By Felix Hoover
For Your News Columbus
Sept. 30. 2010
The lottery that Oduwole “Wally” Bakare won 15 years ago came with no option for an enormous lump-sum payment and with no guaranteed yearly payout, just a chance to live out a dream.
Thanks to that special lottery, though, Bakare. finds himself living a modified dream as a vice president and general manager for Times Warner Cable Mid-Ohio.
In his office at headquarters on Olentangy River Road, he gestures to a motivational poster that he hopes the 900 workers under his supervision buy into. He pulls out his cell phone and points to the private numbers of many of the city’s most prominent leaders, folks who understand his ability and desire to better the community.
“Service is my raison d’etre,” said Bakare, who had served said.
Even though he described himself as “spiritual, not religious,” he also said, “I know that God has a plan for my life.”
Others have noticed how he’s carrying out that plan. including CableFAX Magazine, which in 2009 named him one of the “Most Influential Minorities in Cable,” and Business First, which this year recognized his professional and civic involvement by naming him as one of its 40 under 40. He’s 39.
Bakare takes pride in being one of the highest ranking African-Americans in his industry, and he openly talks about how his position allows him to experience the arts locally and elsewhere.
His roots are in Lagos, Nigeria, where he grew up in a middle-class family. He traveled a lot with his father, who was an entrepreneur.
In 1993, a mentor handed Bakare a form that would change his life, an application for a immigration visa to this country. Of the million applicants, 55,000 were chosen in that special lottery.
“I was blessed to be one that was picked,” Bakare said. “I came as a legal immigrant, which allowed me to start looking for a job immediately.”
Bakare saw snow for the first time the winter he came to the States, which wasn’t the only surprise for someone who came to this country with only $100 to his name.
How he got where he is reflects commitment, hard work and determination to surmount obstacles. The means might not resemble his childhood vision, but the results show significant elements of the original dream.
That vision called for him to attend college in the United States. That didn‘t happen when he was an undergrad; he earned his bachelor’s from Lagos State University and a master’s from the University of Lagos.
Eventually, however, he would add a graduate degree from the University of Maryland and would continue to upgrade his vita with training and studies offered in connection with his current job.
Bakare was married when he came to this country in 1995.
“We came to study youth ministries,” he said. “We had been involved with children’s ministries in Nigeria.
” The idea was to set up libraries and safe places where teens could play video games.
Bakare is no longer married, and he didn’t set up arcades and libraries, but he’s involved with helping young people as the board vice president for Starr Commonwealth Columbus (formerly the Hannah Neil Center), as a mentor with the Oakmont Elementary School Young Gents Club of Columbus, and as a volunteer with Junior Achievement of Central Ohio and with The Ohio State University’s Todd A. Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male. He also is a volunteer coach with The Vineyard Community Center Career Clinic in Westerville.
As a lottery selection Bakare was legally permitted to seek work as soon as he arrived in this country. With two years experience back home in computer science and a master’s degree in international law, he figured he’d pick up where he left off as soon as he arrived in the States.
He spoke English, but with an accent that made it difficult for many people in this country to understand him, he said.
The dream would be deferred. To make ends meet he passed out fliers in Baltimore and sold vacuum cleaners before a temp service referred him to Nextel, where he became an office clerk.
“I filed invoices for nine months,” Bakare said. “That was my entry to telecommunication. I worked my way up.”
In 2006, he began working for Time Warner in Los Angeles as vice president and general manager of voice services. While there he led the digital phone launch team in the L.A. region, which resulted in more than 300 percent subscriber growth throughout the TW Cable/Comcast/Adelphia integration.
Experience Columbus must not have reached him before his move here in 2008 as vice president and general manager for Time Warner’s Southeast Ohio area. His expectations for the city were lower than an ant under a limbo bar, but he quickly learned it has much to offer, especially in the arts.
He recently saw the touring production of Wicked and attends all performances of BalletMet.
In his current position since May 2009 Bakare has been responsibile for field operations, which means that he’s the boss of the techs who come to homes in central, northern and southeastern Ohio. He‘s also in charges of the front desk workers who check in equipment that customers return.
“I’m responsible for what makes the cable company a cable company,” Bakare said.
The way he carries out those responsibilities suggests that the cable company has hit the lottery, too.
By Wally Bakare
June 14, 2009
About 14 months ago, I moved from Los Angeles to Columbus to start a new life in a city where I did not know a single soul. Today, I am graduating from a nine month immersion exercise with a dozen fellows by my side, a band of brothers and sisters, a community of friends brought together not by individual choices but by a well calculated design born out of a deliberate and intentional vision of a few men and women some of whom we are honored to stand before today.
In July 1990 these same men and women challenged themselves and the African American community to join in the creation of an African American Leadership Academy, targeted to youth and young adults for training and leadership development. I stand before you today along with a dozen of my fellows, as evidences of a vision realized, a dream come to pass, the products of the selfless, focused and sacrificial giving of many.
For each of the last nine months, we’ve had an opportunity to spend four hours with each other in a classroom at The Center for Children and Family Advocacy. In this classroom we had a safe haven where we could forget the pressures of our daily work and personal lives. We focused intently inward, going to places that we have never been challenged to go before. Each month, we gathered together under a tent in the middle of the battlefield of life where we dressed each other’s wounds, celebrated accomplishments, and gave one another undivided attention as each shared his or her “Five C’s” - clarity, challenges, career, connections and community.
In this classroom, we had a temple where men and women of power and immense wisdom gave freely of themselves to our edification. These extremely talented men and women shared their stories with us with such candor and left us in awe and assurance that we can truly become like them.
Through this program, we have learned:
Not to focus primarily on fixing our weaknesses but rather to build upon our innate talents
To focus our energy on developing our core strengths while living an authentic life
We learned that we should pace ourselves and enjoy the journey to success
Not to be so ambitious that our ambition outpaces our level of readiness
Having a network of friends and supporters is essential to success
Philanthropy is an essential ingredient of leadership and is required if we want to make an impact in the community
CableFax Magazine Most Influential Minorities in Cable
Columbus Business First
Diversity MBA Magazine