I had the immense pleasure of chatting with the CEO of Nigerian based Pierrine Consulting, and fellow ESOMAR Council candidate, Seyi Adeoye. We spoke about his career so far, his experiences conducting fieldwork the length and breadth of Nigeria, some brilliant advice for junior researchers, his thoughts on the future of ESOMAR, and advice for researchers based all across the African continent. Having grown up in South Africa, I found this part particularly inspiring!
Seyi, great to chat to you, hot stepping it off the ESOMAR campaign trail for a bit. It’s a busy time, so lets crack right on. So, how did you get into the industry, and take us through how you got to this point?
I ‘stumbled’ into the industry really, I actually trained as an agronomist.
It was the early 2000’s, I was fresh out of the university and the country was experiencing high unemployment rates. A mentor got a market research brief from his friend based in South Africa and needed someone to execute the brief. He mentioned it to me, the opportunity sounded exciting and I told him it was something I could work around; but honestly, I had no clue what Marketing Research was about. So, I used all the money I had then to buy internet access at cyber cafes to read about market research online; to understand the various approaches and how the brief could be delivered. I read voraciously everything I could find, and my interest was piqued from thereon.
I went ahead to work on the project to the best of my ability and fortunately the project was a success. After that experience I then went on to start my own field work management company and got a brief to execute country-wide studies for the now defunct Research International’s Nigerian opco. Based on the superlative quality of delivery, the firm approached me to join their team and like they say, the rest is history.
And if you had to distil everything you’ve achieved right down, what would you say are three secrets to your success so far?
I believe in spirituality: being at the right place, at the right time; holding the right conversations with the right people has panned out well for me.
Secondly, we all need a good dose of the right attitude. This has helped me to weather setbacks, build mutually beneficial relationships and to do great work consistently. This is also underpinned by a healthy self-confidence and a strong belief that nothing is impossible.
Lastly, I am an extremely curious and imaginative person. These qualities always push me to re-imagine myself, my career, alternate paths and to be super open to new opportunities, ideas and relationships.
I am a strong believer in this quote ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited but imagination encircles the world’
So, come on, if you’re allowed to say, what’s the most interesting, crazy, fun project you’ve ever worked on?
I think for me it’s a case of never forgetting your first:
So, it will be the first countrywide project I managed as the CEO of my own field management start-up company and then got headhunted to join the now defunct Research International in Lagos to finish off the project up to final client deliverables, with the rest of the RI team.
Fun and crazy because it entailed travelling round the entire country (every state and every key city) in buses, taxis and a lot of times on commercial motor bikes to map the cement distribution network for a multinational holding company. It became more interesting when I got the opportunity to work on collated data, build the reports and interact with clients – so I witnessed first-hand the importance of our beloved industry to decision makers. I can still remember the adrenaline rush I felt during the client presentation!
That must have been an absolutely incredible experience!
Not being in the office and around colleagues, it is incredibly challenging, for younger researchers to stand out. What two bits of advice do you have for a junior researcher, working from home in lockdown, on how they can best stand out and impress their teams?
I have gone the full cycle and now lead a tech-first and an innovative MR company, headquartered in Lagos – Nigeria; and your question definitely is one interns and juniors within our team are asking.
My advice is:
- Be proactive – Offer to help (outside your immediate team), and make sure to do a great job. Business/team leaders are always looking for those who do beyond their own bit and are super team players.
- Don’t be a wallpaper during virtual meetings – prepare adequately for every meeting, be active and freely share your PoV – be heard, be known!
And thinking more long term now, what two things should junior researchers focus on as they progress in their careers?
A very good question: First of all, I will say develop and maintain a strong hunger for personal development. Basically, drive your own professional growth: learn, relearn and unlearn very rapidly.
Secondly, ensure you own a great attitude: be easy and fun to work with. Be a competent and reliable team member. Build and maintain great relationships. You can’t do all of these without a great attitude!
You’re running for ESOMAR Council, congratulations! What is your key message and how do you plan to make a difference?
Yes, thanks James!
Changes abound all around us and Covid-19 has further accelerated these changes and their impact on our industry. We have also seen the welcomed rise of adjacent industries like AI/ML/Big Data/ Data analytics etc.
- Intend to champion member-first focus: Passionately push for membership growth amongst relevant stakeholders, value chain partners and regions; while ensuring ESOMAR delivers tangible value to all
- Re-imagine engagement strategies with stakeholders and regions: Foster inclusion and diversity, while providing opportunities for learning, networking and collaborations.
- Relevance: Plan to work closely with other ESOMAR council members to focus on programs and initiatives, that will ensure ESOMAR remains agile and relevant to all stakeholders today and into the foreseeable future.
By the way, I have been doing my bit continentally – started a yearly industry conference (WHAT-IS-NEW) that brings together town and gown + relevant sectors; with focus on building a healthy talent funnel for the marketing research industry, driving vibrant intellectual conversations and strong partnerships. This has been running for the past three years with delegates from various African countries, North America and Europe.
Also, started an academy (Marketing Research Academy, Lagos) which is helping fresh and mid-level researchers build strong MR fundamentals for successful careers.
I am also actively involved with the local MR association (NIMRA) and the continental umbrella (AMRA).
And do you have a message for fellow researchers based on the African continent?
Africa has 1.3 billion consumers and a combined GDP of $3 trillion. AfCFTA has now further strengthened the growth and competitive fundamentals of Africa. Africa will increasingly see an influx of firms, brands and funds seeking sustainable growth over the coming years.
The continent is definitely an amazing opportunity on its own and it’s a great time to be alive here and now. The research industry has seen rapid growth over the past 15 years with international MR firms now present and playing across several countries, which definitely points to the growth and importance of the continent.
African researchers based in Africa, are the ones that know Africa best and can provide guidance to those who want to play within the continent.
And do you have anyone who has helped your career so far that you’d like to acknowledge and say thanks or give a shout out to
Sure, I have had lots of help along the way till now. Shout out to Adeola Tejumola, Doyin Salami, Lanre Fashakin, Stella Okpala, Yinka Aderoju, Alips Butiya, Vera Nnaji, Aggrey Maposa, Yemisi Makinde, Ray Poynter, Arnie Miller, Pradipta Mitra, Eddington Danda, Mariam Fagbemi, Ndeye Diagne, Ugo Geri-Robert, Emma Nduka, Paul Oziegbe, Olukemi Adeoye and many others
Super grateful to all of them.