Omofola (Mofy) Lyon

Name: Omofola, but most people have called me Mofy since I was a child.

Education: Honours BBA with Distinction and a specialization in Finance from the University of Toronto (2008); CPA, CGA (2015). 

Profession: Finance Director

Years of Experience: 12 years

Can you tell us about your heritage? How was your childhood upbringing?

I was born in Nigeria and moved to Canada when I was 15 to study.  I went to university here, got a work permit and just never left. I had a pretty traditional upbringing, just following the steps: go to school, graduate and get a job.

When you were a child, did you envision becoming what you are now?

It’s funny, when I was a child people would ask me, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and I would just say “I want to be an accountant”.  I would say that just to get them off my back, but deep down I was thinking I wanted to become a writer because I was getting really high scores in English and Creative Writing.  And then I graduated university… and became an accountant.  So, there’s power in words!

Can you please tell us about your journey? / Can you tell us about your career background?

I graduated in 2008 with a business and finance degree, right in the middle of the recession.  With no work experience.  So that was fun. 

I happened to get a job as a Junior Accountant at an immigration law firm. Prior to this job, I knew nothing about the legal industry. I had no work experience and I remember the Hiring Manager literally just took my resume and said, “you know nothing. Why are you here?”  And in my mind, I thought, “well this is terrible”.  I just said to her honestly, “I’m a quick learner and you know, I have common sense”.  She hired me on the spot and that was how it kicked off.

I worked there for about three years, and then moved into the manufacturing industry. I gained a variety of experience and became a chartered accountant. Now, I’m back in the legal field and loving it.  

Did you face any challenges on your journey to get where you are? Do you currently face any challenges?

Yes, I think I have found the biggest challenge to be people.  I know it sounds terrible to say, but I learned very quickly that even in a professional setting there are always people that will undermine you, question your abilities or underestimate you. Those people make their doubts known loud and clear, almost to the point where you start to question your own abilities. So, that has always been a challenge. 

Is it still a challenge now? Definitely, because you’re constantly meeting different kinds of people and they always throw different challenges at you.  As time goes on though, you learn how to deal with people and the “drama” they bring.  It certainly makes for an interesting experience, but it can be challenging for sure.

When did you first think to yourself, “I made it”?

It’s with every little achievement, I feel like I’ve made it.  You know, graduating university was an “I made it” moment.  But there’s no special story there.  My dad went to university. He had several degrees, but it wasn’t necessarily a goal for me personally and was instead more of a given.  Still, when I finished, it was like “OK, I made it”. Then getting my first job and transitioning to a different industry. So, I feel like every little kind of good news for me is an “I made it” story.

What skills do you believe a person needs to succeed in your profession?

The ability to analyze things and to solve puzzles until you get the answers.  You’ve got the regular must-haves: analytical skills, logical skills, but don’t believe people when they say you need math skills! I hated math in school but look at me now.  

Also, the qualitative skills that people don’t really talk about, the people skills and the management skills—the “soft” skills are extremely important.  I don’t know why they are called soft skills, they are no less important.  It’s just important to be a well-rounded person with perseverance.  Perseverance is a big skill—you have to go after things like a dog with a bone.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I’m a voracious reader so I get a lot of my ideas and inspiration from books. And from people. Seeing people succeed, or seeing people try and fail but then try again is really inspiring. Little bits and pieces from life also inspire me.

Can you please share one goal you achieved that you are extremely proud of?

Definitely the fact that I got a managerial role before the age of 25.  And then I got a director role in my early 30s.  Things like that for me are huge.  It was weird because I didn’t have that written on a vision board or anything.  I worked really hard and I achieved those goals and was extremely pleased.  I thought, “OK, this is good. This means that I can do more, and I can give more, and there’s a lot more for me out there”. That was a really good feeling and inspires me to always try for more.

What is one fun or unique fact about you?

Ever since I was little, I’ve had an affinity for anything Hispanic.  I remember when we were little, my dad bought this encyclopedia from a guy at the side of the road (as you do in Nigeria) and it had a Spanish-English dictionary and I was completely fascinated.  When I got to university, I was so focused on getting my degree and later realized that I had electives left to play around with.  So, I started taking Spanish classes, and the more I did the more it just came naturally to me.  I was like, “this is it!  These are my people!”  I’m very fascinated by the different people and culture… the blood runs deep in my veins (haha).

What advice would you give to others who aspire to be where you are?

Nothing is too good to be true. I recall there was a stage in my career where I felt stuck and then happened to get head hunted and got a really good offer.  I told my boss at the time and he said, “oh that sounds way too good to be true.  They’re just going to suck the soul out of you”.  That really got to me but then I thought, “hang on.  I am in a soul-sucking job now, this offer pays a little better, so maybe I’ll just go over there and see for myself”. So, I took the leap and it wasn’t too good to be true. It was just exactly right.

For me, and I think a lot of people can relate, we sometimes have goals or opportunities, and we think, “oh no, this is too lofty a goal, I don’t deserve that, I’m not good enough, or I don’t have the education or experience.”  Just work and believe that you can do it. Because you can, you absolutely can.  It’s attitude and having the right mindset. Luck definitely plays a part but get rid of the mental obstacle that says you don’t deserve to be there.  You have the ability to learn, grow and develop yourself.  So, there’s no reason you don’t deserve to be in that room.