Finding Work: Letting curiosity guide your search for work

cord helps Engineers direct message other people looking to hire them. But finding work isn’t just about access to hiring managers…

Finding your best work is a life’s journey uncovered through an ongoing conversation with ourselves and the world around us.

The Best Work Stories podcast hosts conversations between Ben (Co-founder and CEO of cord) and Founders, CTO’s, Software Engineers and people in tech who are on their own journey to find their best work.

Transcript

Olufemi Alogbo (00:00):

I think the first thing would be curiosity. I love like interviews where I’m even learning something, not just only being asked questions or me answering or them getting more insights from me. I’m also getting a little bit of insight. I’m also getting knowledge from the interviewer as well.

Ben Henley-Smith (00:18):

What’s your relationship like with work?

Olufemi Alogbo (00:23):

It’s pretty much, there’s a unison with it because unlike everybody having their normal 09:00 to 05:00, I pretty much carry work with me every single time there’s an issue, every single time there’s a need, if you get what I mean. So you might see me working late hours, you can see working on weekends, but as long as there’s a need for an issue to be solved or a user, from my perspective that needs to be satisfied. Yeah. Work is there about… I must have that good work life balance. So it’s pretty much for me it’s, like I said, it’s a unison because it’s [inaudible 00:01:03] is a part of my… It’s a part of my life though. So yeah. That’s how work is for me.

Ben Henley-Smith (01:11):

Why is it that way, do you think?

Olufemi Alogbo (01:15):

I think it’s a personal reason. I find that, apart from the conventional working hours, I have and I get more bright ideas, more creative ideas at my own pace. I’m not saying that I don’t get the same amount of creativity at the normal, conventional working hours, but when there’s that flexibility for me to actually work, it gives me more room to expand, it gives more room to get ideas. There’s some days when I’m playing video games or watching anime or doing unconventional things where I can pick, let’s say it’s a UI I need to fix and I’m looking for color palette that would work… Would accommodate a particular color that’s already been picked. Just me getting that from the leisure activity I’m doing, I pretty much just store that to my mind and quickly go and add that to my working hours.

Olufemi Alogbo (02:10):

So like I said, it’s a personal thing. And I like the flexibility I can do that because gives more range to… It gives me more ability to be creative from the unconventional or from the conventional working hours though.

Ben Henley-Smith (02:26):

Did you always want to do a creative work?

Olufemi Alogbo (02:33):

Yeah. Yeah. I always wanted to do creative work, but as a product designer, it’s more than just your creative aspect though. It’s very much all about solving problems. It’s a plus or your work is guess has an edge once you’ve added that creativity into it. So yeah, I’ve I always wanted that, it’s just as like a… It makes you like… It gives you an edge over other works or over, yeah, over other solutions or creating works that has been done by others though. So yeah.

Ben Henley-Smith (03:13):

Your path isn’t typical. You come from a mechanical engineering background. When did you make the switch?

Olufemi Alogbo (03:20):

So that’s a very interesting story. I’ve always wanted to do design. I think design or art or the aesthetics has been a family thing. My dad is a very renowned artist. My brother is the lead designer of a particular bank in Nigeria. That’s all artistic background but when I mentioned I wanted to do something with that creative art or product design aspect to my mama, my parents, they were like, “No, no, no you must do this. And what not.” So I was pushed to do mechanical engineering by my folks though. But while I was in mechanical engineering, I was pretty much also doing maybe small… Helping my friends with maybe presentation or design like collaterals and whatnot. I think my first job, my first-ever job, not my first paying job, my first ever job was to help someone design a logo.

Olufemi Alogbo (04:20):

So that creative part has always been like, or that design aspect has always been in me or whatnot. So mechanical engineering was pretty much something that my parents pushed me to do. I’m not saying I regret it, but it’s like as an engineer, I incorporated the fact that you can solve problems in what I’m currently doing now, which has to do with product designing, which is a little bit of a backbone to design as well as to mechanical engineering or engineering as a whole. So yeah, for me, I think it put me in that mental state of not just creating designs because of the aesthetics. It pretty much has that underlying factor of, you are trying to solve a problem. So yeah. So I’m pretty much equally grateful for that experience in mechanical engineer as well.

Ben Henley-Smith (05:14):

How have you gone about finding work with a problem-solving mechanical engineering mindset, but then you’ve also got those artistic influences from your family? How have you taken both of those things and applied them to the way that you look for work?

