Femi Waters-Ajisafe has made Teesside her home after beginning her teaching career at Teesside University. She lectures there today and is “Teesside University through and through”.
Where do you call home?
I was born and raised in Nottingham. I moved to Middlesbrough 24 years ago to study at Teesside University and have lived in Middlesbrough ever since with my husband and son.
Tell us about your role?
I started my career as a lecturer in marketing at Teesside University International Business School in 2007. Throughout my career, engaging in a range of teaching and teaching related activities afforded me the opportunity to develop knowledge and expertise around key practices, processes and procedures which has helped me develop and shape my career progression. I am now a principal lecturer and lead on the promotion and development of business-related courses.
Teesside University International Business School is a modern, enterprising and dynamic business school offering a blend of academic excellence, entrepreneurial thinking and real-world orientation.
The relationship between academia and industry relative to supporting and enhancing employability and graduate outcomes for students is something I am committed to and passionate about. I consider myself honoured and privileged to be part of the learning and student experience.
How did you get to where you are today?
After leaving school I went on to do an apprenticeship in hairdressing; the creative and social aspects of this industry really appealed to me. Some years later I became a young mum and decided to change my direction of travel and returned to college to do an access course in Psychology – I really wanted to become a clinic psychologist (or so I thought!). Studying the human mind and behaviour was fascinating to me, but my analytical mindset meant I began to over-analyse things and people in such a way that it started to become a mental burden. Consequently, I switched my course of direction again – this time to business which I found to be emotionally less taxing. After successfully completing the access course in business I enrolled at Teesside University to study Business Management and graduated with a first-class honours degree in 2003.
During my second year of the undergraduate business degree, I studied a brand management module which enabled me to explore human behaviour but from a consumer perspective. I was gripped; I knew almost instantly after my first lecture that I had found my calling…Marketing – a discipline that aligned with my curiosity to understand behaviour whilst offering scope to be creative and innovative at the same time. Needless-to-say I went to complete a postgraduate degree in marketing management.
After a couple of years working in industry the Business School contacted me to see if I would be interested in delivering a session to first year students. I never had any ambition to be a teacher and was utterly horrified by the thought of public speaking. Nonetheless, I was eternally grateful for the support and guidance given to be as a student and I thought this was a perfect opportunity to demonstrate my gratitude and make a positive impact to the learning journey of others.
I recall being extremely nervous to start, but my focus quickly shifted to providing a meaningful experience for the learners. Before I knew it, the session was over, and I was left wanting to do it all over again. I had never experienced a feeling quite like it. It was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, pride, and fulfilment. Life purpose had found me. For the first time in my life my internal sense of self was aligned with my external doing.
14 years on I am a Principal Lecturer in Marketing working alongside a team of amazing people providing an all-inclusive learning and student experience.
I guess you could say I am Teesside University through and through!
What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way?
Anxiety has been my biggest obstacles. My mum was my biggest cheerleader and having lost her when I was 14 years old, I battled with my mind to gain an understanding of who I was and my place in the world. I was anxious about my future and what others thought of me. Albeit difficult at times, I never gave up. I was determined to fulfil my ambitions and not allow life circumstances and other people’s opinions to define me.
Describe the moment you first got a feel for success?
To me, success means feeling fulfilled and at peace by the choices I make or the things I’ve done, no matter how small.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young females?
Be true to yourself. Believe in yourself. Be open to new experiences.
“Nothing great has ever been achieved without enthusiasm” (Ralph Waldo)
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Follow your passions and not the crowd. Don’t give up when things get tough, instead learn from the challenge. Seek every given opportunity – even those outside your comfort zone, be brave and throw caution to the wind – just follow your dream.
What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?
You’ve got this!
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