Few of us can look back at our lives and not marvel at God’s hand. Abimbola Pariola is no exception. We caught up with this busy lady and cornered this mighty woman of God on her life 10 years ago and what she would say to her younger self if she got the chance to have a coffee date with young Abi.
What is your current job?
I am an Executive Director at a design consultancy called LYT Architecture. I look after Business Development for the entire business whilst developing our strategic objectives. I also head up our West African operations and have recently set up our office in Lagos, Nigeria. It does mean that I do a lot of travel, shuttling between South Africa and West Africa.
And ten years ago?
In 2003/2004, I was an associate architect with a company called TPC Architects. It was my first career leadership position.
If you could give 10 pearls of wisdom to your younger self from 10 years ago, what would you say?
1. It’s ok to be yourself
So often when we get into a new working situation we sometimes change our selves and the way we are to fit in. Now I don’t mean picking up the right dress code and styles of dressing. Those are important things and necessary to succeed in most work environments I mean the innate things that make you, you. Your personality, your “joie de vive”. You don’t have to force yourself to swear, because everyone else does, or drink because everyone else does. Initially you may come under some scrutiny and be the butt of jokes at times. However if you stand your ground on your values and principles, eventually you will find that people will come to respect you for not succumbing to the influence of the crowd. Too often I see young people falling under the influence of peer pressure, “I must drive that fancy car because everyone else is doing so.” It’s ok to be yourself it builds good character. You know God is always faithful to raise you up for that and most importantly He will use the very things that are special about you to raise you up.
2. Don’t ever stop dreaming big.
God places those dreams in your heart for a reason. Trust them. I remember so many dreams and ideas I had when I started work… some I tried to pursue and in one case had some slight success and then it flopped. Other dreams, as I got older, I got more careful. I got tired and thought doing well in my 9 – 5 was just ok. Over time I realized that your dreams don’t all have to be realized in the workplace. There are other avenues that God can use to bring your dreams to pass. Dreams just like our lives also have seasons, and as long as God has placed them in your heart and you lay them before him He is always faithful to breathe life into them again at the right time. Be engaged and active in your community. Plug into those areas of your passion, in and out of your workplace. You’ll be surprised who you will meet and connect with. I love the Lord for how He is the expert Divine connector. One word of wisdom though is – careful whom you share your dreams with. Not everyone has your best interest at heart. Find someone, a mentor, preferably someone who has walked the path of life before you, to share your dreams with. They will always inspire you to chase after them and they will have no interest in stealing your dreams. A good mentor’s interest is in you and seeing you achieve your goals and dreams.
3. Just do it… don’t let fear hold you back.
This goes hand in hand with dreams. I think so often with life we want to do things and try things but we get scared. I think I would have told my younger self jump so many times. I look back and wish I had at times, but I am learning to jump a lot more these days. The amazing thing is that when I do and I say Lord, I am going to take a step of faith and jump… He is always there, cheering me on or saying, jump I’ll catch you, or jump from this side or maybe the next one. The thing is to say Lord I am ready to jump and jump. Isaiah 30:20 – 21. He is always there to be a guide.
4. “Gotta love the loo”.
Okay what I really mean is have a prayer closet in the work place. Mine has always been the bathroom. It has been the place where I have cried the most tears when I needed to cry out to the Lord in silence. It has been the place where I have gone to hold my tongue and count to 10,000 or a million before the Lord. It has been the place where I go and ask God why aren’t you doing anything to help me. It has also been the place where I go and thank the Lord for the goodness that He has shown me when I have received a promotion or heard some really good news I didn’t expect and it could only be Him, and it’s Him I thank. The one thing I love about the loo is it’s the one place also that no one can really question you about. It doesn’t matter how many times you go to the loo. Really, no one is going to ask what are you going to do there. Unless of course they want an embarrassing answer. It has always been my one place of quiet in the work place and also my one place of drawing great strength as I meet with the Lord there.
