A Conversation with Hannah Ajala
Who is Hannah Ajala?
I'm Hannah Ajala - I'm a BBC World Service journalist, mentor and co-founder of BB Travel Meet Up, Pursue Your Passion and We Are Black Journos.
The three words to describe the woman I'm becoming are consistent, patient and passionate. Firstly, consistency is key because I believe that in order to see any kind of growth - you need to be consistent. You can't just do one ordinary thing and expect to bare the fruits from that. Everything in life essentially has a beginning, middle and end. In order to see the fruits of whatever you are doing you need to invest in it; doing a little bit of something each day towards the end goal. I think I'm passionate about always putting in 100% in everything that I choose to pursue; whether it's putting together an event, hosting or my 9-to-5. Finally, I think where true passion lies is in carrying on even when I don't feel like it because ultimately I genuinely care about what I'm doing.
Everything in life essentially has a beginning, middle and end. In order to see the fruits of whatever you are doing you need to invest in it; doing a little bit of something each day towards the end goal.
Tell us about how Pursue Your Passion came about?
We launched Pursue Your Passion three years ago around the summer time. The idea for PYP came after a conversation with a friend. I remember discussing how concerned we were by conversations we had had with a lot of young people who were unsure about what they wanted to do after graduating.
We realised that we had been fortunate to have mentors who helped us to explore a variety of career options. We found that it wasn't necessarily the institutions that were to blame but rather it was the sense of independence which needed to be instilled into them, so fears about their futures could be dismantled. So, we came up with the idea of hosting our first networking event for people who want to work in the City. The event was all about connecting young people as young as GCSE-level with a panel of professionals working in some of the top city firms like Goldman Sachs. It has been amazing to see the sort of bonds and connections that have been created between the panellists and the people attending our events.
I think that as well as the physical application, the mental application is just as important.
I remember vividly that at the end of my final year at university I said I wanted to work for a reputable broadcasting company. The reason why I was able to say it with such confidence is due to the fact that I had been networking, as well as certain conversations which helped me understand how to navigate these spaces. I think that as well as the physical application, the mental application is just as important. I think this is the kind of mindset we try to instill in all those attending our Pursue Your Passion workshops.
What can you tell us about your latest venture?
BB Travel Meet Up or Black British Travel Meet Up is my youngest baby. I launched it with fellow travel blogger called Doyin Sogbesan about nine months ago. I have a personal Instagram account but I also have a travel account. I find Instagram a really fun and creative outlet, so initially I posted whatever but not whenever as I tried to be consistent with it. At the time I had just over 100 followers and a girl called Glory Osei of 'Nigerian Abroad' connected with little old me with her 18,000 followers. We met up in London and got talking about our travel plans and I spoke about my next trip to Mexico. Glory told me about her plans to visit Paris and out of nowhere she offered to pay for my flight. Needless to say I went and it was the most amazing trip! I just remember thinking; this is mad! Here we were two black women who love travelling something - that is something that wasn't really given to us some years ago. Then after some time I came across Doyin who I later found out was British. We met up in Shoreditch and through conversation I thought wouldn't it be amazing to build some sort of community we really couldn't find one in the UK. We launched our first event with 10 days of promo and 50 people turned up, which was pretty amazing! It literally blows me away to think that BB Travel Meet Up didn't exist this time last year! I hope it inspires people to know that you can do anything as long as you have the passion.
Here we were two black women who love travelling something - that is something that wasn't really given to us some years ago.
Tell us a little bit about your journey to your journalism.
I studied Social and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths University and graduated in September 2014. I had managed to secure a place on a trainee scheme at BBC Radio 2 via Creative Access two weeks after graduating. It was a really great foot in the door after that experience I think can work with anyone. I was in a building of around 150 people and including myself and the cleaners I was one of six people from BAME background. It's interesting that I've sort of come back full circle because all the skills from working in radio I'm now using with BBC Minute.
While I was at Radio 2, I really took it upon myself to make the most of being at such a massive organisation; whether that was introducing myself to different departments or asking to attend meetings to see how things were run. Fast forward to 2016, when I secured my first position as a Broadcast Journalist with BBC 100 Woman; an award-winning season celebrating women who are doing some incredible things. Finally, to my current job at a broadcast journalist for BBC Minute. A piece that I'm particularly proud of was on burns victims embracing their beauty particularly black women victims. I think being from a minority background I do really push for these sort of stories. In retrospect, it has been a really crazy, fast-paced and amazing ride so far!
Along the journey, I've learnt the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people. People who are perhaps a few steps ahead of you or way ahead to offer some guidance, advice or simply share their journeys and experiences.
I remember around five or six years ago I had coffee with Charlene White; it was during a time when everything was all a bit confusing and she just told me some of the things that I needed to be doing and I held on to that. That's not to say that her advice was the bread and butter but I appreciated it because it gave me a starting point. In time, the subsequent conversations acted as stepping stones to help me get to where I want to get to. Along the journey, I've learnt the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people. People who are perhaps a few steps ahead of you or way ahead to offer some guidance, advice or simply share their journeys and experiences.
Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
I hope to see both BB Travel Meet Up and Pursue Your Passion have full-time staff. I know that it's a dream for a lot of people to leave their full-time jobs and just solely focus on 'side-hustles' but I love my full-time job. When it's time I will know to move on, but I still see myself working in broadcasting, despite of what I end up doing.
What is one word or phrase that describes the Africa you want to see?
My one word that I would use is educated - I want to see an educated Africa. I do believe that a vigorous and functioning education system has the potential to radically change the trajectory of the continent. On that note, I would say I want to see Africa shift in the way it sees its youth - I want to see Africa believe in its young people. During my numerous travels to Ghana and Nigeria this year I've met a lot of young people who are actually invested in creating change in their respective countries. From start-up founders, bloggers, innovators in their field; who are using their influence to raise awareness on key national issues.
I want to see an educated Africa. I do believe that a vigorous and functioning education system has the potential to radically change the trajectory of the continent.
NOTE: Since this interview Hannah has gone on to a new job at the BBC and has launched We Are Black Journos; a networking platform celebrating and connecting established and aspiring black journalists in the broadcasting industry.