Mazi is the very first male to be showcased on our Career Expose Series. There’s just so much to learn from his interview. Enjoy
GP: What do you do?
FN: I’ve come to consider myself a journalist. Since I earn my living from stringing words together, I also say I am a writer. Thing is, I don’t know if I’ve done either successfully to really believe I am what I say I am.
GP: How did you start out?
FN: After I left Delta State, where I served, I headed to Port Harcourt and spent about a year looking for work in the city. I later went to Enugu, Kaduna and Abuja to job hunt. Then, I visited a cousin who was handling a paving stone project in Anambra state. I worked with him until he and his workers completed the project and then, having little choice, I followed him to Lagos. Along the line, from working with him, I learnt the job and started a business installing paving stones in the homes of people within Lagos. I was making money from it, but I wasn’t happy. What I wanted to do was work as a journalist, in a newspaper, magazine, where ever. So, after I had saved some money, I started doing that paving job part time and began to actively look for a media job. I must add that I was doing a lot of writing and reading at this point and was very active in Nigeria Village Square and many other online platforms. I had also invested in a desktop computer, and later a laptop. As such, my job search was accompanied with a portfolio of my articles that were published offline and online. What I did was list out addresses of media houses and visit them one after the other. That was how I got my first real media job in Hints magazine. I went to hints and it happened that they needed a part-time contributor. The editor then, Ms Franka Asindi, told me they needed someone to handle two columns, Ken’s World and 9 to 5, and that I should take copies of past episodes and send a continuation in 2 days. I asked for a computer and wrote the columns there and then and I was hired immediately.
It was a great feeling working in a place where many of my childhood heroes worked, but the N1500 per published story was abysmal. So my search continued. I only needed to go to Hints once a week to collect my pay, so I continued doing my paving work. I think Next had started by this time, and I used to send stuff to them, and most got published. So I was making some name within the industry.
I later worked in the home of Chief Emmanuel Ekong in GRA Ikeja. Chief Ekong’s brother, who is now late, owned SA based Businesses In Africa magazine. I had a conversation about writing with Chief one day and he asked me to send something for his brother’s magazine. It never got published, but he later took control of the magazine after his brother’s death. I remember telling chief Ekong, one time I came to do maintenance in his house, that though I was making a living from paving stones, my dream is to work in a media house, and he told me he was looking for someone to handle the online aspect of Business in Africa magazine. I had some experience working online, because I was active on Facebook and had a blog, so I asked to be given a chance and he agreed. When I learnt that the website was very different from writing onand clicking publish, I asked to start a month early without pay and used thag time to learn how to publish using Dreamweaver. And that was how I got my first major gig.
A year in at Business In Africa (I was writing business stories for the website and managing the Facebook and Twitter page I created) the Editor left abruptly and there was an entire magazine to publish. I had also been contributing stories to the magazine and was very close to the Editor and had learnt as much as I could about the job from him, or at least enough to collate, write and edit stories that I sent to the designer and we had the magazine ready on time.
After that, with the blessing of the publisher, I was Editor for Business In Africa magazine for the next year.
Through it all, I continued to feel inadequate and kept asking for a real editor I can work under. I never got one and then I left to work on SME Watch magazine, a brilliant concept that didn’t survive for long.
Then I went to work for DADA books as Deputy Managing Editor, from there I moved to Computer Warehouse Group as Marketing and Comms Officer, and then, three weeks later to the British Council as Digital Manager, then to This Is Africa and thenas Managing Editor.
GP: Wow! your doggedness eventually paid off
FN: Oh yes it did! lol
GP: What are the highlights of your career so far?
FN: Hmmm. For me, I measure in terms of how much I am able to affect the lives of people. As such, the fact that I am now able to give people opportunities to start a career in this field is a big plus for me.
GP: Cheers to that. Positive impact is key you know. So What does your job entail?
FN: I am in charge of much of what goes on in. We have 3 editors that work in shifts, and they report to me. I assign tasks and is basically in charge of the day to day running of the company. I still write, I still edit, I still work on social media and I still scout for stories. You can say I am hands on, even though I have people for these jobs, I support them.
GP: How nice. What are the key requirements to excelling in your line of work?
FN: First, You have to really want it, and when you get it, give it 101 percent. In terms of individual requirements, I’d say have an eye for what is news. I tell my team it’s ‘heightened perception’, this allows you to see publishable stories even in unexpected places: a tweet, a street corner, a Facebook post, a picture, etc. You need to be social media savvy and force yourself, if you must, to have working knowledge of all the tool of the trade: photography, website management, social media, photoshop, etc.
GP: What advice do you have for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
FN: Start following. Shadow people, learn from them. Try to be very good at your work. Be dedicated
GP: Any contact details for people who want to reach you?
FN: I am on Facebook as Mazi Nwonwu, Twittter as @mazinwonwu, email as mazinwonwu@
GP: Thanks for sharing with us
FN: Thank you too
To the aspiring or emerging career professional, we hope you enjoyed our interview with Mazi. If you did, be sure to let us know in the comments section. Join us again next week Wednesday as we bring you interesting spotlights on our all new Career Expose series. Have a great week ahead.
About Mazi Fred:
Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu is a Lagos-based journalist and writer. While journalism and its demands take up much of his time, when he can, Mazi Nwonwu writes speculative fiction, which he believes is a vehicle through which he can transport Africa’s diverse culture to the future. He is the co-founder of Omenana, an African-centrist speculative fiction magazine and Managing Editor of Olisa.tv, a web-based blogazine. His work has appeared in Lagos 2060 (Nigeria’s first science fiction anthology), AfroSF (first PAN-African Science Fiction Anthology), Sentinel Nigeria, Saraba Magazine, ‘It Wasn’t Exactly Love’, an anthology on sex and sexuality published by Farafina in 2015.