The Elevator: I Abandoned My Medicine Dreams To Chase Digital Marketing – Peace Itimi

April 26, 2021

The Elevator is a limited Zikoko series that details the growth of young successful Nigerian women. We tell their stories every Monday by 12 p.m. 

Peace wanted to become a medical doctor but ended up studying biochemistry, however, she has never had to use her degree to get a job. Peace Itimi is a 25-year-old digital and growth marketer. In today’s episode of The Elevator, she talks about her journey from becoming the first Google Student Ambassador at her school to becoming a digital and growth marketer that works with multinational companies. 

What did you want to be as a child?

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a medical doctor. My brother was studying to be an engineer. It made sense for me to study medicine so my mom would be “mama engineer” and “mama doctor”.  

How did that change?

I applied to study medicine at DELSU but I got medical biochemistry. So my mom was like, “Yeah, go do it. You would transfer to medicine in 400 level.” The worst-case scenario was that I would graduate at 19 and still be young enough to start medical school from scratch.  

I studied biochemistry for one year and in that year, all the science students took their courses together. In the first semester of year 2, I got the form to transfer to medicine, but there was no space in medical school for new students. I was depressed about it because I already saw myself as a medical doctor. That’s how I started writing. I was on Twitter one day and I saw someone say they had a blog. I was curious, so I visited her blog. I scrolled to the end and saw that it was a WordPress blog. It also said, “click this link to create your blog”. I did and started posting my writeups about my life on my blog. 

About a year later, I went to an event in Benin City. A friend walked up to me and said, “Oh my God, I’ve been reading your blog.” I was pleasantly surprised by that. He thought I was cool and techie. Then he said, “There’s this thing called Google Student Ambassador (GSA) programme — I think you would like it. ” I didn’t think I was a techie, but he connected me to the ambassador in Uniben, Alex, who said he would let me know when the application opened the following year. 

The next year, I applied and they picked me. I became the first Google Student Ambassador in DELSU. This was in 2014. Shortly after, we went for a summit where Google representatives spoke to us about programming and digital marketing, and I fell in love with digital marketing. We went back to school, did some lessons and started training people. When I graduated, I said to my mother, “This your medicine plan no go work.“

What happened after? 

As a GSA, I taught people digital marketing. Someone told my pastor that she had a small business and needed someone to run ads for her. My pastor reached out to me. 

I charged her ₦5k. The gig ended as a disaster because the results I gave her were likes and impressions, but she wanted sales, not metrics. In hindsight, I could have done better at converting those impressions to sales. 

My first full-time job was at a US company called GTech designs. A friend of mine worked for them as the designer developer and needed someone to handle marketing. I remember wondering if I was going to get the job because of my medical biochemistry certificate. I imagined she would ask for my CV and be displeased with my degree. But when we had the interview, she didn’t ask me anything about school. I don’t think she cared about whether I went to university or what I studied. She just asked me about marketing and writing, and a sample blog post. I got the job and it paid ₦25k monthly. 

I worked there for a while before getting another job at WebCoupers. I moved to Lagos to work at WebCoupers for my NYSC. There, I developed strategy and executed campaigns. I handled client meetings, SEO & social media. It was a lot of work. While I was still working there, my friend, Joyce and I created our agency called Rene digital hub. We helped businesses with digital marketing and content strategy. It helped me develop entrepreneurship skills. We ran it from 2016 to 2018 and eventually decided to dissolve it because we didn’t give the business the attention it needed due to our full-time jobs. 

What happened next? 

I went deeper into digital marketing. I worked with Imaginarium Marketing Communications and with Kora Pay, as Head of Marketing. Eventually, I decided I wanted to do something different from digital marketing. I chose growth marketing because it was similar but more technical and I realised that a lot of international companies were looking for growth marketers to scale their regional branches. I researched the role and took some courses. I also knew I wanted a 100% remote job and a job that paid in foreign currency — mostly because I want to travel more. 

I had a friend I used to visit at QuickCheck in ParkView Estate Ikoyi. Seedstars, a global venture capital fund, was also in that estate. I was interested in what they did, so I went to their website. I remember reading about their work that evening and thinking, “This is exactly where I want to be.” I went to their website and found the role for growth marketing lead in Africa was open. It took me four months to get the job — from the application, the technical interview, a case study, assignments, another interview to the offer. I resumed in February 2020. 

What was working at SeedStars like?

Working at Seedstars has been the best time of my career. We did impact programmes for people and the culture of the company aligned so much with my vision for myself. The challenges pushed me to be better at my job. I met new people and worked on projects across the continent. I had colleagues in different countries. Now, if I ever wanted to travel to Cairo or Colombia or anywhere, there’s most likely someone there that I could reach out to. It was an amazing experience, and I would always remember it. 

Right now, I enjoy making YouTube videos about brand marketing. I have been putting out videos since 2018, and I’ve seen the impact. I don’t have up to 10k subscribers, but I’m grateful for the kind of jobs I’ve gotten from it and the kind of people I’ve met. It’s something I want to do for a long time. 

What lessons have you learned along the way? 

My favourite lesson of all time is to do it afraid and don’t let the fear of looking stupid stop you. I have gotten so many rejections in my life. They hurt, but I’ve learned to move past them to the next thing that might be a yes. Sometimes, I find that the things I least expect to work out end up working out fine. 

I always ask for help. I am always willing to reach out to someone to talk me through a particular issue. I also take my time to research the problem and possible solutions. If it’s something I need to outsource, I do that as soon as I can. As long as it’s something I want to do, I will find a way. 

Who are some of the women you admire? 

Adaora Mbelu. There was a point in my life when I had a bit of identity crisis, especially because of how I dress. Looking at Adaora made me know that there is nothing wrong with how I dress. I did a lot of training in 2018 where I wore feminine clothes that made me uncomfortable. But then I saw pictures of Adaora on social media rocking suits to board meetings. I thought, if Adaora can do it, then Peace Itimi can.   

What’s next for you? 

I think I am leaning towards entrepreneurship for now. I will always be interested in solving problems and easing processes for people.

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Mariam Sule

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