Self-driven, Sociable, hardworking. determined, calculated, tenacious, an Amazon who doesn’t take ‘No’ for an answer. Born to a foremost Nigerian billionaire father, the Late Chief Oyedele Ashamu, the United Kingdom-trained Yetunde Juliet Adeshile’s dad had raised an unbelievably high bar and pressure for a child to have to live up to, but that was his bar and not hers. She has, for a considerable length of time, established herself in the United Kingdom as a successful Professional, with many hats as a registered, chartered, and experienced project and programme management professional; a John Maxwell certified leadership expert, Author, politician, trained and certified education and career coach, and a clergywoman. She is renowned across the United Kingdom for her experience across leadership and talent engagements across the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors where she has delivered high profile projects and programmes. The CEO and Founder, the Next Chosen Generation CIC and likely the first black woman on the board of UK’s Association of Project Management (APM), following her recent appointment, believes in justice, equity and is passionate about young people and their development and welfare. She speaks with Adedayo Adejobi on her advocacy for young people, why she finds justice and equity intriguing, her appointment as the first black woman on the board of the APM in the UK, the import of black women in leadership, and the journey so far….
Yetunde, beyond anything else, finds her appointment an honour, even though she has refused to agree to be called the first black woman to hold such a highly prestigious position. In her words, “Right now, I feel privileged to hold such a position, especially as I did not get on the board via the election process. Many people applied through the election stage, but only three people got elected. I was number four, missing the election by less than one hundred votes. I had planned to go through the election again this year, but God was ahead of me. He got me on the board by appointment, sooner than I thought. I am delighted and forever grateful to God for the opportunity.”
The smart-as-a-whip politician got into project management after her first degree in social policy and management. Whilst seeking a supposed permanent job, providence threw her right into the jaws of project management. Her temporary job as a project administrator birthed the curiosity to dig deeper into what it takes to be a project manager. That was at the time the profession was a novelty in the United Kingdom.
She attended internal training and got an opportunity in her new role. After eight months, Adeshile got an opportunity as a project manager when her first-choice career as a human resource manager didn’t pick up as expected. From that moment on, she has continually developed herself and now that she has gotten to the acme of being a registered chartered project professional, a full member and an appointed board member of the Association for Project Management, she’s indeed very grateful.
Grateful to God, her many bosses and mentors since the very beginning, her father and the air beneath her wings, and Pastor Peter Adeshile – her husband. Keeping an open mind and a sturdy willingness to learn from other people’s experience at the job has been the building block on her solid foundation. Yetunde is self-driven.
In the thick of our conversation, she has this to say about the notion of black executives taking bigger risks than their counterparts: “I would say they are right, especially in the western part of the world. My dad trained me to always work hard, no matter what or where I find myself. He always used to say ‘whatever you work for will always be yours and the good works of your hands will make way for you in pleasant places.’ I always try to work hard and work smart to achieve the best results possible.”
With calls from the global community to be more inclusive of black women in key positions of the corporate ladder, Adeshile believes self-doubt plays a huge role in stopping these women who can apply for these positions. She recalled her experience about a decade ago, “I remember a colleague of mine approaching me about 10 years ago, saying he wanted me to meet his mum who would want to hire someone like me for a top job in the United States. He said the job was just a phone call away. I declined. Unfortunately, I didn’t think I was worth it or ready for it, even though my husband encouraged me to go for it. I was afraid of the change and of failing. This same feeling has stopped many black women from taking up these roles in the past, which is why we still have this gap today. I hope that this appointment will open up new opportunities and encourage other black women to step forward.”
The tradition of women as care providers has been the bane holding women back in business, politics and society. Yetunde Adeshile believes that to be successful in business, politics and other endeavours, hard work, determination and tenacity are very paramount. Despite the many doors slammed in her face, she never took ‘no’ for an answer.
