Psychologist and stress management coach Obehi Alofoje, of Aurora Wellness, brings 25 years’ experience to the wellness sector.
Her experience ranges from counselling in educational settings, the non-profit sector, working with clients struggling with trauma and addiction – she also counselled victims of the 7th of July 2005 Bombing.
Let’s take a look at your background and how your career has culminated into your current role.
I’m a psychologist, stress management consultant, and productivity coach who supports businesses reduce employee burnout, absenteeism & talent attrition through mental wellbeing strategy, training & coaching. I deliver simple and effective mental wellbeing and productivity strategies designed to help senior leaders and their teams thrive at work, thereby preventing professional burnout and a rapid decline of good mental health in a post-COVID era.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Not particularly, I had a standard trajectory for a psychologist, but I prefaced that with a significant amount of practical work which I feel makes me more rounded as a practitioner in that I take a holistic approach.
So, I worked as a school counsellor for a college after my first degree, and at the support clinic for the victims of the 7th of July 2005 Bombing.
I completed my master’s in counselling psychology and began working within the non-profit sector with vulnerable people struggling with trauma and addiction.
After this I made a shift to work in the private sector at a Harley Street GP practice, working with families of young adults struggling with mental health challenges.
What are the biggest hurdles you have faced in your career to date?
Plenty! Managing myself and self-motivation while developing my leadership style is a big one for me and one which I take very seriously.
At one time I had responsibility for a team of 12 while simultaneously struggling with multiple bereavements. I had lost my mother in my teens while at university and later in my career – as a new manager, I lost my brother, then my father and a good friend in the same 6- month period, two years’ later.
What I’d like to say about this period is that no one is immune from grief, I knew what I needed to do, so I hired a therapist and worked on some of my struggles.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I would say, without a doubt starting my own company Aurora Wellness with my cousin and Management Training Consultant Ngozi Weller.
There is nothing more fulfilling to me than helping organisations successfully implement our mental health and wellbeing strategies within their teams and seeing their people thrive, while at the same time inputting into their people culture.
I’m excited by the creativity and bespoke thinking that goes into our holistic approach and the way in which we design programmes to match the needs of an organisation on hearing and interpreting their pain points.
As a mental health and wellbeing consultancy, we deliver a range of personal development coaching programmes designed to strengthen employees’ mental resilience and improve workplace productivity.
With our combined 25 years’ experience, marrying the disciplines of psychology with business management we are uniquely placed to understand and meet employees’ wellbeing needs and by strengthening employees’ mental resilience, unlocking their potential.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
I’m a great collaborator and I value teamwork, so I would say, “not going it alone”. I make sure I surround myself with a variety of good people and I like to have great support around me from family, friends, and colleagues. Having a trusted business partner like my cousin or as I like to call her, my sister Ngozi is invaluable.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I see mentoring as a very effective tool. I’ve mentored psychology graduates and social work students on placements and in clinical settings, however, in a corporate setting I would advocate for
sponsorship over mentoring because now more than ever we need, visibility, we need sight of people being sponsored and put forward for opportunities that will allow them to develop their talent and their unique style, rather than emulating someone else. I’d like to add that sponsorship is an effective way to move more women and more women of colour in senior positions in all sectors.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
Encourage women NOT to do everything themselves or be overly perfectionist and pull in as much support as you can. You don’t have to be the best at everything, and you don’t have to cover all the bases yourself.
I would advocate for building networks. Build a community of women where opportunities are shared. Having more women who sponsor other women climbing the ranks, while making sure they are seen and championed. Going beyond the mentoring towards activity, creating opportunities for each other, making recommendations, and putting them forward for projects or roles is the way forward.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
You don’t have to go to the best university, or the best schools, or to be the best in your space, you just have to show up and be consistent and tenacious. Progress is made incrementally. There is so much pressure on young adults and comparison is not necessarily healthy, so my advice would be, we all come things differently, no one says your path has to be linear, so stay in your own lane.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
To ensure that every company has a robust employee mental wellbeing strategy that acts a north star to protect the mental health of every employee in the business and in turn bring resilience, clarity of thinking and great performance back into those businesses as employees thrive. I also have some robust personal goals around building and expanding Aurora, our capability, and our reach.