Who Do You Think You Are?

I quickly interjected with a deep and gravelly voice to earn their respect: “What do you do?”

Tobiloba Adejumo
Tobiloba Adejumo

This is the transcript of my UIC Toastmaster speech on 15th February, 2022.

I am a storyteller, and today I have a personal story I’d like to share with you titled: Who do you think you are? It is a simple question, yet, it is one that you may not have an answer to.

A few weeks ago, I presented my research in a conference in San Francisco. It was a gathering of many industry experts. I was with my ambitious and ever-hardworking colleagues. Everyone at the conference came armed with knowledge to inspire, whereas I had a different plan entirely. I wanted to have fun. I had spent the past one year in the lab, studying, with just a week break in between. I didn’t plan to waste my time listening to the boring presentations in the conference, or maybe I should  talk lightly so I do not offend the academics we have here, I didn’t plan to spend my time listening to presentations alone. I planned to network with different people. So I bought the best suit my phd stipends could afford and I wore my deeply polished brown brogue shoe with my conservatively narrow black tie.

Second day in the conference, I walked up to some of the organizers feeling very cute. I could easily identify them with their black classical tags which had the inscription: SPIE Staff. I waved at them and I modulated my voice slightly to show excitement: “Hey, how are you doing?”, I said. I noticed how they grinned with excitement; and as they were about to respond, I quickly interjected with a deep and gravelly voice to earn their respect: “What do you do?”, I asked. They looked slightly confused. It was unusual for a student-attendee to ask this kind of question. One of the organizers responded while the others observed as she spoke. I could bet she was the team leader with the way she smiled excessively. “That’s one of the unwritten rules being a leader, you have to pretend to be happy.”  She then gave me a summary of what her job entailed and slowly introduced the others to me. I nodded my head routinely as she spoke to feign interest. Then I proceeded again to ask her another question, but this time, with a stern smile: “Can I meet your CEO?”, I said. Their confusion this time was visible to the blind and audible to the deaf. I had previously connected with the CEO on LinkedIn so I brought out my phone, and showed her the picture of the CEO, a proof that I wasn’t drunk on wine or high on drugs. “Well, ooour CEO is everywhere”, she stuttered, “but you can meet with him today. We will be having a photonics homecoming by 9pm and he will be there, so get ready to meet with him.”, she continued. I later didn’t attend the homecoming because I had to go out with my senior colleagues in my lab. They will be graduating in May, so I chose to enjoy the memorable time I have left with them over meeting the CEO.

A week ago, my housemate introduced me to a dating app. The name of app is called Amori. Such a caring young man! He didn’t want me to die single. I joined the app and later realized that the app is for the unemployed because it seems as though the creators of the app made a promise to the time god to steal your time. It was like clubhouse which means you must always be present . I left a few days after I joined. I am not much of a talker but nobody ever believes. The next day, my housemate asked me: “Why did you leave?” “I’m too busy”, I responded. “Oh, understandable”, he replied. “The CEO of Amori is always on the app with us and she is also very sweet”, he said again with a disarming smile.

At that instant, I told him I needed to speak with the CEO. “Do you have the CEO’s contact”, I asked. I knew for sure that information like this is so easy for my housemate to obtain because he is an expert in matters of the heart, especially with the opposite gender. He asked why I wanted to speak with the CEO but I was mute. To be frank, I didn’t really know why. But with my background in computer science, I was very certain I had so many things to discuss with the CEO. Why do you think the CEO wants to talk to you, Tobi? I froze. “Who do you think you are?” he asked again and I froze.

The questions he asked struck a chord in my heart: Who do I think I am? Two quotes by the King of Strategy Robert Greene came to my heart at that instant: The first: "Exhibit a remarkable confidence and people will think that your confidence comes real knowledge. You will create a self fulfilling prophecy. People’s belief in you will translate into actions that will help you realize your visions." The second: "Confidence is important but if it is as a result of the self-appraisal of yourself, it is mere grandiosity and smugness." I therefore throw the question my housemate asked me to you: Who do you think you are? You are unsure? Here’s what I’d like you to do: Find out who you are.

🌐 Life

Tobiloba Adejumo

Doctoral Student, Research Assistant at The University of Illinois Chicago | Biomedical Optics and Functional Imaging Lab