From Surviving to Thriving: The Impact of Immigration on Career Possibilities and Equity with Tope Ajala

"My career possibilities are an extension of the immigrant mindset, the need to survive. I strive to change my mindset from surviving to thriving"

Breaking Barriers and Paving the Way: The Story of an Immigrant’s Journey to Becoming a Global Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

How do you feel being an immigrant/child of an immigrant impacted what you saw as career possibilities?

I grew up in a household where there were no barriers and no glass ceiling. My parents expected the best out of me and did everything they could to ensure that it was possible. I come from a Nigerian household while living in the UK. You had to work for everything you got, and I saw my parents fight for everything while reminding me that I also would get to a place where it would require me fighting for what I wanted. My career possibilities are an extension of the immigrant mindset, the need to survive. So I hope that I change my mindset from surviving to thriving.

Do you feel the Black American experience is different than the experience of Black Immigrants? 

Experiences are gathered over time, and while I have lived in different parts of the world, those experiences have shaped how I show up in certain spaces and informed me of how not to show uo. How I show up in the US is different because I don’t have some of the aspects of being black American. For example, I remember growing up wanting to be part of a HBCU and then coming to the US and catching FOMO from seeing the shared experience of those who attend one. It felt like an extended family I would never be part of. But then I don’t envy the cost of the education system in the US so there’s that.

The one thing that is consistent with the black American experience and the black immigrant experience is that we are first black. The world sees us as black before any interaction takes place, we are immediate judged.
All my experiences I treasure, and while sometimes it may feel like a hinderance I use them as a learning opportunity.

What was the goal for you? What helped to drive you to your accomplishments?

The goal for me is to create a more equitable world for those in my parameter and beyond. It’s a forever goal.

Were there any rules of thumb or sayings repeated to you in your childhood that you live by to this very day?

As a young girl I remember my teachers telling me I could be anything I wanted but to always be ok being uncomfortable since the world was not ready for everything I had to offer. Here I am still navigating this world with discomfort but knowing that I have a lot to offer.

 Pick three theme songs for your life. One for childhood, one for when you just entered the working world, and what’s your current theme song?

Made It- Teyana Taylor – Current theme song
H.E.R – get us together – entering the working world / I listen to this on bad days.
ASA – Fire on the mountain – childhood

Did you know that by being who you are and pursuing your aspirations, you would be helping to write the following chapters of Black History? How does that make you feel?

It’s my duty and I feel honored just supporting or helping where I can. This is the immigrant story, working hard, giving others the opportunities and paving the way for others. Learning and growing with other communities and culture

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