23 Apr FM TALKS: CAREERS! Working in Tech, Understanding Startups & The Embedding Of Inclusivity.
FM Talks: Careers!
Part 3/3: Working in Tech, Understanding Startups
& The Embedding Of Inclusivity
With Abadesi Osunsade
Welcome back to the final installment of our three-part series on careers, where we’re speaking to Abadesi Osunsade about all things work related!
Previously, we talked with Abadesi Osunsade about finding meaningful work and the kinds of challenges that women (and underrepresented women in particular) face in the workplace. (If you missed them, you can still catch part 1 here and part 2 here)!
This time, we’re discussing technology and start-ups, deciphering the mystery that surrounds them and clarifying questions regarding diversity & inclusivity, what it means to be a ‘techie’ and what you should think about if you’re considering joining a startup.
Since launching her career advancement community Hustle Crew in autumn 2016, Abadesi Osunsade has helped thousands of 20-somethings from diverse backgrounds land jobs in tech or progress their careers. In her book “Dream Big, Hustle Hard” she shares advice, activities and frameworks for building a fulfilling career.
Your own professional history has been working for technology businesses. What have your personal experiences of diversity in the tech industry been like?
The reality is the tech industry in the US and UK is about one fifth women. That’s not a lot. It means in every company I’ve worked for on average I can count four men to every one of me. What does that mean for the culture of a tech company? As the scandals have shown they can very quickly become toxic as male privilege blinds colleagues to their inappropriate behaviour. I certainly have experienced many negative things at work as a result of being a woman and a woman of colour. I’ve had inappropriate remarks made about my appearance. I’ve had my hair touched without my permission. I was once even told by a male colleague when I told him I applied for an internal role that I was unlikely to get it because they were looking for “a big dog”! A bitch wouldn’t do, I suppose? But this is a challenge across most corporate environments which is why there are so many advocates like me impatient to see change. And also why there are so many incredible communities and initiatives cropping up like Project Include and Ada’s List to solve the problem.
// I’ve Had My Hair Touched Without My Permission. //
Where do you think this lack of representation is stemming from and is what do you think could be done to alleviate it?!
This is a really big and important question and shouldn’t be taken lightly or answered with oversimplified brevity here. The Kapor Centre recently published a powerful report on tech’s leaky pipeline which dives deep into the multiple causes of underrepresentation. It’s powerful stuff. In terms of solutions there are so many experts in this space that company leaders should invest resources in – from Fearless Futures to Vision Awaken – there are professionals developing programmes and solutions for businesses of all sizes. As individuals it’s important for each of us to be aware of our privilege and not put the burden of educating and explaining on oppressed people. We should also use our privilege to empower those with less. We should adopt a mindset of empathy and inclusion in everything we do.
For someone who might be thinking about a career change and hearing that tech could be interesting, what are the key things you think they need to be aware of?
Familiarise yourself with all the tech jargon, it’s particularly important to understand what different maturities of tech companies mean, for example, “pre-seed” or “Series B”. The maturity of a company impacts your role, your autonomy and your progression. Also take time to learn about the different verticals and roles. Get on social media to research companies, causes and founders and seek advice from experts – you can join communities like Hustle Crew or read my careers advice book on Amazon.
// Familiarise Yourself With All The Tech Jargon. //
People are launching startups all over the place, and it seems like there are always opportunities to be had in them. But how do you figure out which startups you’d like to work for and which could be a good match for you?
As someone who advocates for social justice and equal opportunities in the workplace, the values of the leadership and company are something I investigate thoroughly. I also look to whether the mission works toward inclusion in some way, and if the role I am in gives me authority to empower as broad an audience as possible, particularly those underrepresented.
I also look at what past employees have to say about the leadership and work experience by checking Glassdoor and reaching out to individuals over social media. I also look at how employers value their employees fuller lives – is work life balance supported through flexible working for example? On a personal level I want to know that the current employees are people I can laugh with and learn from.
You’re a start-up yourself! It’s kind of meta, but what do you advise for SME owners when it comes to devising inclusive employment policies?
Ensure your values are such that inclusion will be a default. Once you hammer out those values collectively – live them in every one of your words and actions. It’s often said that your culture is your first ten hires. So you if you want to work in a diverse team ensure your first ten hires reflect that. Lastly, don’t look for silver bullets or quick fixes. Understand that it is an ongoing process that will require effort, reflection and revision.
Think about who’s sitting at the table when you’re creating that strategy. Are the people most affected by it participating in the conversation? Are those with the most power to change things participating in the conversation? Link in an expert and then enjoy the benefits and outwit the competition.
What’s next for Hustle Crew?
Our mission is to help ambitious millennials from underrepresented backgrounds learn more and earn more than their peers. We are an intersectional organisation and work closely with other communities to accelerate progress on the inclusion front. I’m currently on a book tour for #DreamBigHustleHard, speaking at communities in tech and on campus around the world and we’re running workshops and events sharing our tools and frameworks to empower individuals and organisations to be more productive and inclusive.
One more weapon in our fight to break down barriers to tech is our latest product, Non Tech Tech, a mentor directory and Slack community for people in tech. You can easily sign up to mentor or find a mentor; whether you’re still a student or already working or you’re already in tech or just trying to find out more about how to break in! We want to teach everyone that there is so much more to working in tech than coding. I hope more people realise that whether you’re creative, analytical, an extrovert or an introvert, there’s an existing role you could do. You don’t need to be a “techie” to work in tech!
Later this year I’ll release my second book sharing advice on how to climb the corporate ladder once you’re a few years in, from combatting imposter syndrome to negotiating pay rises like a boss.