Dorothy Akpan is an interviewer’s delight. She is not only knowledgeable, she is also pleasant, witty, bold and daring. Akpan is a trained engineer and also versed in security profession where she was the national head of a firm. But unable to meet the target of N25 million monthly, she veered into the transport sector. With her rich experience in the security world, she is conquering with ease, the challenges the transport sector throws at her way. For her, passion is the energy behind the success story so far in her new venture. Akpan recently shunned a N500,000 paid job for Bolt driving. OLUWATOSIN OMONIYI writes
For how long have you been a Bolt (Taxify) driver?
I’ve been driving bolt, precisely for a year now, actually started driving on the first of May last year.
What gave you the push to becoming a bolt driver as a woman?
Well, from my background, I studied electrical engineering, as such, I don’t see it as a big deal. I really do not see myself as a female, rather, I see myself as a male. I am motivated and I love to take bold steps, I didn’t see it as something that will be difficult for me to understand. Engineering was a male dominated course and so I saw it as something I could do because there is a saying that what a man can do a woman can do better. Secondly, I worked in a marketing field for a long time, I have marketed for engineering services, corporate services, health services and my last employment was security services. Been a marketer, I was exposed to road network and I did it for close to eight years, so driving in Lagos won’t be a problem because my road network knowledge is intact. It was my daily routine when I was a marketer.
Beside, the customers relations aspect wasn’t going to be a problem because when I was heading marketing, I was in charge of marketing and customer services, so I know there was no kind of client or customer I would not be able to handle. by God’s grace, due to the little exposure I had in customers relations, so be it tough or soft one, whichever way you come, I should be able to flow with you and accommodate you for the few hours I am going to drive with you. Those were the three things that gave me the drive because I know it is what I can do, everybody can do it, a man can do it, I should be able to do it and again because I have the fair knowledge of the road network, so I should be able to drive myself from point A to point B. Also, all thanks to Google map also which gives me easy link to move around the city of Lagos. And thirdly, ‘human factor’ the people you are going to carry should be people that you would be able to manage ad people you can have smooth communication with and be able to enjoy your ride with. I thank God because I don’t think I have ever gone below a very good rates because most of my customers enjoy my rides and when I look at that I’m like I can go with it.
What were you doing before going into driving Bolt?
Like I mentioned, I was the head of marketing, nationwide head in the company. For security reason, I am not going to mention the name of the company. So, marketing was a good platform, good exposure and experience and by the grace of God I was pretty good in it because I was progressing, it was not as if I was just stagnant, it wasn’t the salary I started with that I left with, I was actually progressing, we all know that, with marketing there is always a set target and due to the economy of the country, when target is difficult for me to meet, I looked at it and just had to check out.
What was your earning and your target like?
In the position of a national head, I was expected to turn in N25million monthly, so you can imagine where I am coming from and I tried everything because a tough marketer won’t shy away easily. I tried that from January till March and it did not add up. One lesson of life I cherish is that it’s not good to have a negative energy because you don’t know where you might meet someone tomorrow. So, I told my boss that it doesn’t add up, hence, I may have to drop my pen, and that was exactly what happened. I left amicably, there was no fight, in fact, I give him a plus because he was a wonderful boss, he gave me a very good package, three bedroom apartment and every resources I needed to work with. So, when it was time for me to leave, I just looked at it and ask what if I was the CEO, with the economy situation of the country it could be difficult for him because my salary was on a pretty good level and maybe he couldn’t t really pay this salary so I put myself in his shoes and did not have to fight with him, I just looked at it that maybe this would be too much for him to keep accommodating so we path ways amicably.
When you path, did you also let go of the good packages that came with the employment?
I actually left the company April and he did not take the accommodation away from me, I stayed in the accommodation up till December so I can’t say such a man was a bad man, but indeed he was a good man, so I have every reason to understand with him why he had to let me go. I have been marketing for like nine years, I have grown up to that position of been a national head and supervising 11 states, so what I actually looked at was that I have grown and thank God to my brother and a friend that I had that was a consultant, he told me you have put in so much energy, why don’t you think that it is time for you to work on your own thing? Why don’t you sit back and be a consultant also and be a broker for all this establishments you have worked for? And that was my driving force and it was like a chain because when I left, seriously, competitors came for me but when I looked at it, I am going to put in that same energy again or it is just going to be a fresh start and I did not want a situation when I will still see myself coming to this same bus stop of meeting targets or making me to want to hands up. Then, I just said okay, why not I do my own thing and that was what drove me to this. In all honesty, my package was too big that most of the people that came were not able to meet it up, so when I looked at that, the first thing I did I just divided my salary by 30days I needed to know my daily worth from where I came from, and when I saw my daily worth, I discovered that there were two types of business that was going to help me gets close to that and transportation was one of it and thanks to Uber and Bolt that came in that time. So, here I was and I asked myself why don’t I grow my company to becoming a fleet manager? Managing fleets of vehicles and drivers under me since I was coming from a place that got me exposed to a managerial position, as such, I was able to manage and coordinate people, and that experience is taking me thus far. I am not just a driver here, I am also a fleet manager, I gave myself a target having seen my daily worth from where I am coming from I wanted something of that margin, a business that will be giving me closed to that if not exactly that amount between 80 and 100% margin of the kind of salary that I left and that was really achievable.