Smiling, resolute and calculated. She finds equality intriguing, yet open, because of the diverse drivers driving in the conversation in different communities across different climes. In the United Kingdom, there is an urgency to bridging the gap. There is a lot of training being filtered through companies and organisations. There is intentional recruitment and development of people from the Black, Asian and Minority ethnic groups, a UK demographic (BAME) community for senior roles.
When the reporter probed what it feels like to be a John Maxwell certified leadership expert, a pastor and all the other lofty heights she has currently attained, she had this to say: “Being a John Maxwell Certified Leadership Expert supports me in all my other leadership roles. The training and network help me be a better leader in all areas of my life. Project Management is my main profession, so being a Registered, Chartered and experienced Project Management Professional who is also on the Board provides me with a greater opportunity for collaboration in my profession.”
In the heart of what she does is humanity-people. Their development, welfare and everything are in-between. This is the fuel that runs her through. How to add value to people. Like they say it in business analysis: from current state to future state. Giving people opportunities and seeing them take advantage of them makes her happy. An astute believer of equality and justice, she said for there to be any form of justice in this world, “we must serve equality on the table.”
Away from work and her polity, Adeshile is a book lover. Her all-time favourites are Act like a Success, Think Like a Success by Steve Harvey, No Matter What by Lisa Nichols and the Holy Bible.
A family woman with a sentimental attachment finds time for days to unwind with her family. These are the non-cooking days where meals are ordered from their favourite Nigerian restaurant. Those are the days she watches movies and plays games with her husband and children. There are also family holidays, which are not always in the UK.
As a Nigerian in the diaspora, here’s what she had to say when quizzed on her position on the state of the nation: “My honest view is that there is no leadership in Nigeria. Well, none in how I understand and have been taught leadership. That is why Nigeria is where it is today.”
Reminiscing on her life, and the best advice she has been given, here is what she said – “The best advice I received was from my mum, a very long time ago. She said to me, ‘don’t let anyone take your place as the mother of your children. Let your children be wherever you are.’ At the time she said it, I didn’t quite understand, but I do now. A shame she is not here for me to let her know that I now understand.” To her children, she has taught them dependence on God and living in Christ; i.e., that relationship with God and understanding of The Word. Same gift her parents passed unto her.
Being a good mum comes with a lot of sacrifices but these are her five go-to’s; Relationship and obedience to God; Unconditional love; Patience; listening and empathy with the ability to be firm on decisions; and creating time for the family.
With every family tradition kept intact, she has taught her children to call her mum, which she prefers, because it makes her feel younger, and the power of equal opportunities. Juggling motherhood and a career comes with a great deal of time management, planning, and open and effective communication.
Coming from a very wealthy businessman and prominent father, the late Chief Oyedele Ashamu, who was highly successful, Adeshile had to sit up, find her person and create her path. Coming from that pedigree meant a raised bar she had to surpass, but she’s content with the bar of God and walking in him. She is full of appreciation for what her father who was a family man, a believer and lover of God and His Word achieved.
To her, making money comes in diverse ways: Work, Steal or Beg. The latter was the in-thing in her father’s generation, while the last is common amongst this generation. She believes in giving to the poor, which is one lesson from her father.
Her guiding rule for money is the 10:10:10:70. 10% to God (Tithes), 10% for lifetime savings (i.e., Do not touch unless there is a real emergency), 10% savings for essentials and 70% for all your bills and everyday affairs. “To be rich”, she said, “investment is key.” You can’t afford to spend everything that comes in. That goes hand in hand with being a cheerful giver and the wisdom to decipher where to draw the line.
Adeshile, who holds God in her life as the zenith of it all, has enjoyed many rewards in her life, is relieved to be finally elected as the councillor Vange in Basildon. Especially as this is her fourth time standing.
Her plans going forward is to ’’continue to support the residents of Vange to resolve their local issues. I am now working with the Basildon Conservative Group to deliver to improve the current state of Vange. I see a challenging future ahead in this role, but I know that I will succeed in it God helping me.’’