She is one of the few Nigerian female professionals blazing trails and doing exploits in the United Kingdom. A well-educated, exposed, versatile, and focused consultant, Mrs. Sonia Isoken Okoh is passionate about supporting professionals in their career journey. She is a certified and multi-talented coach, Project Manager, and Business Analyst with enviable milestone achievements. In this interview with Demola Akinbola, Publisher of The Podium Media, she unveils the philosophy and focus of SO Coaching Consulting and how she intends to provide specialised coaching products and services.
Tell us more about the person you are, I mean your personality. Which words best describe you?
I am Sonia Isoken Okoh, a passionate and driven individual who always radiates positive and good vibes. Beyond the professional sphere, I am the queen of positivity and fun, firmly believing that life is too short not to relish every moment. I enjoy socialising with friends, immersing myself in music concerts, and cherishing quality time with my family.
As a caring, loving, and prayerful wife and mum, I bring a bubbly energy to both my personal and professional life. With a keen eye for details and strong organisational skills, I ensure smooth operations at work and home. Striking that essential work-life balance is my priority. Friends and colleagues describe me as “small but mighty,” a sentiment I resonate with as I fearlessly navigate professional challenges, unyielding to intimidation, whether dealing with CEOs or Directors within my role as a project consultant.
What was growing up like?
In my early years, I grew up on the university campus before transitioning to my father’s house off-campus. Living within the academic environment provided a distinctive backdrop to my childhood, immersing me in a world of learning and intellectual curiosity. This early setting and subsequent experiences significantly influenced my academic journey. As the daughter of a lecturer, I commenced my education at the University of Benin Staff School (USS) and continued at the University of Benin Demonstration Secondary School (UDSS) before eventually attending the University of Benin, Edo State to study Computer Science.
Values instilled in me during my formative years were pivotal. Education, in my view, wasn’t merely a means to an end but a pathway to personal growth and success. My father’s dedication to hard work, earning a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, and later becoming a senior lecturer at the University of Benin, served as a profound inspiration. Equally impactful was my mother’s compassionate service in healthcare. Her unwavering commitment taught me the importance of serving and supporting others. The amalgamation of academic excellence and a dedication to service became the cornerstone of my perspective on life.
Great. A good family set made up of exemplary parental upbringing is always an important indicator of success. Arising from this, what drives or motivates you?
What keeps me motivated is just wanting to make a positive impact on anyone. I love helping people navigate their careers and diving into the project management world. It is so cool seeing the individuals I coach doing awesomely well in their jobs. The happiness and success of my own kids are a huge deal for me too. I want to make sure they have a world where they can excel. Of course, there is also my business, SO Coaching Consulting Services. Watching it grow and do well keeps me excited. I love to try new things always, reaching more people, and staying on top of the game. A shout out to my family for backing me up, and my lovely husband for the constant encouragement and support.
That is quite encouraging. You sound very confident of what you do. What are your core values?
Yes, absolutely. I am committed to helping individuals find their way to a satisfying career through personal coaching and reliable support. When it comes to the project management crowd, my goal is to inspire them to set short- and long-term goals, rock their careers, celebrate every achievement and bring some positive vibes to the table. My values revolve around giving a hand, offering tailored career advice, and adding a sprinkle of inspiration for those maneuvering through the project management career path.
That is a good one. Tell us about your career trajectory. What were you doing before your current engagement?
After completing my Masters in Business Information Systems, I took a detour into customer service roles for a significant period. However, I yearned for more. During my master’s programme at the University of East London, I got a taste of project management, and it grabbed my interest. So, while contemplating my career path, I explored business analysis and underwent training covering both project management and business analysis.
Delving into project management, I discovered my proficiency in effective communication with stakeholders across various sectors. I also excelled in planning, possessing excellent organisational skills — critical attributes in this career path. This realisation propelled my focus towards project management, landing me my first project-related role in a private company in early 2017. Within a year, I ascended from a project support officer to a project manager. A few years later, I assumed the role of a programme manager, overseeing several projects. Currently, I proudly hold the title of Senior Programme manager/consultant, where I occasionally deputise for Senior Responsible Officers (SROs), Programme Directors, and/or the Head of Project Management Office.
You really have it all cut out. So, what led to the establishment of SO Consulting Services? When was it established?
As I climbed the career ladder, my passion for what I do grew exponentially. This led me to not just excel in my role but to extend a helping hand to friends and family. I took on the role of a mentor and coach, guiding them into the project management career path. Simultaneously, I organised project management training sessions for colleagues at work, fostering a culture of continuous learning. This hands-on experience ignited a fire within me, prompting me to question, “Why not do this on my terms?” Seizing the opportunity, I ventured into the world of entrepreneurship and established SO Coaching Consulting Services fully in 2023. This move allowed me to channel my passion for coaching and efficiency improvement beyond my direct project management roles.
