Omotoyosi Ogunbanwo is on a mission to help women live their financial and career dreams through her newly founded organization, “Synerge”. A peer-to-peer community that provides a safe space for women where they can access resources, and find sponsors, mentors, coaches, cofounders, business partners, and investors to help actualize their dreams.
Omotoyosi is a Finance and Data Expert passionate about emerging technologies in consumer finance. She is the co-founder of two tech companies and a Senior PM at Amazon where she helps build products on the Fintech team. She also mentors tens of young women across the globe, helping them get into tech and scale their careers effectively. She believes women should use their network and resources in lifting each other.
The twenty-nine-year-old has a bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting from the University of Portsmouth, England, an MSc in Business Analytics from Texas A&M, and a Micro Master’s in Statistics & Data Science. She has invested in two startups and her goal is to continue expanding that portfolio over the next few years.
She has provided free mentoring to a lot of people over the last few years and assisted many of them to get scholarships abroad, relocate, upskill, and get remote jobs. Most of her mentees attend the best schools in the US, UK, and Canada. She equally supported scholarships for Nigerian women who are looking to go for their post-graduate program in the United States. In this exclusive interview with Esther Ijewere, omotoyosi shares her inspiring story and why she loves creating room for women to thrive and succeed.
I grew up in a family of 4. My dad, Dr. Olatayo, and mum, Mrs. Abiola Ogunbanwo and my younger sister who also doubles as one of my best friends, Simisola Ogunbanwo. I think my dad was one of my biggest inspirations to never stop getting educated. He constantly pushed and encouraged my sister and me to be our best versions and never stop learning. I always knew right from childhood that a Ph.D. was the least expected. My dad has a Ph.D. in Aquatic Pollution & Ecotoxicology, my sister is also in her second year of a Ph.D. in Blockchain Technology. I think everyone is waiting for me to start mine. He and my mum instilled in us the importance of going out of our way to help others.
Why I pitched my tent In the Tech Industry
I started with a degree in Finance and I always wanted to build a career in Oil & Gas Finance. The goal was to apply to the University of Aberdeen at 23 for the MSc in Petroleum Energy & Finance, but I couldn’t afford the tuition. So, I decided to go back to Nigeria, do my National Youth Service, work for a year or two, save up and move back to the UK. But they say man proposes and God disposes lol.
During my youth service, I met a friend in camp who told me she was going back to the US for her master’s in data analytics. After my youth service, I met another friend who told me he worked remotely for a tech company in the US and he did not have a degree as he only attended a tech boot camp.
At that point, I became completely intrigued and started researching what tech courses I could do in the UK for my master’s. I completely had my eyes set on going back to the UK until my friend I met in Camp encouraged me to come to the US and the rest is history they say.
The inspiration behind Synerge, our target audience, and the impact we hope to create with it
My biggest inspiration for Synerge came from my relationship with my friends and my mentees. Whenever my mentees meet my friends, they first say, ‘Omotoyosi, how do you make friends? How do you create such wonderful circles’? They further explain how hard it can be to meet people who are in your line of career. I do my best to link them up, but it is just never enough. I have met many women who complained about the same thing. And that’s why a lot of people take to social media. Because it’s so hard to make a genuine connection in the real world.
How Synerge works
As women, we want you to find sponsors, mentors, coaches, cofounders, business partners, and investors in our community. But we also want you to find a safe space where you can access resources to help your mental health. Synerge is the platform for that.
Synerge is a Peer to Peer platform on a mission to close the career, financial and mental health gap for women by professionally matchmaking them with business partners, investors, coaches, recruiters etc. Research has shown that having a community helps influence motivation which supports growth. We believe that even though we are a huge, growing community, humans thrive better in smaller groups. Which is why we have created the peer-to-peer community.
Every woman who is a part of our community is added to a subgroup with five other women. These women become your accountability partner for the year with quarterly check-ins from our team.
We try our best to match-make women in the same or similar locations because we don’t just want you to interact online, we want you to build and develop a solid relationship that thrives in the real world. Each community of women is unique and diverse. We encourage every subgroup to use their network and resources in lifting each other based on their needs.
Women developing their careers are paired together, women interested in real estate are paired together and women interested in financial literacy or expanding their businesses are paired together. Come to us, tell us what you need to achieve in the next year and we connect you with other women trying to achieve similar feats or who have already done it and can show you how to succeed. Whether it’s investing, career development, grad school, starting a new business, getting investors etc. We will pair you for success. We currently have a 4k+ waitlist and are onboarding and vetting slowly.
We have various clubs, where women can interact with other groups they are not paired with. We have the book club, the career club, the investor’s club, the sponsors club, and the mental health club – A diverse group of women who have offered their time, effort and resources to help other women. As we continue to grow and expand, we hope to provide all the resources that truly make us a one-stop shop for women’s development.
My role as the co-founder of Techavilly and Emerald
Techavilly was started by my friend Mimi and me during the Covid-19 lockdown. I had recently started a company and was providing free classes to a few women online. Mimi and I went to grad school together and ended up becoming close after graduation. Mimi started a similar company except her brand was focused on men and women inclusive.
