Adekunle Oduye, Product Designer
How and why did you get involved in tech
Most of my studies from elementary school to college focused on the arts, specifically painting. I made the switch to graphic design during my latter years in college where I took courses around typography, photography and design theory. Unrelated to that, I also studied economics to gain a more balance education. It gave me the chance to train both my creative and critical thinking.
My first gig was at a boutique design agency where I got exposed to many different skill sets. Some of the areas I explored was Graphic Design, Logo Design, Print Design, Web Design, Front-end & Back-end development and SEO (yeah, it was a lot!!!). Being exposed to different areas allowed me to find out what I really wanted to do…which was design and front-end development. After that I did 2 contract positions as a freelance front-end developer where I learned the my basic foundation of front-end development.
Now as a Product Designer, I enjoy working where design meets development. This meaning I can chat about anything from color theory and data visualization to design system and front-end development. I don’t consider myself a “unicorn” but I do like to wear many hats. I possess the ability to take my ideas from concept to completion (which is why I have like a million of side projects).
What is your experience being a POC in Tech?
As a POC in tech, it has been a roller coaster ride for me. I came into the industry knowing that there weren’t many people that looked like me. That added more unnecessary pressure for me at work.
My first couple of years I struggled because I felt like I didn’t belong. Often times I would be the only black person in my department so I felt the need to fit in so my coworkers would like me and feel comfortable with my presence.
Now I’m in a place where I’m comfortable being myself(to a certain extend). It took me a couple of years to figure out what kind of person I wanted to be. But once I did, being a POC in tech has been less of a burden on me.
What advice would you give to a young person who wanted to enter tech?
I had many early morning and late nights when I first started out (I still do till this day). I knew as a young person in tech, especially a black one, that I had to work harder than everyone else. My advice to young people is to work on as many projects as you can. From this, you will find out what you enjoy doing and what you dislike(which is important). A great work ethic eliminates fear and builds confidence.
I knew if I wanted to get exposed to different skills and technologies, I had to explored the unknown. This meant attending events where I didn’t know anybody and being forced to network. This was dreadful for me at first but I eventually got comfortable being in those situations. I have now exceeded those limitations as a seasoned conference speaker. If I didn’t push myself through those fears, I would not be where I am today. So if you fear speaking in front of people or going to places by yourself, I challenge you to face your fears with tenacity and confidence.
Trust the Process
When I started out in tech, I struggled due to fact I wasn’t good. Most of my tech knowledge didn’t come from college, it came from reading books + blogs and practicing everyday. The thing is that “If it was easy, everyone would do”. Trust the process and have faith that eventually you will be in a place where you are producing great work.
Surround yourself with great people
One of the best things I have ever done was to surround myself with great people. When I wanted to become a front-end developer, I would attend events to gain insight on what I should be learning and doing. I was able to build a network of trusted colleagues where I could share ideas and get advice. A supportive system is key if you want to become better. So my advice is to get out and make new friends whenever you get a chance, because you never know!
Where can we find you?