What if I told you that everyday women can inspire you just as much as well known celebrities? Today on Inspiration Monday, we talk to Oyie Ekeng who always has it all together – Career, Motherhood, Marriage and her service to God. She shares experiences and valuable advice on how she has come this far. I was inspired by her interview and I know you will too…
Hello Oyie, thank you for speaking with us.
I’m honored to have you speak with me
Tell us a little bit about your background. What was it like growing up?
I was born and bred in Warri Delta State (hail Waffi, lol) and come from a family of six children (four girls and two boys). I am a twin and also the baby of the house. I had a simple and happy childhood, nothing extravagant but we were very comfortable. There was always a crowd in the house as my mother operated an open door policy, having friends and relatives over most of the time. I have a lot of good memories from my childhood.
Did you have a crisis of career choice as a teenager? How did you decide?
You can say I stumbled into my career, though I choose to believe God ordered my steps. Like many children I wanted to be a doctor; however my exam results couldn’t support that. My mother knew a geologist at the time and asked me to check it out. That’s how I ended up studying Geology in the University of Port Harcourt. I have not regretted it.
How did you get started on your current career path? What specific steps have you taken that have led you to this point in your career?
I must admit I didn’t have a grand plan for my career. I am not very ambitious and tend to be comfortable where I am. Thank God I have people around me like my husband and mother who drive me to push forward. I got a job immediately after youth service as a technical assistant. It didn’t pay too much but was a start. A year later I landed a job with a major oil servicing firm and from there moved on to an international oil and gas company. The only steps I have taken is to have a good attitude and work hard.
Did you ever have to choose between career and family?
You know God has always lined things up for me. The only time something like that occurred was when I went for my fist major interview with an oil servicing firm. I was preparing to get married at the time and was required to state if I had any constraints as the job was for an international position. I told them I was getting married and wanted a local position to start with. They advised that I negotiate with my fiancé and maybe start having children at a later time after our marriage. I stood my ground and maintained I wanted a local position. I got the job and stayed home to get married. So you can say I chose my husband over the job but it worked out.
A lot of people opine that it is more difficult to succeed in the workplace as a woman. What do you think? Have you faced any challenges with rising in the corporate world due to your gender?
Even though I work in an industry where there are much fewer women than men, I can honestly say I haven’t experienced any challenges due to my gender. Things have changed a lot over time and it’s getting better and better. In my case being a woman has worked for me. My company takes diversity in the workplace very seriously and is making efforts to ensure minority groups are recognized. This has worked in my favor. I acknowledge though that this is not the case in many work places.
How did you cope with managing kids, your marriage and your career? Have you ever been overwhelmed?
How do I cope? I just push through taking one day at a time, some days crying and other days smiling.
Have I been overwhelmed? Many, many times but looking back I have always pulled through.
There is nothing like having family support. I am a mother of two beautiful, active boys and am married to a supportive, hands-on husband. He was raised by a mother who worked in a bank until she retired so he always wanted his wife to work. I also have a mother who is ready to cook up a storm whenever I need it. I am not ashamed to say I only cook because I have to and not because I enjoy it. I take advantage of her all the time. She cooks in bulk and sends to me saving me a lot of time and stress. It’s not easy but it’s doable.
There was a season when I worked in a very demanding department. I was working late and on weekends/public holidays coupled with our notorious Lagos traffic. It was a hard time for all of us and I wasn’t available for my husband and children like I used to be. It was such a shock for me and I remember crying & praying as I walked to my car one night because I was soooo tired.
It took my husband in particular a while to adjust but once he did he came up with creative ways to make my life easier. I remember he brought me a large computer monitor so I could work from home. I had to enforce a 10:00 pm curfew on myself and informed my colleagues about it. Then I would try to arrive home a little earlier and after taking care of my men, I was free to work from 10:00 pm till the early hours of the morning if I needed to. It was haaaard, but I can look back and smile. It payed off at work too.
How did you control/overcome the challenges you’ve faced?
I don’t think I have controlled anything. One of my favorite preachers is Joyce Meyer or Joycie as I like to call her. She says you should “do it afraid”. You won’t always know how things will turn out, but have faith and do what you have to. I am a firm believer that with each new season of life, God gives new grace. On the job, as a new wife or mother, whatever it is. I don’t want to sound too preachy, but God’s grace abounds.
How did you know that your husband was ‘The One’?
I didn’t hear any voice or receive any vision for my husband. I wasn’t born again then anyway. We were friends in university while we were dating (or in his case chasing) other people. Then all of a sudden he started expressing interest. From where? He says a friend asked him why he was letting something like this pass him by and his eyes were opened. Well one thing led to another and here we are with 14 wedding anniversaries under our belt. I didn’t know if he was “The One” but I loved him. It was a risk and it paid off. Again, God ordered my steps.
How influential would you say your husband has been in shaping your life?
Very influential. He is my greatest critic and I believe greatest supporter. I am committed to his success and he is to mine. We are partners in this boat together so we better make it work. I don’t always agree with his opinion but I value his advice. He complains that I’m stubborn as I can be set in my ways. He pushes me, keeps me in check. I call him the “Lion of the tribe of Ekeng”. He’s good for me and I know I am good for him.
Every decision he makes impacts me directly or indirectly and vice versa. It hasn’t been all rosy but we are standing strong I would say. I have learned a lot from him and I wouldn’t be where I am without him.
What would you consider your first big break?
I can’t think of any defining moment. My life has been slow and steady from one step to another, not too much drama. Many times I don’t realize the transition until I have arrived in a new stage. I like it that way.
Tell us about any event that inspired you and made you more determined to succeed
Hmmmm. It’s not an event but my parents’ belief in me. My mother in particular is very supportive. There was a time I called home while in university. I remember her encouraging me, telling me that I should just do my best and they would support me the best they could. For some reason that phone call has stuck in my memory. It always made me want to make them proud.
You remain and even grow younger and beautiful with every year, what beauty tips/routine/items can you share with ladies?
I don’t do anything special. For a long time I didn’t pay much attention to my looks. As I mature though I am making more of an effort. I don’t have the discipline to follow strict beauty routines so I keep it simple by washing my face at night. I use light make-up and take care of my nails and hair. I recently started exercising and creating healthier eating habits.
What guiding principles have steered you through the maze of life?
- Have personal values and don’t compromise them.
- You can’t please everyone so learn to say “no” and give yourself a break.
- Find your safe place or anchor. You need something or someone that keeps you going when everything around is upside down. My refuge is God and when I am confused I can run to Him, cry myself sore, wipe my tears and come out ready to face another day. I know He won’t judge me.
What words will you like to inspire every woman reading this with – especially career women?
You are stronger than you think. Don’t give up opportunities because you are scared of how to handle your many responsibilities. Go for it. If you fail, pick yourself up and try again.
You can read other Inspiration Monday series with the following persons as well: