Black History Month at the Enterprise Hub 3

26 Oct 2020

Black History Month 2020

At the Enterprise Hub, we're throwing the spotlight onto our Black Hub Members to hear their honest views and experiences about working as a Black engineering and technology entrepreneur, and to hear their words of encouragement for future engineers and entrepreneurs.

Oluwaseyi SosanyaSeyi BHM

Oluwaseyi is CEO and Founder of Gravity Sketch, a product design tool that uses virtual reality to improve design processes.

Why is Black History Month important to you?

As a youth, it was a month to honour and show appreciation for trailblazers of the civil rights movement. However, there isn't a day that I don't think about the ones who have come before me and have paved the way enabling me to reach the level I have; in this way, every month is Black History Month for me. As an adult, highlighting this month is particularly important to me as it encourages my peers of non-African origins to better understand just how influential and instrumental Black people have been on the development of the western world and modern society. The month can bring attention to the Black historical influence on our society that is not accounted for in our traditional education. If effectively observed, this month will help my peers better understand me and the other Black people in their social sphere; getting a sense of the challenges, we face on a daily basis.

If you could give one piece of advice to new black engineering entrepreneurs, what would it be?

"You got to work twice as hard"- this is what my stepfather has told me my whole life and I suspect other Black parents have told their children too.

The one thing you can't change is your colour. There are few black faces in the engineering space, it is a long lonely road ahead but can be very rewarding with the right mindset. You will fail and at times and it may be because you weren't given the opportunity to demonstrate your abilities. Get used to "No" and "Sorry but..." and make failure and these words your best friends - you will grow most from the learnings you will gain from this. It all comes down to being resilient. Don't only level up but exceed in your knowledge of the industry, learn the vocabulary and key tools of the trade far before you are prepared to put them into action, as well as build relationships/expand your network from day one. Find allies, both white and black - support must come in all shapes, colours, and forms in order to achieve success in engineering and business in general. 

Throughout my journey, I must work through and bypass daily obstacles, many of which are a result of people who don't feel I belong, don't understand me and why I push myself so hard, or my lack of knowledge in the space. Obstacle are now the norm, I've come to embrace them as a part of my everyday life and am quite excited by the obstacles I face, akin to facing a particularly changing opponent in a game of chess. 

How has the Enterprise Hub helped you in your journey?

The Hub has supported me by putting a spotlight on my company which has helped us, as a team, get in front of customers and investors alike. This opportunity and space to hold the attention of folks that would otherwise be hard to hold, if we were to go at it independently, is key to accelerating as a business. With respect to being a Black entrepreneur, this opportunity essentially gives me credibility as a founder in the eyes of people who may have implicit biases. To them, the Enterprise Hub has vouched for me despite my ethnic background. In some cases, I have gained instantaneous credibility and connections in industry and society that I would have otherwise needed years or great commercial success to develop. 

How has your background helped you and why is diversity and inclusion important for the innovation process? 

Operating in a space with people I share few cultural similarities with places me in scenarios where I naturally stand out, this can be uncomfortable for many. I embrace this and have built up a level of resiliency. It is this resiliency that allows me never to accept "No" as an answer or include "can't" in my vocabulary. Being in an executive position I am constantly speaking with and selling to customers and partners. This relentless persistence and dedication have helped me make the team work in a much more agile way, finding opportunities in places others may not look and fully exploiting any opportunity that we are given.

With a diverse team, we can develop more inclusive products with superior usability compared to our competitors. Empathy is our keen strength, we understand what it is like to be underserved and therefore can better map our experiences to the users' pain points or challenges they look to solve. With greater diversity brings more voices to the conversations which set the path for product development and company strategy.

Truly innovative solutions with deep impact address problems that more than one demographic face. A homogenous team essentially makes it challenging to address a wider more diverse customer set. The best way to design for a diverse audience is to build a diverse team, bringing a variety of insights to the work from the onset and throughout the development process. 


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