IQUO Ukoh joined Nestle Nigeria Plc. as a medical representative. She rose through the ranks to become the first female Marketing Director of the company, an office she held until she retired few months ago.
Ukoh trained as a dietitian from the University of Nigeria and worked briefly as a dietetic intern at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) before she joined Nestle Nigeria.
For a greater part of the years during which she worked for this multi-national, Iquo developed recipes for Nigerian women. She spoke about her career, challenges, and life after retirement.
You rose to the rank of Executive Director on the board of Nestle before you retired few months ago. How did you make it to the top?
It was through hard work.You can’t cut corners. You have to work hard. As a woman, you must put your best value on the table. When you put your best value on the table, the organisation you are working for would reward you, I believe. It is not going to come easy, but must put your best forward.
Can you tell us some of the challenges you faced in the course of your career?
As a marketer, challenges are more relative to the consumer. I often ask myself the question, how do I respond to the needs of the consumer on a daily basis? As I rose through the ranks, I discovered that I was dealing with younger consumers, and I had to go digital. We had to deal with younger consumers. That meant I had to read further to be able to understand the consumer. I had to research into the needs of youths in order to be able to offer them solutions.
What is the difference between the old and new generation woman?
The mum and the homemaker of yesterday are different from the ones of today. Today’s young lady needs a lot of time. She is battling with working and taking care of the kids at the same time. She has so many things she is battling with. Food also becomes a challenge. So, when I am thinking of today’s woman, I am thinking of how to make things slightly easier for her. At the same time, don’t forget about nutrition, because there is temptation to do a lot of junk food. Don’t say because you have no food, you should buy food from anywhere. What I am saying is that I have the older generation in mind to bring about creativity to the family diet. As for the young woman, I’m trying to look at things that will require shorter time. For instance, today’s woman desires egwusi soup, she wants to eat what her mother ate, but she wants it faster.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about food, and the health of Nigerians. Whether I’m cooking egwusi soup or edikaikong or frying dodo, I want to do it in such a way that the Nigerian would remain healthy. So my passion is about food with a health twist.
After retirement, what is next?
I am into culinary consultancy, which is why I am here. I am also into marketing consultancy. That is what I do.
Is that what your blog is all about?
My blog is 1Q Food Platter. I have been running it for the past three years even when I was on full time job. Then, the blog wasn’t monitised. I have created different Nigerian food recipes.
Today, I can say I’m not doing badly. I have over 62,000 people following me on Facebook. On Instagram, I have a thousand people following me. It means that many people return to those blogs. So its like a reference point for women or for anybody looking for recipes. I also have a YouTube channel because I know that at times, people want to see things live, how it is being done. So, this is a passion I have had for years. Maybe I am monetising it at the moment.
You’re a blogger, what inspired that aspect of you?
I wanted to share food experiences and other tidbits around food and health, and create a variety and excitement and maintain a sensible, healthy lifestyle.
Why the name 1Q Food Platter?
My friends call me IQ, Short for Iquo. I did not want the blog to come across as academic a la intelligence quotient so I settled for 1Q (One Q).
What are the lessons you have learnt in life?
First, be kind to people but give back to people as you get along particularly the young ones. The more you give back, the more you might actually reap, much later when you least expected.
Did your upbringing play a role in shaping your life?
Yes, my father was a disciplinarian to the core. If we had to be in school by 6am, you had to be at his car about time. If you are not, you would find your way to school. Food wise, my mum, an Efik woman, made sure I could cook even at a very tender age. May be that was what drove my passion for food.
Many women see you as their role model. What is your advise to them?
Follow your passion. Work hard but don’t neglect your family. You will go back to them after the hustle of corporate life.
Any memorable moment?
There were joyful moments. But more importantly, each time I read from a woman that “that recipe you provided put a smile on the faces of my husband and my Children”, that kept me going.
Are you a fulfilled woman?
Absolutely. I’m blessed with balanced children and I had a successful career. I have something I am doing even in retirement.
At 60 you are still looking trendy, what is the secret?
I’m disciplined with eating; I told you I’m passionate about food and the health of food. At 60, I’m still passionate about food
What’s your philosophy of life?
I believe in God. I believe in Jesus Christ absolutely. I always ask myself if whatever I do mirrors Jesus Christ. If it does, I’m fine.