As a product designer, innovation and creativity are invaluable skills one needs in creating an impact or adding value. My passion for this led me to participate in the Innovation Readiness Training by Innovate for Africa (IFA).
The IFA fellowship is a 1-year experience aimed at creating the next generation of African innovators. It begins with the month-long Innovation Readiness Training, after which the trained fellows are provided with the opportunity to apply and learn more at an IFA partnered startup for the remainder of the year, talk about learning, working, and re-learning!
The training allowed me to put all the IFA values to work; I had to be innovative on my deliverables, embrace collaboration to get the best work done, show grit to push boundaries, pick up on big ideas and work at them until I succeed, maintain a growth mindset about everything and never see mistakes as setbacks, and to prioritise inclusivity and diversity when receiving inputs from other persons on or outside my team. The training was very impactful in terms of my personal and career growth. It was high-quality, fast-paced, and growth-stimulating, a true reflection of the demands of innovating in a startup environment! For 4 weeks, I was exposed to modules on personal branding, design thinking, strategic analysis, and a hard skills lab. It was hard work that paid off because I emerged with new skills, knowledge and experience that will stay with me beyond the fellowship.
This was where I focused on crafting my digital identity and understanding of branding. I was taught to communicate the best possible representation of myself online which would attract potential employers, collaborators and other important connections. It helped me with being professional and self-aware as I understood this concept could apply to the brand of a startup or company.
Being inclined to create user-centred solutions, I enjoyed understanding the theory and practise of creating impactful innovation that addresses the pain-points of the end-user. Among other things, this part of the training taught me to prioritise learning as an innovator, especially through active listening. Design thinking focuses on the identity and need of the intended user of a solution, it requires that I empathise with them, accurately define their problem, ideate possible solutions, prototype one or more of such solutions, and test them for effectiveness and likely improvements. Essentially, for my solution to deliver lasting value, I must build with the user, and not just for them. Based on this mindset, my team came up with a digital education financing platform; EdSponsor, a solution to address the lack of access to basic education faced by indigent children in Nigeria due to poverty and poorly equipped public schools.
Using a case study, this session helped me in understanding what it entails to consult in real-time. I learnt to apply systems thinking to analyse the functioning and positioning of an organisation. With appropriate research using a framework, critical information can be analyzed to aid businesses and management make decisions on the best strategies to adopt, predict opportunities/threats, and hot and when to seize/avoid them.
HARD SKILLS LAB
This definitely stood out for me! I opted for the Product Management track out of the three tracks provided. I have been very interested in this career path and very keen to create impactful solutions. l got to collaborate with my colleagues and consult for Innovate for Africa, it exposed me to the realities and norms of product management as a career. I learnt to create a product requirements document, a product roadmap and prototypes! I was also matched with an amazing mentor; Thomas Truongchau, a product manager for guidance on my personal and group deliverables! His insightful counsels and coaching made me love the experience more.
Finally; in between the training sessions, we had sessions with several guest speakers including Efosa Ojomo, Faith Adesemowo, and Chiedo John. They shared their experiences and practical wisdom with us. I've learnt that the journey to success is a marathon, my values ought to drive my decisions, and market-creating innovation is most impactful in the developing world.
I am glad that the fellowship does not end at the Innovation Readiness Training as I still have the opportunity to keep learning with IFA while contributing to a startup.
Partnering with a startup like yours will be an incredible learning experience for fellows like Akinola, IN ADDITION to helping your startup accelerate with passionate African innovators.
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