Olufemi Alogbo (05:36):

Okay. So one thing that engineering or learning in school, one thing that’s pretty much ingrained in me as a person is it’s not just only hard work that gets you far. You must actually have that extra bit of… A plus too as well. Because engineering not only just infuses hard work, you must also have an edge among your peers. You must be ready to go the distance and we use that also as a premise to answer the question. So as well, just answering the question as I got my recent work I got from code, there were a series of interviews. I think over 10 or 20, I can’t tell you, I totally lost track, but that at the back of not only having hard work, not only doing the required test questions and whatnot, but also not only having that edge with your portfolio, but ready to go the distance.

Olufemi Alogbo (06:38):

I can mention three or four people that I can think on the back of my head that once they mentioned that you have to do close to 10 or 20 interviews and whatnot, they’re pretty much not interested. They just dropped out but I think me from school once you get to school and you’re being told that you’re going to have over 20 or 100 tests before you get a distinction, that mentality is already ingrained in me. So, when I was doing the interview I was like, “No problem, I’ve done this in school already.” What’s the worst that could happen? So yeah, that pretty much was a nostalgia for me as a whole. Yeah so.

Ben Henley-Smith (07:19):

It sounds like you almost treat looking for work as a funnel?

Olufemi Alogbo (07:28):

Not necessarily a funnel. I think, I would say at the initial stage of me getting a job, I think that when I just left school, I always saw it as, yes, a funnel or some particular tax or something I had to finish to get to a particular maybe destination or finish a tax and whatnot. But I found that I think lately the amount or the few jobs I’ve gotten up to now, it has not… It hasn’t been a funnel. It has more or less been an experience in the sense that one, it has given me opportunity to learn about myself. The Reason why I say about myself in the sense that before… After leaving school, I was pretty much very into myself. I was quiet. I wasn’t very outspoken as I like to think I am right now.

Olufemi Alogbo (08:27):

So answering questions, I usually always give maybe one… During interviews it was pretty much maybe one line answers and not giving the interviewer an idea to get insights into my perspective and whatnot. But think once you’ve done three or four interviews you get, I don’t want say get into the rhythm, but you understand, get empathy as to where the interviewer and the company, their perspective, where they’re coming from. It also gives you insight into yourself as well of course. Some of the questions they ask makes you have to go in, try and pick residual experiences or knowledge or more or less try to get deep insight into yourself. So it has made me know a little bit more about myself and has also made me a very… I think makes me understand people more too as well, because you need to, I think as an interviewee, you need to know that the person that’s interviewing is not asking all these questions.

Olufemi Alogbo (09:24):

If the questions are hard or technical or the questions are technical and you don’t know it, she’s not doing it… Or he, or she’s not doing it from a malicious place. He’s just trying to know if you’re the right for company. So I think I would say yes. Previously, I thought it was [inaudible 00:09:39] because I thought it was a place to get, it was way so it to finish a tax and get to particular destination but I find it an experience, because it makes me know myself much more and also the company that I’m hiring for or I’m being hired for. Yeah so.

Ben Henley-Smith (09:55):

When you got to that third interview, a lot of people would lose energy, would lose their edge and it sounds like at that point you find your edge and in some ways you’re able to lose your inhibitions and to go even harder. What’s the difference between the way that you approach it at that point, versus someone who falls and doesn’t continue?

Olufemi Alogbo (10:21):

I think the first thing would be curiosity. I think firstly when I’ve seen or from experience, once I’ve gone through various stages and I’m like, it’s more or less curious as to, okay, this… The previous stage was like this, the second stage was like this, what’s next stage going to be like? Also it’s more or less also how intrinsic the knowledge I’m getting from doing the interviews. I love interviews where I’m even learning something, not just only being asked questions or me answering or them getting more insights from me, I’m also getting a little bit of insight. I’m also getting knowledge from the interviewer as well. So one thing I love doing is, there’s a question I keep asking, because whenever you do an interview and they ask anymore questions, apart from the generic, those more or less formal questions that you can get, you can pretty much get the answers on the website.

