Entrepreneurs usually have lots of responsibilities to take care of. So, they tend to wear many caps ranging from managing their teams, developing brand-visibility strategies to ensuring enough working capital is available for their business to run successfully. These activities weigh many down, and this is why some take on subordinates in order to shed the managerial load.
This isn’t the case with Babajide Milton Macaulay, a Nigerian who works as a lecturer in the United Kingdom and also manages a 37-man team. Just like his friends who describe him as an ox, we also found him outstanding and believe youths and entrepreneurs can learn a lot from him.
In this in-depth interview, Babajide shares his educational background, tips on managing a team as large as his, nuggets on how he juggles this with his career as a lecturer and other activities he is involved in.
Do take some minutes out of your time to read this interview and, like we did, learn from this genius!
Tell us more about you (family, education and ethnicity).
I am, Babajide Milton Macaulay, a native of Eti-Osa Local Government Area, Obalende in Lagos, Southwestern Nigeria, which makes me, Yoruba. And I am from the 80s; born on the 6th July 1985 which will make me 33 years old in two months’ time. My father is a retired deputy Commissioner of Police and my mum works as a communications officer for a French oil firm in Victoria Island, Lagos.
I am from a polygamous family, so I have 4 siblings and 4 half-siblings. I am also the 4th of 5 children from my mother. My parents and siblings are all living in Nigeria and doing quite well.
I had my elementary education at Early -Life Nursery and Primary school in Festac Town, Lagos, Nigeria. I proceeded to Kabe Science College (currently known as Kabe College) in Festac Town as well for my junior secondary school education and then to Mercy Model College in Ijaiye-Ojokoro, Lagos, for my senior secondary school where I was made the senior prefect of my graduating set (2002).
After graduation, I wrote the UME four times before I was finally able to gain admission into the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Nigeria, in 2005 to study Biology. In 2010, after a lot of sweat and sacrifice, I beat the odds to emerge as the 3rd student in history to ever graduate with a first -class B.Tech. (Hons) degree from the Department of Biology in FUTA and got a lot of accolades and some financial benefits for it.
More importantly, I got an instant position (after my national service at Kebbi) as a Graduate Assistant in 2012. No interview was conducted for the position as it was the University’s tradition to retain her best products.
I went on to win two postgraduate scholarships in 2012 – London Metropolitan University (LMU) Postgraduate Scholarship and the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship. I chose the latter and was able to bag my MSc degree with distinction in Sustainable Environmental Management from the University of Greenwich, UK, in 2013. I also received accolades and a cash prize for emerging as the pioneer recipient of the Best Project Award on my MSc programme.
I resumed to FUTA in 2014 after my studies and was promoted to the position of Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Biology. My new role afforded me an elaborate opportunity to give back in terms of teaching and research.
While at FUTA, I served as the course adviser to first- year students where I directly mentored freshers; taught courses which span from first to final year, giving me the chance to impart knowledge across the different tiers of learning; served as a secretary to the Undergraduate Curriculum Review Committee where I particularly helped strike out some irrelevant courses offered by the Department, thus decongesting the curriculum; honoured with 3 awards from student union bodies in FUTA in appreciation of my efforts; supervised the undergraduate projects of 10 final-year students in two years.Eight had distinction marks and also got proper drilling on academic writing; I created a 13-man research group called the Futurists, with the aim of providing a sustainable herbal-based anti-malarial drug which can potentially replace Artemether/Lumefantrine in the near future.
In 2015, I was nominated by the vice-chancellor of FUTA, Professor Biyi Gregory Daramola, to the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC) in the UK, for the Commonwealth Scholarship to pursue a PhD degree in Environmental Geochemistry and Geomicrobiology at the University of Manchester, UK, which I was very privileged to win eventually.
My research focused on understanding the factors driving arsenic release from bedrocks into drinking aquifers. Although a lot of factors have been proclaimed to be responsible for the natural release of arsenic into drinking wells, most of them have been heavily criticised. Most criticisms were centred on the fact that arsenic studies are often done ex-situ, i.e., samples are taken from the field to the lab and their biochemical integrity may be altered during transit. The microcosm experiments performed on the samples taken to the lab have also been criticised for being too simplistic and may not mirror the natural occurrences in the field.
Therefore, my research prides its novelty on the design of a simple in-situ technique which can help researchers carry out on-field experiments to increase the reliability of the results generated. This technique I designed is to be used for a UK government- funded project in Cambodia later this year.
