What springs to mind when you consider marketing? A quick Google search says it’s the activity or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising. Everest Nwagwu, who has acquired all these skills during his career, is the product marketing manager for Canary Point Corporate Services, a company specialising in financial services.
Before becoming the multi-talented man he is today, Everest had worked as a content writer, content marketer, digital marketer, and entrepreneur. In all capacities, he believed in his ability to convince people to take action.
Driven by his thirst for a challenge and the sheer thrill involved, Everest has gone from being a content writer to learning the ropes and transitioning to product marketing across seven industries, all in ten years.
But how much mastery can one gain without honing their skill(s) for an extended period? An excerpt from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers comes to mind: “It takes 10,000 hours of intensive practise to achieve mastery…”
"What inspired me was seeing what I can do with media and how powerfully I can use my words. I'm a marketing expert; I started from content writing, content marketing, digital marketing, and now I’m doing product marketing."
Everest has always been attracted to media, and he's particularly intrigued by what it can do beyond information dissemination. He sees himself as a persuasive communicator, and it's on this premise that he decided to chart his course.
Motivated by Martin Luther King Jr’s famous quote, “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But by all means, keep moving,” Everest is usually busy working on a project, a value he learnt from his dad.
An enduring attraction
Lagos-born Everest grew up as the last of five children in a conservative Nigerian home. For a bright, curious kid always asking questions during conversations, studying a pure science course didn’t look to be on the cards, and law would probably have made more sense. Nonetheless, that was the route his parents advised him to take.
Despite a desire to study medicine, Everest studied human physiology at the University of Lagos, where he found time to do what he loves — content creation. He represented his department at debate competitions, contributed to the school magazine by serving as an editor, and was occasionally featured on the university’s radio station. He even found time to try his hands at school politics.
“I saw the power of media and realised I could do much more than writing and talking, which I was very good at. I felt I needed to see what more I could accomplish.”
Suck at managing people?
He soon identified what he felt he could accomplish; it was marketing, something in which he had no formal background.
Understandably, Everest’s post-university days had nothing to do with physiology as he proceeded to explore writing and marketing more.
"I've always been interested in communication, marketing, and business as a whole. Growing up in a family that values hard work and business, I felt like how else do I want this to be part of my life? Marketing was what came close because media and communication are essential marketing tools. And those two things come naturally to me."
Deciding not to depend on his natural tendencies and the skills he'd picked up in the university, Everest wisely immersed himself in courses on digital marketing, management, and the intricacies of running a business. However, he had to start from the basics in the job market.
Learning has been a recurring theme throughout Everest’s career, and he has taken a course for every role he’s had to fill. Some of those have been in brand management, product marketing, and business management. He is currently taking an online MBA.
Climbing the boulders
In less than ten years, Everest has taken on content and marketing roles at seven different companies and entered the entrepreneurship space, founding two companies, one of which failed.
“Transitioning is not easy, but I’m an adventurous person, and I’m curious about finding out what more there is. Because I’m project-focused and solution-driven, if a workplace is not challenging me enough with many projects or problems to solve, I’ll get to a point where I feel I need to go and look for something else.”
But that’s not all. He believes that changing jobs can be the fastest way to climb the career ladder, especially when armed with the required skills and talents.
He got his first content writing job at Infinix in 2015, after which he took a role as a digital marketer before becoming the digital marketing manager. Interestingly, this happened within 18 months.
He felt he’d peaked at the company at some point because he was not bringing anything new to the table and thus, needed to move. So he left to fill the same role at a marketing agency, yet he yearned for something more.
He went on to occupy the brand manager role at Ekulo Group of Companies, a business that imports and manufactures FMCGs. Explaining what stood out for him, he said, "It has diverse products, which made it exciting for me. It gave me a broader idea of marketing — doing activation, market storm, market survey, [and] coming up with a go-to market plan. I was doing partnerships and signing brand ambassadors and influencers. So, it was full-blown marketing for me."
After a little over a year doing what he does best at the company — creating impact — Everest began to feel another void.
"I wasn't using technology to solve problems, and I felt I was becoming one of those traditional brand managers who could make anything happen but would not be so good doing so with digital skills."
To overcome this barrier, Everest headed to LifeBank — a Nigerian healthtech startup — in 2019 to serve as the community and partnership lead. He was instrumental in making blood donation mainstream among Nigerians with the launch of the Blood Donor app.
He was still at LifeBank when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and ensuing lockdowns took effect in 2020. Though Everest admits to having stretched himself, he acknowledges it was overwhelmingly rewarding.
