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2022 was an Epiphany: In search of Enduring fulfilment

My Year in five words: Promising, Frustrating, Loooooong, Eye-Opening and Reassuring — in that order.

Blurry image of a sunset scene generated by AI called Craiyon.

The difference between December 31st and January 1st is 24 hours. Once we close the gap, the new year is just another day. I have no new year’s resolution, nor do I wait till New year’s eve to set my goals. I must, however, in the most concrete and deliberate way, outline what I will do and have done so far.

I started 2022 just as I ended 2021, learning, upskilling, practising and closing my skill gaps. 2021 triggered me to become a mixed-methods UX Researcher, prioritize my mental health (total failure), and stand for my values. 2022 witnessed me treading these paths. 

Job hunting wasn’t on my Q1 (January – March) & Q2 (April – June) goal lists. I wanted to learn fast, practice what I discovered diligently — I added 5.5 personal projects to my portfolio. Two jobs came my way — the recruiters contacted me — and I applied for both. Neither worked out. The first ghosted after sending my submission for a research exercise and the primary client cancelled the second.

It was in June — after spending four months waiting for ASUU to call off their strike and being emotionally abused — I decided to begin my job hunt and simultaneously improve my personal brand. Likewise, I started volunteering for DemocracyLab. Game on!

I applied to over forty companies I now realise did not want me: they were remote but required me to be based in America or Europe. A few sent me generic rejections, zilch from the rest. 

A Spreadsheet of some of the jobs i applied for I only had one acceptance.
Job Application Sheet

As for personal branding, I started a visibility plan, content calendar and newsletter — which I love very much and will expand in the coming years. My attempt to establish a brand for myself felt complacent, smug & icky. 

Screenshot of my visibility plan for 2022
Visibility Plan, 2022
Screenshot of my content calendar for 2022
Content Calendar, 2022

I only realised, by Q3’s end (July – September), that the reason why I felt like this was because of the end goal. It surrounded growing my brand as a person and not the value I would provide. I felt selfish, guilty, like a money-mongering, metric-sucking, attention-seeking influencer. I wasn’t lying to or deceiving anyone. But gosh, I hated it! I felt dirty because what I did at the time contradicted my core values: to stay true to myself and help people in the most down-to-earth way. 

Most of my struggles this year were mental in personal and professional ways. Circumstances forced me to doubt if the people that claim to love me were telling the truth. I know what it feels to be depressed, lethargic and question your individuality. Questions & doubts about my ability to do certain things flooded my mind. I let a few people go because I knew I deserved better. 

If I were to summarise my learnings, they would be: 

  1. To aspire to make impact in whatever way I can.
  2. To reach for enduring (not short-term) satisfaction.
  3. I deserve all the good life has to offer and if acquiring my aspirations requires me to be selfish & prioritize my mental health or let people go, then so be it. 

1

Organic growth is what we should affix to our personal brands, not vanity. 

“Make real impact where it counts, and the brand and social media following will come.” 

Adora Nwodo, LinkedIn 

I spoke to Patrick Chukwu, a friend, about how smug I felt in my first attempt to build a personal brand. He suggested I resist the imposter, focus on those I can help, tell my story honestly with right-sized vulnerability, and engage with the community. 

Notes from Patrick

Amy Santee, during one of CuriosityTank’s events, advised replacing traditional networking with community engagement and helping whenever we can. That’s it! Community, helping people and making their lives a little bit better. 

2

pencil sketch of a path leading to the summit of a hill with a flag perched on top

LEARNING

Enduring Fulfilment

The most valuable thing I have learnt this year, courtesy of my unarticulated thoughts, the smug feeling that came with my personal branding attempt, the 40 + companies that rejected me and this beautiful article, is that our life’s purpose should be about doing things that give us enduring fulfilment, not short-term satisfaction

“I’m not arguing here that there’s anything wrong with visiting the exotic place you’ve always dreamed of seeing, or running a marathon, or otherwise pushing your capabilities to do or make something difficult, professionally or otherwise. Work that feels more like a mission provides purpose; travel can be inherently valuable and enjoyable; learning a skill or meeting a challenge can bring intrinsic satisfaction; meaningful activities pursued with friends or loved ones can deepen relationships. But ask yourself whether the attraction of your bucket-list items, be they professional or experiential, derives mostly from how much they will make others admire or envy you. These motivations will never lead to deep satisfaction.”

Arthur C. Brooks, How to Want Less, The Atlantic

Short-term satisfaction will render you eternally unsatisfied irrespective of your accomplishments. Enduring fulfilment will give you eternal satisfaction. I am more focussed on making an impact where it counts and telling the story of how I did it because I am no longer chasing social gratification from strangers. Now I want enduring fulfilment. 

Vanity should only be a seasoning to life, the central object of our fixations should come from the impact we make or hope to make. 

3

I no longer fear letting go of what used to be. 

I climb each rung of the ladder slowly but steadily. Rushing will lead me nowhere, but I seek to tell my story genuinely. I’ve learnt to listen to people’s stories and cull perspectives from them. 2022 was promising, frustrating, loooooong, eye-opening and reassuring — in that order. You’ve read to this point, and you have an idea of how my year went. If it piques you, here are the highlights.

2022 in Bullet Points

January

  • I voluntarily redesigned the BaysPlanet foundation’s website. No regrets. 
  • I wrote my final exams for a B.A. in History and International Studies, UNILORIN.  