5. Not everyone has to be your friend.
The friends that you choose say a lot about you. There are tons of sayings. “Show me your friends and I will show you who you are”; “Be careful who you hang out with”. Choose your friends wisely. King Solomon said a lot about friends in the book of Proverbs and all so true. Prov 18:24 (NLT), 17:17, 27:5, 27:17. Friends are special and if chosen wisely they can be such a joy to your life. This doesn’t mean that you do not have to like people, show love and respect to everyone.
6. Develop a strong network of girlfriends
Girlfriends are great. I guess this links to the point of choosing your friends wisely. However, girlfriends are a thing of great beauty. I have a core group of girlfriends, that will cry with me, laugh with me, pray with me, chastise me when necessary, be the mirror in front of me when I need it. On the whole they are friends who in all they do, make me a better me. I have girlfriends who inspire me mentally and challenge my intellect. I have girlfriends who make me want to pour deeper into my relationship with the Lord just from being around them. I also have those girlfriends who will go and watch my wacky sci-fi and “Lord of the rings” marathon movies with and laugh myself silly. Girlfriends for all seasons. Most importantly, they are girlfriends that one can be vulnerable with in each season and love me for me and vice versa.
7. Learn how to accept your mistakes gracefully.
There’s nothing worse than a young woman who does not know how to accept when she is wrong. This was a tough lesson for me, as I like to be right. However, I have learnt to learn from my mistakes and make myself a better me. Accepting my mistakes has also I hope made me a humbler me. Yes my pride took a knock but maybe it needed it…..
8. Have a happy song or… something – embrace your fun side.
I have a very playful side. Over the years I have managed to keep the little girl in me. Maybe because when I see myself in the Lord’s presence I am His little princess. I also love to laugh and dance myself silly in His presence. I know that God is a fun God. He is the creator of fun and joy. So when I have those days that I feel down or angry and I just need a pick me up, I have a “happy” song. This is the song that I will blast loud in the car or in my bedroom and sing and dance wildly, or just let it wash over me. I keep it on repeat until I feel better. There is something to be said about music. If music isn’t it for you, then find a book you love, buy some flowers, bake a cake. Let down your hair and dip your feet in the pool do something delightful that is your happy place. Ask the Lord to show you your happy song or thing. I guarantee it will bring a smile to your face.
9. Pay it forward – give back.
Never lose the concept of giving back and pouring into those around you who are less fortunate and don’t have the same opportunities. Giving back reminds you of where you have come from and helps to keep you humble. I appreciate the sacrifices my parents made. To be part of helping other people see the potential that they have, encourages me to dream even more and marvel at the grace of the Lord.
10. Follow your favour.
We all have our giftings that God has placed in us. They are the natural strengths that we don’t have to strive hard to be good at. They are places that come easily. I have found that wherever you are, even in the workplace, if you ensure that what you do is from a place of strength you will always shine and bring God glory. A good book that also explains this better is called Strengths Finder. It’s like a test that helps you identify your key areas of strength. So often we focus on improving our weaknesses. There is nothing wrong with that, however, when we focus on our strengths, we can excel so much better. I learnt late that being forced into an area that does not allow me to function in my gifts and strengths makes it difficult for me to function, and I am unable to be excellent at what I do.
(As usual our women are overachievers, Abimbola added an eleventh one)
11. Always strive for excellence and patience.
Never stop being the best at what you do. Don’t hide your talents. In all you do, do it well and don’t try and hide your light. I guess being in a male dominated profession earlier on it was about fitting in not being good at what I do. Yet, I have learnt as long as we are excellent at what we do, it brings God glory and with time recognition. I guess at times because we may feel overlooked and unhappy we may at times not give our best. Always give 100%. In God’s perfect timing, your time will come.
Abimbola Pariola is Head West African Operations and Business Development Director at LYT Architecture. LYT is a design consultancy with a goal to being one of the top 100 influential companies in the world and has been in the industry for over 22 years.