Episode 17

On Belonging with Abadesi Osunsade

In this episode I talked to Abadesi Osunsade, the CEO and founder of hustlecrew, and also the VP of global community and belonging at Brandwatch. We talk about all kinds of aspects of belonging in the workplace.

And right at the start, already at ~2min into the episode, Abadesi shares an excellent and to the point definition of belonging and why it’s important:

A notion, a concept that’s based on research that shows us, for people to really be productive at work and excel in their roles and stay in your company and aspire to greater things in your organization, they have to feel like they belong. they have to feel like they can show up to work, or Zoom in the pandemic, be their authentic self and not have to hide any part of their identity. Whether that’s a disability, having kids at home, being muslim, being a women, whatever it might be. They want to be that person all the time at work, and feel comfortable and safe, that they can be that person, that they as that person belong. Even if the CEO doesn’t look like them or relate to them, or their line manager doesn’t look like them or relate to them, that’s still ok. They can be themselves, they belong, they have equal status in the team. And this is where this idea of belonging comes from. That’s why this is something that so many companies are putting resources into. They want to make sure that people feel like they belong, because they want to make sure people can be super productive, and they also want to make sure that any diversity they have can be retained and hopefully even grow.

Around 10min into our conversation Abadesi goes on to make the point of why it’s necessary to see community as the future of belonging:

The value of taking a community driven approach [to belonging] is that it takes that burden of change away from the people who already have less privileged.

At ~16min then Abadesi shares this truth-bomb on why equity is not enough, how equity can happen to not go far enough:

So, the challenge with belonging is that you can make the most equitable processes across your whole company. But if you are still behaving in a way that shows you have not really understood your privilege as well as bias and how that works, then you could potentially not score well in terms of belonging.

Only, to right after that, share the very practical advice to use the frameworks we have in tech for building products when working to increase belonging.

We already understand, we know how to build products. We know how to build a product roadmap. We know how to split tasks across a team, set milestones, set deadlines. We know how to set KPIs. We know how to like make assumptions. Validate those assumptions with the data that we measure, decide what to keep working on, what to abandon, what to reiterate. All of these frameworks are just as valuable for creating a culture with more belonging or community with more belonging. And so the first thing I’d say is, imagine that this conversation was not about how can I increase belonging, but imagine it was about how can I increase revenue. Or […] how can I reduce customer complaints? What would you do to, to understand the next best step? You look at the data, wouldn’t you, right? Like if I wanted to understand how to gain more customers for my product, I talk to my customers.

I hope you’ll learn as much as I did while listening to this episode.



Listen to “cto.coffee - Episode 17 - On Belonging with Abadesi Osunsade”.

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This episode was recorded on 9-November-2020.


The transcript of this episode will be published soon.

Show Notes

Connect with Abadesi on Linkedin, Twitter, on her personal website and via Hustlecrew on Twitter or Instagram.

~1min The challenge of conceptualizing Belonging

~16min Why equity is not enough and instead companies should strive toward belonging

~18min Use frameworks for developing products when choosing to address the challenge of belonging

~20min Get a baseline of data first before implementing measures to improve inclusivity and belonging

~22min Strategies for creating safe spaces

~28min How to raise awareness for different lived experiences

~33min How to start with conceptualizing the challenge of belonging and how at Brandwatch Abadesi started out by building a shared language to talk about bias, inclusion, privilege, belonging.

~34min Be careful to set realistic goals and not set your change initiative up for failure from the beginning.

The intro/outro music in the podcast was made with Sonic Pi from this code.

Production & Editing

This cto.coffee podcast episode was edited and prepared for publishing by Namos Studio.