On the third Wednesday of every month I invite someone to share a little bit about themselves.
This month, we have Azem Odu otherwise known to me as AZ. AZ is a talented graphic artist and from the day job. After talking to him for a while I realized that he has his own story to tell. So without further adieu I’ll let AZ tell you a portion of his journey.
So, I remember this being in, like, 2007, after I had graduated from college finally. I kinda felt I was almost entitled to certain positions since I now had a 4-year college degree. I was, like, no. you aren’t gonna pay me $7.25 an hour. I have a college degree! (chuckle) But, that quickly went out the window. I looked everywhere in Florida for a job in animation and game design and around the country too. Even flew out to California, Santa Monica, for an interview for a game tester position. That’s, like, entry-level in game development. I turned down a couple of jobs though. Now that I look back it was because of my pride. One of them was in California; it was a 3D artist working for a Scientology church. And the other one was some sort of Flash graphic artist for Home Shopping Network. The Scientology one was great pay, but I didn’t want to work for an organization that was gonna jeopardize my faith; I wasn’t comfortable doing that. Moved in with my brother, Mataye, he was working at Walmart at the time and I was doing freelance graphic work and had an internship at a production studio, Bluewater. They did a lot of “Sham-wow” type stuff, video production. I actually remember meeting the guy who invented Extenze, the male enhancement stuff. I remember applying all over Florida. Mataye would put, like, $100 here $100 there in my account to help me out. I remember getting hired at the YMCA. My friend Mike was a director there and got me a job like that! But, they were only able to pay me $8 an hour and I would only be able to work, like, one day. So, I didn’t take it. I probably should have; it may have turned into something else.
So, I applied to grad school. I told myself if I didn’t have a job in my field by December I was going to go to grad school. So, I applied to SCAD and The Academy of Art in San Francisco. I’d wanted to go there; my brother O’seremi was already there. But, they took too long to get back to me and SCAD replied back to me sooner and accepted me! I went to grad school at SCAD in Atlanta as an ultimatum. So, I didn’t succeed. I went there for a year and got kicked out; my grades weren’t good. Decided to stay there (in Atlanta) to support my brother who was finishing up his undergrad at SCAD. I really couldn’t find anything in my field there either. And I was shocked. I was thinking, okay, I’m in Atlanta, a more metropolitan city than a lot of cities in Florida. Why can’t I find a job in my field? Atlanta has Turner Studios, Cartoon Network; they’re a much bigger metropolitan city than most cities in Florida.
My parents were going through financial problems and I remember my dad calling me one time, without even greeting me, and saying, “Azem! You need to find a job quick!” They were financially supporting me, though I told them to stop. I was just using loan money to support my brother and I. I waaaay later found out that they had gotten sued, or something, by an employee or my dad had to pay back a bunch of money to the IRS; it was one of those. They both happened I just don’t remember which one happened at this time. The more I thought Atlanta was a growing hub for the animation community the more I found out it wasn’t. It wasn’t too much different from Florida. It was more than Florida, but still not that good. We met one guy that worked as an animator at Turner and said he was hired after college in January 2007 and Turner hadn’t hired an animator since! I laughed in disgust and just shook my head. I went on interviews, got call-backs, talked to a bunch of recruiters, nothing just stuck. One recruiter ended up finding me a position at a production studio similar to Bluewater; Blue Marble. It was a contract position doing work in After Effects; motion graphics work. Man, I was so excited! They were paying me $30 an hour, I was doing work in my field, etc. Then, I got let-go after two days. I felt I was put in a bad situation. The recruiters apologized, but that experience still plagues me till this day. It’s like things in the job market just wouldn’t stick. I would get passed the beginning stages of finding a job, and then they just wouldn’t stick. I finally get one that excites me and would be something I would like to do and this happens. As hard as it’d been to find a job I find one and this happens. I didn’t stop though. I even called and left them a message the night they let me go. I thanked them for giving me the opportunity. They reallytried to accommodate me. After that I don’t remember really looking for a job in my field. It wasn’t because of that; I just had a change of priorities and my definition of success.
Right as I was about to go apply at Taco Bell for a shift manager I got a job at a restaurant. So, I’m working at a restaurant and am just trying to maybe get back into grad school; I felt like I still wanted that credential. I still wanted to teach college, so I knew I needed it. I applied to Georgia State and University of Central Florida and didn’t get in. I applied to USC too and didn’t get in. After that I was just, like, okay I’m good on grad school for right now. By this time I was already okay with going back to Florida; I had applied to UCF. I was so adamant about not going back to Florida when I left. How Florida treated me I really didn’t ever want to go back. A job market for the field of art and entertainment was just non-existent. But, my brother Simisi had just moved back from San Diego and my dad always says these old phrases; these ancient Nigerian sayings, “Sometimes you have to cross a river twice to know where you’re going” or something like that.
