There are two goals to this article; To review my time in university and to give an answer to some of the questions I have received from undergraduates.

Exactly a month ago, I was inducted into the Nigeria Society of Engineers. I graduated with a BSc in Mechanical Engineering (First Class Honours) from The University of Ibadan.

I am not one of those geeks who will tell you how I read for 10 hours every day…lol…I am not this serious…I honestly just knew I wanted the best out of life. I transitioned from a girl who had no idea that there were female folks in STEM to becoming a woman who against all odds became a first-class graduate of Mechanical Engineering.

My graduation was a day I looked forward to as it allowed me to celebrate the hard work I had put into my academics, personal development, extracurricular activities and my impact on lives. During my five years of undergrad, I learned a lot about myself, what interests me, the people around me, and what makes life meaningful. I will be sharing some of the important lessons I learned through my 5 years in the university.

Ensure to start your first year with the best CGPA possible

I feel like screaming this down your eardrums. First-year is blessed with fewer distractions; it is more like an introduction to your field of study, and it is honestly where you can get your straight A’s. After your first year, you would likely begin to involve yourself in activities that compete with your reading time. Plus schoolwork becomes more serious and sometimes difficult. Please, if you do not take anything out of this article. I want you to hold on to this; ‘Try to make maximum use of your first and second year in the university’.

Do not be an academic student only

Do not be book smart only, please be everything smart, expose your mind, attend conferences, events, try out job interviews. Stay informed! In my first year, I had a triangle lifestyle, class – hostel – church. I wish I had started leveraging some opportunities, exploring frontiers, and harnessing some benefits right from my first year in school- putting in for as many applications as possible. Leverage opportunity/scholarship websites by purposefully searching for openings that interest you. Commit time and resources to knowledge acquisition. Join associations related to your field. Volunteer for organizations that do things that interest you

Perform constant self-evaluations to identify gaps between where you are and where you want to be.

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Ask yourself ‘why?’ a lot of times. Why are you learning this skill? Why do you want to attend that boot camp? To improve our priorities, we must simply reflect on them often and make sure we’re prioritizing the right things. In my case, there was a time I was extremely excited about Machine Learning, and until I asked myself why, I didn’t realize my interest in it was because it was the buzzword everywhere.

Do not be scared to fail

Life won’t always go as planned – I maintained a first-class all through my 5 years in school but something happened in my fourth year. At the beginning of my 5th year, I got notified by my department that I failed a course and I had to take it again in my final year. I was scared, angry, almost depressed.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose values were truly above the price of rubies.

Well, the good thing is I took the course again in my final year and got a big fat A this time around.

“It is not going to be a smooth journey…Failure might be around the corner… You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default. The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive”

These are some of the words of J.K. Rowling at her graduation speech at Harvard University and I can honestly relate with most of the things she said. Please do not be scared to fail, fail forward!

A strong support system

Some students confine themselves to making friends only with a certain set of people. It is either they are seen only at religious gatherings or only with scholarly friends. Please build a strong network of friends and a support system. Have friends across all departments and faculties. You cannot do this life on your own. I can boldly say that one of the many reasons I made the first class is my support system. On the days I gave up on myself, they did not give up on me.

Learn how to tell your story

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In school, I applied and interviewed for countless internships, hackathons, boot camps, and leadership roles. I count the number of times I have had to answer the questions: “Tell me about yourself”, “What are your strengths and weakness”, “Why should you be accepted”, “Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years”…I got a lot of rejections but the good thing is each application made me get better at telling my story coherently and compellingly.

Based on these experience, I can tell powerful stories about who I am, where I’ve come from, and where I’m trying to get to. Stories are magnetic and powerful and they sell because they create human connections and appeal to human emotions. You might want to read my article on channeling the power of storytelling

Shoot your shots

If you are pretty close to me, you know I am a shot shooter. “You will lose 100% of the chances you do not take”…This is one of my many favorite quotes, and it is so true. You have nothing to lose if you get a rejection email. No means ‘Next Opportunity’. Please always apply for opportunities: scholarships, competitions, fellowships, etc. Either you get them or not, you are always a better person than you were when you started. Please shoot that email today!

Never underestimate the power of LinkedIn

I have made a lot of beautiful relationships on LinkedIn. I have got opportunities via LinkedIn. You might say, “But I do not have anything to post on LinkedIn”. Start by posting that two sentences. They say Rome was not built in a day; A great LinkedIn profile cannot be built in a day too. Consistency and effort are the key. Share quality insights and fresh perspectives based on your knowledge, expertise, or observations. Engage your network by asking an open-ended question or sharing a point of view. Don’t forget to respond to commenters and engage with other posts with a comment or share to drive the conversation.

Edit and regularly update your CV

I hear students give excuses that they do not have anything to put on their CV. Please skill up as school will not teach you everything you need. You need to know the skills you need and deliberately invest in acquiring those skills so that you have opportunities to intern and have something worthy on your CV. You should revisit your CV at least twice a year

What next for me after graduation? I honestly do not have a bold answer to this question. One thing I keep telling my friends is nobody has their life perfectly figured out so no need to pressure myself. I have ended a phase of my life and a new phase has begun. I am looking forward to growing, unlearning, relearning, learning, and making more impact. I will leave you with an excerpt from one of my favorite quotes

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world…”

I am looking forward to living the next phase of my life to the fullest!!!

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