Mary Mosope Adeyemi is a veteran Investment Banker with a career spanning over one decade. She has worked with leading financial institutions including Deutsche Bank, Bank of America Merill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, where she is currently Executive Director within the Credit Risk Management Division at the London office of the bank. She was awarded the WATC Rising Stars in Banking Award in 2017.
She recently launched viSHEBIlity, a social initiative seeking to amplify the voices of black women in business and corporate careers.
In this interview, she talks about how viSHEbility was born and shares her vision for the organization.
Why did you decide to start viSHEbility?
I started viSHEbility because I wanted to help more women who looked like me to navigate the corporate world and white spaces which is predominantly where I exist in the UK. I have worked in Investment Banking for about 12 years, and there has always been this set of unclear rules about navigating the corporate world. It’s even more unclear when you are a woman of color. I really wanted to share my experiences and use that to help women who are like me to navigate those spaces. Taking it a bit further, I also wanted to help young girls in secondary school and university to be more prepared and informed as they went through their academics, and eventually going their careers, their businesses and their lives.
That was really the backdrop.
However, I didn’t want to just share my own knowledge. I also wanted to create a platform where I could share what other women had done.
I don’t by any means feel like I have all the knowledge. Of course, I have very unique experiences in the world of Working in The City, but I also wanted to create a platform where other women could share their stories, so we could learn from each other as a community.
That is why I set it up in the format in which it is set up ; to start with a talk show where we are having these conversations that are supposed to be really informative and instructive to viewers in terms of how to navigate getting into university, creating a career strategy, starting in the World of Work, starting in business, and just really sharing the philosophical and practical tips of how these women have achieved that.
Laced through the episodes, I also share my own experiences and unique perspectives. viSHEbility was effectively set up as a platform for other women to become really visible and as a by-product, they coach, train and share their experience with a set of young girls who are desperate for that information.
Almost two years post-launch, how has the journey been?
The whole concept of viSHEbility was pretty much most of 2018, but I only launched about 8 months ago in January 2019.
The journey has been interesting, and a more challenging one than I expected. A lot has happened in the last 8 months so it has been challenging and stretching in both a good and bad way. The reception has been really good. I think a lot of people have plugged into the work that we are doing. We have been refining the message as we go along.
When you start something, it’s always about that first step. As you put yourself out there, your audience and viewers begin to tell you more of what they need. We have been able to really review our work and figure out how we can expand the platform so it adds more value to the community we are trying to serve.
It is by no means a linear journey. It has been a journey of self-starting, and gradually seeing a clearer picture of where things are supposed to go. You can think through a lot of things at the start, but when you eventually put yourself out there and start putting brick on brick, that is when you realize the shape of the house you are building. That is the advice I would have for anyone starting an entrepreneurial journey.
So far we have released 7 episodes via our website, www.vishebility.com/stories, and also on our YouTube channel. The next phase is about creating that real sense of learning, so it’s not just about hearing stories but also creating a space where viewers can practically apply those learnings to their own specific situations.
Over the next few months, I will be launching coaching programs for women in corporate careers and businesses, and female university students. We will also host a secondary school program in Lagos, which will run from August next year. It is an annual summer camp which is going to provide early intervention learning for young girls aged 14-18 years. They will learn to apply the academics that they have learnt through school in a way that is more relevant for the market place and the world of work and business that they would otherwise go into in a more unprotected manner.
Underlying the work of viSHEbility, is the big social cause to ensure that everything we are doing is serving a population of people who do not have a voice for themselves. We are in collaboration with a number of social action organizations, supporting the work they are doing against things like female genital mutilation, child marriage, and girl child education. We lend our voice to a lot of organizations like that to help push their cause.
Investment Banker, Talk Show Host, and Social Entrepreneur. How do you do it all?
I don’t know that I do it all that well, but I have learned to prioritize what is important. The journey has been very stretching, both personally and professionally and trying to balance has been a challenge.
