Tobi Olowu | Diversifying Agencies
One of the best ways to improve ED&I within the tech industry is to talk about it at grassroots level and make sure the next generation of tech professionals are aware of the huge breadth of roles available to them and inspire young individuals from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in tech, to create a pipeline of talent that reflects the world we live in.
As a recruitment agency that feels so strongly about this, partnering up with Diversifying Agencies was a complete no-brainer for us. Diversifying Agencies was born to help recruiters like us, help fix the ED&I issue within the tech industry. So this week we are chatting with Tobi Olowu, Account Executive at Diversifying Agencies and an incredible young individual passionate about equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Tobi is an artist, has her own business customising clothes and quotes Burna Boy, aka she's fabulous and we LOVED chatting with her...
HI TOBI! COULD YOU START BY TELLING US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, WHERE DID YOUR PASSION FOR ED&I BEGIN? HOW YOU BECAME A PART OF DIVERSIFYING AGENCIES?
Hi! My name is Tobi, and I’m a 26-year-old Black woman living in the UK. I currently work as an Account Executive for Diversifying Agencies.
Where my passion for ED&I began is very simple – I have lived my whole life as a Black woman. Being a woman and Black brings not just one but two challenges. It also gives me the drive and passion to want to make a change in the world we live in, to be accepted without having to put up a fight all the time - not just for myself but for everyone.
I came across Diversifying Agencies by scrolling through LinkedIn one night while I was looking for a new job! I saw the job advert and it was exactly what I was looking for in a role, so I started looking into the company and read up on their mission and values. And I thought to myself, why wouldn’t I want to be a part of such a great movement and be able to achieve something like this at a time in my career? I went through the interview process, which was a great experience, and was successful in getting the role!
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT HOW AND WHY DIVERSIFYING AGENCIES WAS CREATED?
Diversifying Agencies was co-founded by the amazing Cynthia Davis and Luke Davis, who both have extensive experience in the recruitment industry. They’d previously created two other job boards for employers to advertise roles directly but realised there was nothing out there specifically for recruitment agencies. As more and more employers are asking for proof of inclusive recruitment practices and diverse shortlists, it is SO important for recruitment agencies to show how they are proactively supporting diversity and inclusion. So that’s where Diversifying Agencies was born.
We believe recruiters have a massive role to play in moving ED&I forward, so we’ve worked hard to create a safe space and a real community for recruitment professionals to exchange opinions and ideas as they grow. We provide them with the tools they need to make recruitment more representative and inclusive. This means that we only work with agencies and consultants who truly care about making a difference and who are willing to commit to adopting inclusive recruitment practices and advocating for ED&I with their clients.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE DIVERSIFYING AGENCIES MOST SUCCESSFUL METHODS WHEN SUPPORTING ORGANISATIONS ON THEIR JOURNEY TO INCLUSIVE WORKING?
One of our guiding principles is that ED&I is about “widening the gate, not lowering the bar”. To us, diverse recruitment is about broadening the talent pool from which candidates are sourced so that we can find the best person for the job, regardless of their background – and it’s something we teach every single one of our partners.
We believe it’s all about education, so we offer tailored guidance and support to each of our partners, as well as exclusive ED&I resources and learning materials to support agencies (and their clients) on their journey to building a fairer and more inclusive world of work. Another really successful avenue, in my opinion, is how we connect with our partners on a personal, human level, with a dedicated Account Executive attending to their journey at every step. I love working directly with inclusive recruiters and creating that sense of community!
CLEARLY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IS SOMETHING YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT, WHAT DO YOU THINK CAN BE DONE TO HELP ATTRACT A MORE DIVERSE MIX OF PEOPLE INTO THE TECH INDUSTRY - OR ANY INDUSTRY FOR THAT MATTER?!
Every organisation first needs to commit to their ED&I journey – it doesn’t matter if you’ve just started or if you’re not “doing ED&I” perfectly yet, what matters is that you’re showing an interest in making a difference for people of all backgrounds and committing to support a diverse talent pool. Once candidates see that you’re making the effort, they’ll be more likely to trust you and want to join your organisation – or your industry as a whole.
If you don’t know where to start, reach out to ED&I organisations (like Diversifying Group and Diversifying Agencies!) – there are tons of experts out there whose mission is to support companies and give them the tools to better themselves. It can be hard to find that diverse talent pool if you don’t know where to look, so don’t hesitate to reach out to people who can help.
AS A WOMAN OF COLOUR, HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED ANY CHALLENGES AND BARRIERS IN YOUR CAREER?
As a woman of colour, I would say yes, I have experienced challenges and barriers in my career but not to the great extent I would say many others have experienced. I think I have been quite lucky in not being exposed to too many negative impacts from being a woman of colour, but what I can say is I have felt like at times I have been picked for a tick box exercise more than for my actual experiences and skills I have gained. Other times I have felt I have been treated fairly by my other counterparts. I have had to take other measures to be treated fairly, for example changing my name on my CV, so It’s not discarded to the side because it’s ‘too hard to pronounce’.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR AND ALSO PERSONALLY?
My proudest achievement in my career, to be honest, is this job that I am currently in now as an Account Executive at Diversifying Agencies! I feel like I have come such a long way in such a short time in this role, more than I ever have in any other job in my life. This job challenges me in many ways, but it’s also helping me grow, and I’m very grateful for that. In my personal life, my proudest achievement is my side hustle as an artist. I’ve loved to draw from a very young age and even though I stopped during university, I picked it up again during the pandemic. I started my own small business customising clothing during the pandemic too, and I have been able to sell my own work. It took a lot for me to come out of my shell and do such a big thing but I’m so happy I took the leap of faith and did it. Check my work out here!
WHO WOULD YOU SAY INSPIRES YOU? THIS COULD BE A COLLEAGUE, FAMILY MEMBER, FRIEND OR CELEBRITY.
I always find this to be a tricky question! I feel like everyone else can say what inspires them off the top of their head, but I always have to sit there and think before I can answer. I’d say what inspires me changes frequently to whatever is motivating me at the time to do better. For example, If I can see my peers doing great things in their field, it just makes me want to do better. But if I had to choose one, it would definitely be my parents. I admire them very much and they inspire me every day - how strong they are, their resilience, their work ethic… I could go on. I am the person I am today because of them.
WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPIEST IN YOUR FREE TIME?
What makes me happy in my spare time is drawing and painting. I would consider myself to be a street artist. I love street art, graffiti, and old-school art. I recently went to the ‘Beyond the Streets’ art exhibition in London which featured some really dope artists and I felt like I was in heaven. Drawing feels peaceful to me, and I love being able to just get carried away with my creativity.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE OR A QUOTE YOU LIVE/WORK BY?
My favourite quotes always change throughout my life, to be honest. It really depends on what stage I am in my life or what’s going on in my personal or work life. But right now, my favourite quote is by Burna Boy: “I can’t come and kill myself!” (a common Nigerian saying). This means that no matter what is going on in my life, especially situations I have no control over, I can’t stress myself over it and make myself potentially ill and allow it to affect my mental health. I’d rather take things one day at a time and do what I can but not stretch myself. I’m only one person!