Currently, I am rounding off my PhD degree and also managing online social engaging platforms such as The Shoulders of Giants (a Facebook page meant for scholarship matters), Just like You (a Facebook page meant to inspire Africans) and Who First-class Epp? (a Facebook closed group created to facilitate professional networking and intentional mentoring of strictly Nigerian first class graduates).
More recently, I created and expanded iLLUMANIA to help address some pressing challenges in the area of education, business and environmental impact assessment, particularly in developing countries. I will also be launching e-commerce platforms soon, but I wish to complete my PhD first. My head is buzzing with all sorts of ideas, and I am glad to have a fantastic professional network to potentially birth them.
Give us a detailed explanation of what iLLUMANIA is all about.
iLLUMANIA was launched on the 1st January 2018 as an online educational consultancy platform offering services such as Dissertation writing/coursework supervision, CV restructuring, Scholarship Application guidance, Personal statement review and Career Counselling. The services were provided by 9 consultants at affordable costs. The goal was to assist students, graduates, business executives, academic researchers and professionals with technical knowledge support of every form and shape, in order to help them achieve their individual goals.
It was expected that iLLUMANIA will help plug the obvious learning gaps in institutions of higher learning particularly in Developing countries. This is why the motto of the firm is: Enlighten. Empower. Elevate.
Sometime in March 2018, I was approached by a very good friend of mine who was also my course mate at FUTA. In fact, we served on the same platoon (7) during the 3-week orientation camp at Jega NYSC camp in Kebbi state, Nigeria. His name is Owoeye Josiah Abolade.
He discussed with me the idea of a merger as he had been running a similar company a year earlier. In his words, ‘Competition is good but collaboration is better’ which I clearly agreed to, mainly because his firm (STATKONSULT and EIA) offered complementary services such as research proposal writing, business plan/proposal writing, data analysis and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). His firm, co-founded with Oladipupo Oluwaseun, also had about 15 staff members providing the offered services.
I was equally approached by Gideon Olanrewaju, a well-educated and well-travelled sustainable education advocate, who advised that I should provide a research repository for the storage of published or graded academic works as he found through his personal research that it will go a long way to assist researchers particularly in Developing countries.
On the 1st May 2018, the merger with STATKONSULT and EIA became official. The name of the ‘new firm’ remained as iLLUMANIA but the colour themes of the merger firm was incorporated into the motto (Enlighten. Empower. Elevate). Also, with the addition of the 4 services provided by the merger firm, iLLUMANIA’s services increased from 5 to 9. The workforce also grew from 9 to 37 as we carefully recruited more consultants to ensure that we can handle all 9 services efficiently. We also decided to offer some extended services such as training/boot camps and research repository. The training modules are focused on both hard and soft skillsets and will be revealed in due time. The company also created a research repository platform and as expected, Gideon was made the Manager. This further increased our services from 9 to 11 in total, with highly skilled professionals managing each component involved.
For more details regarding our services and how to take advantage of them, please don’t hesitate to visit our website: www.illumania.org.
What inspired you to start iLLUMANIA?
In 2016, I was approached by five MSc students at the University of Manchester (UoM) to guide them through the writing of their dissertation. They heard about my MSc award (the Best Project Award) while at the University of Greenwich, UK, and thought I might possess technical knowledge on the review of academic works. I was busy with my PhD research during that time, but because of my love to help others, I abandoned my work from time-to-time in a bid to help them all, irrespective of their areas of disciplines. I scheduled appointments with each of them at different times at the Learning Commons in UoM. After series of back and forth exchanges, of corrections and recommendations, which were intellectually-challenging for them, they all emerged victorious: four had distinctions and the last had Merit. One of them who had a Distinction went on to win a faculty prize at the Manchester Business School and a national award in the UK – It was absolutely unbelievable. The one who had a Merit went on to win an award at a Health Psychology Conference in the UK, for her work. I got so emotional during the 2016 graduation ceremony as their parents extended gratitude to me and prayed for me as well.
In July 2017, we all booked tickets and headed to Barcelona, Spain for a get-away week. It happened to fall in my birthday week (4th to 11th July) and so I was taken to one of the best hangout spots in Barcelona, OPIUM, patronised by business professionals. That night remains one of my most memorable birthday celebrations ever, not because I spent it in Spain or was with friends-turned-family, but mainly because of the genuine gratitude expressed towards me in the form of flowing unrestricted tears which was only seen in movies. It was an emotional night. I touched souls. I felt fulfilled. The next day, they all advised me not to joke with the ability. They said it was a gift and that I carried a rare grace which rubs off on others. Adding value to this gift will make a lot of sense, they affirmed.
