My College Dropout Keynote at my old College
I had the honor to hold a Keynote at Humboldt University Berlin. The organisation EOTO hosted an amazing Event called Blackadimia which is a Career Expo and Conference specifically for black & brown University Students and Students to be here in Berlin. They closed the event with a series of keynotes curated by ADAN, the Network of Afro-German Academia.
In this series black & brown Speakers that have been successful in their respective career fields in Germany, yet have also faced challenges during their time at University or took a more “unconventional” approach shared their career journeys.
Individuals like Newton Lenkana, Kwame Manu and Constanze Osei-Becker who I would consider an inspiration for myself, shared their career journeys and answered interesting and challenging questions at a Q.A. Session after. And I was the Person honoured to be listed among those very impressive Individuals to close the whole thing as the last Speaker.
And as if this wasn't pressure enough, I was the only one that actually knew the beautiful Humboldt University campus. I knew it because I studied there. Well, I wouldn’t call it studying…
I planned to study Business Management and Theology as a combine bachelor at Humboldt University. I was matriculated for 4 Semesters. Out of these I was present about 4 weeks maximum. So out of 300 days - I attended 25 days - That’s 8%
What I did when I was absent from University? Well, I was literally building my résumé!
I traveled the world and worked on Projects that I believed added more value and skills to me than outdated theoretical classes about marketing and entrepreneurship.
And as you probably already assumed I absolutely dropped out of Uni. I would have probably dropped out sooner but I didn't want to disappoint my mom and I was scared the ridicule.
I dropped out with Student loan debt and NO degree - to work full-time in my own company.
And that is what I spoke about at my Keynote. The not so sexy parts of life, that MAKE life!
It was very special to me, to walk back into those University halls with some level of accomplishment under my belt as many thought or said that my chances as a dropout are very slim to non existent. So walking in there as a founder and manager in a senior position earning more than some of the people I know that had accomplished masters degrees definitely made my chest swell up a lil. #chuckle
There is nothing wrong with a masters degree or a phd, but do I see something wrong with judging or downgrading people that chose to take another road than the University. I know from experience that a Degree does not mean that the individual has any form of skill nor ability to handle higher levels of responsibility or critical situations. However it also does not mean that they can’t. It simply depends on the person not on their degree! #RealTalk
I shared transparently with a full auditorium how I struggled with my immigrant identity, growing up in a single parent household and navigating a german society that is so strongly academia focused, why I cofounder my company and that I actually went broke before.
I shared two versions of my biography, that sound really contradictory but are both honest accounts of my life and career journey to stress that life is never linear but more than often oxymoronic.
Most things in life do not make sense, until they make sense to you!
The key I wanted to point out is that
learning how to make critical decisions for yourself at a young age is the most important and most valuable skill in life.
At least that is my experience and conviction.
I used the title of my PodCast Young, Broke & Sharp as a thread do demonstrate what I meant. I gave little anecdotes from my childhood, teenage years and “adult” life and the critical decisions I had to make that gave those terms Young , Broke and Sharp it’s meaning.
I don’t want to brag but I think my talk was well thought through guys! #smurk
And although speaking in front of people is usually comfortable to me, for some reason looking into the faces of all these black and brown students in the auditorium of the university of which I dropped out, somehow brought a different weight to me. A weight that I only realised when the moderator read out my Biography and said “So last but not least, please welcome our final speaker Nana Addison” and everyone started clapping. - And there I stood.
To me this was the worst delivery of a talk I EVER did. Trust me I know - I was the director of a sucessfull TEDx. It was bad because, I stared at my paper with my head down, I was holding on to the podium for dear life, I had to pause a lot to breathe (cause I was out of breath for NO REASON), I had heat flashes and I had a couple of VERY NERVOUS laughs to buy me time, when I was lost in my OWN TALK. In short I had stage fright and got nervous.
When I was done and sat back down I literally wanted to sink into the ground because I felt I failed all these young aspiring students who were hoping to get some value out of me.
But to my surprise after the event was over a lot of students came to me and shared their individual experiences and challenges and said that my transparency was refreshing and encouraging. They were inspired and thought my talk was fantastic and that I spoke with such authority and confidence. I thought “REEAALLLYYY? Well I guess I wasn't that bad after all.”
It was a beautiful and humbling experience and as you know I love conversation so that one on one chit chat with the students at the end was the BEST PART to me.