In this episode, Tim Mister Future of Work Salau and I discuss how work and communities are changing. We also discuss mentorship and the way we can support each other. Listen to learn about the changes that are happening due to COVID-19 and about how to use your strengths to grow and make progress in your own life and career.
Tim, Mr. Future of Work, Salau is the CEO and co-founder of Guide, the premium B2B learning and talent development Software as a Service (SaaS) app, helping remote teams and knowledge workers learn anytime, anywhere, on demand. He’s an author, investor, accomplished international keynote speaker, product leader tech influencer, and the only Nigerian African-American activist and global authority leading and shaping the discussion on the future of work, leadership and innovation.
In 2017, Tim founded the Guide group, a global movement of 300,000+ business leaders and professionals focused on helping every member lead a fulfilling career. Through his life’s work and global platform, he’s directly impacting a magnitude of 150+ million people. Tim Inspires millions of professionals and business leaders daily to embrace, change, and thrive in the future of work.
I interviewed Tim on November 19, 2020.
There are things that are common across all of us, and that’s the reality that we all want to love. – Tim SalauTweet
Timeline of the Chat
02:02 – Tim’s professional background
02:59 – What is Guide, Tim’s company
04:13 – What impact Tim is trying to make in the world
05:58 – The future of work
11:18 – How work could be transformed
16:29 – The future of society/community
20:17 – Dealing with scary things
23:52 – Sharing power and who’s in the room
26:25 – Ideas about building a better world
30:17 – How the tech sector can contribute to a better world
33:40 – The importance of mentorship
37:23 – Finding mentors and sponsorship
40:33 – Who are our mentors
42:23 – Tim’s Challenge/Invitation
48:09 – Connecting with Tim
Are we living as humans or are we living as cogs and machines? – Tim SalauTweet
- The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman
- Blessing Adogame
- Black Women Working podcast
- Deborah Owens
- Janine Sickmeyer
- Brené Brown
- You Belong: A Call for Connection, Sebene Selassie
- Good Life Project podcast
- Seth Gordon
- Tim’s website
I think mentorship comes in all shapes or forms, online, physical. – Tim SalauTweet
Transcript of the Episode
Tim’s professional background [02:02]
Damianne President: [02:02] As I’ve been researching about your work and reading up more about you, I’m like, Oh, there’s so many places we can go. So Oakland, California is your adopted home. And what initially brought you there?
Tim Salau: [02:19] So it was initially to work with a company called We Work at the time. That was after I left Microsoft in Seattle. We Work was growing an amazing company and movement. I’m no longer a part of the company, but what actually brought me to Silicon Valley was an opportunity, a job, with We Work. I was operating as their chief evangelist at the time, really building a community around their movement for flexible workspaces and flexible living. And it was a great experience. And, you know, I enjoyed Oakland so much that I decided to stay for the long-term. We consider it to be the headquarters, even though we’re a remote company of Guide.
What is Guide, Tim’s company [02:59]
Damianne President: [02:59] That goes naturally into tell us a bit more about Guide. You work with both education and businesses, right?
Tim Salau: [03:06] Yup. Yup. Yup. Yup. So Guide is a bite-size video training platform for remote teams. Essentially, around COVID-19, we pivoted the company to focusing on the shift to remote work that we were seeing, in a sense of everyone now is working, learning and living from home. So essentially what Guide does is it allows organizations to be able to onboard and train their remote workers. It’s also being able to be used for use cases such as, you know, customer enablement or even product team enablement, or a great example would be sales and marketing enablement, training your sales team on, you know, a new value proposition or how to sell to potential clients.
We’ve been really focused on this direction for the business since COVID-19. We realized that the shift to remote work is permanent; it’s not temporary, it’s permanent. It’s going to be the mode of work for the future of work and the next generation of work. So Guide really fulfills this need in the marketplace, where you have to train and engage your people differently.
What impact Tim is trying to make in the world [04:13]
Damianne President: [04:13] So you mentioned that you’ve pivoted with COVID-19. What was the original dream or what’s the impact overall that you’re trying to make in the world?