In September 2017, I created the name, iLLUMANIA, designed the logo and began to draft the objectives on paper. In December 2017, the sister to the lady who got the Health Psychology award also got her own Distinction after I helped her through a very rough intellectual journey. Then it dawned on me that indeed, it wasn’t a thing of luck but a gift of some sort, and I could lead a team that will be providing the service at an affordable fee. On the 1st January 2018, iLLUMANIA was officially born and today, the rest in history.
We discovered you have a 37-man team. What led to this? Are you looking to have more people join the team? What are the criteria for joining?
When the company expanded in May 2018, our services increased from 5 to 11. This led to an increase in the workforce as well from 9 to 37 in order to cater for the services provided and reduce the burden of work on our consultants. At the moment, we are only recruiting marketers/business developers to help publicise iLLUMANIA to the world. If interested, an application letter should be sent to email@example.com and the candidate’s CV must be attached. A strong passion to help the firm grow and/or a prior relevant experience are preferred. A social media savvy applicant will also stand a better chance. Remunerations will be discussed with candidates if their application is successful. To contact us regarding any concerns, please send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What drives you? Share three personal rules that has kept you going.
I had a near-death episode in 2011. The event changed my overall thinking. I discovered how short life could be. I also realised that after death, the legacy left behind will reside only in the hearts of those one has touched and whose lives one was privileged to transform directly. Therefore, resilience, excellence and selflessness, became my watchwords and consequently, my accelerators in life. Resilience grants me that extra fire which keeps me optimistic when everyone’s hope has burned out; excellence provides me with the ability to always be the best wherever I find myself; selflessness helps me give back by assisting the voiceless and helpless – a social responsibility expected of me for being highly privileged.
As a leader of a large team, what are the strategies you use to manage them and ensure high performance?
I created different WhatsApp groups for the directors, managers, chief consultants, consultants and marketers/business developers to enable various levels of conversations among the working tiers in the company. This way, I am able to coordinate effectively the affairs of the company virtually. I am also very lucky to be blessed with a team of directors and advisors who are so professional and experienced. The executive director works for a financial firm in London. The director of operations was the co-founder of STATKONSULT and EIA, and has amazing leadership and entrepreneurial skills. The content director has a fantastic record in the branding and communications sector in Nigeria. The training director is an all-rounder with an intimidating social engagement record both home and abroad. The two advisors on the team are also incredible. One of them is currently leading a project funded by Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK while the other is a Lagos Business School product who partly organised TEDx Ajah and Code Lagos events. So as you can see, I have a wonderful team who can individually hold their own any day.
Any company where the subordinates are looking up to the Founder like an unquestionable demigod will never grow!
Looking through iLLUMANIA, we discovered that you are passionate about the environment. Tell us more about it.
The environment is the home for all living species, including humans. If we do not start paying considerable attention to the state of our home, our planet will become uninhabitable and will be rendered homeless. We may even face extinction if we can’t escape Earth to a new planet. Well, that may be an extreme way of looking at the situation but we shouldn’t be nonchalant too. As a well-groomed environmental scientist, I felt naturally endowed to play an important role regarding the subject matter. Adding environmental consulting to our services was one way to lead the cause as it will help us protect both the immediate living space and the entire planet at large. The EIA service offered by the firm supports the legal demand on developmental project proponents to think about the environmental and social consequences of their project before execution. The associated risks and recommended ways of reducing them are drafted in an Environmental Statement which must be submitted to the designated authority before the project commences. We have a select team of well-trained environmental experts who can help our interested clients produce high quality environmental statements.
If there was anything you could change in the world, what would it be?
The huge economic disparity and technological gap between Africa and the rest of the world.
Not only are you a lecturer, you are also a mentor and an entrepreneur. How do you juggle all three?
I wonder myself. Someone once referred to me as an Ox! So much mental and physical energy all over the place. Those around me are tired of advising me to calm down. Sometimes I work as if life has a deadline. The hastiness is perhaps due to the fact that I now understand deeply how precious and short life is. Being a lecturer comes naturally to me as I do love to deliver knowledge to an audience.
