Hustler, Tech Bro & Expert Volunteer
This is Lightbox, a segment of the twentysomethingbytres newsletter. Every month, I interview a twenty-something-year-old to get insight into what life is like for them, the careers they are building, challenges, ideologies and more.
This month we will be speaking with Mileke Kolawole, a computer engineering student and lead volunteer at Google Developer Student Clubs Babcock, a university community for students interested in technology to connect and grow. In this interview, he shares his journey: being a multipotentialite, love for volunteering, future concerns, and so much more.
It’s a great interview, so please like, comment, and share if it resonates with you.
You’re the first guest on this show I know close to nothing about, so I am very excited to speak with you. Hello, how are you doing?
Hi Treasure, I am doing good.
Can you please introduce yourself to us and tell us who you are and what you do?
My name is Mileke Kolawole, and I like to refer to myself as a hustler. There are a good number of things I dabble into from time to time. At several times, I have done things ranging from software development and photography; I tried filmmaking one time, cybersecurity, cloud engineering and cloud security then community leadership, where most of my volunteering experience came from. Right now, I am looking at the possibility of being a startup founder, so yeah, I am a hustler.
You really sound like one. What was your background like that brought about this array of interests? Why do you do many things?
It was one of those things where you are the only boy in the house, fixing the remote battery, fixing the sim card in phones, and everyone starts calling you “young engineer!” It sort of grew in my subconscious, and I carried that through secondary school. I was still open to other careers, but I remember one day I thought, “I need to figure out what to do with my life”, so I looked at the courses I got As in: maths, physics, further maths, etc. and I chose computer engineering. I consciously moved towards tech.
As for the reason why I do many things. . . if I am being honest with you, I don’t really know myself. I think it’s the fear of failure. Growing up, I didn’t fail a lot, so that has kind of morphed into a fear of failure in life. I do something, and I am not really impressed with it, so I try something else. In my short life, I have tried to play chess, swim and play basketball professionally. I have also tried writing and photography; there was a time I even changed my course to psychology (laughs). So I find myself doing a good number of things because I feel if I tell somebody that I am good at many things, there’s no way they wouldn’t give me a job.
Hmm interesting. How would you say navigating your twenties has been?
Well, I am 20, but I feel like I have been an adult for a long time. The first time I travelled to Lagos on my own was in 2019, I was 16. So I have experienced this life for some time. I would say it has been very confusing. One day, you’re doing something, and you really like it, and the next day you think, “What am I doing?” It’s crazy because your twenties are the time when you’re meant to figure out most of your shit (am I allowed to say shit?) Because when you’re between 0-18, people are still like, ehn shebi you should be going to school, and then from 30, you have to start building. So 20-29 is when you are meant to figure out what you want to do.
What have been the highlights?
I think a highlight would be that people respect me based on my interactions with them or the capacity in which I am working with them. It’s a highlight. People think I know what I am doing, even though I don’t.
So if you flip it, would you say that the good work you are doing is speaking for you?
People say I have done good work, right? But then, my brain just doesn’t like to believe it, so I keep trying to do more stuff. There’s a good number of times when I do stuff, and people are like, “mehn…that stuff is crazy.” and I’m like, “It has happened it has happened.” I really hope they’re not lying, though.
(Laughs) I highly doubt that, Mileke. Anyways, what would you consider the lows?
I’d say it gets very lonely. I am pretty sure everyone kind of experiences this from time to time because, in the long run, you have to figure out stuff yourself. You might have people around you, which is great. I hope everyone that eventually reads this has people around them that support them. But in the grand scheme of things, there are things that you just have to figure out yourself. So when confusion is eating you up, and you don’t know what to do, you’re the only one that is in your head so it can get lonely sometimes. Bro, that COVID year? Terrible experience!
If you could go back in time and have a conversation with your twelve-year-old self, what would you tell him?
Things would always sort themselves out, and I can say that now because of how I have seen things figure themselves out between when I was twelve and now. But the crazy thing is, right now, I really don’t believe it. I don’t know if that makes sense. I have so much uncertainty I have of what is yet to come, which my twelve-year-old self also had, so it’s crazy.
So you can appreciate things in retrospect, but in the present, it is very hard to come to terms with the fact that whatever you’re dealing with right now, will not matter much tomorrow?
Yeah. I tried to get into FUTA, and I failed the exam. I think that was the best failure I ever had because I don’t know who I would have turned out to be if I went to FUTA. I ended up going to OAU, and COVID hit. If COVID hadn’t hit, I would not have gone to Babcock, where I am doing so much at the moment.
So right now, I don’t know what would happen with the challenges I am facing, but things would figure themselves out.
What career path are you considering?
As of right now, the major thing I am looking at is starting a company, a health-tech company. The aim is to turn the healthcare system into more of an ecosystem, but there’s a lot more to it!
Looking forward to that. So tell us about your love for volunteering. I know that you’re involved with GDSC Babcock and TEDx. What do you love about it?
That is actually something that catches my interest so much. I love to talk about volunteering. I have volunteered at DEVFest, TEDX Babcock, GDSC Babcock, which I am currently heading, and a number of other organisations, one of which involves countries in Subsaharan Africa. Yo, it’s like the best experience. I am someone that loves giving back. I love giving value to people. Whenever I am somewhere, I like to make sure I participate, and my impact is felt. But even if you have a selfish approach to things generally, volunteering also benefits you. When you volunteer, give your time, energy, etc., whoever and whatever you’re giving value to will come back to you in some way. Be it networking (eg. getting your efforts noticed by an important CEO or guest) or opportunities or growth. The good things you do always find their way back to you.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
The last time I answered this question was 2017, in my high school booklet. Then the question was, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and I said, “With some cool cash.” But right now, I am broke, so I don’t think that turned out well. In ten years, I think I will be married with kids. I have a dream in my head that I want to retire early. I will be comfortable, travel the world, etc. I am trying to stop hustling and just chill.
Something you’d like to tell every 20-something-year-old in the world?
Omo! It’s okay to be confused in the sense that it is inevitable, and trying to fight it will just draw you back. When the confusion comes, allow it. I know this sounds like counterintuitive advice, but I just know that eventually, everything will figure itself out.
Thank you for doing this, Mileke.
Thank you, Treasure.
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