I had to plot out the graph of how I was going to achieve this, so I look at the Uber, Bolt turns in N120,000 monthly and looking at where I was coming from I needed like four vehicles to get close to that.
Going this far, definitely there is going to be challenges, is it similar to where you are coming from?
With my security background and if I could deal with guards, you should know that I can deal with drivers successfully. I was not only dealing with guards, I was also dealing with stubborn marketers and drivers, already the human management was already in me and I wasn’t scared of where I was coming from. We have challenges and everybody know that challenge is a human factor.
What is it like with your male passengers, do they make passes at you, and how do you handle that?
Well, I want to say this so that anybody who finds his or herself in any field should know that there is always a preparation ground. I came from a marketing background in the university where I studied electrical electronic engineering and we were only three females that did that. So, men making passes at me is not a challenge at all because I had started dealing with it from my university days, and going to marketing everybody knows what marketing is all about and its challenges, everybody knows that there is always that other factors, so been here now, God has already prepared me from engineering background to know how to handle men.
When I did my industrial training, (IT) we were only two females and 52 males and that was still in my pretty young age because that was my second age in school so that was another opportunity to crack the male advances.
One motivating factor that I used to tell my girls during training session when I was in marketing was that, “you do not need to get down with a man to be able to get contracts, it’s not just necessary.” I tell them to “set your target that you are going to talk to five companies in a day, I meaning that in a week, you will be talking to 25 companies, in a month you are talking to 100 individuals, so like how many men you would go down with? Breaking it down this way for them, it is already a NO NO! So coming to my present job as a Bolt driver and meeting male advances, is not a problem and it can never be a challenge but I bet you that every male that rides with me takes something back home. Having left your marketing job for this, have you had course to regret that decision?
If there is anything I have enjoyed, it is the flexibility of my time and peace of mind. Marketing comes with tension, I used to be accessed on weekly basis, in my last job I was head of marketing nationwide, I had so many states to bother for and if these states were not functioning well, I am already looking and seeing myself as a failure so within three working days in a week I had to drive, keep driving, talking to the customers, kept pushing the girls and encouraging them, because I have to present my report on Mondays, and because the way my report was fashioned, you can’t lie. I used to take a full day to prepare my report, anytime I want to prepare my report, I don’t go to work because I have to give a comprehensive report, they have to see the stages of progress because that is what will enable you know if you are closed to your target or not, so you can imagine the tension that comes with it. I had to make sure everything was done accordingly to avoid mistakes. I didn’t get married on time because of this job. When you are just thinking of money, meeting targets, you don’t have time for relationships. I know how many men walked away from me because of that job seriously. I know of a guy that told me to go and resign, otherwise nothing more, then I asked him a hard question- what have you put in place for me? It is not resigning that is the problem, have you to put something in front of me or I should just resign and sit at home to be a full house wife? If you actually put something on ground for me then I would know the kind of man you really are, but for not putting any thing on ground, I already know where you want to fix me, a full time house wife taking care of the kids and that all, I wasn’t factor for that and so he left
What do you have to say about being security conscious while driving?
Been a driver you need to be security conscious and intelligent. I try as much as possible to look at my riders, access them and know their body languages. I have had a case where I went to pick three guys and when I got close to them to pick them I noticed one wasn’t even wearing a shirt, I had to roll up my glass and speed of, and I canceled the trip quickly, reported to Bolt that I could not do that trip because I suspected them. I narrated the story to them and that was it. So what I will tell the drivers is that there is no job that doesn’t have its own risk. Well I do not blame the drivers because truth be told, the money is actually made at night because there is less traffic. As a driver, you need to be very smart, most time, you need to go cashless, you don’t have to be with money, in case you meet them, you just surrender whatever they want, money, phone, anything they ask of you just surrender it.
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