With a clear vision of empowering individuals toward rewarding career paths through personalised coaching and support, SO Coaching Consulting Services was founded. Our mission is to bridge the gap in career coaching, utilising my skills to guide individuals and organisations toward enhanced performance and success. This venture provides me with the chance to deliver valuable services, contributing further to the growth and success of those I collaborate with.
What is SO Consulting’s Business Philosophy?
At SO Coaching Consulting Services, our foundational principles revolve around unwavering dedication to excellence, a commitment to continuous improvement, and a people-first approach. We cultivate an environment that prioritizes ongoing learning, innovative solutions, and adaptability to stay responsive to the ever-changing needs of our clients. Our pursuit of excellence ensures that our services consistently meet the highest standards. We actively engage in continuous improvement, refining our processes, methodologies, and service delivery to stay at the forefront of industry practices.
Central to our philosophy is a people-centric approach. Recognising the pivotal role individuals play within organisations, we tailor our strategies to address unique needs, fostering a culture of empowerment and growth for both our clients and our team. In essence, our business philosophy serves as a guiding compass, steering our decisions and interactions to deliver exceptional, client-focused experiences.
What are your services and who are your target stakeholders?
At SO Coaching Consulting Services, SO Consulting | Project Management Coach | Hertfordshire (so-consultingservices.com), we offer a diverse range of services tailored to meet the unique needs of both individuals and organisations. Our comprehensive services iinclude professional career coaching for individuals or groups, specialised project management training sessions, personalised CV revamping services, interview preparation support, and strategic project consultancy services catering to both the private and public sectors.
For individuals embarking on a career journey, we provide expert career guidance and coaching to empower them with the skills and confidence needed for successful navigation in the professional landscape. Whether aiming to land a dream job or seeking career advancement, our services are designed to meet these aspirations. Professionals seeking to enhance their project management capabilities benefit from our specialised training sessions, where we provide insights, methodologies, and hands-on training to equip individuals with the tools necessary for effective project management. Additionally, our CV revamp services are tailored to individuals wanting to make a lasting impression on potential employers. We understand the importance of a compelling CV in today’s competitive job market and strive to highlight skills and experiences effectively.
For organisations, we serve as a strategic partner in enhancing project management capabilities. Our project consultancy services are designed to optimise processes, improve efficiency, and ensure successful project delivery, whether in the private or public sector.
Regarding target stakeholders, our services cater to a broad audience, including individuals seeking career guidance and advancement, professionals looking to bolster their project management skills, and organisations aiming to elevate their project management capabilities for sustained success.
What has the experience been since you started?
Throughout its existence, SO Coaching Consulting Services has achieved notable success by coaching and training numerous individuals for various project-related roles and delivering group career sessions to various career paths. The journey has been profoundly fulfilling and characterised by positive feedbacks. The testimonials prominently featured on our website stand as a testament to the impactful outcomes and transformative experiences we have facilitated. These testimonials serve as vivid expressions of the positive strides made by individuals and organisations under our guidance.
That is heartwarming. What are your plans for 2024?
Looking ahead to 2024, SO Coaching Consulting Services is geared up for an exciting phase of growth and global impact. As our business continues to expand, our foremost goal is to broaden our reach and influence on a global scale. This expansion strategy involves connecting with a more extensive audience, introducing innovative services, and consistently staying at the forefront of industry trends in both career coaching and project management training – agile and waterfall methodologies.
To achieve this, we are dedicated to reaching individuals and organisations worldwide, providing our expertise and services to diverse communities. Moreover, staying true to our commitment to excellence and continuous improvement, we plan to introduce new and tailored services that align with the evolving needs of our clients. Whether it’s leveraging advanced coaching methodologies or incorporating cutting-edge project management strategies, our aim is to remain an industry leader and a trusted partner in the professional development space.
How can we get the best out of our teeming young population? Most of them are gifted and talented but they aren’t fulfilled. They are not where they should be.
You are right. To harness the potential of the young population, it is imperative to establish a comprehensive coaching framework. This entails providing personalised guidance, accessible skill development resources, and platforms for honing their abilities. This involves structured coaching sessions, goal-oriented discussions, and creating a supportive environment conducive to holistic development.
Encouraging entrepreneurship is a crucial component of this approach, inspiring young individuals to not only dream big but also equipping them with the practical skills necessary to translate aspirations into reality. Additionally, aligning educational initiatives with practical applications ensures that the learning experience extends beyond theoretical knowledge, empowering the young generation with hands-on expertise. Through this comprehensive coaching framework, the aim is to empower the young population by preparing them for the multifaceted challenges and opportunities of the contemporary world.
