My Journey Into Philanthropy – Olusola Amusan

Olusola Amusan
Shell Nigeria

Olusola Amusan, 27, is a Philanthropies Lead at Microsoft Nigeria. He speaks about his career and other interests

What ignited your passion in community development and philanthropy?

I grew up in Modakeke, a community in Osun State.  I am the first of four boys born to a teacher father and a health records officer mother at the time. We lived in a small home and had a precious stereo that got me hooked to the early morning news, radio dramas and several efforts by the Society for Family Health and the international community to fight HIV/AIDS. When I was seven, the Ife/ Modakeke crisis broke out again and this got my dad involved in peace- keeping work with UNICEF and other agencies. At the age of nine, I started volunteer work for the Society for Women and Aids in Africa and that was how it all began. Then I started attending community development workshops and volunteered at a youth development centre at the age of 11 through 13 years.

What is your educational history?

My education started from my first volunteer experience, and for me, it is a continuum. Academically, I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Federal University of Technology Akure.  I have also attended the Cornell’s Executive Leadership Programme, the Project Management Institute and several international workshops.

What is your current position at Microsoft?

I am the Philanthropies Lead at Microsoft Nigeria. I create and implement development strategies for the corporate social responsibility programmes of Microsoft in Nigeria, and align it with the plans of the company’s multi country region.  My work includes driving big bet initiatives for Microsoft, ensuring that the social investment in the company is in line with the national plan and the nation’s digital transformation strategy. On a daily basis, I design and lead the implementation of high impact youth development programs, evaluate the skills gap, partner with relevant organisations and government agencies to empower youths and the non-profit organisations that serve them. The goal is to design and implement programs that can help the Nigerian youth become more globally competitive and ready for the fourth industrial revolution, hence bringing our company’s mission to life. That mission is to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more.

You are the President of the 8th African Youth and Governance Conference and a member of the Country Support Mechanism for the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund in Nigeria, how has that impacted your career?

My path in life is laced with service and commitment to humanity’s advancement. Luckily, I work with an organisation that has that as its core. I presided over the 8th and 9th session of the African Youth and Governance Conference, an assembly of delegates from over 40 African countries- the network of forward thinking change agents, entrepreneurs and innovators. After I joined Microsoft, I was nominated to seat on the country support mechanism in Nigeria, set up in partnership with the foreign affairs ministry. This work gives experience and a unique insight into what the real problems are in Nigeria and helps us to see and provide the needed support for Nigerians.

You are also a curator for the Lagos Global Shaper community of the World Economic Forum, how does that make you feel?

I feel profound pleasure in that regard. When I became Curator-elect, I thought about how much work had to be done. The greatness in the group was and is still overwhelming. Imagine leading a group of highly talented young people recognised by the World Economic Forum as shaping their communities. We have a commitment to use our one year curatorship in profound ways. My deputy curator, Chukwukaelo Ajuluchuwku, and the governing council, are some of the most selfless young people you can find around.

Do you think social entrepreneurship is key to unlocking Africa’s immense potential?

Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest men and founder of Microsoft, coined a catchphrase for the kind of capitalism capable of changing the world for the better. He called it creative capitalism. Entrepreneurship must be channelled towards helping humanity advance, and those who understand this will build triple bottom line businesses that are sustainable. Social entrepreneurship is the way to go- more people should set up social benefit companies that will shape cultures and lives, and contribute to the GDP per capita of the nation. So at every level, I am a big advocate for social entrepreneurship.

What steps did you take to attain success?

I am still at a very early stage in my career. I celebrate every little success, the accomplishments of every quarter and year. I remain dedicated and inspire myself with the success of others and do everything to get better daily. I am a junkie of self-development. I love to travel, network and study the trends that should help me act in ways that bring success. And I have some really committed mentors. Above everything, there is that engulfing favour of God that makes everything right. I depend on this after all physical efforts fail.

What gives you the utmost concern about Nigerian youths?

Nigerian youths are making the same mistakes the current septuagenarians made four decades ago, when they were in their thirties- failing to prepare adequately for the future. Our anxieties are not properly channelled. The Nigerian youth is focused on current gratification-the cars, vacations, and everything that comes as the benefits of hard work without putting in the commensurate effort. The other side of it is the wide lacuna of skills, because the skills gap that the Nigerian youth has to fill is very wide. The educational system and social learning structures are not favourable to youths. At best, they are a product of a decaying system that pays little attention to capacity building on a significant scale.

What is your career objective?These days, it is unwise to predict what the future might hold, because the world is spinning so fast- Uber, Airbnb, Snapchat all show us this. Prescience confirms that the job descriptions of the future are yet to be designed. From what I see today, I might have a number of roles to play in positioning the nation for technological and economic development efforts that come from within and outside the country.

Who are your role models and how have they influenced your career?

I have learnt  a lot from Bill Gates of the Gates Foundation, Peter Diamandes of Singularity Universities, Ayo Daniels of the Lighthouse Centre,  Olakunle Soriyan of  Olakunle Soriyan Company and several authors and instructors too numerous  to mention. I am also learning a lot from my wife, Tolu and 18- month- old daughter, Tara. These two have influenced my career and constantly make me remember that no matter how rough a work day is, there is a lovely home to return to.

What are the challenges you encounter in your field and how do you overcome them?

There are numerous challenges. I might not have expressly mentioned that I am a grant maker. And this is a very tough part of my job. You must go beyond personal prejudice and do what’s great for the public good, valuing genuineness over hype, choosing impact over cheap publicity. The other challenging part of my job is wanting to do more work, make more impact and not having just enough resources to get the work done.

With your level of experience and exposure in community development, how can Nigerian youths take charge of their lives in comparison to those in other countries?

The first responsibility of the Nigerian youth is to go beyond the limitations set by the odds that confront us as a nation. We must build capacities in every sense, technology, business, arts, governance and the economy. The Nigerian youth has a responsibility to experience his or her environment, respond to it, innovate it, partner with his or her peers across the globe and bring revenue back home. We must be smart, and work hard with discretion, valuable partnership, wit and depend on the grace of God.

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