasant places.” I always try to work hard and work smart to achieve the best results possible.
There have been calls by the global community for the inclusion of black women in top key positions of the corporate ladder. Do you think this time it’s different? Do you see your appointment as an opening for other black women in the United Kingdom?
If my memory serves me well, I know that there have always been calls for more black women in top key positions of the corporate ladder. I remember a colleague of mine approaching me about 10 years ago, saying he wanted me to meet his mum who would want to hire someone like me in a top job in the US. He said the job was just a phone call away. I declined. Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t think I was worth it or ready for it, even though my husband encouraged me to go for it. I was afraid of the change and of failing. This same feeling, thoughts, have stopped many black women from taking up these roles in the past, which is why we still have this gap today. I definitely do hope that this appointment will open up new opportunities and encourage other black women to step forward.
As a black woman, what obstacles have you faced in business, politics and society, and how did you overcome them?
I think most of the challenges I and other women face in business, politics and society (regardless of the colour of our skin), has to do with the traditional view that women should be at home with their children whilst their husbands go to work. To be successful in business, politics and society takes hard work, determination, tenacity and you can’t afford to take “No” for an answer. No matter how many doors are shut or slammed in my face, I just keep on going. At the end of the day, I am the one who knows what I want and I am ready to pay the price for it. I have always proved my worth in most things that I get involved in.
To better balance the scale for blacks in corporate UK and access to right promotion, what issues need to be tackled?
I think the most important issue is equality: how to find the balance of equality for all. Unfortunately, this is a big issue as “diverse” communities do not see equality. I think the corporate world in the UK is now handling and treating equality more seriously though. There is a lot of training being filtered through companies and organisations. Some organisations are now intentionally recruiting and developing people from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community for senior roles. I think diversity or should I say equality is a long journey, but the UK is well on its way.
I learnt you worked on the project ‘Brexit’.
I did not work on the Brexit project. I worked on projects that interfaced or were impacted by Brexit.
How do you juggle being a John Maxwell-certified leadership expert, registered, chartered, and experienced Project and Programme Management professional, black APM board member and parish pastor?
Being a John Maxwell Certified Leadership Expert actually supports me in all my other leadership roles. The training and network helps me to be a better leader in all areas of my life. Project management is my main profession, so being a registered chartered and experienced project management professional who is also on the board, provides me with a greater opportunity for collaboration in my profession.
What lessons have you learnt from being on the global stage of public speaking, mentoring, community service and politics, do you believe, transferred well into your being a good CEO and mother?
I think the most important things that connect all the work that I do is: people, their development, and welfare. I have a passion for people and seeing them transferred from the current state to a better state. I like to see people taking opportunities and using them for their advantage. I also believe in justice for all and equality. To make this world a better place, equality has to be a bit better balanced.
Can you recommend three books that were game changers for you?
There are many books that I have read that have been game changers for me. However, the ones that I felt were most practical at a time I was really ready for change are, Act Like A Success, Think Like A Success, by Steve Harvey; No Matter What, by Lisa Nichols, and study of the Bible.
How do you relax with your family?
We have family days that are non-cooking days, though me being who I am, and Rachael being Rachael, my daughter, something has to be cooked. We just order all sorts of dishes from our local Nigerian caterer and watch a movie. Sometimes, the children choose the movie, sometimes we do. We’ve also had family holidays that have often taken us out of the UK.
What is the best advice you received on being a mother?
The best advice I received was from my mum, a very long time ago. She said to me: “Don’t let anyone take your place as the mother of your children. Let your children be wherever you are.” At the time she said it, I didn’t quite understand, but now I do. It is a shame that she is not here for me to let her know that I now understand.
What lessons are you hoping to instil in your children?
The main lesson that I have passed onto my children is that they must always depend in God and remain in Christ. The same thing that my dad and mum passed onto me. It has worked for me so far in my life. Their relationship and understanding of the Word is the most important thing. Once they have that, everything else will be made available to them, and they can’t get it wrong.
What would be your top five tips on being a successful mum?
Relationship and obedience to God, unconditional love, patience, listening, and empathy with the ability to be firm on decisions. Finally, family time is priceless
What traditions have you continued from your childhood? Or, have you created new ones with your children?
Almost all traditions have been maintained with the exception of calling me mummy or mother (which is what they grew up with). I think I prefer mum as it makes me feel much younger. So we changed it a while back. I also teach equal opportunities at home to an extent.
How do you balance work and family life?
The simplest answer is time management and careful planning, knowing the priorities of my children, my priorities and communicating effectively with each other.
Can you give us three tips a mother should be teaching her children on finance, money and life so they may have a better chance at succeeding in life?
The first is the 10:10:10:70 rule of money. All your income should be spent as follows: ten per cent to God (tithes), ten per cent for lifetime savings (i.e. do not touch unless there is a real emergency), ten per cent savings for essentials and 70 per cent for all your bills and everyday affairs. Second, if you want to be rich, you have to save, invest and only spend what you have. You cannot get rich by spending everything that comes in. The third is that you have to be a cheerful giver. You have to be charitable but apply wisdom.
What has been the most rewarding moment of your journey so far?
I have enjoyed many rewards through my journey of life. It is really hard to say that this is the most rewarding. However, I am blessed to have God in my life.