Note: ‘On to the Next One’ is a pretty cool song by Jay-Z
After six years living in the United Kingdom, I am today moving to the United States to start a new phase in life. This is a momentous personal and professional transition. It will be accompanied by immense changes across numerous spheres, but importantly in how I use this blog and in my other public engagements. Of course I wouldn’t be a true blogger if I didn’t write about it to explain why I’m actually blogging about it.
The last time I made such a big move was moving to Oxford to start my doctorate in International Development in October 2012. I remember writing this excessively enthusiastic piece, thrilled to be at the University of Oxford, bursting with excitement at the prospects and opportunities, for being at one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious institutions. Of course, when I reflect on the mélange of great, the frustrating, the uplifting, disappointing and the intellectually stimulating experiences so far, I cringe a bit at my naivety back then. Nevertheless, it has been a great intellectual journey that I would not trade for anything, doing work and research on subjects I am passionate about, engaging with some of the world’s most brilliant minds.
I have finished writing my doctoral thesis, it is currently under review and I will be submitting it in the next few weeks. At some point before the year ends, I will mdo my final viva (oral exam) and close this chapter of life for good. For so many reasons, completing the doctorate is taking a couple of months longer than I expected but it is hardly a linear process to begin with. Overall, I am exactly where I want to be, and I have an unparalleled opportunity to pursue a career in global development in exactly the organisation that I had always hoped to be part of.
A new and exciting chapter is about to begin. I am moving to the United States to join the World Bank headquarters as a Young Professional, starting 12 September, for the next several years. I am not only looking forward to it, but I am trying so hard to contain my excitement, from oozing out of all orifices. Working in global development at the world’s largest multilateral development institution, the World Bank, with its deep knowledge base, vast experience and convening power is what I have always wanted to do. It is even more humbling that I got accepted into the Young Professionals Programme (YPP), the most prestigious and competitive programme for a fast track career at the Bank. Some notable African YPP alumni include Tidjane Thiam, the CEO of Credit Suisse and Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Nigeria’s former Finance Minister.
I envisioned this as my ideal career path right from the first year of my DPhil. Since then, I tried to ensure that most of what I did professionally – work experience, part time jobs, the projects I managed etc were meant to prepare me for this role. I guess this strategy worked, although at the expense of finishing my PhD several months later than I would have ideally wanted. I miraculously made it through the extremely rigorous one-year long recruitment process for the YPP. For those interested in applying for this programme, my one tip would be to plan and prepare yourself several years in advance – do your background research, talk to people, get the work experience, build your skills base etc.
On 12 September I transition into a new phase of life, in exactly the way I had hoped and planned all these years. I feel blessed, I am humbled and incredibly lucky to be doing exactly what I have dreamt to doing for so many years. Most critically, I am absolutely elated to have the opportunity to play my part in making the world a better place, on a much bigger scale.
This transition will be accompanied by several changes, some of which I started to implement months ago. This perhaps is the main reason why I am writing this blog post. Principally, I will scale back on public and media commentary on politics, development and policy issues. This is something I already started months ago, reducing media appearances, interviews, opinion articles and other forms of commentary. This extends to social media commentary as well. Although the main reason why I wasn’t writing as much as I used to, why I abandoned my newspaper columns in Nigeria, and suspended a lot of other public engagements was to concentrate on finishing up my thesis. Now this hiatus will be more encompassing and permanent.
I will miss these forms of public engagements though. They have been one way of attempting to make a difference with the extremely limited resources at my disposal, my keyboard and microscopic voice. I started blogging and writing because I had so much to say about many things in the world I wasn’t happy about. So I created my own space to say it. Somewhere along the line, very important people started taking me seriously, and it has been a whirlwind so far. It has been such an honour to be consulted by global media, top think tanks, senior academics, NGOs and other organisations for my ‘expert’ views on development issues, to recommend contacts, to advise on policy etc. It got to a point within the past one year when I had to go into some virtual hiding, avoiding the bombardment of calls and emails from organisations, journalists etc 🙂
Despite how much I have learnt and grown, and the huge scope to make even bigger impacts – I was recently listed as one of the most influential voices on international development on Twitter by the BBC Media Action – it is now time to move on to another phase of life. This is a rare opportunity to do what I have always aspired in global development on an even bigger scale. The way I see it, personal and professional growth often involves compromises of smaller fulfilments from the things we love, for bigger, more sustainable and more meaningful goals. I hope to build on and consolidate so much at the World Bank, but importantly, I hope to contribute to make the world a better place for millions of others.
So my blog will go into a hiatus, a process that started gradually last year. This means that there will be no more opinion pieces, ‘expert’ commentary or TV appearances – these were really fun while they lasted. However, I will occasionally post brief reviews and links to books, research articles, public reports and continue posting job and development opportunities on the blog and across my other social media platforms. I also intend to continue writing elsewhere, by producing longer academic publications out of my thesis, and publishing a book out of it. There are also several projects back home, close to my heart, which I will continue to participate or volunteer in privately.
Lastly, I have to say that I am immensely grateful to all those who supported me through this intellectual journey. My family and my friends, my mentors and my colleagues who trusted my abilities, provided unflinching support, advice and guidance. I am amazed at the kindness and generosity from unexpected places, often from people I have never met. People come across my blogs or articles, they send me emails, messages, kind words of support and encouragement, books (I have lots of such books) etc. Sometimes I don’t even know if I deserve this goodness and I have no idea how to give back. Believe it or not, these individuals in so many ways have seen me through the darkest, soul-fraying moments of my doctorate – and trust me, there were many many of such moments.