One day I texted her, and I was like Mimi, we are doing the same thing, why don’t we combine resources? And she was so excited and said yes, I wanted to say the same thing. And because we are two completely different people with completely different skill sets, it made the partnership work easily. Mimi leads the direction of the company and I support her in any capacity she needs. She has many years of experience working with various Fortune 500 companies both at home and abroad and she is very skilled in operations. I am much more focused on strategy and finance.
And it’s the same with Emerald. My co-founders Charles and Tomide have skill sets that are very different from mine. Charles is very operations focused and I lead strategy and finance at Emerald. Strategy and Finance are my two-core skill sets even at my job.
My passion for providing free mentoring and tech scholarships
Mentoring is one of the few things in life I enjoy. Whenever I meet a dedicated young lady who needs help with direction or figuring out a path, I do my best to help in any capacity I can and I always introduce them to my network of friends and acquaintances who could provide support. It’s the reason why my mentees are always so successful after a few short months.
I have worked for 3 Fortune 500 companies to date. I currently work as a Senior Program Manager Lead at Amazon. I am on the Devices Fintech team and I own aspects of a product. I think one of the biggest challenges as with any other job is knowing how to communicate effectively. I started my career in Finance and Data and worked my way to a Finance Manager position and now building products. And the skill sets required every step of the way has been different. But the skill set required to get me to the next level has always been the same – Be a great communicator and a great leader.
You always assume it’s so easy to get to the next level until you realize how hard it could be to communicate in a room with senior leaders from various regions and engineers from various regions. One of the first pieces of feedback I ever got from my first job after grad school was ‘Be a better communicator’. No matter how good you are at your job, you need to be able to communicate. I took that feedback and read a lot of books. And a few years later, I say it’s one of my biggest skill sets.
Other projects and activities
My main project right now is helping as many women as I can to be secure in their careers, finances and mental health. As Africans, we typically ignore the importance of mental health. We don’t talk about it enough and we like to pretend we don’t have a mental health crisis on our hands. I am advocating on social media the importance of building and stimulating your mental health.
What I enjoy most about my job
I truly enjoy building and shipping impactful products. There is nothing as satisfying as being a trusted decision-maker and seeing something new come to life or watching something become better for your customers.
3 women who inspire me and Why
- Bozoma Saint John -Former CMO of Netflix. I followed her before reading her book and I see a lot of myself in her. Someone who works hard leaves no room for disrespect and gives back to her community of black women
- Kimberly Bryant – Founder & CEO of black girls code – Kimberly is a black woman who used her 401k to start this company because she couldn’t find a diverse programming course for her daughter. She is on a mission to train 1 million girls by 2040.
- Roxy Ndebumadu – Chief of Staff Trust & Safety @ Twitch and a Vice Mayor. Roxy is a young lady and an elected official who is the same age as me and always advocating for mental health and safe spaces for people of colour. She is using politics and tech for the good of her community.
How I use my influence in the tech industry to create room for other women to thrive
The best way to create room for women is by mentoring, sponsoring and providing them with opportunities. I continue to mentor and sponsor as many women as I can. It’s not easy because I get so many requests every day from mothers, fathers, aunties, and even boyfriends and husbands who say ‘Hi Omotoyosi, I have seen all you have done for other women, can you mentor my daughter/sister/girlfriend/wife’. The requests are non-stop and I do my best to filter and select but it’s never enough. And that’s why I am so excited about Synerge.
I can not change the world alone. But I can combine resources with other women and create a community where they can get the resources they need.
My co-founder is my friend and co-worker- Carolina. We met when we were both working in Silicon Valley California. I worked for Cisco back then and she worked for Tesla and now we both work for Amazon. She is a Software Engineer and one of the few female engineers I have in my life. We both saw the gap and came together to fix it. I lead Synerge and she is our CTO building our platform. Our partnership is perfect because her strong suit is engineering and mine is strategy.
What I wish to change in the tech sector
I think there is a lot of work to be done in AI. Historically, Bias has always been a part of tech and black people, especially black women have been on the receiving end of that bias. As Artificial intelligence is developed and implemented, we need to ensure the data being used to train AI is not discriminatory and does not represent people of colour, especially women of colour in a bad light. AI tools have perpetuated housing discrimination towards black women in the past. This is the reason why we need more women of colour in the industry to help in ensuring these biases are not included. I am currently working towards being an AI Product Manager.
Being a Woman of Rubies
I think what makes me a unique woman is my desire to change the world in every way I can which includes using my time and resources to help others. We live in a world where there are so many self-help books teaching us how to help ourselves, but no one trains us on how to help others. We need to learn how to help each other. And that’s why Synerge is here. Letting every woman know that you have something she can use to lift someone else. Our theme is collective work and responsibility. You will help someone in our community and someone else will help you get to the next level.
To a young woman having a hard time navigating the tech industry
It gets better! Keep learning, keep up the late-night study, give it your all and most importantly, sign up for Synerge so we can matchmake you with other women doing the same!
Join the Synerge group via the waitlist
Join Synerge LinkedIn group here