Juliette Schlegl: A Life with a Myriad of Jobs, From Music to Finance
A multilingual singer, composer, songwriter, dancer, journalist, author, content creator, there is nothing that Juliette Schlegl cannot do. A myriad of careers was nothing new, born in Cameroon to a poor family, the singer turned entrepreneur juggled various jobs from braiding hair to sowing grains to make ends meet. Surrounded by her grandmother’s singing and the Church choir, Juliette’s life was filled with music but it was only when she poured out a heartfelt song after her mother’s death, she knew this was the path to follow. From the creative world of music to the strategic world of finance and management, Juliette has now ventured down a new path and launched Schlegl Accounta.
How was your childhood, and how has it shaped who you are today?
We were a family of two living in a big house with four rooms built with rammed red earth. I slept beside my grandmother until I was six years old before I was sent to my paternal uncle’s home with the promise of an education. My uncle did not keep his promise to my grandmother. Instead of spending my school years in Douala, I spent my days taking care of his children and house. He was an alcoholic, and his violent tendencies whilst drinking often met his wife and I were the victims of his beating. My grandmother was furious to learn her son had not kept her promise when she came to visit. Whilst she cooked and cleaned, she would sit me down and tell me about the significance of a free person, the importance of dreaming, and reminded me to not end up with a life like hers. Making my own way from Douala to Dschang, I returned to my grandmother’s house, once again sleeping on small bamboo chairs without a mattress. I fell every night, and my grandmother said: “I cannot offer you more than that. One day, I will not be here, and you will work hard on this earth to be able to lie on a bed”. Nothing in this world can replace the relationship I had with my grandmother. We used to sing whilst on the farm, whilst working, laughing and playing around.
I would visit my parents every day, and my mum would explain why they had to give me away. Why me and not another girl from the family? I was desperate to stay and play with my sisters and brothers, but at the end of the day, I had to return to my grandmother. I used to be filled with so much anger but now looking back, I miss my time with my grandmother. When I was sick, she would stay up all night taking care of me. It’s not the joyful time but the tough time that brings people together. She taught me never to focus only on one side of the story when people are fighting, but instead, view the whole picture.
She gave me some of the best and most memorable years of my life. I miss my grandmother and my parents, brothers and sisters, my community, every single day. They are and will always be in my heart! My childhood helped me tackle all the difficulties and barriers that I came by and made me the person that I am today.
You are a multilingual singer and songwriter, but you also juggle numerous careers such as freelance journalist, dancer, and social media content creator. How do you balance all these elements of your life?
You might have noticed that I was born in a poor family in Africa that forced me to juggle numerous tasks to survive. I did small trades like braiding hair, cultivating fields, sowing grains, planting trees like bananas, coffee, etc. I then harvested those plants to sell and gave the money to my grandmother, or paid my school fees. From crushing and cooking cassava sticks to sell, sewing my own clothes, knitting sheets, braising fish, to frying doughnuts – my childhood was filled with countless tasks like these.
Having done all these trades and with the help of a good Samaritan, I was able to obtain my Baccalaureate D (GCE-Advanced Level) and travelled to the Ivory Coast for higher studies. Unfortunately, the Good Samaritan passed away, and I wound up working in a biscuit factory and delivering English lessons to children to survive.
When I arrived in Germany, my journey was not easy. A black woman had no chance of succeeding on all fronts, I used to hear from people around me. Going from hardship to hardship, I was able to graduate from International Business School in Berlin and a Bachelor from Sunderland University, London and obtained a degree in SAP (Financing/Controlling) with distinction. All the attempts to obtain a job in Germany and especially in Cologne were without success. I decided to go to Ireland (Dublin). Working and looking at the misery on the African continent, I became an activist on Facebook and applied to write on Africa Voice Newspaper. I worked there as a columnist for almost 2 years. I wrote more about the life of children, young people, and women in Africa, education, access to basic necessities, etc.
It’s not easy for a single mom. I have been homeless many times. It is hard to describe how hard it is to wake up in the morning and hear that you have to leave where you have been living with your family. All these incidents destabilized my life. I never had the chance to have a permanent position. So, If I worked for two years at a place, then I had to look for another position.
Your music is a key part of your life. What or who has been the biggest inspiration behind your music?
I started singing and playing music at a young age with my grandmother, Lucia, and my community. I still remember the wonderful time I spent singing in the choir at the church every Sunday. I used to play various traditional instruments and dance at different occasions such as weddings, funerals and celebrating newborns.
Born in West-Cameroon in Africa, I moved to Ivory Coast to pursue my studies after my GCE-Advanced Level in Cameroon. The death of my mother was a tragic period of my life that left me with depression. I was fighting against our bad financial condition, especially to support my father and younger children. At that time, I was abroad, far from my family, I had no money to go back to my mother’s funeral. I cried for days and nights, not knowing what to do. I was on the verge of losing my student room and ending up on the streets. This is how I decided to write a poem for my mother. I placed it on my student table that my Ivorian friend happened to read. She consoled and encouraged me to look to the future. She said, “Julyka! You are a great singer. Why don’t you put a melody to this song?” I found a producer who agreed to produce this album, and with the money I received, I returned to Cameroon to mourn my mother.
In my album Éternité de Délices, produced in 1999 in Ivory Coast, I paid tribute to my mother while singing a title UNITÉ which called for peace, tolerance on the African continent. I was really tired of seeing the misery on the continent because, in Abidjan, I was surrounded by young students like me at the time, victims of the war in Rwanda and the Congo. I kept wondering about the motives and how I could contribute to bringing a little more peace to the continent.
