When I saw Janey Buzugbe at the Elevate Festival in Toronto a few weeks ago, speaking passionately about Intersectionality and diversity, and how she’s been able to navigate the tech sector as a black woman in Canada, I knew I had to share her story to inspire other women.
Janey Buzugbe is an energetic entrepreneur and tech partnerships leader who believes in living life by giving; what she has to give is humanity at the intersection of business and technology, and she is doing so significantly. She heads the Black Innovation Programs and Partnerships at the DMZ – the #1 University based Incubator – providing leadership and support to 400+ Founders across 5 programs with resources and access to 30+ partners to support their Startup growth.
She is the founder of Immiducation, a community-first Startup that supports over 17000+ immigrant professionals with career-readiness skills, a career network, and access to careers in Tech. Over the past decade, her tech career has spanned the corporate, non-profit, and Startup worlds in digital marketing, program and product management, recruitment, and Tech partnerships.
The amazing entrepreneur holds an undergraduate degree in Information Technology, postgraduate certificates in Media and Account Management, and a Master’s in Management Innovation. She is also the host of JaneyofCanada; a YouTube channel providing career and settlement advice for immigrants.
Janey Buzugbe shares her inspiring journey with Esther Ijewere in this Interview.
I grew up the first daughter of a military father and a very ambitious and entrepreneurial mother. Growing up watching my mom working on several businesses in addition to a not-for-profit as well as growing her career in public service, I thought for sure I did not want to be her. Never thinking that this entrepreneurial spirit was already coded in my DNA.
Moreover, specifically, my career in Tech Partnerships and people-facing roles definitely is aligned with how I grew up, pretty much being the family organizer and manager; going to an all-girls’ high school where the foundation for the confidence I have was honed; playing sports to competitive levels; as well as being the youngest in my class, yet course leader for 5 years all through my Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology. So, I am no stranger to leadership and being in male-dominated spaces. So, yes, my upbringing prepared me for life as a social entrepreneur and a leader in Tech
Inspiration behind Immiducation
When I moved to Canada in 2015 as an international student, I found that as a Newcomer, even with some guidance from family, I was making some mistakes and missing out on real opportunities that translated to money or career growth in Canada. So, at first, I started a YouTube channel, JaneyofCanada (Janey Buz), to share my learnings. For Example, my video “Top 10 things everyone coming to Canada should know” now has over 150k+ views. As this channel and my career grew, I would get inquiries to speak on how I grew my career to leadership in such a short time and on the channel, I would get inquiries about certain professions and regions in Canada I could not speak to as those were not my firsthand experiences.
After coaching more than a few people, I realized the challenge of underemployment – not getting work in your field of training and/or earning way less than the average Canadian – was a pervasive problem. I heard it very clearly in 2021 to build a community of like-minded professionals to support each other and bring forward-thinking employers to the community to engage and hire from.
Truth is, you become what you see, so we created a space for high-achieving newcomer professionals to see what they could become and access support in becoming that.
How My Involvement In settlement Of Newcomers, Black Innovation Programs And Partnerships Impacted Me As A Black Woman
This is an interesting question. At first, I did not identify as a Black Woman. Coming from Nigeria, I believed the term ‘Black Person’ referred to melanin-blessed folks who were born and/or raised in North America. You see, I was just a Nigerian woman. The thing about labels and identity is, sometimes it doesn’t matter what you see yourself as if other people see you differently. I quickly realized that everyone saw me as Black and so I began to learn about my new identity.
As I learned, I experienced the diversity of different Black people, then I also realized my privilege of being a debt-free, well-educated, family-oriented African woman. I realized that these privileges and others are not available to every Black person but also, even with the privilege, the playing field is not leveled for us. Then, I made the decision to put my energy and passion into being a champion for the under-represented, whom I prefer to refer to as ‘Underestimated”. This has impacted the way I see myself and the world around me. That there is power and strength when the world does not see you coming!
My Passion For Issues Centered Around Intersectionality, Diversity And Inclusion
My passion for the cause stemmed from my experiences as an underrepresented, (underestimated) Newcomer, African Woman. I want people to stop and think when they say things like “Your English is so good” or assuming because I am Black, I can rap, twerk or I do not have a dad in the picture.
This way, they are assuming something (often negative) of a person because of how they look. Instead, they could be curious without demeaning a person. That initial statement could sound somewhat like this “Is English the main language where you are from”? This turns an assumptive statement into an open curious conversation and makes the person on the receiving end feel included.
