The Elevator: Studying Law Led Me To Tech – Pearlé Nwaezeigwe

April 12, 2021

The Elevator is a limited Zikoko series that details the growth of young successful Nigerian women. We tell their stories every Monday by 12 p.m. 

Pearlé Nwaezeigwe always knew she wanted to be a lawyer, but she did not know that law would lead her to tech. Now at 26-years-old, Pearle works at TikTok, where she creates policies that protect TikTok’s African users.  


What did you want to be when you were younger?

A teacher. I was obsessed with teaching, so I would steal chalk from my class and take it home to teach imaginary students. Down the road, I still plan to be a professor.

I also wanted to be a lawyer and was inspired by my dad, who’s a lawyer. He would stay up all night reading big books, and I wanted to do that, to advocate for people and be a voice to the voiceless. I wanted to be the attorney general for the Federation of Nigeria. I wanted to do something very ambitious, and I thought studying law was the way forward. 

So, you studied law in university?

Yeah, I did and it was intense but at the same time, I knew I was meant to do it. I am grateful I went to University of Lagos because that’s where I joined the Mooting Society. I would go for competitions, mock court cases, and I got to travel to the US for conferences. This exposed me to things a lot of my classmates were not exposed to, and I realised that my life was beyond Nigeria. Unilag’s hustle spirit helped make me who I am today. 

What was your first job?

I was an intern at Chocolate City. I was interested in intellectual property law, so my aunt spoke to the general manager of Chocolate City at the time, and I got an internship. It was an interesting experience. Sometimes you would come to work and MI will be beside you writing songs. I was there for a couple of months.

Nice. What did you do there?

Well, it was a lot of reading contracts and trying to be sure that artists didn’t get screwed by companies. Also, creating contracts that kept artists comfortable and engaged. I worked with a lawyer who walked me through the process. 

My experience at Chocolate City helped me see the deficiencies in the music industry and how much of a long way we need to go to protect artists rights. It was really exciting going back and forth and feeling like I was a part of something. Initially I was not supposed to get paid, but they were really impressed with my work ethic, and they paid me. I also got VIP tickets and backstage passes. 

What happened next?

Law school. Law school is a place you can’t survive without resilience. The program, the grading, the back to back exams, was a lot. I stayed up long nights studying for the bar exam and made really good friends, but I won’t wish law school on my worst enemy. You have to be sure you want to study law because Nigerian law school is not for the weak. 

After law school, I worked at a law firm and I didn’t really like it.  Usually, a lawyer is useful at any firm they find themselves in, but the law firm I worked in was very litigation centric. I was at the court all the time filing documents that did not make sense. After I left the law firm, I went to get my masters in International Law and International Human Rights in UC Berkeley. I was 24. 

What was UC Berkeley like?

Well, I wouldn’t say it was an Ivy League university, but our major competition was Stanford. It was nice being in that space and having classmates that have worked in major companies. The school was in Silicon Valley so we were surrounded by Facebook, Google and so many tech companies. My plan when I got there was to work in the UN, but I found myself doing research on the impact of human rights on technology. 

Do you think Silicon Valley had anything to do with that change?

Definitely. UC Berkeley is known for human rights, civil liberties and technology. For my project, we collaborated with Microsoft and Google. They wanted to know the impact their products were having on human rights, specifically on children’s rights. I was able to understand that there was an intersection of human rights and technology. After my degree, I got my current job and moved all the way to Ireland. 

What job, and why Ireland?

Well, I work for TikTok where I create policies on behalf of the company to ensure that the rights of users are protected. My focus is to create policies that protect African users on the African continent.

On why Ireland, Dublin in Ireland is like the Silicon Valley of Europe. TikTok has its own office here and most of the African activities in these tech companies usually happens in Dublin. 

How Do You Protect African Users at TikTok?

We create policies on behalf of the company to ensure that while people can say whatever they want online, they cannot abuse that power and spread homophobic, sexist or racist content and fake news. So, we create policies that protect people’s freedom of expression and safety. Those are the kind of hard things we have to do on the policy team— we ask, how do we create policies that protect Africa?

