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March 29, 2018

Spotlight On: Damilola Okonkwo, Co-Founder of the Alternative Learning Centre (ALC)

The 4-1-1 on Damilola:

  • Born: Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Current hometown: Two thirds of the year in Lagos, one third in London
  • Astrological sign: Sagittarius
  • Favorite movie: "Save the Last Dance"I'm obsessed with dance movies!
  • Dream job when you were younger: A video game animator
  • Area of focus: I recently co-founded the Alternative Learning Centre (ALC), an alternative school which focuses on self-directed learning and encourages parental involvement. I also founded Disruptive Womanan amalgamation of my fascination with real people, my love/hate relationship with social media, and my mission to shine a light on awesome women.

5 Questions with Damilola

What is one of your proudest accomplishments (in your career, personal life, or both)?
The ALC is definitely up there. I co-founded the ALC because I don't believe traditional schools offer the type of alternative education I would like our children to have. This is an education that is child-led and community-based, focused on children's individual needs and strengths, and one that fosters a love for learning. It encourages self-motivation, allows children to discover their interests and passions, and better prepares them for the world they are growing up in. It's the first school of its kind in West Africa.

What was the turning point of your career?
After I spent 10+ years working in the finance industry, I got to a point in my career in which I realized that I wasn't really passionate about the work I was doing. I learned that being hard working and good at a few things did not equal passion. I was in a fortunate enough position where I didn't go back to my job after giving birth to my daughter because I always knew I wanted to be very hands on with the day-to-day upbringing of our children. Playing an active role in educating them, especially during their early years, is important to me and inspired the model for which we built ALC (hence why I also take on a role of Learning Facilitator).

How do you maintain a good work/life balance?
I don't. I struggle. My children are my workthe Alternative Learning Center is technically my new career, but the awesome part about it is that I get to take my children to work with me every day. Playing an active role in their education means I have very little time to focus on the crucial business aspects (finances and budgeting, employees, day-to-day operations, administration, fundraising, etc.) of the ALC during the day. That's why I try to do most of my "thinking work" while my children are asleep, but it's admittedly exhausting! I'm still trying to figure out the whole work/life balance thing and questioning whether it actually exists.

How do you keep yourself motivated and feeling empowered?
I'm forever assessing my priorities and reevaluating them. This way I'm constantly reminded of what is important to me and why I'm doing what I'm doing, which helps keep me moving and motivated. For instance, when Disruptive Woman really took off, it required a lot more of my time. That meant being 100% present with my children and focusing on the expansion of ALC were sometimes put on the back burner. I reassessed what I needed to dofactoring in the short-to-medium termand I was able to re-focus my work according to new priorities.

Can you share one piece of life advice and one piece of career advice?
Life: Focus on your loves, interests, and passions and carve out a life based on these things. Happiness and fulfillment will surely follow. Career: Figure out what you're good at and knowledgeable in and work to become indispensable in this area.

Connect with Damilola on Instagram!


Alexis Bridenbaugh