Saratu Yakubu Finds Fulfilment Helping Others

Posted: April 24, 2024

Saratu Yakubu (who goes by Sara) is the epitome of a confident businesswoman. Articulate and outgoing, she talks passionately about helping other people find their voices so that they can follow their dreams. But that self-assuredness didn’t come easy for Sara. Just five years ago she preferred being behind the scenes, dashing out of sight to avoid the spotlight or public speaking.

“I was so scared of everything,” says Sara, a project manager at RBC Capital Markets. “Now I find myself doing talks. Now I'm going to speaking events and I can't believe that this is me.”

Saratu Yakubu, receiving the One to Watch Award from Digital Nova Scotia

The turning point for Sara came in 2022 when she was nominated for the One to Watch Award from Digital Nova Scotia, presented by RBC. Although she assumed she would not win against stiff competition, she had prepared a speech just in case. Shocked when her name was announced as winner, Sara found herself on stage with her speech but not her reading glasses. “So I just spoke from the heart. And people came up to me later to say how powerful it was and how they felt seen. That's when I knew I had a voice and I could actually use that for something rather than shying away from everything.”

Road to Halifax

Sara’s early childhood in Nigeria was hard. Born into poverty, life was a constant struggle. When her father, a chemical engineer, landed a good job things became easier, but the early lessons stuck. “Coming from a [developing] country, we're always driven to look for effective ways to make sure that we can survive in any conditions that we're dealt with.”

Her father saw education as the key to his children’s future and Sara, as the eldest, knew she needed to lay a good foundation for her two sisters and brother to follow. Sara earned a bachelor's in economics from American University of Nigeria and a master's in finance and investments from University of South Wales.

She was in Accra, Ghana, at the start of the pandemic, thousands of kilometres from her fiance Abdul Sanni, a DevOps engineer in Halifax. Unable to come to Canada, she went home to Nigeria to plan their wedding, which took place in her hometown in December 2020. Sara and Abdul then returned to Nova Scotia with the intention of exploring more parts of Canada. But the lockdown changed those plans and they decided to make Halifax home.

Making Connections

With no friends or family in Halifax, other than her husband, Sara started to build her network. Unable to meet people in person, Sara turned to the online world where she connected with women across North America. Eventually, she was introduced to Halifax Partnership’s Connector Program, which is presented by RBC and supported by the Province of Nova Scotia, and was soon connected with Indy Calina, a business analyst with Nova Scotia Power who helped her broaden her circle.

“I wasn't sure if I wanted to do consulting or product management. The Connector Program helped me understand the playing field so that I could tailor myself to what the market actually wanted. Talking to people in the Connector Program really helped me understand what I needed to do to ramp up, like getting certain certifications. I actually think that was the best thing I ever did.”

In 2022, Sara was hired by RBC Capital Markets - Technology Services, in Bedford, supported by a referral and introduction from the Connector team. It was a powerful example of the importance of building a network. “I learned earlier on in my career that relationships matter, they pave the way for success. People want to see your personality, people want to see who you are.”

Grateful for the help she received from the Connector Program, and passionate about paying it forward to other newcomers to Halifax, Sara became a Connector in March 2022, quickly meeting with 10 Connectees and receiving the Connectee Turned Connector Award at a Connector Appreciation event. “I want to help as many people as possible because being an immigrant is very difficult. I want to make sure that I can pass on everything that I know now that I'm on the other side of the table.”

Creating A Legacy

Now, with lockdowns a distant memory, Sara is immersed in giving back as much as she can and helping women, especially immigrants, realize their potential. She and a partner, Chioma Nwosu, launched Empower Her Mind, a non-profit organization aimed at creating a safe environment for women to share their mental health struggles, share resources on what worked for them, and create an environment for women to thrive together.

Sara and her husband have settled into their new city. “I love that it’s peaceful in Halifax. I like the fact that you can go hiking wherever you want. I love the nature here and I love the views. I think that’s the best part.”

Sara and Abdul are expecting their first child and they continue to build their life in Halifax, which now feels like home. “Home to me is where my family is, it’s where I find peace the most.”

Home is also where the Digital Nova Scotia One to Watch Award has been given a place of honour. It’s the first thing Sara sees every time she walks through the door, a testament to where she began and where she’s headed. “It's a reminder that you can do anything you put your mind to.”



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