Were there any major stumbling blocks you faced along the way? 

One of my challenges was getting this job. A whole year after I finished from UC Berkeley, I was searching for a job. I went for more than thirty interviews with all the big companies like Facebook and Twitter. The rejections really affected my self-esteem. People who knew me kept asking why I did not go into legal counsel or work at a law firm and do what everyone else was doing, but I just knew that tech policy was what I wanted to do. I realised that people these tech companies hire are those that have a lot of experience and then there was me who was fresh out of graduate school. So, I went to a lot of conferences and studied my ass off because I had to prove myself. One thing that helped was that I was also very good at cold emailing. There was nobody I would reach out to that would not respond —  I even got to speak to the vice president of Twitter. 

Wow. How did that even happen?

Well, I ran into her on an elevator during a conference, so I decided to tweet at her. I also mentioned in my tweet that they had a job opening, and I really wanted to join the team. She sends me a job link and I told her I had already applied for the job and I even tagged the job recruiter saying I was waiting for his reply. The next day, I got a call from the recruiter. He said, “the vice president of Twitter sent me a dm and told me to have an interview with you.” Unfortunately, it was difficult to get a work permit in the US because my role wasn’t that popular and the country didn’t rate me. I cried. 

How were you able to move from that?

I had come too far to quit on myself. There were very few black women in these roles and I did not want them to remove one less black woman, so I kept going. I wanted to succeed in that one thing people thought I was not going to be able to do. 

I also had other challenges, like my health. They found lumps in my breasts and I was dealing with severe migraines. Coupled with the fact that I was so far from family, it was very hard.

What are some lessons you learned in this journey?

Well, I learnt that every dream is valid. Society wants you to be one thing, but you can be so many. You are allowed to shift and be whatever you want to be. Another thing is that you have to believe in yourself. It is easier said than done, and it is hard to not compare yourself with others, but I had to snap out of it. Also, I learnt to be extra. I do not want to be in a crowd and blend in. I always want to stand out. Lastly, you need to learn balance. You need to balance friends and school and work and life in general.

Are there any women you look up to?

Beyoncé. Her work ethic is amazing and she keeps beating her own standard. She reinvents herself every time and she is black excellence personified. Before my interviews, I would play a Beyoncé song and take in some of that energy. She goes 100 and inspires me to be extra. Another person is my mum. My mum taught me humility and that had helped me get some opportunities I know I would not have gotten. She is like my best friend. My headmistress was also important to my development. She taught me almost everything I know when it comes to creativity and allowed us to be expressive. She made me feel like I could do anything if I put my mind to it. She passed away when I was 10 from cancer, and it was very hard for me. 

What is something you are really proud of yourself for doing?

When I was in Unilag, I founded the first Model UN conference in Lagos. Trying to raise funds and asking people to register was very rocky. I also had to train my friends on how to be directors and secretary generals etc., but it all paid off. The dean was super impressed and gave us three days off from classes; he also gave us free WiFi. Now the conference is six years running. The second thing is that I wrote a book about my life last year. I am really proud of myself for doing that. I plan to be more intentional about promoting the book this year.

How do you rest with all of these things going on?

I rest by sleeping. I actually do not joke with my sleep and I keep my weekends open for me. Sometimes I play loud music and just dance in my living room. 

Nice! What’s next for you?  

I have always had structure in my life, but for the first time, I can say I do not really know what is next. What I do know is that I am destined for greatness. 

For more stories about women, please click here

Subscribe here.


Zikoko Donation Banner

Help Zikoko keep making the content you love

More than ever, people are turning to Zikoko for stories that matter and content they love. But still, we, like many media organisations, are feeling the financial heat of these times. If you find us valuable, please make a contribution to help keep Zikoko zikoko-ing.

Thank you for your support.

We are also cool with Crypto.

