Let your signature be excellence
Titilayo Adeleye has been able to exhibit her prowess in the architecture field in Nigeria. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Eden Group, Lagos and the immediate past Vice Chairman, Nigerian Institute Of Architects, Lagos Chapter.
The first decade of her life was spent in the most loving family. Her parents, Chief and Chief Mrs. Ade and Olufunke Iluyemi were loving, supportive pillars of strength, icons of good character and epitomes of faith and fortitude.
“I had a very strict upbringing. Dad and mum instilled the virtues of responsibility, honesty, consistency, diligence, accountability and confidence very firmly in my siblings and me,” she recalled. “It was never a question of whether you passed in school or you topped the class. Most times it took just a look to make us align our ways to their expectations.”
She continued: “My parents were Christians and very conservative. They ensured we got the best possible training. Even when sometimes I think I should be a bit mischievous, I really can’t because of the way I was brought up. They taught us the ways of God, which has been the biggest influence in my life. The constant pride they expressed in us gave us the wings to soar. Even when it was the norm to celebrate male children over female ones, they never did that because they had four girls before the two boys came along and they celebrated and nurtured us to become the best we could be. My siblings and I have excelled in our various careers as engineers, medical doctors, architects and teachers.”
She explained that she made the choice to become an architect and her sense of adventure was curbed by the heavy demands the choice entailed.
“The exploratory years in the University were fun and went by in a flash, as I earned my masters degree at the age of 21. Before graduation, I made up my mind to work with top architectural firms, where I could learn the basics of the profession. It is actually after leaving school that you learn a lot of things. After graduation, I served at ABDT Partnership in Ibadan and worked with Majaro Partnership, Lagos before setting up my own company in 1996. I have also done a lot of trainings,” she said.
Working with those firms taught her a lot of things, which include dealing with clients, working in an office, interpersonal communication, writing proposals, organising projects and negotiating, among others.
“My former bosses, Arc. Tunji Bolu and Arc. Charles Majoro affected my life positively, because they taught me how to be professionally creative achieving a good work life balance. I also look up to Arc. Bola Ogunbiyi. Outside my profession, I admired the late Dora Akunyili, because she went all out to achieve and made her mark. Outside Nigeria, I admire Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman, who has been successful in her various roles as a wife, mother and career woman. I see her as a strong woman, who, when she believes in something, goes for it. I also admire Michelle Obama, because she is a courageous woman and stylish. Despite all the negative things said about her, she was able to hold her head high,” she said.
So, what makes architecture fun for her? She replied excitedly: “Architecture is fun for me because I am a very creative person. I try to create something out of what exists. It is not that regimented because it helps me to express myself in my designs and bring my ideas back to life. Looking back, I think it’s been very exciting. As an architect, conceiving a work in your mind and seeing it becoming a reality is so gratifying.
“Part of our success story is being able to groom younger architects and seeing them mature to mentor others. We have done projects for Lagos State government, governors’ offices and other great projects. When clients commend you for a job well done and refer you to others, it is another success story on its own. People think that architecture is a male dominated profession, but this is no longer so, because there are a lot of women doing exceedingly well in the field. I think women are naturally creative and I always tell women that in every profession, you have to put yourself out there.
“When your male colleague does 10, you have to do 20. And when he is doing 50, you have to do 100. You just have to double your effort and let your signature be excellence. When a work is excellently done, it becomes immaterial whether a man or woman did it. So, let your work speak for you. Avoid pushing the fact that you are woman in the face of everybody; rather, try to prove your mettle. Whatever a woman does, she should do it diligently, then being a woman becomes an added advantage.”
Adeleye sure knows how to balance work and family life effectively. “I prioritise a lot and ensure my family and work do not suffer,” she said. “I have formed the habit of always making lists. I have short-term list, medium-term and long-term list. I always tick out things I have not done and because I am always doing that, it has helped me to organise my time and things I need to do. I make up my mind on the things that are important and the ones that are not. I am grateful to have a wonderful family that has encouraged and supported me all the way.”
Aside work, the architect has a church ministry, where she ministers and mentors teenagers and youths.
“On various occasions, I have listened to these young ones pour out their minds and observed that they need direction, as a lot of them are confused. I sat down and thought to myself that they need someone to put them through in life and nurture them. When you listen to them, you are amazed at how much confusion and stuffs going through their minds. You also see that a lot of them are at crossroads. The formative years are the most important part of our lives. It is during this period an individual makes decisions that will shape the rest of his/her life. I realised that if these young ones are directed, then we can launch them out in life without fear.
“Parents have a lot of work to do in this regard. They should pay attention to their teenagers. Nothing is more important than making them get it right in life. What is the essence of having a successful career or business with all the money in the world and your children are giving you problems or causing you pain? Parents should be there for their children. We don’t have all the answers, but we can help them by being close to them, loving them and giving them a sense of belonging. I also appeal to every adult out there to look for a child to mentor to prevent children making the mistakes we made,” she said.
So, how does she relax?
“I unwind by reading, listening to music and being in the company of my young friends with whom I laugh and gist. My relationship with the youths has exposed me to dancing. I would advise young and fresh architects to work with reputable architectural firms, where they can learn and grow. They should also go for professional exams, do research and go for trainings. They should put structures in place, pay their taxes and do insurances. They should also treat their staff right and treat them like family, because you are building a legacy that will outlive you. And no matter how small the job, do it diligently. Ten years from now, I see Eden Group growing bigger. I see myself leaving it for younger ones to run. I intend getting more involved in charity and mentoring young ones,” she said.