POSITION: President and managing partner, Roplab IT Solutions LLC
LIFELONG AMBITION: To extend business to Africa and Asia
FAVORITE BOOK: “To Seek a Newer World,” by Robert F. Kennedy
GUILTY PLEASURE: Shopping for designer clothes
Raphael O. Okelola started his career very far from the IT world where he’s now making his mark. Though born in Washington, D.C., he grew up in Nigeria, and when it was time to go to college, he chose to study agricultural engineering and soil and water conservation engineering at Ado-Ekiti, a federal polytechnic school in Nigeria.
At the time, the government was pumping a lot of money into agriculture, he said, and he figured this would create good career opportunities.
But when he graduated, his father encouraged him to continue studying in the United States, so Okelola moved to Providence in 1997 to take classes at Rhode Island College. He pursued a master’s degree in computer science – again, for the career prospects.
While in school, he worked as part of the technical support team for Rhode Island College, and he and other students took lots of calls from professors who didn’t just want help at work, but also in their homes and businesses.
“We thought: Why don’t we just start up a company?” Okelola said.
When he and six other students incorporated Roplab IT Solutions LLC in 1998, it was a relatively small operation. But business has grown by 50 percent in the last two years, he said.
What’s driving the growth is the company’s focus on serving IT solutions to small businesses.
Often small businesses can’t afford the IT solutions offered by big companies, Okelola said. Because Roplab IT Solutions is small, with four employees and five managing partners, the company better understands their needs, he said.
In addition to the business, Okelola offers his services to an abundance of organizations that focus on helping the Nigerian community in the United States.
He is a youth coordinator for the Nigerian Community of Rhode Island, president of the Nigerian Frontier of America, team coordinator for Nigerian Green Eagles of Rhode Island Soccer Team and a member of the Providence African Leadership Council, an initiative started by Mayor David N. Cicilline.
His desire to help others, especially the Nigerian community, stems from his father, who is secretary for Amnesty International’s Nigerian branch, he said.