"I moved from brand management, signing influencers, and doing activations to wearing gloves and face masks and ensuring people were getting tested. But it was fulfilling for me because it was amazing to see we could be of service. Then getting these partnerships and getting the government to work with us.
"That was when partnerships came in. I led partnerships with the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMER), and we built the first drive-through COVID testing centre in West Africa. That was big!"
Probably seeking to reach the highest point possible, maybe like Mount Everest, Everest was ready for another challenge. The key account manager position at Opera Advertising was the next stop on his mountainous climb. And in less than a year, he served different key clients by helping them generate large sales numbers and get new companies to sign up for the product.
Then, "I got an offer at Lagos Business School (LBS) to lead marketing,” he said casually.
Everest has sold FMCGs, digital products, and MBAs and gained valuable experience in various industries. Speaking of the LBS, he said, "Their entrance test used to be physical, and I felt it was not sustainable. So the first thing was to move the entrance test to a digital platform."
With that out of the way, Everest accepted his current role as the product marketing manager at Canary Point Corporate Services. He is responsible for all the startup's products, which are mainly financial services, and is involved in user acquisition, customer retention, and other relevant roles.
Everest the entrepreneur
In grounding himself in marketing, Everest's business instinct kicked in. In 2017, he co-founded Doctors' Hub — a healthtech startup — with a friend. The idea was a telemedicine platform, but this fell through because of insufficient funding. He moved on and founded another platform called YES Mama to provide health information in various Nigerian languages to women living in rural areas.
"What we do is send push notifications because naturally, rural women would pick any calls and listen. We go to health centres and collect phone numbers of people at different trimesters, put them on our database, and then send them voice messages."
The voice calls — which continue six months post-delivery — are to remind these pregnant women about antenatal appointments and dietary instructions based on the trimester they’re in.
Everest considers this a more successful endeavour than the previous one. YES Mama got its fair share of recognition and funding in 2018 with a grant from the British Council and an award from the Royal Commonwealth Society.
However, even though it was doing quite well, he still felt the need to enter the corporate world.
Wins in the bag
Interestingly, Everest can’t pick a career-encompassing win, and it’s not a surprise considering how far and wide he has journeyed. He is particularly proud of the impact YES Mama has made, but his successes are better considered in the light of how his efforts have converted to massive numbers everywhere he has worked.
Given his dedication to productive work, Everest has a clear cut idea of how he will run his business.
“Definitely, I know that I’ll have to build my business and employ people at one point in my career. I'm going to identify people [like me] who are solution providers, and I’ll bombard them with enough problems to solve. And when I run out of problems, I’ll say, ‘Ok, great, you’ve conquered all those, go ahead and conquer somewhere else.’”
Everest’s typical day sees him working from home or the office. He sorts out his emails first in the mornings, and then he checks out his daily schedule in his notes. He has meetings with different teams to get updates, after which he reports to his boss. The rest of his day is spent attending to external parties like media partners and third-party vendors.
Although he has nothing against to-do lists, he thinks they do not help to prioritise your day. In place of a comprehensive to-do list, Everest uses his notes to capture the major activities he has planned for the day, such as meetings, calls, emails, etc., thus leaving room for other things he did not prepare for at the start of the day.
Having to make many calls and attend to emails daily, Everest has developed a hack to avoid being overwhelmed with tasks.
"One major hack is reducing the number of tabs in your system. Works like magic. If you have 50 tabs opened on your system, you are distracted. But grouping your tabs makes it easier. You group a tab and say this tab is for internal meetings, this tab is for external meetings, this tab is for ongoing projects, and this tab is for completed projects. So, it's easy to click on grouped tabs and work under them.”
And then there's another one that helps with productivity, although it may not work for every role.
"I don't take personal calls during work hours. If my friends want to check on me during work hours, they usually get a notification that says, please drop a message. The text message will determine if I need to call back immediately. This makes me more productive at work and helps maximise my time.”
He believes that balancing work and life depends on your workplace culture, and he's been fortunate to find himself in work environments that encourage people to have a life outside the office. However, being productive while working remotely requires discipline.
He looks forward to a time when he can teach people the best way to run a business. And in typical Everest fashion, he's already working on getting professional certificates that position him as an authority. One major step in that direction was becoming a mentor on ADPList, a global meeting place for mentors and mentees.
Everest lives by a maxim he says will remain with him for a long time: "Get the right skills, then you can negotiate. Always arm yourself with the right skills and talent; it is only then that you can negotiate.”