When innocent’s Test Analyst Ayo Akintobi comes to work, he is relaxed. Depending on the day, you can find him dressed in casual clothes and a durag while working with his team to perfect upcoming details of delicious and health-conscious drinks customers will enjoy. You’ve just experienced the day, and the life of a company centred on authentic diversity, where people bring all of themselves to their roles to drive excellence and productivity. Unfortunately, while this scenario is ideal--it’s not the norm, and Ayo’s previous experience is a testament to that. “I used to work for a company in a racist area, so I did have quite a few racist experiences with customers, and the company wasn’t supportive. I had a colleague who also experienced racist issues with customers. They moved her to a different location, which I disagreed with because I felt the company should have supported her,” he said. Comparatively, when in a space of autonomy, Ayo's talent shines. His background in product analogy and testing helped support innocent’s systems transition. He saw unique pain points and worked to solve them quickly. But, according to Ayo, his most meaningful work is supporting a culture where people feel connected, welcome, heard, and accepted for who they are.
BYP: What does your role mean to you, and what do you like most about it?
Ayo: I wouldn’t have been able to do things I had been allowed to do at innocent at my previous company. I feel like we’ve made the company a safe space. For instance, people have mentioned that they feel like music wasn’t inclusive, so we worked with our culture team, took a step back, and got them to make it more inclusive. We have an annual event, and someone brought concerns that they didn’t drink for religious reasons but felt excluded. We put that across to our team, and it was handled well. Our company made it a point to avoid asking people why they weren’t drinking and started to be more inclusive.
BYP: Do you think other corporate companies should use innocent’s inclusivity approach to understand allyship better? Ayo: I think they should because where people of colour are concerned, it helps us voice our concerns, and it helps make the company feel more inclusive, which is essential. Still, I feel that other safe spaces for our allies are crucial because we have many affinity groups. I feel like what makes things unique is it allows people to ask questions they wouldn’t usually feel comfortable asking in their inner circles.
BYP: Do you feel like innocent is as diverse, or could it be more so? Ayo: When I first joined, it wasn’t as diverse as it is now. I know that it is the company's focus to become more diverse, not just in ethnicity, and I know the company is actively trying to rectify that. If companies just employ the right person for the job, not considering bias, then in an ideal world, you’d probably have a company that reflects the population.
BYP: Do you have any advice for anyone trying to follow your career path?
Ayo: In general, one thing I like about innocent is that I am encouraged to be natural, and I am encouraged to be myself. I think anyone wanting to go to any job should be themselves. I mean, I know that you don’t bring your outside-of-work personality to work in a way that compromises your professionalism, but I think it’s important to be yourself at work. I think that generally makes you happier. Specifically, for someone who wants to get into testing, try and get into a company with products you are experienced with and enjoy using. There will be gaps in your knowledge regardless of where you work, but I enjoy it more because it’s stuff that I understand and know. If you want to get into testing, try and find a company that does something you enjoy using.
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