In, like, January me and my brother were reeeally thinking about moving back to Florida. I was just working at a restaurant. I couldn’t find a job where I could financially support myself much less one in my career; a freelance animation production project went south that I feel could have propelled a lot of our careers, that still lingers with me till this day; O’seremi had gotten kicked out of school too. I was really feeling down. I think people could sense it too. As a matter of fact, I know people could sense it. Some people at Pappadeaux I worked with would ask me what’s wrong. Dang, that was when I knew I wore my emotions on my sleeve! Life seemed like Groundhog’s Day. Now, at this time during these times I’m getting call-backs. I’m getting interviews. I’m getting emails from recruiters. Nothing is just sticking. I’m, like, I didn’t come to Atlanta to work at a restaurant. I can do this back in Florida and cheaper. And my reasons for staying in Atlanta were null and void now. And this is what I call God’s providence. Just as we were planning to move back to Florida when our lease was up in the summer we find out our mom was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. So, that just waaaay added on to our plans to move back home.
I came back home and my mom looked like she was 80. She was walking with a walker, her speech was very slurred. . .Man, this family has endured a lot. Every once in a while my dad shares his recollection of a statement Simisi made not to long after finding out our mom was diagnosed with cancer. “Dad, I would’ve never thought somebody in our family would be diagnosed with cancer.” So, I come back home and had a job already that a friend of mine found for me on Craigslist. Warren, Miami Warren. I have another friend named Warren that lives in Atlanta. This is a true friend man and God’s providence showed with how he happened to find this job for me that I applied to and got in March while I was still in Atlanta before I even knew my mom was sick. But, it was a summer job, so I was looking for jobs for after this one was going to be finished in July before I even started. Before I even moved! I was getting soooo nervous when it was getting closer to the end of my summer job man. Again! It was happening again! I was getting call-backs and scheduling interviews for after my job was done. But, nothing was sticking again. The reason why I didn’t want to come back to Florida was happening again; the trash job market that treated me so unfortunately when I was here before I left. I was more optimistic this time though. I had a different mindset and approach to finding work now. I was just looking for anykind of work! In my field, out my field, I didn’t care. I was open to almost anything that I felt could enhance my resume. Now, I’m creating profiles on all these job search engines during this time: Monster.com; Careerbuilder; Indeed; Florida Jobs, or something like that; etc., school websites, I applied to sub in two counties. My sister-in-law Stephannie actually got a job for me in Tampa working in the school system for a little over $8 an hour, but I didn’t think it was worth it. For me to move two hours away and live with my brother and his expecting wife for $8 an hour and I would be in an 8-month commitment. So, I couldn’t leave if I found something better. And even if I could leave I wouldn’t make Stephannie look that good for me working there, and then leaving not too long after I started. I actually had a job opportunity in Tampa at Home Shopping Network (HSN) too. Before I moved, but I stayed with the summer camp job because I had already committed to them.
Groundhog Day again. I was being productive in my days, but everyday just seemed the same man. I had been ready to settle down and dating wasn’t working out for me. A girl I’d reconnected with from college, who I was interested in, I found out she had a boyfriend the day I was going to tell her how I felt about her (chuckle). I even sent her an Edible arrangement on her birthday. I knew things were going to get better, but it was just going to be a matter of time. So, I was a little bit down, but I was still anxious. I ended up applying to a graphic designer position at Daytona State College that I felt I was qualified for. I started applying to mainly jobs in Daytona because I didn’t want to go back to Tampa and at the moment if I found just something in Daytona that brought me some money I would’ve been okay. I applied to the same position at UCF (University of Central Florida). The pay at Daytona State was more and it was local. That was ideal. But, UCF called me first, on the house phone, to setup an interview. I went to the interview and I remember I felt like I talked too much. That’s what I told my mom. And you know, you can never read interviews. They’re like tests. You can go in and think you did good, but really you didn’t. Or, you can go in and think you did bad and really do good. They ended up offering me the position through an email and I was actually out of town. I didn’t accept it. I was waiting so badly to hear back from Daytona State! But, like I said, I had a different mindset and I couldn’t let thisopportunity pass. I accepted the job. And actually, actually around same time I was supposed to fill out an application for Finish Line.