‘Computer Has Made Things Easy’
Mrs. Magdalene Adenike Coker, the Principal Consultant of Yommag Business and Human Solutions Ajah, Lagos spoke with DEBO OLADIMEJI on her journey to entrepreneurship.
SHE describes herself as partly Nigerian, partly Ghanaian. This is because Magdalene Adenike Coker was born and bred in Ghana, before she came back to Nigeria to continue her education.
Her father, Theophilus Chenny, was from Ogbomosho in Oyo State. Coker was born in the late 60s in Ghana. Her Ghanaian name is Opokua. Her parents were also born in Ghana.
She recalled that her maternal grandfather, Baba Ajala, was a wealthy businessman in Ghana. “The time when Nigerians were asked to leave Ghana, they called it ‘Aliens Must Go.’ All he did was to get a resident permit to stay in Ghana.”
Her parents also stayed back in Ghana. “I came back to Nigeria in 1979. I came with my grand mum. She decided to move down home because her husband wanted her to come and settle down first.”
Coker had most of her elementary school education in Ghana. She later attended Seventh Day Adventist Secondary School in Ede, Oyo State before she went to University of Lagos to study Computer Science.
She said she just developed interest in Computer Science without being prodded by anybody. “I just like the way the computer works. I enjoyed it more when I started using Powerpoint,” she enthused.
Coker did her diploma in Computer Science and finished in 1988 at University of Lagos. She later went for her first degree in Computer Science at her alma mater.
“After my diploma which was three years, I went for my first degree in Unilag and I finished in 1994.”
She recalled that while she was in UNILAG, she did her Industrial Attachment (IT) at United Bank for Africa (UBA).
“Initially, I went to one Mr. Femi Ekundayo, so that I could do my IT in the Merchant Bank where he was working then.”
Unfortunately, or fortunately for her, there was no chance for her to do her IT at Mr. Ekundayo office. However, he gave her a note to go and meet a man at UBA who helped her to start her IT there.
“I did my IT for one year. I was very good at my job. I was teaching my bosses, training them how to use computers because I was good at my job. They said: ‘This girl is very good.”
She explained that they were impressed with her performances and gave her a part-time job. She was given the opportunity to go to school and work.
“Then, they didn’t do part-time at UNILAG in Computer Science; it had to be full time. I was going to school and working.
“Lecture was not every time. That was how I managed to combine schooling with studying. Immediately I finished my school, I was given the opportunity to do my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at UBA and after that, they retained me.”
She recalled that after the construction of the headquarters of UBA building in Marina, she moved there from their Broad Street office also in Lagos.
Coker was also a good writer and was the Editor of computer section in the UBA Magazine.
She reminisced that desktop was just coming into the country at that time and she was also good at it. She started training people on how to use desktop computer.
“There was a time I even went to UBA Training Centre in Apapa. I was there for almost a year or two; training the trainers (most of them were UBA staff), on how to use computers.”
She later left UBA when the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Mr Joseph Sanusi started his own computer outfit, called Pioneer Solution.
“I was invited by his son, Femi to join the company because his son and I went to UNILAG and he did his IT with UBA too. So I joined the company and started working with him. We started selling fingerprint computer security gadgets for banks.”
She disclosed that was from 2001 to 2003. One of the challenges she had then was that the chairman of the outfit was the then CBN governor.
“His son was the Managing Director (MD). The security aspect was strange to most of the banks then.”
She explained that most people did not know that the business was entirely distinct from the man. “His son was the owner of the company not the CBN governor himself. There was a time one of the popular banks wanted to buy a fingerprint machine from us but along the line, they stopped.”
Coker recalled that she was the computer (Snr) marketing manager and at the same time in charge of the training department of the outfit.
“It was a small organisation with less than 40 staff. I was training at the same time doing the marketing.”
She left there in 2004, saying that the job there was challenging but during her marketing she met some other people who introduced to her some more challenging ideas.
She needed to upgrade her standard. She needed to know about consulting. That was how she joined IBS.
“IBS is a consulting firm, they also write proposals for banks but they had a training department and they wanted someone to do marketing for them.”
Because she had already garnered a lot of experience at Pioneer, her employers believed that she would be able to do better in her new area.
“I then joined them. I was managing the training department and I was selling it to different banks because of the relationship I already had with them.”
She said working with IBS was more challenging. But today, she can proudly say that she got most of her knowledge at IBS.
“I was the head of the training department in leadership courses. We do retreat for banks, insurance etc.”
She recalled that IBS started very small. “They were partnering with Welson Learning, a training firm close to 40 years experience in America. They came to Nigeria to train us for the IBS programme.”
It was just a new area entirely for her. “You know if you are new in a field and you are able to catch up. It makes you to learn lots of new things, you do more researches.”
When she joined IBS they were selling the Welson Learning training and she was the head of the training department.
“Proudly, I will say I was the only marketer for them in the whole of West Africa.”
That gave her the opportunity of travelling far and wide. “I was in Ghana, Cameroun, Gambia, Sierra Leone, South Africa.” That opened up her frontiers of knowledge. She was able to meet more people and to sell her product to them.
“There was no problem at all. All you need to do is to travel. The computer has made things easy. You can just Google to know places where your services will be needed. You can then communicate with them. You send your proposals and you will be invited for presentations.
“If what you sell to them is what they want, they buy it. We were selling leadership courses and training to them.”
She was with them from 2010 to 2014. She left the company when it was time for her to set up her own outfit.
“I am now running my own outfit and I am really enjoying it. You know, there will be a time in one’s life that you will think you have done enough for others… Let me do something for myself.”
She is now a motivational speaker on etiquette and a health consultant.
As the Principal Consultant of Yommag Business and Human Solutions, her services include Spa, Training and Workshops, Relationship Consulting, Health and Beauty, Health Enhancement Seminars and Counseling.
She is also the president of Catholic Women Organisation (CWO) in Regina Pacis Catholic Church, Peace Estate, Sangotedo, Lagos.
“I won 2012 Kwame Nkrumah best Spa of the year in Ghana. I was also given the most creative and well behaved in etiquette award 2011 in South Africa.”
She got married to Abayomi Coker in 1994. Her marriage is blessed with children.