20 December

How The Duke of Edinburgh's Award is helping to shape careers

Q And A with Doyin Sonibare, 27


Why did you get involved in the DofE?

“I basically did The DofE because my Mum told me to, she’s Nigerian so it’s hard to say no to her! I knew there was an outdoor element but didn’t know the intricate details, it was all new to me. DofE offers so many things within each aspect, there’s something for everyone.”


How did The DofE help you when you were looking for a job?

“When I went for a job at IBM I was able to talk about my DofE and how it taught me to use my initiative in terms of finding my way back when I was lost, how it taught me resilience and working in a team. I could give a lot of examples based on my DofE experiences and it gave me the confidence and positive attitude to work with people from all backgrounds.” 


How has the DofE impacted your life?

“The DofE has really impacted my life. My first professional job resulted from my DofE experiences. The DofE is a place where people can develop skills, find new hobbies and be acknowledged for achieving the goals they set for themselves. The Award says that this person put in the time which gives young people recognition and can help them to get their foot through the door. It certainly did that for me.” 


What inspired you to go into your field of work?

“I lost my Auntie after my first year of university and I didn’t understand why. She was 46, healthy, loved Zumba yet she lost a cancer battle. I decided to create my own 101 day cancer challenge, I gave up bread, rice and chicken and ran 600km over those days. I raised £2,500 and finished on my 21st birthday. When I went back to university for my second year I had a lot of friends from various ethnic backgrounds thanking me and telling me that members of their family had different forms of cancer. I remember being shocked because nobody talks about it. I used to think cancer was a disease that only affected white people but I started realising how it affects Black and Asian communities too.

The summer after my second year I worked at IBM with the healthcare team learning about tech that could identify the early signs of cancer and, after finishing my degree, I went back to IBM full time as a graduate and did my Masters at Queen Mary in Global Public Health. My dissertation focused on sickle cell research and specifically the experiences of Black patients. It is a hidden illness and there’s not enough information about it. I got a distinction and was encouraged to pursue a PHD in sickle cell research in the hope that it would change policy moving forward, I start that at Brunel in October.” 


What part of the DofE has been the most influential on you?

“Volunteering is so important, it enables you to support your community. Volunteering for my Silver was working in a British Heart Foundation store in Ilford which was really interesting. I learned a lot about the BHF and heart disease and developed skills like team building and working with customers so it was great experience.


The DofE taught me the importance of giving back and of continuous learning. Personal development is the key to everything. With DofE I’ve been to new countries where I’ve learned from other people through their experiences. We all have different backgrounds and face different things in our lives. I learned to be more open to hearing about other people’s journeys and to look at how I can support them. DofE taught me to care about the community at large. We live in this weird society where everything is me, me, me and it’s nice to remember there’s a whole world out there.” 

How has The DofE helped you find out about yourself?

“The DofE encourages young people and gives them a chance to identify their interests. I didn’t know I was passionate about healthcare until I did the 101 day challenge, I didn’t know I was passionate about young people until I got involved in the Gold awards forum. It helps you find out what you are good at, what you enjoy and you learn so much about yourself as an individual when you open up to helping the wider community.” 

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