Tim Salau: [04:23] The fundamental initial positioning for Guide was as a life skills training app for high school students. And, you know, we were in that market for a few months. And then because of COVID-19, just the landscape of education drastically shifted. So there’s still elements of our business model and just even our company, it’s still kind of recognizing who we are pre COVID-19. We still offer a premium tier so people can have access to quality educational content from our own curated creators.
Our core business model is moreso around selling to B2B and being a self-service option for people to consume bite-sized video content from our own curators. But really, we want to be able to sell to businesses so we can have higher volume of margins, in terms of people in organizations being able to use it to train and engage in learning.
When we pivoted, we still kept our mission intact. Our core mission as a company is to equip every creator with the skills, mindset and opportunities for a fulfilling career. The platform that we’re building right now is just phase one of our plan for world domination, as you can imagine.
So even with the company, due to COVID-19, we still kept our why intact. We just realized that our what has to look different and who we’re selling to, who we would be monetizing from, would change. And who we would be serving as the customers would no longer be students. Instead, it would be corporate employees.
The future of work [05:58]
Damianne President: [05:58] I imagine that’s a very important thing as an entrepreneur, to be able to pivot and change to meet the needs of an audience who you’re serving and to consider what’s needed in the world at any moment.
Tim Salau: [06:10] It’s an important skill. One of the things I often say is that entrepreneurs and founders need to be able to adapt. And, you know, it’s probably one of the most important skills to lend to the future of work, would love to get your thoughts.
Damianne President: [06:26] What a great opportunity that we’re getting right now to practice this. And I think it’s very interesting that it’s happening for everybody. And so, if we think about the future of work, you’ve already said about how you think remote is here to stay. What are your predictions?
Tim Salau: [06:44] Yeah, you know, definitely think that remote work is here to stay. I think that organizations are going to lean more into embracing contractual work and flexible work in a sense of there’s a current trend around hiring part-time senior executives, so part-time CMOs, part-time chief product officers, part-time chief design officers. That can also apply to mid-level employees, maybe having them come on part-time or just even contractually so they can focus and spend more of their time, you know, on a different variety of projects, maybe outside of the workplace or more time focused on their families, and building maybe a startup venture that they have on the side.
My belief is that organizations are going to have to start embracing this new mode of work because people are preferring it. And if we continue to see the rise of independent workers and independent marketplaces that allow you to supply your work, supply your skills, you’re going to see a realization that organizations don’t necessarily need to have as much head count in their organizations as they had in the prior, right?
You have to engage talent now in a more flexible model. They don’t have to work in your company full time, but they can still feel as if they’re part of your culture and your company, even if they’re contractual or part-time. I think that’s going to be a powerful shift, and it’s a part of what I consider my prediction on where the future of work, remote work is going well.
We’re going to see less full-time employment and more mixed employment, whereas you still have full-time workers, but you also have just as much part-time or contractual workers within organizations.
Damianne President: [08:25] And definitely in this time we’re seeing people moving to different places because they don’t have to go into an office and recognizing that there are different approaches to life rather than commuting long distances or sitting in traffic and that kind of thing. And so I think there is a tension sometimes between what employers want and maybe traditional ways of looking at work or how employers think about work.
Where is this mind shift going to come from? Is it the employers or the employees that are going to push this, and what’s the advantage to each of them?
Tim Salau: [09:06] Well, definitely think it would be the employees. A lot of the way we’re rethinking work comes from the consumerization of work and what we’re seeing in moreso consumer marketplaces where people are getting accustomed to the experiences of an Airbnb, of having that convenience on tap in terms of just travel.
So what does Airbnb do? They offer a business travel companion product line, right, so embrace that in the business environment. And then once you start doing that, we’ll start to see professionals get accustomed to the fact that, well, we want these same experiences in terms of consumer preferences in our work, not only in terms of apps that we’re using and technologies that we’re using, but also the lifestyle.