Olufemi Alogbo (11:23):

I can ask personal questions from the interviewer in a sense that, good example is like, “What exactly you guys looking for from a designer or a past role I’m being interviewed for?” Just so I can get insights as to what’s it’s like… Whether I tick the boxes or whether I’m ticking the boxes in the interview. That’s one. Another question I always ask is, how is their, the particular, if it’s a senior designer that has been interviewing me, how is their particular… How is their day in the current place of work? That gives you a very good idea as to what they’re looking for? So it gives you a very good idea of how they see the company from their eyes in a sense that if it’s not just going to be what is being pulled up from documents or what’s been pulled from their website or whatnot. It actually gives you an insight into the company from an employee’s eyes.

Olufemi Alogbo (12:17):

So I think with that is not just only curiosity. I think that’s also takes you far because you’re getting different… You’re not just getting one straight feedback. You’re getting different feedbacks from different personnel and different individuals. So I always like when the answers are actually really insightful, very interesting and very personal so that it can give me more insight into the company I’m interested in working for. So yeah, that gets me going from one level to another and especially in the interview phase.

Ben Henley-Smith (12:52):

It sounds like you use those questions as a real opportunity to fuel your own energy when I think in lots of circumstances, those questions almost seem like a bit of a chore when someone asks you at the end of the interview, do you have any questions? And you’re like, “Oh god, I don’t know if I do.” It sounds like you use that moment to really dive into it. What data do you use when you’re deciding where to work?

Olufemi Alogbo (13:16):

I think one thing that is really one of my major criteria is how much users they have, how I would create an impact in the company or in the place I’m going to, especially as it pertains to my work experience and also if it’s something that I’m comfortable with. Then also something that is very key because I’m a huge fan of working with people, it’s more or less like it’s not only a job, it’s like a family. So one other thing, a key thing is people. If I’ve gotten feedback from maybe… If I maybe done my little bit of research from any Glass or any other company oriented site, if I have experience or I’ve gotten feedback that the people in this company are very accommodative, very open, they pretty much would welcome you as a staff. Not even necessarily as a staff as also part of their team members and whatnot.

Olufemi Alogbo (14:10):

It’s always good because for what I do as product designer, one major thing… One major requirements, I prioritize is stakeholder management and you… The key people, the key stakeholders are your teammates. So if the people you’re working, if you can’t have a very cordial relationship with them, it’s pretty much going to affect your work. So they’re not quantitative data, most of the times. It’s pretty much always qualitative data because I can’t put figures as to so and so. So with this number, I’m going to be on try it at this company, with this number I’m going to try companies. I think most of them is always either intuitive or more or less intrusive if you get what I mean. Yeah.

Ben Henley-Smith (14:52):

Yeah. This is data you need to extract from the conversations that you have, rather than from the public information that you can find.

Olufemi Alogbo (15:00):

Yeah.

Ben Henley-Smith (15:02):

What would you do differently in your job searches, if you could?

Olufemi Alogbo (15:08):

What would I do differently? What would I do? Okay. That’s a very interesting question. I think one thing I will do differently, I’m not sure. I think I’ve already doing it is… Sorry. I can’t think of any answer right now, but I think one thing I’ll just do differently is pretty much broaden my horizons. I’m a very, like I said before, I’m not calling myself an introvert, but I’m a very private person. I think I should pretty much when I say broaden my horizon, I should be adventurous. I think places I apply to where places I’ve either been before or I have family there. That’s in the UK or the US. I’m not sure if code offers maybe European countries or… I won’t mind going to Japan, Asian countries too as well.

Olufemi Alogbo (16:12):

I like Japanese culture and whatnot. I should be open to challenges or open to… I should be adventurous more or less in the sense I shouldn’t be only my safe zone. I should be thinking of applying to countries for thinking of going to work for countries for… I should br thinking of taking up… I think one thing will I say having cold feet, it’s probably the countries where I won’t able to have effective communication with maybe users or potential users. And especially if I can’t speak English, that would involve me learning a new language and I think I’m always dragging my feet because of that. So hence I think one thing I should, where I’d like to change is me to be open, to be more adventurous to that. Because yes, it might be a different language, that might be one of the barriers, but design is the same all across every nation. So long as you’re creating a solution that solves the customers needs, you are obviously communicating. So I think I need to learn that much more. Yeah.

Ben Henley-Smith (17:17):

Femi, thank you so much for sharing your story.

Olufemi Alogbo (17:20):

Thanks man.

Ben Henley-Smith (17:21):

I’ve loved hearing it. And from going from mechanical engineering to an artistic dad. Building products in Nigeria to now here, you’re incredible. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Olufemi Alogbo (17:35):

Thanks, Ben. Really appreciate this. Really appreciate this.

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