Bolaji Solola is a determined and focused young lady with dreams and aspirations. When asked to describe herself in a few words, she says she is a ‘happy child’, a lover of life – food, God, humanity and everything beautiful. Bolaji is currently a supply chain project manager at an automotive company. She speaks 3 languages fluently – French, English and Yoruba.
As for her Educational journey, she received her high school diploma at Citizens Comprehensive College in Lagos Nigeria. She had a dream of becoming a serial entrepreneur and that is why she had decided on studying within the field of business. This was the reasoning behind pursuing and attaining her first-degree bachelor’s certification in Economics and Business Management from the University of Franche Comte in France. She was able to gain the right foundation on how to manage businesses, people and how to understand the economy in which businesses grow in. She is of the belief that this knowledge is paramount for any aspiring business owner.
For her masters, she decided to specialize in purchasing because of how strategic purchasing is in the success of a company. We are in a competitive environment and the purchasing function is one of the most efficient ways to improve and protect a company’s margin. Hence, she attained her master’s degree in Purchasing and Merchandising at the same university.
Initially, she had been excited about the prospects of studying in Europe but as soon as she arrived in France, the reality dawned on her. Many things were quite different from what she was used to like the food, the people, the men-tality, the language, etc. She found everything to be new and just quite different with a lot of learnings and adjusting to do.
Learning the language was one of these major things she had to do to adequately adjust. Her first 2 years in France were particularly difficult because of the language. Before coming to France, she had gone to Togo for a year to learn some French so she could find it easier to adapt. After arriving in France however, she enrolled in a language school for another year before moving into the university. All the classes were in French and this made her first year at university quite difficult.
Another major challenge was the difference between the Nigerian syllabus which she was used to and the French syllabus. The syllabus used in French secondary schools were quite different from the ones used in Nigeria as in many cases, there were certain topics that were not reviewed by professors as these topics were expected to have been studied in the French high schools which was not true for her. She not only had to deal with the language barrier, but also with trying to keep up with what the professors were teaching which she was completely unfamiliar with. It was indeed an uphill battle.
The difficulty Bolaji faced was beyond the intellectual level, she started to deal with problems psycho-logically as her self-esteem was being negatively affected. Having always been a brilliant student back home in Nigeria, here she was a fish out of water – she was struggling to pass classes.
Additionally, she felt like she was in an environment where she was expected to be mediocre because of the color of her skin. Away from the comfort of home – family, friends and everything she was familiar with, she felt hopelessly lost, regardless she held fast, reminding herself of who she was and that the phase would pass.
About choosing her program of focus for her under-grad, she had initially hoped to be a medical doctor, but as she couldn’t stand the site of blood thought to explore other options. She was then convinced by external advisers to pursue a degree in Geology/-Petroleum as it will create opportunities for her back home, but given how unhappy she was, she decided it was time for a change. This change came at a cost, an additional year, which meant she would way behind her peers who were already in their 3rd year at university as she had spent 2 years learning French and the next figuring out that she needed a change. Notwithstanding, she did and decided to study something related to business management.
This time, she had an idea of what to expect. So, she started this course more prepared. She worked very hard and moved from being a struggling student to one of the best students and then to the most outstanding student. It wasn’t very easy because she was still all alone. At the same time, it was a great experience because she learned to grow up really fast, to believe in herself and that she could be anything and do anything she set her heart to do. It also helped her build a stronger faith in God.
Bolaji eventually graduated as the most outstanding student from her university. She was celebrated with multiple accolades during the graduation. It felt like the compensation for all the sacrifices and hard work she had put in. This was a big deal for her given the way she started as a struggling student and studying in a foreign language.
She has gone on to work in different industries, here, in France. Her first work experience was as a buyer in the nuclear industry and then she worked in the construction industry. Her most recent experience was as a purchasing project manager in the automotive industry where she worked on electrical and electronics projects for Peugeot, Opel and Jaguar Land Rover cars. She still works in the auto-motive industry, but now, as a supply chain project manager.
Outside her educational and professional life, she is passionate about Fashion. She loves sewing, even though she doesn’t get the opportunity to do that much lately. She is also passionate about kids and their well-being.
Her words of advice to our readers –
“Do not auto discriminate. For several reasons (race, country of origin…), the access to certain spots or positions might be more difficult. Sometimes you might have to put in more effort to earn the spot. Be ready to give it what it takes. Fight for what you want instead of taking yourself out of the race before the race even starts. What I am trying to say is that sometimes, you will have to go the extra mile. Do not be afraid to do that. Believe in yourself. Trust yourself, trust your journey and trust your maker”