Amaka Okafor, Executive Assistant at ZODML, spoke with Aishah Ahmad (who recently visited ZODML for a CATHY reading session). about her favourite books, creativity and education.
I joined ZODML in January and in that short time I have had the privilege of meeting some outstanding people. Adding value to the lives of others is what I consider our work to be and one of the programmes I have enjoyed being a part of is Catch Them Young (CATHY), which aims to improve literacy and reading habits among local government primary school pupils. Recently Aishah Ahmad, a senior executive in the financial services industry, spent time with the pupils of St George’s Boys and Girls Primary Schools, Falomo at one of our CATHY sessions. The excitement and laughter from the pupils were a delight to observe as Aishah read passages from the book – Mabel Segun’s The First Corn – which they had studied ahead of the session. She delighted them with stories, motherly advice and the latest dance moves. I was thrilled to speak with her after the session about the things that matter to her.
On who she is:
“I am a private wealth adviser, working in the Nigerian financial services industry. Also a wife and mother to two teenage children aged 15 and 13 (but who think they are going on 30!). I am passionate about professional and personal development; and my career focus which is financial markets and instruments. When I am not focused on clients, I love to travel, speak, write, read, cook, entertain, and watch movies. Currently, I am even more focused on contributing to my community, and that’s why the work of ZODML holds special appeal for me.”
On what drives her:
“What drives me also inspires me – put simply, adding value to others. Most of my financial markets experience has been in client-facing roles in which investment advice, problem solving and exceptional personal service is critical, and it is satisfying to see how one’s actions directly help others achieve their goals. I am also inspired by seeking answers to life’s many questions and contradictions. Challenges, particularly academic or intellectual challenges, drive me as well – completing the Chartered Financial Analyst programme was a recent accomplishment I am personally proud of; it was great to pass all three levels of this demanding curriculum and join 100,000 other analysts around the world who are committed to upholding the highest standards of ethics and professionalism in the global investment community. I am also motivated by great causes - I was honoured to join the Executive Council of Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ) in February 2013 and thus far find it exciting work with some of the most hardworking and high-achieving women to promote the cause of other women. The work of the ZODML and similar organisations, which are silently transforming the communities they serve, also inspire and challenge me greatly.”
On her love for books:
“I have a very special relationship with books. The first book I took very seriously was ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’ by David Schwartz. Aged 15, I bought a copy of the book at an obscure filling station on a road trip and it literally changed my life. Since then, I have read many books and I often joke that my library is a good indication of my personal progression and defining moments over the years. Name the problem – if I have faced it, then I have a book about it. I strongly believe in the power of books to help us learn from others’ experiences, as not all lessons can be taught through first-hand experience. Nelson Mandela talked about the differentiator that education is and I implicitly believe in this. Education levels the playing field; through a book, you can teach yourself things, be transported across the world, immersed in other cultures, feel others’ emotions, be inspired by their successes and even understand yourself better.”
On how she felt reading to and being in the midst of the pupils:
“Reading to the children was such a delight and a unique learning experience for me personally; it forced me to focus on the essence of the story from their perspective and it was amazing to glean new insights from the book and see the creativity, which so clearly abounds in every one of us – particularly children. To read that day was a privilege the children gave me; I should be thanking them and this great library for the opportunity.”
I agree with Aishah that the benefits derived from reading cannot be quantified. Through a book you can fly to the moon and expand your imagination. You don’t have to wait for a personal experience before you can learn lessons. The smart ones learn from other people’s experiences, and what better way to get the information other than through a book? ZODML has not only afforded me the opportunity of impacting lives but has also given me the privilege of meeting men and women who have excelled in their careers and are passionate about our vision.