My name is Eddie-Anunobi Ogochukwu, and I am a YIL fellow. I’m about to give you a sneak peek into the twists and turns that secured me a spot at the YIL fellowship and the journey so far.

From 11 different states of Nigeria, 12 universities and 17 disciplines, the YIL fellows were selected. The best among Nigeria’s great young minds were painstakingly handpicked like a woman would carefully pick her bean seeds before cooking. Judging from the rigorous selection process we were all made to go through, it’s really no surprise that geniuses were chosen to be YIL fellows. First, there was the online application which started with filling in of the usual personal details, followed by series of essay writings which were really mind toggling. In all, we wrote six essays! Six essays!! Six brain racking and mind engaging essays!!! All of which were aimed at fully understanding the persona of the applicant and having a broad view of our hard skills, problem-solving skills and leadership skills. And just when I thought it was over, we were asked to make a 2-minute video explaining why we should be selected as participants of the YIL fellowship. Anyone at all would concur that the individuals chosen after such rigours would be absolutely brilliant, and brilliant we indeed are!

I have always been familiar with the word “innovation” as a random word, but via my contact with the YIL fellowship, I became cognizant of Innovation Management as a specialty course. As prework, two online courses were paid for and we were requested to take the courses after which we were tested on our understanding of them. I became exposed to ideas such as the design thinking process, the lean startup model, to mention a few. Then came the quiz; the Quiz was something else. All the questions were applied questions. When I went through the quiz, “Hey!!!, Dr Obichi has come again oo!!” silently escaped my mouth. I shouldn’t have expected less from him anyway.

Let me at this point describe the amazing personality of Dr Obichi Obiajunwa, the founder of the YIL fellowship and the person I and my colleagues interacted virtually with before the first in-person convening. Dr Obi as we all fondly call him is a focused, determined and intelligent man who doesn’t take mediocrity lightly. Excellence is one of the languages he speaks ever so fluently. Dr Obi coordinated us so well that we all fell in love with him even before we met with him. “When you go through a door, leave it open because you might have to use that door again”. These words I caught from him while he once shared on the power of relationships and networking. Enough of the awesome and supercalifragilistic Dr Obi already and back to my narrative.

Just before the first in-person convening, we were all asked to write and submit our profiles. Now, I had always known that all prospective fellows were brilliant, but after seeing different profiles, I became humble. I saw smartness, excellence and achievements literally spelt out. My perception of the prospective fellows before I met them was that they were going to be a bunch of geeky, nerdy, excessively serious, non-jovial fellows, but I was wrong. Very wrong as a matter of fact.

The date of the convening eventually came after much anticipation. Actually, before I left home, I was bombarded with an array of questions from my parents who couldn’t believe that it was an all-expenses paid program. Wrapping their heads around the fact that I didn’t have to pay for my tuition, accommodation and feeding in this present state of our nation was just a little difficult for them. “Who are the organizers of the program?”  “Are you sure they are not fraudsters?” They incessantly asked. “You need to be careful because there are bad people everywhere”. They added. “Yes sir, Yes ma” I chorused to their warnings. They eventually found out though, that the program was far from being a hoax.

The program started with a poolside meet-and-greet session which was very insightful as I got to meet with my colleagues, some faculty members, facilitators and of course Dr. Obi himself. We exchanged ideas, began the process of knowing each other and learnt a thing or two from each other. The next three days that followed were really mind-blowing. We had plenary sessions, panel discussions with individuals from different industries of the nation’s economy sharing success nuggets. We also had practical break-out sessions and moments of brainstorming with teammates. The keynote speakers brought to share out of their wealth of wisdom and experiences were carefully selected from different fields and they came from various parts of the world. It was indeed a privilege learning from these great minds. In just three days, we were given deep insights into topics like: Data Innovation, Innovation in Leadership, Scaling up Excellence for Human Capacity Development in Africa, Persona Building and Customer Discovery, The Fun Theory of Innovation, and so on. By the end of the program, everyone was like an unpinned grenade just about to explode. We were all speaking the same language, “Innovation“. It wasn’t difficult to hear us say things like: “Be innovative in your walking”, “Dress innovatively”, “Odili is an innovative narrator”, and the likes.

The interesting thing was that the end of the 3 days program was only the beginning of the YIL Fellowship proper. We were divided in teams based on the skill-set and capabilities of the individual. Five teams in all were created, each team addressing major challenges in the country and continent at large. Challenges such as maternal and infant mortality rate, the degrading environment, our eroding cultural heritage, decreased agricultural productivity and the under-nourishment of middle and low-income consumers. We are expected to apply novel ingenuity and the innovation management skills garnered from the program to address some of the important challenges in our society.

 Therefore, it will not be out of place to say that YIL is the best fellowship program in Nigeria. Through this fellowship, young professionals can gain membership into the fastest growing network of excellent leaders, network with champions to exchange ideas and discuss value creation, have access to mentors from a pool of industry experts, receive career counseling from global career experts, to mention but a few benefits.

The journey to becoming a full-fledged YIL fellow has been very eventful, and I am sure that neither I nor any of my colleagues will take this rare opportunity given us for granted. You want to know who will take over the various industries in Nigeria and Africa few years from now? Then watch out for Fellows of the YIL Fellowship because Africa will not recover from the impact of what will hit her pretty soon.

We are being trained as excellent leaders to inspire, initiate, manage and lead innovation in our various spheres. We are creating the largest platform for innovative leadership in the world. We are scaling up excellence. We are The YIL Fellowship! #yilfellowship

Written by: Ogochukwu Eddie-Anunobi, 2018 YIL Fellow