Years in Tech
Director, Trust and Safety, OLX Group
Business Development, Entrepreneurship, Operational Transformation, Strategy and Product Development.
14th December, 2018
Lola is the Director for Trust and Safety at OLX Group, working across 30+ OLX markets to ensure that buyers and sellers can transact safely and securely on the platform. Prior to her global role at OLX, Lola was the Country Manager for OLX in Nigeria where she was responsible for driving all elements of the business including Business Development, Product Localization, Marketing and other relevant functions. OLX Group is one of the world’s leading online classifieds players. Through its brands including OLX, Avito, dubizzle and letgo, OLX Group is the home of online classifieds in high-growth markets. Globally ~ 11 million items are exchanged through its platforms every single month.
Prior to joining OLX, Lola spent 4 years at Google leading various Product Partnerships efforts across EMEA and Emerging Markets. Lola was one of the earliest Googlers in Sub-Saharan Africa when the technology company began its operations in the region. Lola shaped the regional strategy, executed on several core initiatives and led business development efforts with key SSA partners including the telcos, OEMs, digital content providers and local entrepreneurs.
Lola brings significant leadership experience in business development, entrepreneurship, operational transformation and product development across several industries including technology and financial services. In addition to Africa, Lola has substantial international working experience in North America, Europe, and Asia. She also worked in the Chicago office of McKinsey & Company, where she spent time advising senior executives on extensive strategic management topics. Lola holds a Doctorate degree in Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from the University of Virginia. She is happily married with two kids.
What experiences led you to technology and how did you develop the skills to compete in the industry?
I have always taken an open minded approach to my career development and frankly, technology found me rather than the other way around. I do not believe in 5 year career plans as the world has become ever more dynamic but I always advise to do one’s best, even in the littlest of endeavors and follow the path where it leads.
The skills necessary to compete in the technology industry can be categorized as functional skills and softer “maneuvering” skills. I developed my tech functional skills in much the same way as one would approach any new skills, that is – 1) constant self-education and a curiosity to learn about new and interesting topics 2) on-the-job observation; learning through colleagues, team engagement and picking up the relevant industry jargon from conversations and discourse 3) formal learning through structured trainings and courses.
However, acquiring the softer skills is a bit more nuanced. It involves having clarity on expectations for one’s role /position, understanding key stakeholders and their motivations, “faking it till you make it” or in common Nigerian parlance, appropriate “packaging” but that does not compromise one’s authentic self. For all our talk on data-driven decision making in the tech industry, which I’m a strong proponent of, I believe an element of going with your intuition, making a decision that simply “feels right” should also not be underestimated. Underlying it all, it is important, almost crucial to trust one’s capabilities and ability to compete and succeed.
How has your background helped/differentiated you in the tech industry?
It might be helpful to say a bit about my background. I have a doctorate (PhD) in Engineering, work experience in management consulting, financial services and technology. I have also dabbled, just a little, in politics where I was the student government president at
Because the tech space is constantly evolving, and very fast; success in the industry requires a high level of adaptability and awareness of trends and shifts. Having both a Nigerian and American education provided the opportunity to see things from many different perspectives, understand the global context while applying relevant knowledge to the local market in Nigeria. Understanding the Nigerian consumer mindset is key; adapting business models for local nuances is essential but also being aware of scenarios /markets /situations where similar models have failed in other parts of the world is also just as important.
What advice would you give to women considering a career in technology? What do you wish you had known?
Technology is an exciting and rewarding industry to work in. It’s one of the few verticals that aren’t siloed but can be applied across many other industries. A background /work experience in technology makes one very versatile and opens up many options.
There isn’t any particular mystery about technology and women should have the confidence to delve in. It’s actually one of the more flexible industries from a work-life balance perspective and one that actively supports women to succeed. The tech industry is very progressive and constantly finding ways to ensure that it provides the right working environment to foster collaboration and inclusion.
Lastly, lots of women have been successful in tech with significant opportunities to make an impact. It is important to take time to understand the different aspects to tech – software engineering, product development, entrepreneurship, business management etc – and find an area /organization /team that fits.