From being at the rear of the class, Godwin Benson went on to become an egghead and a first class graduate of systems engineering. He has also won several awards including being named as one of the top five winners in Microsoft’s Passion to Empire Challenge, held in April 2015. In a story that is somewhat similar to that of renowned neurosurgeon and US presidential aspirant, Ben Carson, Godwin narrates how his transformation began when his grandmother took it upon herself to help him develop a love for knowledge by challenging and training his inquisitive mind. Now, he seeks to influence the educational sector through Tuteria, a platform that connects learners with tutors. He attributes his success to a high sense of excellence, empathy and dependence on God.

Excerpts:

Tell us a little about yourself, starting from background to present

Alright, I am Godwin Benson. I’m also the third of four children, with an amazing mum. My dad is late. I currently work as the CEO and co-founder of Tuteria. I am 26 years old and hail from Akwa Ibom State.

I also studied Systems Engineering at the University of Lagos, and worked briefly at Deloitte Nigeria as an Information Security Associate before resigning to start up my company.

Godwin Benson plus

What was growing up like? What fond memories do you hold dear?

Growing up was a lot of things for me. At first I had to deal with the fact that I was doing so poorly at school that I was the mockery of most of my classmates and even my teachers.

And also that I was very scientifically inquisitive at home so that I consistently dismantled various gadgets in an attempt to understand how they worked which almost always led to many painful lashes from my dad.

I played a lot, until primary 4 when my grandma took to teaching me herself. That’s when a lot of things changed for me. I played less, studied much more. I was no longer at the rear of my class, I began moving forward. It felt really great.

One fond memory I have was when I emerged in the 10th position after few weeks of grandma’s tutelage compared to my usual 22nd out of 24 students. It was a big celebration at home. I felt so special and loved; and for the first time, I truly believed that I wasn’t dull. The following terms saw me coming first place consistently.

In your phenomenal book, How to Get a Job without Applying like Everyone Else, you mentioned working on a platform to connect learners with teachers. Would you please shed some light on this? We would like to know your overarching objective, the challenges you’re facing and how you are surmounting them.

Great. The platform is called Tuteria, and it has been live since June. It’s an online platform that connects people seeking to learn anything with those who live around them and can teach them what they want to learn, as well as ensures safety, accountability and quality service delivery between tutors and clients.

So if you wanted to learn how to play the guitar, or needed home tutors for your kids, Tuteria helps you easily find and book lessons with expert tutors in your area.

My goal with this is simply to help people learn what matters to them from inspiring teachers in their communities.

Apart from the inherent challenge of starting something new from scratch, our main challenge for now has been handling the volume to client requests we receive to improve the response time it takes to link them up with a tutor in their area.

We’re trying to automate many of the things we do manually so that we can handle more requests conveniently.

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A lot of people are unhappy with their jobs. A recent poll found that 87% of workers across the world are more frustrated than fulfilled. What do you think is responsible for this and what can be done about it? How would you relate this to your personal experience?

Well, I think having or sustaining a good job in itself hardly brings fulfilment which is what the statistics have shown. Rather, on a very fundamental level, it is doing what you are passionate about and excelling at it, that brings true fulfilment.

If job roles offered people opportunities to do something inspiring which they are passionate about, then more people will be happier with their jobs and be willing to commit their very best to see it succeed. Jobs ought to offer people more than a salary, but instead an opportunity to do something challenging and inspiring.

Apart from the fact that most candidates don’t mind taking up literally any job offer, I believe that, to a considerable extent, the organisation’s recruitment process and internal culture is to blame. Everything rises and falls on the leadership.

Many times, candidates are asked questions and put through interview processes that do not actually reflect what they will be doing when they get into the company, neither is the company’s overall vision clearly communicated so that employees appreciate the importance of what the company stands for. The results are employees who are not motivated beyond their monthly pay check.

In my personal experience, my first internship as an undergraduate followed a similar trend, and I offered to resign after about one month. I didn’t want to continue doing something I didn’t find challenging. However, the company decided to offer me a different job role which was more challenging so I stayed.

My last place of work was also amazing. I left, not because I was frustrated, but because I wanted to focus on building Tuteria.

Godwin Benson

What do you consider the secret behind your academic, business and career success? What ethical values do you hold dear both in business and in everyday life?

Primarily, it’s a high sense of excellence, empathy and dependence on God. The drive for excellence makes me do everything possible to ensure that, no matter what I’m engaged in, I always do it the very best way, the first time. I am inspired when I see things done excellently.

This makes me set high standards for myself, go the extra mile and place high priority on continuous self-development – as well as develop the skills, and disciplines I need to maintain high excellence in everything I do.

With empathy, I’m careful to treat people with respect and consciously do whatever I can to help them become better at what matters to them. I’ve found that this helps me see opportunities where I can create value and make more impact.

What books have you read that shaped your thinking and changed your outlook on life?

