Nana Aikins – The art of the pivot

South Africa’s youth potential is vast and holds great promise for the country’s future. Youth, typically defined as individuals between the ages of 15 and 35, ‘make up a significant portion of the population, with a diverse range of talents, skills, and aspirations’, says Rogers Dhliwayo, Economics Adviser for UNDP South Africa Country Office.

One such example, is one of Nedbank’s newly acquired assets, Nana Aikins, She is responsible for commercialization initiatives that drive millions of users onto the Money App through awareness and retention campaigns under digital adoption and sales. She is also a Masters in Management graduate and a 5-figure business owner with practical and real-life day-to-day experience in creating systems that drive sales and solve the everyday problems of the average online consumer, resulting in 100s of 5-star customer service ratings.

Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a career thought leader on TikTok? What inspired you to start sharing your pivot journey?

When I took my shot at a career in banking, I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be after my rounds of interviews. I was filled with doubt that although I thought I was capable due to my experience of running my e-commerce store and my Master’s qualification, you just never know if you’re good enough. When I got the job I was filled with a sense of self-belief and newly found encouragement and thought sharing my reality on TikTok might also encourage other students and young adults in a similar position of self-doubt to just go for it, even if they don’t tick all the boxes.

What transferable skills would you say helped you pivot into banking?

Definitely digital marketing. I think at the heart of running an online store is understanding how to communicate to customers in an effective and convincing manner that results in high conversions and most importantly, sales. That is a skill that is vital to any organisation in my opinion. Completing my Masters degree also taught me alot. I learnt analytical skills through quantitative and qualitative research methods, true critical thinking through literature evaluation, and most importantly, time management and self discipline because, when you do your Masters no one is coming to save you, if you don’t plan your time and commit yourself to your work, nothing gets done.

Over and above your 9 to 5, you have your own business, Sleett Jewelry. What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in managing your traditional career, your social media activities, and your business? How did you overcome them?

To be honest, I am not always the best at this. Matthew chapter 6 verse 24 says “No one can serve two masters”, and I think to some extent this is true. I’ve had to learn to delegate and manage my time really effectively otherwise I find myself becoming overwhelmed. So I try to keep social media to a minimum when I’m working and either wake up a little bit earlier to record or edit, or sacrifice my lunch time lol. With business everything is online so it kind of runs itself and, then I pack orders in the evening and get them ready for courier collection in the morning. I must say – working from home has been a blessing!

You speak about networking, putting yourself out there and being confident about your abilities. Has it always been this way for you?

I get asked this question often and my answer is actually no. I think I’ve always been a confident person, but there have been some times in life where I’ve allowed my own insecurities and doubts to get the best of me. The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve learned that it’s not always about who’s more deserving but about who isn’t afraid to put themselves out there and seize the opportunity. 

Following up on this, this could be a West African way of life or it could be a principle you picked up along the way but you speak alot about looking good – dressing well when you network.  Can you talk more about what you mean?

Hahaha definitely the West African in me but also something I’ve learned along the way. People tend to sit up and listen a little more attentively when you are dressed well. I think it’s because we as human beings are visual creatures and we tend to make assumptions on the level of people’s importance based on how they are dressed. So I try and take advantage of that to get ahead.

Entrepreneurship and the amalgamation of one’s interests, commercially, are key to the growth of our economy – now more than ever. With the ongoing narrative being that the youth are not doing enough, Nana’s path and pivot illustrates that that is anything but true.

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