Meet Founder of Hustle Crew: Abadesi Osunsade

For Abadesi Osunsade, moments of choosing a white doll over a Black doll to being ostracized at work for speaking on social justice issues have been the most transformative stages in her life.

Abadesi is the founder of Hustle Crew, a career development platform that trains and supports tech communities on subjects like bias, privilege, and structural oppression. Since launching in 2016, Hustle Crew has partnered with major companies like Airbnb, Product Hunt, and BBC.

As the former head of outreach at Product Hunt, and now current vice president of community at Brandwatch, Abadesi found that her most important job is to continue conversations around D&I (diversity and inclusion) and champion equity for people all across the globe.

“For me, diversity and inclusion are about walking into Google or Facebook and feeling like you're at a train station.”

Breaking Preconceived Notions

Like many of us, Abadesi formed preconceived notions about race in elementary school. She recalls a pivotal moment in her life when she was picking out a doll with her father.

The Hustle Crew CEO had her eyes on a white doll that came with a makeup set, which Abadesi now acknowledges was troubling at that age. But for young Abadesi, she was scared of being singled out and what others at school would say.

“None of my other friends had black dolls. Now, I'm going to be the weirdo with a Black doll. I'm going to be different.”

She remembers going for the white doll when her father stopped and directed her to the Black doll. Even though Abadesi protested, her father was adamant about purchasing the Black doll that reflected Abadesi's identity.

“I remember taking my Black doll, opening it up, and it had the same makeup palette as the white doll. None of the makeup worked. I was so young, and this idea of when did you realize race was a thing?”

Recognizing your race is such a powerful way to show privilege because many people of color in the Western world go through that realization.

Abadesi describes this moment as a "powerful reflection." It's a time to recognize the pervasive negative ideas and values surrounding race. Especially how it can be internalized and affect your self-perception.

While Abadesi ruminated over this realization, she noticed how many white people in America were hardly confronted with the notion of their race. A huge contrast from her experience that led her to another moment of reflection.

"Recognizing your race is such a powerful way to show privilege because many people of color in the Western world go through that realization."

Rewriting The Narrative

Think about your home, going to the supermarket, or catching a bus – you often see yourself and feel representative of reality with the people around you. That's how the Hustle Crew CEO wants to feel when walking into a co-working space or major tech company.

“Suddenly there's none of that diversity. Where did the people dress differently go? Where did the people in wheelchairs go? Where do the people with the headscarf go?”

It's no secret that tech impacts our daily lives and determine the future of society. With all that power, how do they intentionally create apps that write in diversity and inclusion? That's Abadesi's mission.

“I want them to be empowered with their space at the table. I want them to have a voice. I want them to be relevant and authoritative in every aspect of the business and at every level of the business.”

Throughout her career, Abadesi saw leadership place diversity and inclusion efforts on the back-burner. As the only Black employee at a London startup, she was called a problem by colleagues for creating a more inclusive and equitable culture.

"That point in my personal journey, I didn't know a lot about systemic racism or oppression. I didn't even know much about the gender pay gap or the ethnicity pay gap."

All Abadesi knew at the time were major headlines in the news and her struggle to communicate her own challenges. That's when she turned to writing. The CEO wrote LinkedIn posts and blogs in hopes of connecting to other people of color in tech.

Eventually, when she started sharing her experiences on Facebook, she saw how other professionals were experiencing similar adverse moments in the workplace.

"I started doing IRL meetups in central London, and I started to get this real critical mass that was convening this experience of feeling excluded."

What became a safe hub to share personal anecdotes and connect with others, turned into Abadesi’s successful ventures: Hustle Crew.

"I want them to be empowered with their space at the table. I want them to have a voice. I want them to be relevant and authoritative in every aspect of the business and at every level of the business."

The Takeaways

Ruthless prioritization. “It’s been helpful for me to always work on the most urgent and important things. And it's prioritization based on my goals.” Even with work endeavors and objectives, Abadesi secures moments of the day to her priorities her needs first. For the Hustle Crew CEO, prioritizing tasks sets her up for success for the rest of the day.

The art of saying no. “To maintain your priorities, workflow, and time, you have to be willing to say no or not right now.” While it may sting or feel uncomfortable in the moment, you're helping your future self. Communicating a gentle no to your co-workers will lead to a less stressful work environment.

Create boundaries to protect productivity. “One of the things that helped me have boundaries is no meetings before 10:00 a.m. I use the first hours of the day to sort out my stuff.” Whether that is turning off notifications during lunch, logging off before dinner, and choosing to respond to emails strictly between work hours, take time to replenish your energy. That personal time is vital to conquering the next day.

Get To Know Abadesi

At the end of every interview series, we ask our guests a series of rapid-fire questions to get to know them better as a leader. Their quirks and habits have led them to where they are today.

Q: Who are one to three leaders you look up to?
A: Oprah because I just think she's built an empire. She's truly a definition of a self-made woman. Brené Brown, the research that she's done around vulnerability, she's a leader that embodies that authentic self-leadership. Simon Sinek, his research on the power of why has been fundamental to everything that I do as an entrepreneur.

Q: Night owl or early bird?
A: Early bird. If I have something important to do, I’ll do that first thing in the day when my mind is fresh from a night's sleep.

Q: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?
A: I wish I was more unapologetic when I was younger. It’s hard being a woman of color and internalizing all of that stuff is not healthy.

Q: What’s your favorite word?
A: One of my favorite words is onomatopoeia. For no reason other than the fact that it's words that sound like what they're describing like pitter-patter.

Q: What’s your most-used emoji?
A: 🤗

Now’s Your Turn

Whether you have stars upon on thars or not, everyone — and we mean everyone — deserves feedback.

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Conversation Starters

  • Empathy: How to start conversations about anti-Asian racism with your family. (Source: NPR)
  • Supportiveness: Career expert: If you’re a woman, research says these are the 2 types of relationships you need to succeed. (Source: CNBC)
  • Vision: These tech workers left SF for Austin. They don't regret it. (Source: SFGATE)

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Cover Photo: Abadesi Osunsade


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