From science to social media, Nigerian-born Morin Oluwole, Director of Luxury Client Partnerships at Facebook, has used her background in data and passion for design to bring out the fashionista in all of us through her website and Facebook page, “Daily by Morin.” Ayiba’s Akinyi Ochieng spoke to Morin fresh from her recent move to Paris about how to look and feel fabulous at home and at the office.
Taiye Selasi gave a TedxGlobal talk in which she talks about being a “multi-local” person – someone at home with the sounds of the streets of many places. Some people might describe you that way – from life in Lagos to London to California to New York City and now to Paris. What do you love about each of these places? What lessons have you taken from each place you’ve lived?
Lagos is always home, so I consider that to be where I get my values and point of view on life, relationships, and family. There is nothing that can replace that foundation even though now I have a slightly more international perspective at the moment.
California was my first taste of American life – not a bad place to be introduced to American life, especially considering the weather there in comparison to the East Coast! The point of view there is more liberal, easy-going, and not so high stress as other parts of the country. There’s also a focus on innovation. Having gone to Stanford for college and graduate school and having spent a significant amount of time working at Facebook in Menlo Park and living in San Francisco, there is definitely a conception of how limitless the opportunities in the world are that I have never experienced in any other place I’ve lived. Californians tend to have a perception that everything is possible.
New York is the heartbeat of America, where life moves quickly. It can be a tough city to live in, but I think it’s where you can have the most international experience in America. For me, I think New York will always feel like home – you can never drift too far away from the heartbeat or the core of American culture and point of view.
London is a city that has the pace of a small town. It’s homey and feels comfortable but is still the European center of commerce and has transformed in an immense way within the last decade.
You mentioned your years at Stanford, where you studied human biology and sociology before moving to the tech sphere. How has your background in the sciences helped you in your role at Facebook?
It taught me to be very precise in my thinking. There are no mistakes in science. It’s either right or it’s wrong. You can’t deceive science. That allowed me to be a lot more analytical in my thinking which helps me tackle problems at work by focusing on solutions that are scientifically and factually correct.
What’s an average day in the office for you?
I don’t have one now – I just moved to Paris. But I can tell you about how I spent the last week, which is similar to how I spent the last year. I have recently been focusing on getting to know the luxury clients that I will be working with in Paris and understanding the nuances of their businesses and their markets. As I build a new team, I’m also constantly working to understand and shape team dynamics. It’s also been an education in how French culture translates into the workplace.
At Facebook we tend to hyper-communicative. We communicate via email and Facebook all the time. Our process tends to be collaborative with a lot of meetings with people in our immediate offices but also with our colleagues across the world.
How did you decide to start your website “Daily by Morin”?
It actually has a lot to do with my work at Facebook. Way back in 2007, before Facebook Pages, which celebrities and brands use now, we were in the process of launching the product. At the time, I was working on the product marketing team with our engineering team to build the product and with our sales team to figure out how best clients can engage with Facebook Pages.
I’ve always been really interested in fashion. I think that testing your project and what we call “dogfooding” your product is the best way to understand the challenges and opportunities that exist for the product. I created the page initially as a tool to help me learn how businesses use Pages. It was a test product but I wanted to have some fun with it by making it relevant to areas I was interested in – fashion, lifestyle, and luxury.
While I was testing the different features to figure out what the engineering team could build and improve on, I also started building a community. It was somewhat accidental because it was still very much a work product, but I got a lot of engagement. Initially, the community sprang from my friends but evolved as people started liking the page and engaging with it.
After that, I transitioned slightly to what we call a partnerships team at Facebook where I started working with public figures and media in the realm of fashion and luxury. They realized that I had my own Page and started sharing the content. Now that has built to a community that is five or six years old. I also added a website where I share a lot of content related to the luxury industry. It started as a product testing tool but has evolved to become a really engaged community of followers.
What are your top tips for someone trying to build a personal brand?
Understand what it is you are trying to achieve. If you don’t have a goal in mind, you end up floundering. I say that because I didn’t have a goal in mind when I started and I did flounder. It was not until I was able to get some advice from some folks I knew who were building their own online presence as well about how they’ve been successful that I began to build a bigger community. If you don’t have an end goal, you can’t find your voice, you can’t share the content most relevant to your audience and you just have a confused audience.
You mentioned that you got help along the way. How do you think young women can best build successful relationships in the workplace and find mentors?
Be bold and reach out to people who have different roles centered around the areas you want to focus on. What I’ve done, what I did and what I advise people to do, is to send an email out and be precise. People don’t have a lot of time, but if you’re precise and know what you want from someone, ask for fifteen minutes of their time with a very clear goal and objective so that when they meet with you, you have your five or six questions prepared and you can really make the most of that time. Make sure to follow up with a thank-you note and keep them updated based on information shared during the course of a conversation. It’s really important even if it’s just a cold email out of nowhere. As long as you have a focused goal of what you want to achieve by taking time with that colleague or senior colleague, you can really build a fruitful relationship.
How do you make sure that the relationship is a two-way street?
In the beginning it’s likely to be a one-way relationship because you’re seeking their advice. However, you should also make it an opportunity to showcase what you bring to the table and where your skills lie. That has been really helpful for me, specifically. When one of my last managers at Facebook started at the company, I reached out to her to both say hello and to share a little bit of context and information about myself. Fast forward two years later – she was seeking someone to be her business lead, the number two person in charge helping her run and manage the business. Because we already had the initial interaction and relationship, when I applied for the job, it wasn’t like I was someone coming out of the ether, so I ended up getting it. You never really know what opportunities are coming, so you have to be proactive in sharing what talents and skills you have because it might end up benefiting you in a way you don’t realize in the moment.
If you could go back in time and give advice to a younger you, what would it be?
There are a few things I would do. First, I would stop questioning the direction in which I wanted my career to go. Personally, I spent more time than I probably needed thinking about or doubting what direction my career was evolving in and where I could really have the biggest impact. Secondly, I took Spanish for seven years because I thought I would end up in California, where I went to school. That was the wrong decision to make because now I’ve ended up living in Paris. I wish I’d taken French earlier. The third thing has to do with my college major. I came from a Nigerian family which tends to have a bit more traditional perspective on what kind of career defines success. From a young age, I always thought I wanted to be a doctor. Because I was coming from that framework, I didn’t really consider other potential opportunities. I do wish that I had become more involved in the tech space earlier than I did, which would have boosted the speed with which my career developed. Things happen for a reason but I would definitely recommend exploring as much as possible different jobs, careers, and major opportunities.
One last somewhat trivial question that I feel compelled to ask as a devoted follower of your Instagram. You always look incredibly chic. How would you describe your personal style? What’s your go-to outfit that makes you feel most beautiful?
My style tends to be classic with a twist because I really like clean lines that are flattering on the body. It’s important to adventurous but always to dress for your body. I love the unexpected – things like a huge bow on a classic white shirt. I don’t usually wear prints unless they’re very graphic, edgy, or really artsy. But I do love saturated colors. I don’t wear pastels.
My go-to outfit is a dress. I’m not a pants person. I would wear a dress every single day if I could. A dress that makes you stand just a little bit straighter with a heel that makes you feel feminine. A sheath-style dress almost always does it for me.
Visit Daily by Morin for style tips and insights on the luxury industry.