Orphaned and homeless at the age of 11, I was fortunate to benefit from school teachers, career professionals, and mentors who helped guide me into my future. They saw potential in me, and they became my village because of how dedicated they were in ensuring I had the right tools to succeed. Without them, where would I be?
Those early interventions defined the person I am today, and in providing those inspiring opportunities to me as I was just getting started, they also inspired me to pass this education on to others. I now dedicate much of my time to ensuring those from diverse backgrounds are able to fulfill the span of their potential through mentoring and exposure to the exciting opportunities in Science & Technology (STEM).
In 2012, I founded a social enterprise called “Your Future, Your Ambition” (YFYA) with the help and support of Cisco. YFYA aims to inspire, excite, and engage diverse talent in pursuing careers in STEM through education, experiences, and exposure.
A huge part of Cisco’s culture is teamwork and collaboration, thus I quickly sought the support of like-minded colleagues and more importantly other companies through Cisco’s Diversity & Inclusion networks (another one of my many passions!) Through these impressive networks, I was able to quickly assemble a group esteemed organizations to host an event at Cisco House during the London 2012 Olympics.
The event was a resounding success and a legacy was created.
Fast forward – four years later. In March 2016, YFYA hosted its 5th annual event with over 30 organisations taking part. 1,000 students also attended a wealth of STEM related activities and workshops throughout the day at the Emirates Stadium in London – which is home to Arsenal Football Club.
This 5th event marked the fact that over 3,000 young people had attended YFYA, 700 have received STEM mentoring, and over 100 have received STEM work placements, scholarships, internships, apprenticeship and jobs from the companies taking part.
It is now one of the top STEM events in the UK and has won many awards over the last few years. In addition, I have also received a few pieces of recognition and awards including GQ Magazine’s 100 Most Connected Men in Britain and a National Diversity Award for being a role model.
All of the recognition pertains to my work in Diversity, STEM, and Mentoring through our culture of empowerment, collaboration, and giving back. It makes me always proud to work for Cisco.
Quick Fire Round: Who is Tunji?
Where were you born? London
What did you study? Degree in Microelectronics and Master Degree in Information Systems
What was the last book you read? “Originals” by Adam Grant (my professor at Wharton)
Favorite city? San Francisco
Football team? Arsenal
Charities you support? Teach First & Amos Bursary (I am a mentor for both)
What other jobs have you had? Record producer and running a modelling agency
Favoritism saying? “Time Teller or Clock Builder?”
Next big thing for you? It has something to do with Rio and 2016. I can’t wait to write another blog post about it soon. Stay tuned!
I think the village has raised this child well.
How are you inspiring or mentoring the future?
Interested in working for a company that benefits everyone? Join us!
Thank you for sharing your story – it’s an inspiration to many that you can succeed despite the odds. As Michael Jordan said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
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