Hmm…apart from the Bible, I’ll just mention these seven books:

  1. Following the Footsteps of a Prophet, by Jerry Savelle helped give me a good perspective of my Christian reality.
  2. Growing up Spiritually, by Kenneth E. Hagin
  3. Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill was a major mental transformation for me.
  4. Built to Last, by James Collins on Business
  5. The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries
  6. Money will not make you Rich, by Sunday Adelaja
  7. Understanding the Power and Purpose of Men, by Myles Munroe

As an accomplished man in career/business and family life, what advice would you give to men struggling in such situation?

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Well, first of all, I recognise that we men are wired up for work and productivity, and strongly driven by vision. We just want to get things done. That’s what makes us who we are, and what we are.

However, I’ve always believed that the situations in our lives are expressions of the knowledge we have and our skilfulness at applying that knowledge or the lack thereof. Like the Scripture says, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” So it’s always a wisdom issue.

For instance, if your business or marriage isn’t going well, it means there is something you need to know and apply that you don’t know yet. Your emphasis should be on getting correct knowledge, and applying the same. Wisdom, we all know, is the principal thing.

Find out what you need to know about the situation, read resourceful books, talk with God and take time to meditate. Every situation has a solution.

I am a stickler for books, because most of the challenges I might face have their answers in a book. You could also speak with people who can give counsel, but the main purpose should be to gain wisdom to rise above the challenge.

How did you meet your spouse? Was it love at first sight?

Hahaha…no it wasn’t love at first sight. We met at an inter-state competition while in secondary school. I was the representative from my school, and she was one of the delegates from her school. Yeah, we were (and still are) brainy folks.

I wasn’t born-again at the time, but she was. And for the first time in my life, I actually met a girl whose conduct and personality made me want to know God as well, even when she said no words to me about Jesus. That was the beginning of my desire to be close to her. She had something I really needed in my life.

From then onwards, we eventually became distant friends, then close friends, then really bosom friends, then got engaged and now preparing for marriage. It’s been an interesting journey so far. We’ve known each other for almost 10 years.

How did you propose to her and how long did it take for her to say yes?

Hmmm…propose? Erhm…well, it was – I believe, one of the most awkward ways to propose to a lady!

You know, as a guy, I had been planning a somewhat romantic proposal: surprise visit to her place, nice rosy flowers, special gifts and even rehearsing what I’d say to her. But none of that happened. I wasn’t even in her presence.

I was in Lagos, she was in Ilorin. We were chatting over WhatsApp on May 25, 2012 and that’s when I told her. The atmosphere was too intense, I couldn’t help it. Had to throw all my plans away and seize the moment! #CoversMyFace

Well, I immediately had to call so we discussed it at length. Well, we continued being great friends, and building on our understanding of each other while I stylishly kept reminding her of my intentions.

However, even though all her non-verbal indications had given me a resounding “Yes!”, it wasn’t till October 26 – about 5 months after – that  the yes-word came through.

What keeps you attracted to your spouse?

Hmmm…everything?

Well, long before she gave me a definite answer, I had made up my mind to constantly love everything about her and train myself to never see her in any bad light, no matter what. She inspires me, she makes me happy – she keeps me going.

We aren’t married yet, but I believe the same holds true in marriage. Her beauty, her reverence, character, spirituality, maturity, intelligence, friendliness – superb culinary proficiency – and unique ability to understand me are a few things that trip me about her.

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What are your personal values and how have they impacted on your marriage, career, and general way of doing things?

My most guarded personal value, is this commandment in Scriptures:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself”

In a simple way, it tells me how to relate with God, relate with people and relate with myself.

African men have been accused of not being romantic, do you agree with this? If you do, how do you think men can spice up their marriage and be more romantic?

Hmm…I think being romantic can be learned, even by the most unromantic men.

The first point usually should be to understand the best way to show affection to your spouse that she will really appreciate, and be willing to express yourself to her in that way, even if it makes you feel more like a boy than a man.

For some, it might mean taking some time off work and just being there, physically with her. For others, it could be a surprise getaway, or a meaningful gift or even a love letter (like you used to write when you were still wooing her!)

That’s the concept of Love Languages as studied by Gary Chapman. So it’s important to know how best she wants to be shown love, and then go out of your way to do it to make her feel special. She needs it – especially telling her nice things.

Just like any topic, my advice would be for men to study the subject for themselves. There are tons of content and books that talk about how to make a woman feel loved, and I personally recommend “What Makes a Woman Feel Loved?” by Emilie Barnes.

With the benefit of hindsight, what would you have done better if you were to start your life all over again?

Well, first would have been to get to know God at a much younger age. He is the most important Person in my life and I would have loved to have known Him for a longer period.

And I would have started Tuteria much earlier too.

If you could change one thing about this nation, what would it be?

The Educational System. That’s really what I have a passion for. I believe the whole nation, it’s past, present and future depends on the kind and quality of education its people receive.

That’s one area I would love to influence which is what I have begun doing with Tuteria.

How do you relax after a hard day’s work?

I spend time talking with my fiancée. That’s the main way I relax and try not to think of work.

What is your favourite holiday spot?

For now, that would be Ilorin, because that’s where she is. Once in a while, I like to run away from work and spend a lot more time with her. When we get married, I believe we’ll have a new favourite holiday spot.

First published on Valour Digest, Nov 2015.