Mentorship is a gown you wear whether you like it or not, the moment you achieve something someone else needs. Therefore, juggling lecturing and mentorship wasn’t much of a problem. However, the addition of entrepreneurship, an area that is new to me, came with a lot of lessons. As a quick learner, I adapted quite fast and was privileged to have amazing Directors and Advisors who cover my lapses.
What do you do to relax?
Movies! I watch a movie per day, often between 11pm and 1am. This helps me disconnect from the turmoil out there and the entropy experienced each day. I also go on social media to have a nice laugh or watch some comedy videos on YouTube to ease my nerves. Hanging out with friends at a restaurant, bar, lounge or cinema is also something I do from time-to-time but not daily. I am not an outdoor person; I have more of an indoor personality as I love my ‘alone moments’ which is where ideas are often birthed! Who knows? My indoor nature might make me an excellent family man in the near future.
Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey so far?
It has been challenging. Getting iLLUMANIA registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission in Nigeria was kind of easy despite not being physically present in Nigeria at the moment. However, opening a corporate bank account for iLLUMANIA in a Nigerian bank became a pain! I was questioned and suspected over irrelevant issues all because I am not resident in Nigeria.
At some point, I began to think the stress I was made to go through was deliberate in order to assess my seriousness and genuineness. After five weeks of back and forth, they did well to open three accounts for my company to cater for the different currencies recommended for global reach.
In addition, I have spent almost half a million naira already on iLLUMANIA to get it to the standard it is at the moment and I haven’t even started making profits yet, although I must confess that public reception has been fantastic. Just like every other new businesses, this is our seed time and so nobody should be shocked when our harvest time arrives in a big way. I am paying my dues, big time!
Tell us about your research group, ‘Futurists’?
It is a 13-man research group which comprises Nigerian scientists resident across the globe from relevant diverse disciplines with the sole purpose of providing sustainable herbal-based multi-component drugs to control/manage tropical diseases. The ongoing project involves the production of a herbal-based multi-component anti-malarial drug which can potentially replace artemether/lumefantrine, as there are evidences showing that plasmodium is gradually building resistance against them.
Since malaria fever is the fastest killing disease in the world, and the victims are often resident in tropical regions, it became expedient to turn to herbs for a sustainable remedy the same way artemether was discovered from the plant, Artemesia annua, by a Chinese professor who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2015 for it. What makes our approach different is that a combination of multiple herbs with different mode of actions will be employed, in order to technically limit the ability of plasmodium to develop resistance. The multi-component drugs will also be rotated in a 3-3-3 fashion intended to further crush plasmodium’s resistance. So far, we have identified five individually potent anti-malarial tropical herbs (identities are deliberately withheld for now until published) and have established their lethal doses/concentrations.
Surprisingly, the extract from each herb reduced the plasmodium load in the blood of a malaria-infected mouse to the same level as artemether/lumefanrine medication.
The next stage is to combine herbs with different modes of actions and then investigate possible histopathological side-effects. This research is currently being carried out in the Environmental Biology and Public Health unit of the Department of Biology in FUTA, Nigeria, and solely funded by group members. It is a 10-year project and we are in the 3rd year as we started officially in 2016. We intend to fund the expensive phases of the work by applying to the Gates Foundation and to take advantage of Y-Combinator (Biomedical category). Plans are underway to kick-start the processes. We will also create a website soon to reveal our published findings to the world. Wish us luck!
What would you say is your great/memorable achievement so far?
Personally, I would say it is the 40 scholars across the world who got international postgraduate scholarships through my assistance, to better themselves. But collectively, I would say it is iLLUMANIA; it is the next big thing and will outlive me.
Your advice for entrepreneurs
To the budding entrepreneurs out there, if you can think it, you can achieve it. All you have to do is to scribble the raw thought on paper and then build it up from there into a refined structure. The outcome will amaze you after you look back to see how far you’ve gone.
Secondly, before starting your own business, make sure you have some starting capital within reach. This will help you propel your business idea to a height where it becomes easier for others to support, willingly.
Inspire youths in one sentence.
Find a confluence between your passion/interest and talent/career, then use it to provide a societal need; you will become the next big thing!
Thanks for your time and knowledge shared.
Great minds you can connect with Babajide Milton through:
Facebook: Macaulay Babajide Milton
LinkedIn: Babajide Milton Macaulay