Transitioning into a new career can be pretty scary, but despite the inherent risks, it can also be a worthwhile change. Soji Agboola, an Account Development Representative at Okra, recently took such a leap and is all the better for it.
Soji left investment banking to start a career in tech as a salesperson. We decided to speak to him to learn about what informed his transition, and how he managed to survive a ₦5 million financial crisis.
What do you do?
Presently, I’m an Account Development Representative at Okra.
Can you break your role down in simple English?
[Laughs] In a nutshell, my job involves establishing partnerships and selling Okra’s core technology (that is, API) to prospective client companies. I nurture clients once the first point of contact has been established.
And so, I have to jump on lots of calls with engineers and other decision makers at those companies and ensure Okra’s product fits well into their platform. This way, I’m able to seal the deal with them.
Is this your first tech sales job?
Yes, it is. But I’m not new to the concept of sales itself.
Before transitioning into tech sales, I was into investment banking. There, I had to identify and persuade companies trying to raise capital for expansion projects. Doing that honed my communication and negotiation skills, two skills that have helped in tech sales.
Was transitioning into tech sales intentional?
Yes, it was. However, it happened faster than I expected.
What do you mean?
While working as an investment analyst in 2020, I had to return to my alma mater (Obafemi Awolowo University) to settle some result complications. During my brief stay, I helped a tech company work on its incubator program, and I absolutely loved the flexibility and work culture that came with the job.
So, when it was time I returned to the investment bank, I realised that I didn’t love the culture anymore. It was too conventional and restrictive. I needed a more flexible and exciting job.
So tech came to mind?
Apart from the amazing experience I had working with that tech company, I had a couple of friends who worked in tech, too. I also had a background in tech myself, as I once built a startup while in university.
Interesting. What happened to the startup?
Well, I stopped it because I couldn’t find a technical co-founder. I was too broke to hire one.
Oh wow. So back to your career transition. How did you land your job at Okra?
I have had my eyes on Okra and a couple of startups. So in 2020, I had reached out to Fara Ashiru Jituboh, CEO at Okra, on LinkedIn. She replied and asked that I reach out to some stakeholders. But I didn’t follow up until July 2021, when I was serious about the transitioning.
I passed through the interview process, and by November 2021, I resumed work.
Did your new job translate into an income increase?
Yes, it did. My salary was 3x the combination of my full-time and freelance income.
Yes. Then last month, my salary increased by 40%.
You must be living a baby boy lifestyle.
[Laughs] Not really.
What do you mean?
Even though I can afford things better than I could before, I still live below my means. My expenses haven’t significantly increased. Instead, I’m saving and investing the bulk of my income.
Have you always been like this?
Not at all. Life forced me to become financially wise.
In my past job, I wasn’t prudent with my earnings. I was always lavishing my salary, and when I got into a financial crisis, there was no savings to fall back to.
Oh wow. What financial crisis was that, though?
I lost over ₦5 million to forex.
Surviving that must have been really tough for you.
It was, particularly because other people’s money (about 2 million) was involved. So I had to repay them, taking a toll on my finances and mental health.
Cleared the debt yet?
Yes, I have.
And how did you do it?
First, my job pays well. Then, a senior colleague came through for me.
Given your past experience, what’s your savings and investment culture like?
As mentioned earlier, I live below my means. This helps me save up without any hassle. I’m trying to hit a target before I begin investing, though. Once I hit it, I’ll divert my saved up funds into stocks and crypto.
Nice. Do you think you’ll be in the tech industry for a long time?
Yes. Maybe not as a salesperson, but I see myself ending up in a Venture Capital (VC) firm.
What’s your advice for people trying to transition into tech?
You don’t have to be 100% qualified before applying for a job. The moment you feel too qualified, the role is probably not for you. So take a leap of faith and be open to learning the ropes along the way.