Student Spotlight: “They Show Me That It Can Be Done”

Gabee Ogude felt stuck during her first three years of college. The spring 2022 graduate began her college career studying pharmacy and feeling uninspired.

“I’m Nigerian-American and in our culture most people do professions like lawyers, doctors, engineers – secure, stable paths,” Ogude explains. “I didn’t know which other jobs outside of that would be lucrative, but I didn’t like pharmacy and I really was not a STEM person.”

Ogude finally decided to change her major, despite many doubts, in her junior year. She was busy studying for an organic chemistry exam, listening to breakdowns of the 2020 presidential election polls in the background, when she realized that her true interests lie with politics and communications.

“I would stay up all night watching analyses of the election and barely have any energy in the morning for things in STEM,” Ogude recalls. “Politics excited me when pharmacy didn’t, and I felt like I wanted to be a part of it.”

Ogude had previously attended a few Career Center events simply because she saw them advertised, but had not considered intentionally using the Center’s resources. 

“In pharmacy school, you’re on a track, so you get all the experience you need to work a job. You don’t have to search for internships outside of school, so I thought I had no reason to visit the Center.”

Once she switched her major to Media and Professional Communications, however, Ogude specifically sought out the Center’s guidance and reassurance. She was told to speak with Erin Wheeler, the Career Consultant for liberal arts. These meetings showed Ogude that there was a path to success in pursuing the fields that interested her.

“Erin is my teammate,” Ogude says. “I changed my major as a junior, which is pretty late in the game. I was feeling defeated and unsure, but Erin didn’t engage in any of those doubts. She was always a supportive, encouraging, calming force who never let me sit in my stress.”

One of the skills Ogude was able to hone under Wheeler’s guidance was networking. Ogude attended a series of alumni-in-residence events, but missed one key meeting in the series. Not wanting to lose any opportunity, Ogude asked Wheeler to connect her with that event’s speaker: the Global Communications Manager of Exxon, Debra King.

“Debra became my mentor,” Ogude notes. “We still talk to this day and she’s another supportive person I have on my team.”

Ogude encourages all students not to be afraid of networking.

“A lot of people think it’s so hard, but it’s really just introducing yourself and asking to learn about the other person. The pro of Zoom university is that it’s so easy to set up a virtual meeting with someone and chat with them for a bit.”

Another way Ogude sought out communications opportunities was by joining the Women of Color in Communications nationwide organization. Through this organization, she had the chance to work for the Biden Inauguration, acting as a first point of contact between president-elect Joe Biden and the media. Ogude welcomed media teams onto the grounds and directed them to set-up stations, meeting hard-hitters like CNN, NBC, and CBS. She also had the chance to encounter Eboni K. Williams, a lawyer, TV personality, and personal hero of Ogude’s.

“It was so inspiring to meet her,” Ogude recalls. “She was another Black woman succeeding and I wanted to be just like her. This all happened in January 2021 when I was still unsure about changing my major, but then I got to meet Eboni and I almost cried. I was worried I was going to wind up broke, but meeting her was the ultimate confirmation that I was going to be okay.”

Having strong, Black women as role models, like Williams and King, has always been important to Ogude.

“After the racial reckoning in 2020, conversations in the workplace began to happen about what it means to be a person of color in these fields,” Ogude explains. “Black women were doing a lot of work and companies were finally starting to recognize that. It’s important for me to have a personal relationship with women who are thriving in those spaces, not only to help me navigate those spaces myself, but because they show me that it can be done.”

Now that she has graduated from Pitt, Ogude is ready for her next experience: working for Venture for America, a non-profit organization that invites recent college graduates to work with start-ups in order to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. 

“Venture for America inspires an alternative path,” Ogude says. “They show people that you can branch beyond being a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. I think as long as you’re doing something where you’re happy and comfortable, that’s success.”

By Dionna Dash
Dionna Dash Nordenberg Scholar