I always say everything is important, but not everything is priority. Trying to understand where that priority lies at any point in time is a skill I have had to pick up very quickly, and one that I am still trying to hone as I go along.
It has been a very busy one year. Last September, I joined Goldman Sachs. I have also struggled personally with the loss of my father. In January 2019, I launched viSHEbiity and three days afterward, my dad passed away. I have had to take time for myself, my grieving and my healing. It has been a bit of a personal struggle trying to figure it out. When you go through grief and loss, you start asking very existential questions about what you are doing and why you are doing it. That forced me into a very reflective position about the work I do at viSHEbility and in my Finance career as well. I am making sure that what I am creating will be a lasting legacy.
In answer to your question; Prioritization, self-care, and pacing yourself. There is always this sad and unfortunate expectation that things will start from scratch and just blow up. Whilst that could be some people’s stories, I think for the most part anything worth doing is worth doing well. For me, it is about being realistic about my day-to-day life; my job, the extent of my commitments, and figuring out how to do this alongside everything else.
I know there would be a season of my life where that narrative would flip and I’ll be running viSHEbility more full time. For now, I need to do this in a context that is comfortable for me. I leverage a lot of technological tools and freelancers, via apps like UpWork and Fiverr.
I use the things available to me to move forward and make sure I don’t overwhelm myself. When we started releasing episodes on viSHEbility, there was a really big push to release more frequently. I had to be realistic with myself because, given the quality of what I deliver, a lot of time needs to go into curating the content. With my full-time job, I don’t have the capacity to do that more than once a month at the moment. Going forward, I am in the market for an intern to handle curating content for the show, so we can do more things more frequently.
You have to do what you can. There will be sacrifices to be made for the vision. My priority is not going on so many holidays right now or taking time out because I need time to create. I think that is how most people who mix a side hustle and the main job approach it as well.
What is it like working and living as a Nigerian in the diaspora?
I have lived in the UK for about 16 years, so this is as much home as Nigeria is. Of course, you miss your family. Moreso, this year has been challenging because of the loss we had in the family. I am the only one who lives abroad so I had to travel home more frequently than I normally would have.
Living here is interesting, you are exposed to so much learning. You can really step back and see how you can add value in and out of your context. I guess the challenge is, you just miss home a lot and you are not on ground to really take charge of some of the impact initiatives you might want to do.
Even with viSHEbility, trying to do programs targeted at schools in Nigeria but living abroad is not easy. Trying to find people that are based out there who can honestly help you push the vision forward is really difficult, so you end up doing a lot of things yourself.
Otherwise, the Nigerian community is amazing. In every country you go, they are there as a family. Most of my friends in the UK are still Nigerian. My church community is Nigerian and even my work community has elements of Nigeria.
Being a Nigerian is amazing. Literally 2 out of every 5 black people are Nigerian or have Nigerian heritage and that is a really special thing. Living in the diaspora is not bad at all. It is kinda like home and you are challenged to make your country proud and step against the narrative that people have about Nigeria. It is a personal challenge and a challenge for the community as a whole, to change the narrative.
There are so many Nigerians doing amazing things here in the UK and it is great to be connected with them.
How do you reconnect with home?
I am always at home. For someone who lives abroad, I am home about 5-6 times a year. My family lives there, so sometimes I go home just for the weekend.
With the work I am doing now, I am going to be more reconnected. I was doing a lot of recruitment for Nigeria for the firm I used to work for. I also had a lot of client coverage in Nigeria, Sub Saharan Africa, and South Africa. So I was connected, even economically, to the regions. I also use social media a lot.
I currently sit on boards as a silent Board Member in a lot of Nigerian companies and start-ups. That way, I have ears to the ground as to what is going on; the plans and the goals for development at home.
I would definitely like to do more. At some point, I would love to move back home to do things that would be hugely impactful for the continent and rewarding for me personally.
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