From hungry nights in Nigeria to building a business — with the help of a UW certificate scholarship
Born and raised in Nigeria, educated in Nigeria, Germany and British Columbia, and a business owner in Seattle, Tolulope Daramola has lived a far-flung, fascinating life.
After starting his own environmental construction company, ForestClouds (now Daramola, Inc.), in 2016, Tolulope saw early success with smaller local projects: enhancing Bird Island’s shoreline and wetland mitigation in Renton, repairing Kent’s Meridian Valley Creek and planting trees and shrubs as part of the Highland Park playground renovation in Seattle.
But when his company landed its first million-dollar job, Tolulope hesitated. Despite numerous successful smaller projects, Tolulope initially felt that a one-million-dollar job was too daunting.
“I thought, ‘Oh I can’t do that, no,’” he said. “But later I asked myself, ‘Why not? After all, this is America.’”
REMEMBERING HIS ROOTS
Tolulope has always valued education, a trait ingrained in him as a child in Nigeria.
“I was raised by a single mom, along with my three other siblings, and it was pretty tough growing up back home,” he said. “But one thing that my mom always instilled in me and my siblings is that with education you can do anything — you can go anywhere. And that stuck with me."
When Tolulope felt overwhelmed by the larger scope of the projects at work, he knew he needed to add to his skillset.
“I have the technical background that I need, I have the equipment and dedicated personnel, but I’m just scared because of the figures behind the project,” he said. “This is the main reason why I decided I needed to get a little more education in project management.”
So Tolulope applied for a
UW Certificate Scholarship to enroll in the UW Certificate in Project Management, and he never looked back — and never balked at a million-dollar job again.
Play GAINING CONFIDENCE
Tolulope cited many technical skills that he accrued in his certificate program, but his biggest takeaway was the reassurance that he wasn’t the only one who could get overwhelmed by a large project.
“It’s normal to feel like, ‘Maybe I cannot do this thing,’ but by the time you take that step to get a little more education and hear from other people, and listen to their stories, it helps you to understand that you are not alone,” he said. “That made me feel really good and even built confidence in myself that, you know what? It’s normal to feel that way.”
Along with his increased confidence, the Certificate in Project Management has also helped Tolulope manage company finances — and grow Daramola responsibly — during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even with COVID, we were able to maintain all of our current staff, so we’re trying to grow in a very manageable and sustainable way,” he said. “Managing the company finances has been a big focus of mine, and the project management background has helped manage all of that. What I’ve been able to do is plan ahead and do things in a way that if there’s an economic meltdown next week, we’ll be OK.”
As the company’s scope has grown and the jobs have increased in scale, Tolulope has used his project management background to coordinate all the ongoing jobs, even if he’s not on site as much as he used to be.
“I’m not 100% always on site anymore, but I spend at least 70% of my time on site — I usually start with my guys to make sure everything is squared away and things are moving,” Tolulope said. “I’ve been able to focus much more on the management of the company: the financial part of things, the growth side of things, what we need and looking for more projects.”
Growing with his employees
Tolulope’s confidence has spilled over to his employees, which has empowered them and him to improve professionally.
“I can’t do everything by myself, so I’ve been able to delegate more work to my project leads, and I’ve helped them grow, so they can do the work,” he said. “I’ve had project leads with me for about four years now, so my growth has also been their growth.”
Tolulope attributes much of his personal growth — and his company’s success — to the Certificate in Project Management.
“For me, the program was a life-changer,” he said. “It changed my life because now I have the confidence to do anything.”
You can help open the door to opportunity for other students like Tolulope.