Donation Close
Zikoko Logo

Complete Your Commitment

Donation confirm

Your Contribution is confirmed! Amount

Itohan Esekheigbe

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

January 14, 2021

Infertility is something Nigerian women sometimes struggle with. With a lot of importance placed on women’s ability to have children, what happens when you cannot? Four Nigerian women share their individual struggles with infertility. Kemi My sister is 40, and has been trying for a baby for about ten years. I think few years into […]

March 22, 2021

What actually makes something expensive? These eleven Nigerian women share the most expensive thing they own. Bimpe, 26 I had a job that paid a lot, and so I used the money to buy some land that cost about 1 million naira. Now, I heard land around that area costs about 1.5 to 2 million […]

Watch

Now on Zikoko

May 6, 2021

Nigerians do not have the best relationship with Nigerian thrift stores online. Depending on who you ask, they are either coordinated outlets for overpriced products or they are also outlets for overpriced products that never live up to the hype their fine pictures promise. And because Nigerians always have a thing or two to get […]

Love life: closure
May 6, 2021

Abeni*, 22, and Ifunanya*, 26, met on Twitter and dated for six months. Today on Love Life, they talk about their relationship and why it ended abruptly even though it was the best one they had both been in.  What is your earliest memory of each other? Ifunanya: One day, I was scrolling on Twitter […]

Recommended Quizzes

October 30, 2019

2010 was a game-changing one for Nollywood, with our movies making serious cash and getting international acclaim. So, which of these hits released between 2010 and 2019 — from the pace-setting The Wedding Party to the divisive Trip To Jamaica — best suits your personality? Well, that’s what this quiz is here to answer:

November 25, 2019

We already guessed how many people you’ve slept with, and y’all were out here denying the truth. Anyway, we won’t hold that against you. This time, however, we’ve created a quiz that predicts who you’ll sleep with next — so you can either prepare or try (unsuccessfully) to prevent it. So, take and see:

January 2, 2020

Do you have even a single romantic bone in your body? Well, if you’re not sure about just how sweet and thoughtful you can be to someone you love, that’s what this quiz is here to answer. 11 Quizzes For Nigerians Who Are Ready To Marry  Are you ready to marry? Take these quizzes.

More from Her

Hedge Witch
May 5, 2021

As told to Mariam I have known Wendy for about three years and during this time, I have watched her go from being irreligious to religious and back to being irreligious. As an irreligious person myself, I was curious about her journey so sometime in March I asked her. Here’s what she told me:   I […]

May 5, 2021

The subject of today’s What She Said is a 34-year-old Nigerian woman who grew up getting everything she asked for. She talks about constantly pursuing enjoyment, and how that led to her leaving her cheating husband and raising her two children independently.  What was it like growing up?  I had a pretty happy childhood. I […]

May 4, 2021

The culture of invalidating women and shutting down their experiences because people are uncomfortable with the conversation needs to die. The idea of tagging women-centred conversations as an agenda is a shallow and unfair attempt at creating a distraction. To counter this, we have compiled a list of things Nigerian women do not need a […]

Funniest Misconception Of Lesbians
April 29, 2021

Lesbian Visibility week started on April 26th. It is a week set aside to celebrate lesbians around the world. Being a lesbian in Nigeria sometimes involves listening to people volunteering their assumptions about lesbians. In this article, I asked 7 Nigerian lesbians the funniest misconception of lesbians they’ve heard. Here’s what they had to say: […]

April 28, 2021

The subject of this week’s What She Said is a 56-year-old woman whose parents sent her to live with her half-sister at the age of seven. She talks about going to Benin city, moving schools, and suffering from abuse at the hands of her half-sister and her family. What is your earliest memory of your childhood? […]

April 27, 2021

Period poverty is when you cannot afford proper hygiene products during your period. Products like tampons, menstrual cups, sanitary pads, etc. These seven Nigerian women share times in their lives when they have experienced period poverty. Ade, 20 There was a time I had to used paper towels. Luckily, I happened to find an actual […]

Biggest sexual pet peeves
April 27, 2021

Sex is amazing and all but sometimes, people do things that turn us off either during or after sex. I asked ten Nigerian women what their biggest sexual pet peeves are. Here’s what they had to say:  Ebitare, 21 I hate it when I am kissing a guy and he pulls away to push my […]

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.
X