Team LR is taking you to the shores of West Africa, Cameroon to be precise, where we explore determination and resilience that has sojourned across borders. There is the popular saying by William Arthur Ward that; “Change, like sunshine, can be a friend or a foe, a blessing or a curse, a dawn or a dusk”.
Our featured guest has sojourned from Cameroon to the United Kingdom. This is someone who has definitely seen change as a friend, a blessing and a new dawn. Despite the wind of change, this individual has decided to make “pepper soup when all the world gave was pepper”.
This personality has evolved over the years, from a background in marketing to blogging, writing, media and film director just to mention a few. Further more, like those unique ones amongst us who understand that we are not just on earth for ourselves, this persona has managed to use a charity initiative “Teach Me To Fish (TMTF)” to facilitate and transform the lives of children on the African continent.
When team LR members and our featured guest met, we knew that like a Tropical Iroko Tree that stands strong through all the seasons in the forest and like diamond that gets better under pressure, giving up is in no way a word in her mental radar. Pressure cannot stand in her way when it comes to winning – in fact, pressure makes her better.
Diamond is resilient, and pure! It doesn’t start out polished and shining but with enough pressure and time, diamonds becomes spectacular – that’s what I have become over time! Despite my morphing into diamond, in my unapologetic opinion, my journey has only just started.
Life to me is always many moving parts shifting while I am playing catch-up. I ensure none of the part drifts too far away. As anyone managing so many different facades in life, there will be challenges ranging from changing mind sets, adaptation to culture, varying geographical locations and the different aspects of being Dorothy Diamond. I am D2 , the CEO of Purfect Escape Media (PE Media), a full time Insight Data Manager (which is my 9 -5 job) and founder TMTF.
Sometimes, I feel like I have bitten a lot more than I can chew and try to decide on which of the different aspects of my life I have to drop off to accommodate another. My need for rest and the finer things of life I remember such as ‘doing nothing or relaxation’ – seem to evade me these days.
Being black from an African background, it has been difficult to rise up the career ladder in a white man’s country where subtle discriminations and long working hours are core challenges. Most times, I chose to ignore these challenges while at others times, I have dealt with them head-on. All of these travails have not deterred my drive. They have been my motivation to disprove the stereotype and break out of the glass celling.
I believe there is so much to learn from the challenges and hurdles I face managing all the above plus being a wife and a mum to three adorable kids. It can be quite difficult to be at Board Presentations telling the directors how good or bad we have done as an organisation in a quarter, get home write a beautiful creative piece for my blog manage to cook dinner and put the kids to bed not forgetting to do their homework, sort out their uniforms and prepare for the next day. There is a cycle in the activities that become so routine and almost robotic. While some women try to create the best of both worlds I try to create the best of every quartile.
To me it’s a zero-sum game – all or nothing and I have adapted my style to make sure that I can accommodate my dream and my reality while working hard to achieve both and inspire all the younger generation of Cameroonian and African women who look up to me for inspiration either through personal contact or via my networks and social media.
I can’t take credit for who I am and where I have come thus far, I bless my mother for instilling God-fearing values in me, enabling me to appreciate the works of God in my life and kudos to an incredible supportive husband I call Chairman!
I am middle child from a family of four children with a mother who is an outstanding, very soft spoken and adorably resilient woman. A midwife who dared all odds and raised her four children by herself – I look nothing like my mother; we are polar opposites of each other. Well, so I thought, until I found myself wanting to help everyone I came across in life, then I realised physical resemblance has nothing over genetics – actually at heart I am my mother’s daughter. It is this desire to help, which she passed on to me, that was one of the strongest drives for creating a charity I called Teach Me to Fish (TMTF). My constant need to want to help add value to the lives of other people especially children, is both my life work and my life drive!
I have a passion for dance and academics combined, very highly creative with strong interest to be scientific, so I combined arts and science in school and pretty much did well in both. My love for literature however, superseded all else. I am a hopeless romantic and all those Mill & Boons stories just blew my mind away.
Given my focus and drive for academic success I always held very key roles in school, college and university. In high school I was the senior prefect and the head of a Ballet dance club of a school of over 2000 children.
I spent most of my extracurricular life dancing in ballet clubs/ school competitions and sneaking out late to teenage parties yet making sure academically I was on top of my game. I managed to straddle the two so nicely and ended up with a masters and postgraduate and many diplomas I am struggling to find value in.
Like many who sought greener pastures coming from the doom and gloom most faced as graduates in Cameroon, I was completely on another echelon, I was blessed to graduate from university with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and almost immediately got a job as editorial manager for Macmillan Publishers in Cameroon where I had interned a few months before graduation. I had outstanding appraisal feedback from the United Kingdom editor then resident in Cameroon. A job with an international Publisher meant a house, a car and many trips to England at the tender age of 25.
The world was my oyster; the extreme creative side in me was somehow fed and fuelled by the job. I loved reading, writing, editing and photo-journalism, adding cultural context to the books I published for Cameroon school’s curriculum. Macmillan was an educational publisher but being international, the competition with local publishers was very cutthroat and a market only a Cameroonian could navigate and really understand. So I was suited for the job and for the best part of my three years after University, I managed to publish for the Cameroon school’s curriculum English, Maths and Science books. I launched the 1st HIV /AIDS Readers for schools in Cameroon and Military English books for the French speaking military schools in Cameroon. I was on the verge of one of the biggest book deals I was about to put pen to paper for, before a marriage proposal uprooted me from Cameroon to the United Kingdom and suddenly I felt like the rug was pulled from underneath my feet.
