Have you always wanted to be a journalist, and how did your journey to journalism begin?
I was drawn to a career that’s really an extension of my personality. Many of the skills and characteristics needed to be a successful journalist comes naturally for me. I am genuinely interested in people and their compelling stories. With that in mind, I enjoy conducting interviews and making interviewees feel at ease. My path to a career in journalism began after completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge. I went on to study professional and post-graduate qualifications in print journalism, which eventually led to a stint at London’s Evening Standard.
You began your career with the Evening Standard, and had brief stints at the BBC, why did you move to the United States?
I went on vacation to Atlanta and immediately felt I’d come home. I loved the mild climate, southern hospitality and outdoor lifestyle in the suburbs. I also sensed as a woman of color there’d be more scope to grow and develop professionally. Later, when the opportunity arose to relocate to Georgia and I jumped at the chance.
What would you say are the major differences between the British and the American media?
I spent my early career as a BBC journalist, where we were trained to be fair, accurate and objective in our news coverage. American television news is more polarized, politicized, and fuelled by charismatic personality-driven anchors.
One would say you are cross-cultural citizen, what with your Nigerian, British and American backgrounds. How has this impacted you as a person?
I have always considered myself a global citizen. I’m well travelled and now my primary residence is the United States. There’s something about living, working and globetrotting that opens your mind and allows you to embrace new cultures. I’ve also gained immerse insight into the human psyche by observing and experiencing different values and customs.
You’re the Founder and CEO of UrbanGeekz.com; tell us what the idea is behind it?
UrbanGeekz — branded as one word — is a groundbreaking video centric African American, Latino and multicultural digital news platform focused on technology, science, and business. The site offers reviews, interviews, commentary, and original video on startups, geek gadgets, social media, scientific advancements, entrepreneurship and insight into Silicon Valley, and the global technology industry. The cutting-edge online publication also provides authoritative lifestyle, international and entertainment content.
I spotted a gap in the market. Mainstream tech blogs do not pay enough attention to the growing multicultural market. I also did not see enough coverage on issues related to technology and innovation on black American and other minority-owned news platforms. Knowledge that the big technology firms heavily skew towards male, white and Asian was also another factor. However, for me this is more than a business venture; it’s a labor of love. My mission is to make technology cool and accessible, while highlighting STEM fields as exciting career paths, particularly for women and underserved communities.
Fantastic! How do you think more minorities, particularly women can be encouraged to go into STEM Careers?
We need to encourage women and girls to foster an interest in STEM while they’re still at school or during the formative years of their career. Mentorship programs, industry exposure, and hands-on coding and STEM boot camps are just some of the strategies to inspire women and underserved minorities to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Let’s back-track a little bit. There’s a digital shift going on now, how would you say this affected the media?
There is still a place for traditional and mainstream media but really the future is Digital along with the acceleration of new technologies. In some ways this shift has made the media more meritocratic. It used to be all about a handful of influencers controlling a few major media conglomerates. Now, with blogging, social media and the dramatic decrease of technology costs, individuals have the ability to create their own high-quality content to build successful brands. Mobile devices and technology is also going to become more important as consumers demand media content on-demand and on the go.
You know, it’s a pretty courageous move to leave paid employment and start a business. How did you make the change to being an entrepreneur?
I have always secretly wanted to be my own boss. When I launched my startup it just seemed like the right time. I jumped in feet first. Sometimes you’re just got to take a calculated risk, give 100 percent, and see where the journey takes you. Still, being an entrepreneur isn’t for the faint-hearted. You need a huge amount of faith, self-belief and dogged determination to birth an idea and sustain your vision till it becomes a viable business. When you believe in your product it’s easier to keep the momentum going and communicate your passion to anyone willing to listen.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced being a female entrepreneur?
Underrepresented minorities, including women, still face issues finding the right resources and access to networks in the startup ecosystem. The technology industry is also male dominated. People don’t always expect to see someone who looks like me in that space. Still, on a personal level, I’m at the early stages of building my brand. I haven’t faced gender discrimination yet. Let’s see what happens as my company evolves.
What stands UrbanGeekz away from its competition?
Minority-led websites underestimate their readers’ appetite for STEM and tech related stories. Mainstream technology blogs also do not pay enough attention to the growing multicultural market. UrbanGeekz.com is the first-of-its-kind website that bridges black, Latino and multicultural news with technology. The pioneering platform creates a much needed outlet for dialogue on the most pressing and relevant issues in STEM-related fields: conversations surrounding the preparedness of students to pursue STEM careers, the lack of diversity in the STEM workforce and challenges facing minorities in the tech start-up scene. I personally believe women and underserved minorities are interested in tech and the innovation economy but there aren’t many media outlets offering this type of content in a way that appeals to them. Evidence of this is the overwhelmingly positive feedback UrbanGeekz has received since its inception.
Who are your role models in the world of media and business?
Earl G. Graves Sr., Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Ursula Burns, Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Aire and Sean “Diddy”Combs
In Africa, and Nigeria in particular, there’s been an exponential rise in tech start-ups and businesses, what’s your take on that?
There are unlimited possibilities in places like Nigeria. Not only does its potential market size make it attractive to investors but also many Nigerians have a hustler mentality that fuels entrepreneurship. There are also ongoing socio-economic issues that technology and innovation needs solve that itself is an opportunity. Nigeria also bypassed landlines, leaping straight to cell phones. Now many households have multiple handsets that are making consumers more tech-savvy. This will become increasingly significant as mobile becomes omnipotent in the global media economy.
Name 3 women you admire and why?
Oprah Winfrey is a powerhouse. A former beloved talk-show host turned billionaire media mogul, she is a source of inspiration for everyone.
What I love about Mo Abudu is that she moved from a corporate career, in a completely unrelated field, to pursue her aspirations to become a TV host. This takes a huge amount of passion and self-belief.
Sheryl Sandberg is a trailblazer who has refused to let her gender hold her back. I’m also encouraged she balanced her professional life with a loving marriage. After her husband’s untimely death, Sandberg wrote a moving post about dealing with her grief. It expressed the deep love she had for her late husband, Dave Goldberg, as well as her formidable strength.
Recommend 3 books you’d like other women to read?
– The Value in the Valley: (Iyanla Vanzant)
– The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison)
– I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou)
If you could what would you say to your younger self?
Waiting for perfection isn’t an option. You’re never going to be completely ready but don’t doubt your abilities to seize opportunities as they come your way.
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The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa; an initiative that seeks to effectively mentor and inspire women, with particular emphasis on the African continent.
Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to [email protected] and we just might feature her.