Justina Molokwu is a UMD IO Master's program alum and Human Capital Consultant.
How did you find out about the field of IO psychology?
So I actually have been interested in IO psychology since senior year of high school. I had been thinking a lot about my talents and at that point, I was ready to start my college experience that would lead to whatever I did with the rest of my life. I was taking an AP psychology class, and I had always had interest in it, and I was really good at it. I knew that counseling psychology was probably not the avenue that I wanted to go. And at that point, I was also in a student banker internship program. They introduced us to a lot of corporate professionals, and we got to hear a lot of their stories. That's when I decided to connect my love of business and psychology, because I found that I had a passion for both. In my research, Industrial/ Organizational psychology came up. I tried to look for a college that had it, but it was so new back in 2013, and there were not any reputable programs for it. I ended up double majoring in psychology and organization and management studies, with a specific track to intra-organizational development. When the organization that I was working for at the time was doing a lot of things that I knew were wrong based on my undergraduate education, I was like, okay, I want to have that certification, I want to have the ability to speak on this and have the authority to be able to recommend changes, not just in that organization, but generally. I wanted my work to more closely align with my passions. So that's when I found UMD.
How did UMD's IO MPS prepare you for your current role?
I feel as though I knew what IO psychology was about beforehand, but just being able to speak to what I learned in all of my courses; change management, analytics, performance management, has helped me solidify my knowledge base and be a more confident practitioner. I'm putting IO concepts to use in my role right now in a specific project that I'm doing, creating a survey interviewing talent. Every single thing that I learned in grad school, I'm putting to use today. And that makes me so happy, because my goal in life was to move into something that I was more passionate about, and I'm able to do that. Every day I feel like this program prepared me for that so expertly. I'm using everything that I've learned on a day to day basis.
How has your path changed since you first envisioned yourself in this role?
I think that the way my path changed is that I developed a deeper commitment to what I wanted to do. Back in high school, it was just an idea, just a thought, and now I'm going through all these years of education, gaining real world experience, and being able to put my skills together on projects. First in grad school, and now in the workforce. I’ve been making real, actionable changes to real organizations. I'm working with the Department of Commerce right now. So I think I wouldn't say my path has changed, I think it has become more clear.
What is a fun fact about you that no one would guess? What’s one item that you can’t live without?
One fun fact that is not immediately apparent, unless you go on my Instagram, is that I have been to 26 countries. I'm a very avid traveler. I cannot live without my passport, for sure, because I like to be overseas.
What were the top 3 “wow” experiences of your travels?
One that comes to mind immediately was going to the elephant jungle sanctuary in Phuket, Thailand. It was facing my fears, and also experiencing something so unique at the same time. I was never afraid of elephants, but when I got there and realized how big they were, I was like, I don't know if I can do this! But they ended up being so friendly. One of them actually took a liking to me and started following me around. It was magical. I want to go back specifically for that elephant. Hopefully she’s there, because, you know, they don't forget, and I’m hoping she’ll remember me.
Another was going back to Nigeria, where I was born. I came here when I was five, only going back to Nigeria when I was 11. I had forgotten a lot about everything. Being there with my family, you know, eating my traditional food- the food, I mean, the difference is ridiculous. The spices are just more fresh. My palette was satiated, it was great. Being an immigrant, I don't have a lot of family out here, so being surrounded by my people was amazing for me, especially at that young age. I was there with my cousins, and we were all relaxing together. So that was fun.
Another would have to be Japan. When I was younger, my face was always in a book and I read a lot of manga. Seeing Japan in real life was incredible. Being able to see things that were described to me in books, and to experience them and taste them, to take pictures with temples and eat takoyaki, all of it- it was like living my fantasies. And when you go to a place that you've only envisioned, you don't know what you'll find, and there are some upsets. I came to some hard truths over there, and thought, okay, this is not all that it was cracked up to be. But for the most part, I loved it. I would go back to Japan.
What is the best piece of advice or feedback you have ever received?
Basically, it’s the idea of what's the point of people liking you if you don't like yourself. Be who you want to be, so that you can be proud of who you are. I think that really stuck for me, and I was recently thinking about when I went to college and asked myself, who do you want to be and what would make you happy with the life that you have? I worked in banking for two years and realized that it wasn’t fulfilling for me, and this is what convinced me to take this leap. I left that employer in January of 2020, started grad school in February, and the pandemic started in March. And honestly, where I am today was worth all of that fear and all of the worries that I had. It was all worth it.