LevelSet urges networking, collaboration at Lagos launch
The co-founder of LevelSet, Tope Ajala, has urged improved mentoring, networking and collaboration amongst Nigerians and Africans as a whole to improve everyone’s level in all areas of life.
LevelSet is a global initiative, which aims to drive and increase mentorship, collaboration amongst black people for both professional and personal development across the world.
Launching across West Africa, starting with Nigeria last week in Lagos with a soft launch, Ajala said developing Nigeria is important to her. “I was born and partly raised in Nigeria before moving to London, America and Asia and seeing the same thing in these different countries has made me realise that we need to collaborate more in order for us to be successful.
“Everyone wants to be successful on their own but you would be bigger and better if you bring others along with you on your journey and this is what LevelSet is. We want people to collaborate with us globally, so if you need help across any part of the world, a mentor or whatever, this platform is here for you and we will make that relationship happen.
“We realise it is hard to understand an industry except you are in it and you can give back to others that want to come in. Half of the opportunities we get on earth is because of someone else, now imagine getting it on a global database? Even though we are in the infancy stage, a lot of people and companies can see the vision. We can only get the right resources and people if you are connected and networking with the right people. We want established people to help the upcoming ones as we don’t want them to go through the same thing.”
Ajala added that mentors and mentees have to apply so as to ensure everyone’s visions align with one another. “There’s a streamlined system in place and we are vetting everybody. You can request a mentor or request to be mentored. We want to showcase Africa to the rest of the world, talk about people’s experiences. People don’t care as much as they should and that is one of the things I’m trying to change, the generation coming behind us mustn’t go through what we are going through.”
Ajala said they plan to have walk-in offices in the nearest future for mentors and mentees. “We want people to have a comfortable space to meet to collaborate. You never know who will build the next Instagram or Whatsapp and are simply looking for a little push in the right direction. We are focusing on the need that exists in Nigeria and we want to empower as many Nigerians and Africans as we can.”
Fielding a panel that spoke on “collaboration for success”, panelist Chantel Riley, a singer and songwriter urged attendees to network, describing it as very important “because it’s all about who you know in this industry. It’s terrifying for me because I’m not the best at it but I realise it’s very important as you never know who can be of help to you.
“I played Nala in Lion King on Broadway for four years just from speaking to one person. From there, I booked my first feature film and I now have my own TV series in Canada and in the USA. It’s not easy getting roles on TV as a black female actress because of racial bias but we’re getting there slowly because people are speaking up and things are changing. My mentor introduced me to my first open casting call that gave me my first break and even after almost a decade, she still checks up on me and guides me from time to time.”
Another panelist, Dami Odufuwa, said networking is the way forward because “it brought me where I am today. I read Economics in school and dreamt of working at the UN or World Bank but quickly realised I hated it. But I wasn’t ashamed and told people I had made a mistake and my cousin introduced me to one Tosin in London, after I told her I wanted to work in media. I was working in consulting at the time but didn’t like it.
“It was also through networking I got my present job when I wanted to move back to Nigeria. A lot of people are scared of mentors because everyone thinks someone is out to get them or steal their ideas and while this may be true, nobody can steal your mind. Even if you’re successful, you might still need someone to help you navigate some things.”
Digital Influencer and Lifestyle blogger, Makeba Lindsay, urged women to strive to be better at networking as that is how their male counterparts advance.
Ajala went on to add that so many people are investing in others now and “we just want to ensure they are investing in the right places. I wouldn’t be where I am today without a mentor because I was young and naive. Apart from your parents, you need experienced people to guide you. My brother recently reached out to me that he wants to work in investment banking and even though I’ve been in that field, I knew I couldn’t help him so I connected him to a black man in investment banking.
“Collaboration is so important because you never know who’ll open the next door for you. Also, sometimes, you have to pay for knowledge or for things you think can help you advance, not every time looking for free things or handouts.”
Ife Durosinmi-Etti, founder, AGS Tribe told the women present to tap into their respective networks as you’d never know what you can get from it. “Collaborate more because it’s the only way you can go far. When I was launching my book, people helped me so much and I spent far less than what I would have. Also, you need to be visible to those who need it; you need to put yourself out there. Stop saying you’re a private person yet you’re looking for visibility, that’s an irony.”