As with many other people who have had to swap a life in one part of the world for another, there is always huge regrets and later benefits or vice-versa but mine was immediate regrets and colossal first fails. I am a fan of fail fast learn quick and start again. The change was so drastic I almost got depressed for the first few months in the United Kingdom. Finding the job to match the standard and level of where I was in my career in Cameroon was met with constant closed doors, degradation and sometimes-outright racism or blatant proof of incompetence and inexperience. My journey was basically an eye opener that I needed to start from the bottom, re-learn and unlearn certain behaviours and acquire new knowledge as well as expertise to climb back up the corporate ladder. So I found myself selling at the tills of a London electrical giant shop Comet where a couple of my white colleagues easily picked up my air of pride and entitlement and asked if my degree was equivalent to GCSE in the United Kingdom – can you just imagine?
My experience at COMET, I will never discredit. This is because it was my second beginning that gave me the expertise I needed to better my understanding of the culture and the language of the new people I was to no live with. Visiting a country from time to time and for business and or leisure is not the same as migrating to the same country. Even though I had been to England back and forth, migrating to the country still held it’s cultural shock for me. Moving up the ladder was not as daunting as I had imagined, my vocabulary and diction got more British-compliant from speaking non-stop to middleclass British customers who didn’t do any research on how to spend two thousand pounds on a plasma TV and I had to make that justification on their behalf. With time I heard very few ‘Pardon-Me’ when I spoke. My Cameroon-English that was slightly tainted with the French accent ( did I mention my dad is French Cameroon) was gradually being eroded which meant I was ripe for the corporate market, though I still didn’t know a gazebo and canopy meant similar things , lets just say semantics will always be one of the main issues of cultural learnings and that is ongoing …
Career – blogging writing and Media
My passion for the creative never died but with the intent to make a living in the UK I immediately started working for the third sector. After my MSc, I worked for some key Human Rights and Health Organisation in major Fundraising and Marketing departments specialising in data insight and analytics – a self-taught analyst because of my interest in SPSS data coding as a student journalist. I love finding, using trends and pattern in data to inform strategic decision making for organisations and watch how causes benefit a specific group of people. I have also held senior analytical roles in major commercial brands like Nestle and Nespresso UK & Ireland. I am very cause driven and love seeing how beneficiaries profit from the work I do and overall impact of my organisation on a group or segment of the community.
I chose the third sector and align to some specific causes. This experience within the third sector informed my work with the founding and management of my own NGO TMTF for kids back in Cameroon who I use to give out academic support to while at Macmillan Publishers every start of the academic year. My passion to support their education and provide books and fees and basic wellbeing is the bedrock on which TMTF was created.
Throughout my career growth, the discourse is like many who have migrated as we call it in Cameroon “Fall Bush”. There is a high degree of ethnocentrisms and intercultural awareness that comes with not being in your country or home, I have shockingly reiterated in most of my circles that UK -London will never feel like home, but the level of growth learning and integration that comes with the day to day interactions is worth capturing sharing and archiving hence I created a blog Purfect Escape where a lot of the dialogue and learnings is transferred in the form of fictional story telling, entertainment and updates.
One of my fiction stories “Blessed by a Witch” about ageism has been acknowledged by a number one African literary review site called Brittle Paper. I have used a lot of my experience to shed light on pertinent issues and topics that we shy away from or are hush-hush discussed in the backgrounds as though they were taboo. I find myself infusing a huge range of intercultural learnings and messages in all of my content interactions on all my social media outlets – at first I stood out for being unafraid , outright, seeking for notice and sometimes vulgar because I call spades spades , but that’s the misunderstood African woman who is a feminist and unafraid and vocal to say what and how she feels, which also comes across strongly in one of my pieces a four part series “Wife Material” on my blog www.dorothydiamond.london
I developed great interest in entertainment with a vision of creating content just beyond blogging. There was a need for expanding my media platform to cater for more than just online blogging and build an online medium to create value for the Cameroon entertainment industry. It is a decade since Nollywood has grown beyond leaps and bounds and the Cameroon Entertainment industry is following in its footsteps. I decided to start working on content for my online TV Purfect Escape Media that was kickstarted with the filming of my first feature film here in London called Curtains. PE_TV will have content ranging from films, talk shows addressing contemporary issues affecting our society in the diaspora and at home, TV Series Soliloquy and Paper Chase (Papier Mache).
There is so much in the pipeline for PE Media I am keen to explore a platform that will enhance the way we showcase and tell our African stories, so we can change the narrative – Africa is not about starving malnourished and poverty stricken as the media keeps representing though the future isn’t very promising with the political instability in Cameroon, it may take some time but we will get there.
Dorothy Akoh-Arrey (Dorothy Diamond) has said it all. Her life exemplifies one who understands that wherever we find our selves in life, we must seek to be the very best we can be. There is no time to wallow in self-pity but rather to make that “pepper soup when life gives us pepper”. Team LR prayers is that we each live our lives in such a way that we allow the pressures of life turn us into special diamonds. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section………..