What is life in the UK like for a self-employed consultant or an entrepreneur?
Navigating the entrepreneurial landscape in the UK offers a dynamic experience filled with opportunities for self-employed consultants. Networking plays a pivotal role, serving as a conduit for collaboration and exposure to diverse perspectives. The business environment in the UK, characterised by its fluidity, necessitates a blend of adaptability, a robust work ethic, and a proactive mindset to effectively navigate its ever-evolving trends.
As an entrepreneur in the UK, staying ahead of the curve is imperative. This involves a commitment to embracing change, leveraging innovation, and actively seeking growth opportunities. The entrepreneurial journey unfolds as a continuous learning process within an environment that values forward-thinking approaches. Recognising the strategic importance of networking, I proudly became a distinguished member of the International Society of Female Professionals (ISFP). This affiliation enhances the entrepreneurial journey, fostering valuable connections and providing resources that significantly contribute to the success and expansion of professional ventures. Additionally, I have initiated collaborations with charity organisations to support their projects and created a platform for my mentees to gain real-life experience in projects and utilise project management software.
Despite your rich academic background in Data and Project Management, you ventured into career coaching. Why?
Moving from my studies in Data and Project Management, I entered career coaching due to my deep interest in project management and the desire to assist people in finding fulfilling careers. While my academic background provided a foundation, my real passion lies in the practical aspects of project management. So, it wasn’t just about utilising my academic knowledge, it was more about wanting to be part of someone’s journey to success. Recognising the need for personalised support in navigating career paths, I aimed to contribute to individuals’ success beyond project management. This shift was driven by the belief that career coaching offers a unique opportunity to empower individuals with the tools, insights, and confidence needed to navigate the ever-changing professional landscape successfully.
A lot of young Nigerians are currently in the UK either studying or working. What is your advice on how they can be integrated and succeed?
For young Nigerians in the UK, my advice on successful integration and achievement involves a multifaceted approach. Firstly, active networking plays a pivotal role, connecting with diverse individuals not only broadens horizons but also opens doors to academic and professional opportunities. Embracing the rich cultural diversity that defines the UK is equally crucial, with engagement in community activities fostering meaningful connections and a sense of belonging.
Beyond academic pursuits, finding a balance between education and personal development is key. The dynamic environment of the UK offers abundant opportunities for growth, both within educational institutions and the professional realm. Young Nigerians can enhance their journey by taking a proactive approach, being open to new experiences, and stepping outside their comfort zones to seize these opportunities. I can do it if i set my mind on it” is not just my motto, it should be the inspiration for anyone seeking my support.
What would you say are your career achievements and milestones?
In the course of my career journey, I have achieved significant milestones that underscore my commitment to excellence and continuous professional growth. Notably, successfully overseeing diverse projects within the private and public sectors not only refined my skills but also played a pivotal role in generating positive impacts across various sectors. Witnessing my mentees strive higher in their career path stands as a remarkable achievement and a source of immense personal satisfaction. The establishment and subsequent expansion of my company mark another noteworthy milestone. What initially was a vision has evolved into a thriving consultancy, allowing me to extend my expertise globally. Serving clients worldwide stands as a testament to the effectiveness of our services.
On the professional development front, my certifications — including Prince2 Practitioner, Quality Improvement, Lean Six Sigma, and Professional Career Coaching — highlight my unwavering commitment to continuous learning. These certifications go beyond mere accolades; they embody a pledge to remain at the forefront of industry standards, leveraging a diverse skill set to deliver exceptional service.
Looking ahead, my aspirations include active involvement in large-scale initiatives contributing to the growth of my homeland, Nigeria, and globally. I envision leveraging my extensive experience and expertise to participate in projects driving positive change and national development. This aligns seamlessly with my passion for making a meaningful impact and giving back to the community that has profoundly shaped my professional journey.
Let’s switch to a more casual note. Do you enjoy dancing? Which genre of music is your favourite?
Absolutely yes, i love to dance. I often have dance-offs with my in-laws during family gatherings. My friends call me the chief stepper and expect me to kick off the dance floor at every party. When it comes to music, I am all about Nigerian Afrobeat vibes, and great talents.
How do you unwind and relax?
After work, I unwind by watching movies with my husband. I have a passion for travelling, and whenever I come across a good deal for a weekend trip, I am quick to seize the opportunity. I firmly believe that exploring different cultures and places is not only educational for me and my family but also a wonderful way to break away from the routine, have fun, and truly be myself.
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