Iyanuoluwa Ominigbo: From Viral Sensation to Rising Star at The Switch

Ayomide Ekerin
Content Associate
Feb 29, 2024 13 minutes, 19 seconds read
Ayomide Ekerin
Content Associate
Feb 29, 2024 13 minutes, 19 seconds read

In a world where viral fame often seems fleeting, Iyanuoluwa Ominigbo managed to turn a moment of heartfelt gratitude into a thriving career opportunity. When her video, a simple salute to her mother for her sacrifices as a single parent, took the internet by storm, little did she know it would pave the way to becoming a champ at Africa’s first unicorn. Today, Iyanu is making her mark as a Business Development Executive at The Switch and her journey has been nothing short of remarkable.

In this edition of #SwitchStories, Iyanu takes us into her world, sharing the transformative story of how she became a viral sensation, her work at The Switch, her hobbies, and aspirations.

What are three words that best describe you?

Goofy. Smart. Classy

What was growing up like for you?

I was raised by a single mother, and that came with its challenges, especially because I was the only girl. Growing up, I had to be responsible for my younger brother and a set of twins who lived with us at the time , so it was quite challenging for me.

Nonetheless, my mum did excellently well in raising us morally, academically, spiritually, and in every other way. So, I wouldn’t say I had a very difficult childhood. It was challenging, like that of an average Nigerian. My mum gave her all to ensure that we didn't feel the absence of a father.

A few years ago, your video went viral when you gave a salute to your mom in your National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) uniform. What’s the back story?

I’ll start from the beginning. During my youth service year, I was among those selected to march for my platoon during the mandatory 3-week orientation camp. At the rehearsals, I noticed there was this salute where we had to remove our cap. It was a special salute to show respect, and I found it quite intriguing. The thought just came to me that I could do this for my mum when I got home.

The thing is, because of the way she grew up, she didn’t have the opportunity to go through NYSC like I did. She took part-time courses and literally put herself through school. Since she didn't have that opportunity, the salute was my way of showing her a glimpse and honouring her.

After the orientation camp, I was not supposed to go home. I went to my Place of Primary Assignment (PPA), but no one was in the office during that period because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was told to return in January. I therefore decided to return home. My house is usually a beehive of activity, but thankfully that day, there was nobody else in the house asides from my mum and my younger brother. I asked her to freshen up for the camera and asked my younger brother to record while I performed the salute.

As I performed the salute, I got quite emotional because my mum has been both a mother and a father to my siblings and I. I've seen her go through a lot to be there for us. So, I wanted her to know that her labour and prayers were not in vain. I wanted her to see the result of all the loans she took to send us to school. That was basically what led to that moment, and then I posted on WhatsApp and the rest is history.

Did you envision that the video was going to blow up the way it did?

Absolutely not. I had no idea it was going to go that way. I use social media, but I use WhatsApp mostly because I feel like all the other apps put you out there, particularly when it's things that are private information. I used my WhatsApp because I felt like my contacts were people that already know me and know my story. Also, the people who view my WhatsApp status already know how I talk about my mum. Sometimes I screenshot my call logs with her showing I've spoken to her for one hour. So those people already have that kind of background about me, right?

I didn't even post the video immediately. I went to sleep after recording it. Then I woke up later in the evening and just posted on my WhatsApp. By the time I came back to my phone a few minutes later, a lot of people had sent me messages, “oh, this made me emotional”, “this made me cry”, “God bless your mum.” I wasn’t even expecting all those reactions. Then someone I’ve known from secondary school saw the video much later in the evening, and asked for permission to post it on Twitter, and it just went completely viral from there.

Iyau nysc

What happened next after the video went viral? Would you say that event was a lifechanging experience for you?

Yes, it was. That video is the reason I'm here right now. The first thing is that it gave me the opportunity to start my career somewhere as grand as Interswitch, and I don’t take that opportunity for granted at all because Interswitch is a company people aspire to work with, even at the peak of their careers.

Also, through that video, I was able to get a scholarship for an MBA. I know getting an MBA is something people save and work towards, and this was an opportunity that just came to me with no strings attached!

I wouldn't say my life changed entirely, but I feel that video gave me the opportunity and the leverage to move much faster than I would have ever anticipated.

You mentioned that the video gave you the opportunity to be at Interswitch. Tell us a bit about that. How exactly did you get into The Switch?

I like this part. So, when the video went viral, my friend tagged me on the post and people started sending DMs and calling. A couple of other companies also reached out. Then I got a call from the then Chief Human Resource Officer of Interswitch, Tolulope Agiri. One of the first things she said on the call was, “My boss asked me to call you.” I can never forget that sentence. She then told me she was calling from Interswitch. After our conversation, I came in to see the MD of my current division, Jonah Adams. I also later met my first line manager, Odion Ewansiha. That was how work started for me here.

You mentioned that a few other companies called you as well. Why did you choose Interswitch?

When I got those offers, I had just gotten out of school, so I had to do a lot of research to find out the best fit for me. Although I didn’t have a full understanding of what Interswitch did, I was familiar with the company because I watched InterswitchSPAK regularly. I am one of those who believe that the media should be used as a tool for enlightenment, so the show already built my affinity for The Switch. There was another company that offered to pay me a full entry level salary but after all my research along with the love for InterswitchSPAK, I knew Interswitch was the place for me.

Now you have transitioned from an intern to a full-time employee, how has the journey at The Switch been for you?