February

  • STEMRES, a non-profit that helps youths acquire STEM skills contacted me on LinkedIn to check if I was available for a UX Research role. After completing a UX Research challenge, they ghosted me. 
  • I completed my exams and undergraduate dissertation in due time. Alas, the ASUU strike stalled my graduation.
pencil sketch of paper with scribbles

PERSONAL PROJECT 1

March

  • A colleague invited me to speak on UNILORIN FM about UX and UI Design. I met some interesting folks, including a lecturer who was so friendly I thought he was a student. 
  • Susan Onigbinde, DODO’s founder, sent me a LinkedIn DM recruiting UX Researchers for a one-year project. I applied and was accepted for the role but the project never started because of an issue with the primary client. I was bummed about it, but that’s life.

April 

May

pencil sketch of paper with scribbles

PERSONAL PROJECT 2

June 

pencil sketch of paper with scribbles

PERSONAL PROJECT 3

  • Finding the Best Bidding Style: My first go at hypothesis testing using Python. Statistics is a field I struggled with this year, but I am in no haste. 
  • Four months into the ASUU strike, frustrated, annoyed and mentally struggling, my job search officially began. LinkedIn Post officially announcing my job hunt.
  • When I started applying for jobs, I realised how inexperienced I was. I decided to volunteer for DemocracyLab. I’m still in the role and I don’t see myself leaving until I make an impact. 
  • I also started volunteering for Desamp but I clashed with the Head of Design about the deliverables we needed to produce. He provided a list I didn’t agree with, so I left. Nothing personal. 
  • A colleague approached me to form a team for the PAADC design competition. We joined late and couldn’t work on our entry properly. We were evicted after the first round.

July

  • One month of job hunting left me scouring for ways to find more opportunities. Then I thought about building a personal brand because everyone was doing it 🤷🏾‍♀️.  
  • Determined to land my first job, I started revamping my portfolio and resume. The goal was to keep iterating, to keep improving. In the next few months, I had two productive portfolio and resume review sessions with Maria Hock on ADPList

August

pencil sketch of a path leading to the summit of a hill with a flag perched on top

HIGHLIGHT 1

  • I began working as a freelance UX Researcher for Cross Project Resources. It was a big step in my career, but I still felt underachieved. 
pencil sketch of paper with scribbles

PERSONAL PROJECT 4

  • Covid-19 Africa Data Analysis: I used SQL to analyse COVID-19 data provided by OWID. I focused my analysis on Africa.
    • NOTE: South Africa is the country with the most COVID tests (24.81m, 40%), cases (3.97m, 33%), and deaths (101.39k, 40%) on the continent. Read more…

September

pencil sketch of paper with scribbles

PERSONAL PROJECT 5

  • Improving twitter’s retention & user growth rate: I published a quantitative UX Research case study on how people feel about Twitter and if it affects their time spent using the app. 
    • NOTE: I found that 73% of my sample use Twitter for news, 37% for trends and comedy and 28% for networking. Likewise, the quality of twitter’s content affects how people feel about Twitter and the amount of control they have over their Twitter feeds affects how they use the platform. Read more…
  • I redesigned my website by myself. If it looks scrappy and inconsistent it is because my website will forever be an MVP (Most Viable Product). Iteration is my best friend; feedback is my guardian. 
pencil sketch of a path leading to the summit of a hill with a flag perched on top

HIGHLIGHT 2

  • Michele Ronsen, the founder of CuriosityTank, gifted me a generous & somewhat ridiculous scholarship to learn with the Fall 2022 cohort of CuriosityTank. Her teaching model varies from most online schools, and I promise it is one of the best. I’m writing about how I got started with the cohort and my key takeaways.

October

  • I launched my UX Research and Design Newsletter, Purple Search. I have some interesting ideas on how to scale. 
  • Resource Chest: I compiled a list of UX Research and Design resources to guide self-learners in their knowledge pursuit. 
pencil sketch of a path leading to the summit of a hill with a flag perched on top

HIGHLIGHT 3

  • In the thick of reworking my portfolio and resume, iterating, volunteering for DemocracyLab, taking up personal projects and building a “personal brand”, the circumstances I found myself in revealed that it is the impact that one makes that counts & there’s so much potential in Africa, there’s so much room to do good stuff here. With these realisations came the dissolution of my big tech company aspirations. 

November

  • ASUU called off their strike, lecturers resumed work, I finally submitted my undergraduate dissertation. 
  • Susan Onigbinde referred me to Emilia Klimiuk, a lead Researcher and Designer at Sonder Collective, for a qualitative data analysis role. 
pencil sketch of paper with scribbles

PERSONAL PROJECT 5.5

  • Sentiment Analysis: I’m currently trying to determine the sentiments of transcripts I collected for my journaling project

December

pencil sketch of a path leading to the summit of a hill with a flag perched on top

HIGHLIGHT 4

  • I became fully integrated with one of Sonder Collective’s projects. I participated in field research for the first time and will have my contract extended in the coming weeks. 
pencil sketch of a path leading to the summit of a hill with a flag perched on top

HIGHLIGHT 5

  • UNILORIN has confirmed that I will graduate with a second-class upper and a CGPA above 4.0 with a degree in History and International Studies. I’m relatively happy with the outcome since the system pleasures itself in moderating the scores of well-deserving students.