30-year old Tosin Adeniji is the epitome of a young woman thinking big and living ‘The American Dream’. From humble beginnings in East London to now a product manager for Verizon innovation lab in New York.
Starting her career as a music entertainment marketing executive she went on to gain an MBA at Cornell University and now works for one of the largest network and television providers in the US.
If this wasn’t enough, Tosin has now joined the ever-growing podcast world. Launched in January her ‘Thinking Randomly Big’ podcast shares her experiences and encourages people to live their dreams.
We caught up with Tosin to get an idea of what it takes to think randomly big and share with us the realities of being a woman in the tech world.
1# Hello Tosin Thank you for speaking to TBB, tell us about your new podcast ‘Thinking Randomly Big’.
I decided to start a podcast after being interviewed for Dreamchasers, an online series. I was asked during the interview what advice I would give to my younger self and one of the things that I mentioned was to keep “thinking randomly big”. After the interview was released I got a lot of feedback about that one statement. Many said they have never heard or thought of such a phrase and were inspired to implement this in their own lives.
Right now the podcast is only 6 episodes in but each week I share things that have helped me think randomly big (such as how to goal set and goal achieve), interviews, funny stories and my favourite things. I want to keep it informative yet fun so mixing content styles is important to me. I have been getting feedback via email and the @thinkrandomlybig Instagram which has been great, and definitely gives me insight into what content audiences enjoy most. It’s all a learning curve for sure, but #ThinkRandomlyBigTuesdays is gaining traction!
2# What will ‘Thinking Randomly Big’ introduce to your audience?
I started this podcast as a hobby and an outlet to share and highlight other great Dreamchasers to let others who may lack confidence or resources know that they can do it too.
3# With so many podcasts already established with big audiences, how are you going to make yours stand out amongst your rivals?
I’m less concerned with becoming a huge podcast with a big audience – if that happens, great! But what is more vital for me and a sign of success is hearing that my podcast impacted, encouraged or pushed someone to chase their dream. I want to stand out as a raw, real voice.
4# You are also the product manager for Verizon’s innovation lab in NYC. Tell us a bit about the company you work for and your role as a product manager.
I’m a product manager within the company’s innovation team. Verizon is traditionally known in the USA as a telephone and network provider, but in the last 5 years, they have made a dramatic shift towards media and entertainment. Not only do they have their cable Fios service Go 90 but they acquired Yahoo and AOL and own properties such as HuffPo, TechCrunch, Engadget, Tumblr and more. My role there is to think of innovative products that Verizon could make successful whilst incorporating our media properties. This includes everything from designing and building the product, validating the idea through user testing and crafting a go to market strategy for execution.
5# You have previous experience working in the music industry and have worked with some big names. What made you change career paths and how did your years working in the industry help prepare you for your current role?
I worked in the UK music industry for four years straight out of university. It was a great job for a young 20-something, but I felt that it was limited in terms of innovation. The traditional record label business model has remained the same for many years and the people have stuck around too. Some of my colleagues at the time worked with The Beatles and had been at the company ever since. So it wasn’t always the best place to share new technology which ultimately was rocking the model. I was eager to be a part of the disruption, rather than the disrupted and left behind. So I took the leap to move closer to technology whilst maintaining my passion for entertainment.
Moving into technology was similar to entertainment in terms of the relaxed vibe and cool environment of both, so I felt comfortable immediately. I also felt a step ahead in terms of communication, which plays a huge role in both industries. My marketing expertise and ability to work cross-functional and with artists of all types provided me the confidence to speak to engineers, designers and senior executives alike.
6# As not only a woman but a young black woman has it been hard for you to move up the career ladder? Has being a woman ever hindered your success in any way and how have you overcome this?
I’ve never been lucky enough to work with more than one black person at any time in any job. I think that represents what a young black woman is faced with in the entertainment tech field, you’re often by yourself. That’s difficult at times, as you are often (not by choice) representing all black women. It’s pressure to fight against stereotypes, pre-conceived notions, and ignorance every day. Many times in my career, I’ve been mistaken for the receptionist (and there is nothing wrong with being a receptionist) but some people couldn’t possibly believe I was the manager they were meant to meet!
The good thing is I’ve been aware of these things from a young age and try not let it be my focus. Instead, my job is always to do the best work and provide the best contribution to anything that I’m tasked with. If I do that right then no one can take that away from me. I use being ‘the only one’ as fuel to do more and hopefully provide an opening for those who look like me.
7# You have an MBA from Cornell University, one of the top ivy league universities in America, what an accomplishment you must be very proud of yourself.
Yes. Graduating and being the class speaker for my MBA class is definitely a highlight that I won’t forget! The whole experience was life-changing. Moving to New York, having such unique experiences and making lifelong friends has made me a huge advocate for people to do an MBA. Especially black women and black British women at that! We need so many more.
8# You are clearly a woman of many talents, apart from the launch of your podcast what do you expect to achieve in the next year?
I want to build and be a force in the technology field. I am passionate about pairing creative marketing with technology innovation and just want to do more of that with great companies. In the next year, aside from work, I definitely want to advocate for more senior executives and decision-makers to come from diverse backgrounds. I have not seen enough black leaders and women especially as I have journeyed through my career. The likes of Bozoma from Uber is definitely helping in technology but we need more to shift traditions.
9# How did growing up in East London shape your mind for the journey you have taken so far in your life and career?
Growing up in East London was great! It’s such a diverse place, I had friends from all backgrounds which made it easier for me to relate to various people and understand where they are coming from. This same skill later helped me understand demographics and audiences because of the real-time access I have to various groups. I’m a sponge for culture and people’s behaviour. I study it like art and now it has helped me tremendously when building tech products or thinking of a smart marketing campaign to reach our target user. I don’t underestimate the value of having that foundation from East London and as a result, I like to start every new introduction stating I’m a very proud East Londoner!
10# Who has influenced you the most to achieve your dreams and what would you say to that person now?
Honestly, it’s hard to pinpoint just one person. Between my critics, my family and friends they have all contributed greatly to me achieving my dreams. However, my biggest cheerleaders are within my family who I tell regularly how their support drives me when I’m down and pushes me further when I’m up. I lost my mum unexpectedly a year ago which was a huge blow for me during my MBA. She is the originator of thinking randomly big and dream chasing and was the first person I told all my ideas and goals. They were always met with unconditional support from her and I would have loved for her to enjoy these moments with me now. All I can say to her and anyone that supports me is, thank you from the depths of my heart, I really appreciate it all.
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