Podcaster and creative technologist Abadesi Osunsade on finding herself on technology’s front line
Over the past ten years, Abadesi Osunsade has been shaking up the tech world as we know it. With a focus on eliminating inequality by educating employees and employers alike, Abadesi has gone on to launch a podcast, a business, as well as a book, amongst an array of other things. Every venture has a universal aim – to promote and educate the industry on the subject of inclusivity, which unsurprisingly is producing a gaping hole within the tech industry. From helping people navigate salary negotiations to gender and race inequality in the workplace, Abadesi has dedicated her life to ensuring everyone has a fair chance, regardless of their background. We spoke to the creative technologist to find out how she defines success and what motivated her to enter the arena in the first place.
Head of Maker Outreach, Product Hunt (Oct 2017–Present)
Founder, Hustle Crew (Aug 2016–Present)
Co-Host, Techish podcast (Present)
Author, Dream Big. Hustle Hard (Nov 2017)
London and San Francisco
Google, Pinterest, the BBC, the Mayor of London, AngelList
BSc Economics and Government, London School of Economics (2006–2009)
How would you describe what you do?
In a nutshell, the work I do is about empowering communities and educating employers – that way both parties are equipped to thrive and contribute to a healthy tech ecosystem.
What does a typical working day look like and where does it happen?
I mainly work remotely which means I can be working from home or at a co-working space in London (mainly The Wing). I’ll also go to meetings across London in between.
“In a nutshell, the work I do is about empowering communities and educating employers.”
Tell us about your experience in podcasting and how you use the platform to grow your businesses?
I launched the Techish podcast with Michael Berhane, founder of POCIT, where we explore the intersection of tech, pop culture and life. Understanding how tech intersects with various parts of society is a key part of my work at Hustle Crew and Product Hunt. Running Techish is the perfect way to continue achieving the big goal of making tech more inclusive. We had our very first live London show in November – it sold out with 100 people in attendance!
Can you describe the moment you knew your social enterprise Hustle Crew needed to exist?
The data is undeniable – diverse teams are more successful, and people from underrepresented groups are more than qualified to excel in all kinds of roles – but there’s a gap. Hustle Crew helps close that gap. We provide a variety of resources – podcasts, talks, training and books for individuals and employers to solve this problem head-on.
The year I founded Hustle Crew, I realised that many of my high-achieving male friends who graduated the same year as me, with the same grades (or lower) were working at similar companies and earning either two or three times more than me. I was gobsmacked – where did I go wrong? I negotiated every salary I was offered, I asked for pay rises at regular intervals and most importantly, I worked my ass off. There are unseen discussions and informal mentors that people with privilege have more access to than others. That’s how Hustle Crew was born.
How collaborative is your role?
When I transitioned from full-time founder to side-hustler, I soon realised that unless I hired more people for Hustle Crew I would soon burn out. I am grateful I have an incredible community to source talent from. Some of the first Hustle Crew members now run side hustles of their own, and I employ them to keep my business running – they manage our marketing channels and CRM; they manage finance and operations; like me, they do all of this on top of their full-time jobs. They are outstanding.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
It’s incredibly rewarding to support people in the first steps of their career. We’re one of the many communities working hard to restore the inequalities in tech, which is brilliant. Juggling so many balls can be challenging though!
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
There are so many – I’ve loved running Future Start-up Now (FSN), in collaboration with Create Jobs and the Mayor of London. FSN runs courses to help young people in London aged 18-24 to break into operations, marketing and relationship management roles with companies like Depop and Airbnb.
Is there a resource that has particularly helped you?
One book I love is Ask for It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want. Being confident enough to negotiate your worth is essential to thriving in the workplace and closing the inequality gap. Negotiation isn’t just about money, it’s about all the things that you value as an individual. We run regular workshops exclusively focused on this to help people feel confident in the negotiation process.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
My parents wanted me to pursue a traditional career as either an economist or lawyer. I began defining success on my own terms, which led me to tech.
How do you think your upbringing influenced your choice of career?
As a second generation immigrant, it can be tempting to want to take the ‘safe’ or ‘traditional’ route. But at the very same time, being a second generation immigrant has also given me the privilege of exploring more options than my parents had.
Did you study at degree level and if so, do you feel you need a formal education for what you do?
I studied an economics and government degree at LSE. Employers still rely on signals to judge candidates, but I like to think I could have excelled in my roles without my degree. Although, I do acknowledge that attending university gave me privileges I didn't initially have, and those privileges opened doors.
After graduating, what were your initial steps?
When I first graduated at the height of the financial crisis, my only career priority was to secure paid employment. As each year went by and my experience of the workplace grew, so did my priorities. When I found myself producing conferences for investment bankers in the city and making lots of commission on sales, I suddenly realised financial stability wasn’t enough to fulfil me. I wanted to be in a fast-paced environment at the forefront of innovation. That’s what drew me to tech.
“When I found myself producing conferences for investment bankers and making lots of commission, I suddenly realised financial stability wasn’t enough to fulfil me.”
What’s been your biggest challenge along the way?
You would be surprised at how many people (straight, middle-class, white males) don’t believe tech has a diversity problem. When I started Hustle Crew in 2016, I was met with a lot of doubt. But I’m grateful to the minority of individuals who believed that I was onto something – their conviction fuelled mine. Their unwavering support stopped me from quitting; their network became my first clients, and those clients referred more.
What have been your biggest learnings with making money?
Ask for it!
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to an emerging creative wanting to get into the same line of work?
The sooner you start the quicker you learn. Sounds obvious, right? And yet how many of you have an idea still sitting in your mind that you haven’t shared with the world or tested? I spent so many years fighting my entrepreneurial urges, waiting to feel like I was ready. Guess what? I’m still not ready. But I’m in the game. I’m learning. The most valuable lessons are those we learn through experience. So start experimenting and leverage that experience.
Introduction by Siham Ali
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