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Teching it to the next level

ON A ROLL: Tosin Adeniji is making waves in New York City.

Life & Style: Tell us about your journey to Verizon, what’s your background?

Tosin Adenji: Before I moved to New York I worked in the music industry at EMI record label, but as the industry has shifted I have shifted with it. I worked at a very traditional record label where we were selling CDs and doing the regular things with the artists to moving on to working with more video content and digital marketing and becoming an expert in that field.

Then I took the step to do my MBA even though it doesn’t really fit with most of my music industry friends, but I felt that it was important to match up the marketing expertise with business skills as well as see what else is going on with technology. That helped me to land a job at Verizon, which is traditionally a mobile and internet provider but as a lot of these companies are doing, they have built a media arm and they own the likes of Huffington Post, The Techcrunch and a bunch of other media assets here and in America.

L&S: Explain a bit about what’s involved in your role?

TA: I’m a senior product manager at Verizon in their innovation team. I have to use all of the entertainment experience that I have gained over the years and think about new products, new ways and new experiences that users can consume with that content. They wanted some one who came from an entertainment and media background, which I fit perfectly because of my experience in London at the time.

L&S: Talk about the MBA you did.

TA: All I knew going into CornelI was that it was an Ivy League school. It was a great experience going to such an established school, no one in my family had been to an Ivy League or Grad school. I was the only black female in my class, which could be tough sometimes but I used my experience of working with so many different people to get through.

I graduated in May, but because of the rough year that I had, I took a month off and then started in July. I’d actually started
working with Verizon very early on in my MBA. I was working on different school projects from September and a part of our curriculum was to select companies and then they can select us.

It was like we matched each other and while I was still studying I ended up winning a huge media competition which got us
$15,000 and more recognition. In all, it’s been just over a year that I have been involved with the company.

L&S: What was it about you that attracted Verizon to you and most importantly, kept you in the mix?

TA: From a professional perspective I would say it was being a marketing expert but on a human level I would say growing up somewhere like east London, where you are meeting different people all of the time, made it easier to communicate.

L&S: Where do you see the industry heading insofar as tech and its influence in the marketplace?

TA: Tech in itself is similar to most of the big industries in that it’s the views of the same type of person running the behind the scenes and that hasn’t allowed for growth. It has actually caused trouble over the years with certain campaigns like the recent Dove one for instance, that just don’t sit right with the younger, millennial audiences. So bringing in people like myself who are multi-cultural and who are diverse and not just thinking about what looks good on paper but can really speak to
these new, diverse audiences.

That’s going to happen more and more, people like me will be in those meetings and in those boardrooms because it’s getting to the point where new groups of people have to have access to funding and support otherwise you risk producing the same kind of outcome each time. It’s really cool being in the innovation team because I am constantly looking at people’s behaviour and that’s where I can use all of my marketing expertise

L&S: Could you have landed a similar gig in London?

TA: I think the transition would have been a bit more difficult for a number of reasons, but I don’t feel like tech in all of its essence is as big in the UK as it is in the US. All the headquarters are here – Google, Uber, Facebook and Verizon – and being in the same land as them just makes it easier. We are trying, but we just don’t have the space in the UK and everything is London focused.

I think it would a have been a very different task trying to get into a big tech company in London.

L&S: What ambitions do you have, where are you shooting for next?

TA: I definitely want to grow within the company, but aside from regular career ambition of getting to VP or director I feel my ambition is about opportunity, providing a path for black people in tech, women in tech and just people who came from
where I came from. I want to expose the truths of this industry.

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