Young and Nigerian Interview
Adesubomi Plumptre is a young woman who has made huge strides as a manager in such a short time – armed, she says with laughter, with Iced tea and fresh ‘chin-chin’!. Author, brand consultant and passionate Nigerian, this multi-tasker shares what drives her in this sharp conversation
What are the first five adjectives you use when you tell people who Subomi Plumptre is?
Direct, Forthright, Deeply Passionate, Intense and Fiercely Loyal
Did you know at age five that this was how you’ll turn out?
Er…definitely not! I thought I was going to be a singer. And then I went through a phase where I wanted to be a doctor. Thankfully, that didn’t pan out and now am happily doing what I do now. I truly couldn’t have chosen anything more suited to my inquisitive temperament than consulting.
What are the childhood memories you will hold on to for the rest of your life?
The first time I went shopping with my Father at Kingsway Stores and sat in a shopping cart. Also, Easter family celebrations and the taste of my Mother’s fresh fish stew. I remember I had to look out for the treacherous bones. I also have fond memories of sitting around the family TV set with my siblings to watch Voltron and Terrahawks.
Can’t think of any university in Nigeria that teaches consultancy as a course; so where did you acquire your consulting knowledge?
I learnt on the job really. Alder Consulting, the Strategy & Brand Consulting Firm where I work is a great learning environment. It trains people to think both strategically and creatively. It’s also a meritocracy and the only place I know where a Youth Corper can lead a team comprising much older colleagues. To do what I do, all that is required is a deep love for knowledge, a near-obsessive attention to detail, a creative bent and an analytical soul.
For some, it can still be startling to see a lady hold a strategic position in an organization. What was it like getting to where you are today?
I don’t think it’s amazing really. I think ladies all over the world who work hard and are committed to what they do will rise to the top. Sometimes, it’s even easier because women tend to be passionate about and loyal to what they do. When a woman believes in something, she’ll give her life to it and commit immense resources to ensuring it succeeds.
The business environment in recent times is said to be a place where you must learn how to multi-task. How do you survive this pressure?
Having an interest in different things helps. This means I am curious about several topics. However, multi-tasking requires extreme focus as well as mental and emotional energy. Sometimes, it means cutting out the superfluous. Over the years, I’ve learnt that you can never be excellent at multiple tasks if you haven’t first built dedication and depth in specific areas. You must first develop depth before you can properly handle breadth. As per the pressure, I have 2 secret weapons – Iced Tea and fresh chin-chin (laughter)
How would you sell Nigeria to a potential foreign investor who already has a polluted mindset about the socio-economic stance of the country?
I would sell Nigeria based on hard economic facts and the entrepreneurial spirit of the people. For example, at Alder, we conceptualised the Heart of Africa project a few years ago and the plan was to sell Nigeria as the largest and one of the most vibrant markets in Africa . At the time, many multinationals were making returns on investment of over 40%, in some instances. Today, Nigeria is one of the world’s fastest growing telecoms markets and Goldman Sachs has identified Nigeria as one of the top economies to watch out for in the next few years.
What impact would you say you have made in your field/organization in the past one year?
As part of the Alder Consulting team, I have helped to fulfil our goal of “Thought Leadership & Generational Influence”. We largely introduced branding as a discipline in Nigeria and today we are pleased to see that brand consulting is a major profession. We also train interns from all over the world, every year. It’s gratifying to meet interns who have passed through Alder and see how they’ve blossomed and grown.
Have there been any missteps in the job that stand out in your mind?
Eh…none that I would want published in the pages of the newspaper (laughter)
What would you say has been the highlight of your career?
Being part of the Alder Consulting team that made a series of presentations to the Federal Executive Council and 2 successive Presidents. And, our strategies were adopted into Foreign Policy and Education. Those experiences taught me that if you’re good at what you do and have a passion for change; you will eventually impact your society and nation.
What is your take on the stereotype that says ‘it’s impossible to have a successful marriage and career at the same time?
Is there a stereotype? I’m hearing this for the very first time! But seriously, it’s not true. There are many people with successful marriages and careers.
Talking about role models, do you have any?
My boss and surrogate “dad” – Leke Alder.
Outside your professional career, what else are you involved in?
I co-chair the Management Board of the Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI), a credible generational platform for accomplished Nigerians in the country and Diaspora who wish to play a significant role in transforming our country. I also write.
What is the idea behind your website, www.nobullshitonline.com?
It’s a collection of the thoughts that defined my 20s as well as my insights on life, Nigeria , relationships, etc. You could say that my book, which is available for download on the website, was an early autobiography. Perhaps, I’ll write one every decade or so. Time passes by so quickly. It’s good to catalogue one’s thoughts and experiences.
You seem to be very passionate about what you do. What’s your driving force?
I truly believe that what I do provides a platform for changing Nigeria and is also my service to God and humanity. Some people do great, social, charitable things. I serve God through my work.
For an upward mobile young female with so much passion for her work, what are the heights left to conquer?
I don’t think I have conquered any significant heights yet. There is still so much to do and so little time. However, I would like to be part of the resurgence of the new generation of Nigerian youth transforming the nation.
What is your perfect relaxation spot and why?
Anywhere with music, movies and words. It could be eating yam chips on my couch while listening to the Smooth Jazz channel on cable or an evening out with friends. I also like travelling. It’s the only time I can switch off my phones. I’ve been to countries in Africa, North & South America, Asia and Europe . Next on my list is New Zealand or Australia .
How would you describe the phrase ‘The Nigerian Spirit’?
The indomitable, unquenchable, spirit of innovation, enterprise and passion!!
When God opens a door, don’t open a window (I stole this from my boss)
Unclutter your life. Avoid complexity at all costs
Friendship is life’s most prized possession
Give, give and give again
Hard work is non-negotiable
By Kenneth Oliko
Published in The Guardian Newspaper (Sunday – 23/05/2010)