Empowering. At Interswitch no one assumes “you just came in, what do you know?”. Right from when I joined as an intern, I was given actual work to do, and I've learnt so much. First, I had the opportunity of working with a really great boss. She always said, “Iyanu, you have so much potential, there's so much you can do, don't limit yourself. If you keep saying to yourself ‘I’m just an intern or an officer, there's not much I can do’ you will really limit yourself.”. When someone repeatedly tells you that, it empowers you to say, “you know what, I can do this, I can make these decisions,” “I can do this thing,” “I can work on this document.”. She was a really great person.

When I started as an intern, most of my presentations were internal, but today, I sit in meetings with senior account managers of brands, marketing managers, brand managers and I'm able to speak confidently. There's been a lot of improvement and it wasn’t simply because of my efforts, beyond that, I work in a company that empowers its employees.

You are currently a Business Development Executive. What does that role entail?

I'll say my job role is in two parts. The first is ensuring that the company continues to be in business. This means ensuring the company continues to grow and make money. It is ensuring that when you have a product or when you have a solution, you continue to find ways to sell. The second is finding new markets. You need to ask, “Where else can I take this product and who are the other people that might need this service?”

So, some of the things I work on include plans to enter new markets, advertising new partnerships and creating strategies just to ensure that the business continues to grow in revenue.

What is your day-to-day like at The Switch?

I usually come in quite early. First, I clear my emails then we a series of meetings. First, there is typically a brief check in where we look at the major tasks that we need to accomplish or the deliverables that we made commitments on. I check in with the product team to see where we are on certain commitments, so I know how to better manage my customers.

We also have several external meetings with customers where we take them through our platform, exposing them to what the platform can do. I also work on proposals. I work very closely with product and sales.

Sometimes while sales work on the invoice, if there's need for some negotiations, we get involved to ensure that the company’s interests are covered. Especially when we're entering a bid for instance, we have to ensure that we are putting our best foot forward.

A lot of times, I also have to do follow-ups with other supporting teams that I work with. All of those things take time.

Let's rewind a little. What were your career goals while growing up?

I wanted to be a neurosurgeon.

How did you go from wanting to be a neurosurgeon to enjoying working in business development?

Growing up, I read Ben Carson’s Gifted Hands. I think someone had also come to speak to us in school about the profession. I would say that’s where the desire came from.

After writing JAMB a couple of times without gaining admission, I decided to settle for biochemistry. While I was studying biochemistry, I was working for my mom. I would have to take the products she made to banks and other corporate organisations. I realized that I really liked talking to these people, the feeling I got when I was able to convince someone to buy something from me is one of excitement. So, while doing all of that, I think I really picked interest in business and sales, and marketing.

What do you find the most rewarding about your job currently?

Closing a deal. The fulfilment you get when you receive the award letter after the continuous engagement is unmatched. The engagement bit, where we have to talk to people about the business is possibly the most rewarding part of it all. When people are interested in what you're saying, ask questions and want to know more, the feeling is priceless.

What has been your most memorable day at The Switch?

When I was an intern, I was asked to present on behalf of my team during the Quarterly Performance Review (QPR). I was still an intern, and QPR was a big dea.l These were presentations that my line manager would handle normally but then, they changed the rules and said, “let your direct reports manage this presentation, give them visibility, let them also step up.”

I was terrified. I continually had to drink water as my throat was dry. I couldn't sleep overnight to show you how nervous I was. When it was time for us to present, I gave it my best shot. At the end, the MD said, “I need you guys to see the way Iyanu just presented. She's just an intern yet she's delivered so beautifully. See the way she talked about the business.” I beamed! The other Group Heads that I've never met before started reaching out to say, “that was wonderful. You have great potential. Keep it up.” I wasn't expecting that it was going to go that way.

In that moment, I knew that I was capable of great things. Of course, there are other memorable moments, but I think that for me is one of my very core memories at The Switch.

If you are not currently doing what you do, what would you be doing?
I would probably be an entrepreneur.

Any business line in particular?
I don't know, I don't feel like there’s anything I can’t do. I have done so many businesses in the past. I've sold food stuff, I've sold clothing, I've sold shoes. I just know if I wasn't here right now, I would most likely be an entrepreneur because I like the act of buying and selling. I like the fact that you can believe in something so much and you're able to get some other people to believe in it with you, to the point that they are willing to put down their money to buy that thing from you.

Beyond your job at Interswitch, what are your interests or hobbies?

I'm an upcoming travel content creator. I love travelling and writing about places. I sometimes just sit down looking at videos of places and imagine being there. If I'm not working, I'm most likely doing something around travel, maybe I'm looking at videos or editing my own videos.

Apart from that, I watch movies and talk to my mum. She’s the love of my life after all. I'm also an avid reader of Francine Rivers novels.

If you could only visit one country in the world, which country would it be?

Switzerland! It’s my favourite country in the world and I recently read that their National Day is the same as my birthday, I was over the moon.

Would you say your hobbies have in any way impacted your life?

I think so. For one, traveling gives you exposure, it makes you very enlightened. With reading, it really helps my vocabulary and helps me write well, that's why I like doing it. One of the reasons I love watching movies, particularly K-drama is their dressing. When I started this interview, I said I like to see myself as classy. So, when I watch movies, I'm looking at how they dress and how they talk. I'm looking out for people who carry themselves as high value people and then I emulate.

Where do you see yourself in a few years’ time?

This might sound a bit unconventional, but I always tell myself that apart from traveling the world, I want to establish a travel agency. I hope that in the next few years, I'm able to have one that is well known. In terms of my career, I've always said that I want to be the CEO of a multinational and be on the board for different multinationals. That's one of the things that I really want to achieve.