To shed some more light, in Canada, as I have now grown to Leadership, I have experienced what is colloquially known as “performative or optical allyship” where people want to come of as forward-thinking, so they want to have a Black women leader as part of their organization or project; to nail the diversity picture but they often miss the mark on Inclusion and belonging; where your ideas, thoughts and culture are not welcomed or celebrated.
The Audience Reception And Lessons From My Panel Session At The Elevate festival
I learned that the sky is the stepping stone for us women. I learned that we often, especially as women, buy into some negative assumptions that keep us stagnant. For me, being in the innovation space and even part of a selection committee for a Venture Capital firm, I believed being a solo founder is a deterrent in getting funding from external investors but here I was sitting next to a solo founder who had raised some good money from Investors.
So now with every deterring thought, I try to counter it by asking myself, “ Janey, who told you that this is true?” and “is it absolutely true for everyone?” . I also learnt that my story is important – to continue to share with boldness and humility. People need to see what they can become or at least validate that they are not alone.
Thoughts On The Profiling Of Black Women, And How They Can Be Supported
Yes, Black women are underrepresented, and we face the double-bias of being Black and Woman. However, we are still a force to be reckoned with – we are just underestimated. To Black women, find yourself a support community that will build you, you can learn from and help you on the days you feel low.
This is very important! Not sure where to start, check out Immiducation. And to allies, try to move from being passive to active, reach out of your comfort zone to communities you don’t usually find yourself. You support one Black woman, you support a whole generation – this is more than being an Ally, this is being a Champion.
How I Am Using My Organization To Create Room For Black Women In The Tech Sector
For me, it is important to create opportunities that I wish I had and I want to see for myself. So firstly, 90% of my team at Immiducation are exceptional Black women whom I am eternally grateful for. When we have our monthly coffee chat with industry experts, I aim to have Black Women or other people of colour because I believe you become what you see. We plan on launching a mentorship group in the near future solo for Black women
Why I Started My Youtube Channel; Janeyof Canada
I had my YouTube Channel in my head for many years before I created it – a lot of people had told me my energy was very good for the media. However, it took me a while to start because I needed to figure out what type of content would truly be helpful for my audience while not being something I would get bored of. So after a few tries, I landed on content to support other career-minded newcomers.
This was how Janey Buz (JaneyofCanada) was born in 2016. So as I progressed in my journey through 3 Study Permit applications, 1 Work Permit application, 1 permanent Resident application and 1 Citizenship application; all of which I did myself, I wanted to share with others my immigration and career journey. Now, the channel community has grown to over 18,000 with about 1 million views.
Most impactful, is the 100s of emails from grateful people who share that through my videos, they have landed in Canada in either their dream school or as a permanent resident and didn’t have to spend money using agents or consultants. I am on a mission to democratize immigrant success for my generation and beyond.
3 Women Who Inspire Me And Why
My mother – Janey Buzugbe (Snr); She taught me many things I know about being a strong, Christ-loving, entrepreneurial and career-oriented woman with a personality that lights up a room while putting the people in her life, her family as priority
Nkechi Nwafor-Robinson – My mentor; she taught me that I matter, her energy is through the proverbial roof; something I thought I needed to shrink about myself. She’s taught me that this energy is exactly what the world needs!
Beyoncé – Just because! Her creativity and business sense is one to be reckoned with. #WeRunTheWorld
To The Woman Who Has Lost Hope Due To Marginalization And Lack Of Support
Please do not give up. Go where you are celebrated and not tolerated. Quit fast, quit often if the environment is deteriorating your mental health and self worth. Join a community and share/confide with people who can lift you up. You are the CEO of You Inc., so do what any CEO would do. To help your confidence, keep a list of things you have achieved, compliments and positive feedback you have gotten over the years – I call this your “Brag book”. This is your weapon to combat imposter syndrome or feeling inadequate. Trust me, your brain does not hold as much as you’d like to think. Write it down.
My Work-Life Balance Routine
I never miss out on my sleep and catching up with my loved ones. I also try to take walks and dance in between meetings. I am learning now that “NO” is a full sentence and trying to practice that. It took me landing in the hospital to start to prioritize my health and I promise you; it is not worth it. Work will always be there and so would be others to do the work. But my life – my time on earth, I have only got one.
Being A Woman Of Rubies
My God-given strength and ability to bounce back and push myself, surrounded by incredible support, to be a better version of Janey than I was yesterday because I truly believe that this is how I can live out God’s purpose for me.
You can see more of Janey Buzugbe work here: https://www.immiducation.com/
Click Here Watch Short Video of Janey Buzugbe speaking at the Elevate Festival