In Africa, when children grow up, they are well informed to which tribe they belong, and I am a Bamileke, a Queen or “Maffo” in West-Cameroon languages. My community was so hardworking. We gathered every Sunday after church to sing and dance which inspired me a lot to be a singer. We did not have any radio or television. Singing at the church and with my community on different occasions has been a gift from the universe. This is why I decided to sing in remembrance of all who inspired me to be a singer. And in my upcoming album, I will let the public explore more about my traditions and styles of music. Africa is culturally-rich, and I would like to share more of my artistic music with the world.
You have incredible talent as both a composer and a vocal performer. What does your songwriting process look like?
I like the number 10. Why? As my upcoming Business book holds the title “10 Business Steps to Monetize your Gift – A Guide for Artists,” I also apply 10 Steps for writing any of my songs.
1. Firstly, I find the melody without lyrics and record it.
2. I compose the title of my song. I think deeply about the heart of the message I want to share with the public and ensure that no one has used it before.
3. Then I start writing my fantasy, feelings, my contribution to make the world a better place, and live experiences. I also have inherited a storytelling trait from my grandmother. Before delivering my ideas, I make sure that the text is equipped with what my listeners want to hear.
4. I organise or choose my song structure. Here I use the symbiose structure that I learned from the church as a chorist or from other celebrities like Miriam Makeba, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Shakira, Helene Fischer, Rihanna and others.
5. I always try to sort out a Temporary Chorus, Verse and Bridge. This is one of the most interesting phases of my process. I have to put my words into Chorus, Verse, Bridge and express my emotions, feelings. This has to fit my melody.
6. Adding Chord – at this stage, I try to be that simple, play with my melody, and the chords until I find something I like. This is the moment when I sing or hum on the chord, progression to experiment or use my background music track.
7. The Rhyming Phase – Not only do I connect the words that rhyme, but I also find pairs of sentences that go with my chorus and verse.
8. Connection of Chorus, Verse, and Bridge – Here I explore my concept and add bridge, final chorus, and connect my melody to the lyrics.
9. Then I build my intro.
10. I record a Demo and search for a guitarist who can listen to my music, and then we start putting the song together.
This is how I produce my song!
You are juggling numerous jobs – do you have a favourite? What has been the highlight of your career?
I am a polyglot, native French, and German Citizen, and I speak English and Spanish. I am a versatile personality and have been serving as Assistant Manager in Communication, Coordinator, PCA, Billing Manager, Collector in Debt Company, Financial Accounting Specialist, managing with Apple and Dell portfolio, and more – and performing all the roles in multiple languages.
When I didn’t have a permanent role, it was because I was overqualified. I decided to do other temporary jobs to gain income and take care of my family. As a single mom, I did not have other choices. Juggling two or more jobs is challenging, but I tried my best to stay organized and focused. I always aspired to set goals that could help me visualize the overall picture of what I wished to accomplish. I’ve been working two or more jobs in different countries in search of stability and I had established a handsome balance. Those jobs blessed me with a wealth of confidence, expertise, and experience to tackle multiple tasks at the same time. I learned some strategies to ease my work-packed life that I would like to share with people experiencing the same situation.
The highlight of my career was working as Financial Accounting Specialist (Consultant), a contract role with BMW GROUP, Munich in Germany. Firstly, my family members and people in my surrounding discouraged me that black women (immigrants from Africa) would never get any certificate (BWL) in Germany, especially in Bayern. I was also informed that Bayern was very conservative and a black woman like me would never be accepted in any corporate job.
I was discouraged many times, but I never stopped and continued learning and working very hard. Starting with BMW Group and watching my contract being extended twice for the completion of the project was amazing! My exceptional experience with BMW Group made me think that “Everything is possible.” We should never allow negative thoughts to command us.
Working for BMW Group was a dream that became a reality only because of my positive thoughts, true spirit, and day and night struggle. When I look back, I wonder where I was born, my untiring struggle, and challenging paths, I say: “It is never too late!”
You are in the process of launching a start-up company in finance and management called SCHLEGL Accounta. What sparked this decision, and what challenges you have faced on the way?
In order to survive and get financially strong, I turned my hobbies into business. My start-up plan characterizes a multilingual (German, French, English, and Spanish) International Office and Accounting Service. It aims at sole proprietorship and medium-sized companies who want to outsource their finance/bookkeeping or office organization to an external partner for various reasons. Concentrating on core competency is becoming more and more significant in today’s future competitive environment. I will be launching my International Office and Accounting Service in Munich around the middle of the year. Challenges do come in every business, especially in the early stages. My biggest challenge is how I could fund my first start-up! I need Angel Financing, Venture Capital, or small company credits, partners, and helpers. So, here’s an excellent opportunity for any person who can help me transform this project into reality.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone, whether they’re a musician or entrepreneur, what would it be?
We all know that the journey of any entrepreneur and musician is full of risks, but we should adopt a positive mindset to make a difference:
- Let’s make a foundation for our children, the next generation.
- Time is precious – let’s not be lazy, but hardworking.
- Let’s stay organised
- Let’s be positive, live together, dream together, help each other to achieve our goals.
- The more we share with others, the more we get back.
- Knowledge is power. All children should have access to education around the world.
- Last but not least, never give up!