And you’re also seeing that now generation Z or millennials, they embrace contractual work. They embrace this idea that being contractually obligated, not necessarily full-time, you don’t necessarily have to work for a company three, five or 10 years now. You can enjoy it for two years, maybe for some of them a year and then move on to your next thing or your next experience.
So I think there’s this fact that we’re going to see the shift start with the consumers of a work environment, which is often the employees, but I believe you’re also going to need leaders who are at the heart of the organization embracing the shift as well, and really cultivating cultures that nurture a work environment focused on the human and their experience, and that will lead to, I think, a much more empathetic and effective work environment.
Damianne President: [10:38] Yeah, it’s very interesting when I consider and see what is happening right now with work. I think I can begin to see shifts happening and definitely we’ve been forced to work from home, but I still see the need for some mental shifts to happen. So for example, in many businesses, there is still the expectation that if there was a physical meeting, we now have a meeting in Zoom, and I think there are many affordances of technology that we’re not using yet in terms of if we meet it’s because we need to collaborate, it’s not because you’re going to be passing me information, which is what so many meetings still are.
How work could be transformed [11:18]
So I think there is an opportunity for some transformation and for some improvements in the processes, for some growth, but I don’t know how much businesses already notice that there needs to be that change.
Tim Salau: [11:36] Yeah. I love that you said that because that’s true. A lot of businesses, they bring the traditional work environment to just a virtual element. It’s still essentially reinforcing the same workplace structures that happened pre-COVID-19. It doesn’t really move the needle forward in terms of your culture, embracing remote work, which is, you know, asynchronous work by default.
You’re right that there needs to be a mindset shift in a sense of traditional leaders of these organizations. They need to wake up. It’s sad because I think a lot of the foundational and traditional workplace principles that were cultivated in the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, and all the way up towards the nineties and two thousands still influences the working world in a really ineffective way.
In our organizations, we believe in a 30 hour work week. We believe that you have to be an effective communicator. Slack is one of our best friends. It’s a great way to send updates without us having to get into a Zoom meeting. Even for me as a founder and an entrepreneur, I love to structure our working lives around our holistic ones.
So are we emotionally well, are we physically well? More importantly, are we mentally well? Work is 20% of your life. It should be at least. The other 80% is you spending time with family, you making sure that you’re nurturing your creativity outside of work, you making sure you’re taking care of your physical wellness. All of these other things influence how effective you are in terms of the 20% at work.
So for me, I believe that a lot of organizations need to rethink the model. Right now it’s often perceived in most traditional organizations that work has 80% of your life and the other 20% is your personal life, right. And that’s just not going to fly. I think you’re seeing that in organizations that are losing employees, they’re losing talent and they’re losing the attractivity of their brands because people don’t want to work there for too long and they can’t keep talent.
So, you know, usually you’re going to see those kinds of organizations fall off or, or die. And I don’t think you’d want that to happen to your organization as a leader.
Damianne President: [13:37] it’s interesting because you just said that work is 20% of life and you said it in such a blase way. But as you said that I was like, Hmm, that’s an interesting figure. Right away, I start making calculations and I’m like, I don’t think that’s true for a lot of people.
And so what I’m hearing you say is that this becomes a shift. And certainly I have conversations with friends and family, and I hear people say I want more time for the things that I want to do. Work takes all of my best hours and then I have nothing left and it feels like something needs to give.
Tim Salau: [14:18] A hundred percent. For most people it’s not work is 20% of your life; it’s more so about a hundred percent of your life, which is actually unhealthy, unsustainable. It does affect you in the short term or the long term in terms of your family, in terms of your friendships, in terms of are you doing the work even outside of your core job that is fulfilling to you. Are you pursuing those passion projects? Are you making time for that?
Even for me, I realize that what really fulfills me is not seeing my job as a CEO and founder as the end all, be all to my life. It’s one element of my life but I also have amazing friendships. I enjoy traveling. I’m a perpetual creative. I’m always doing things and I have my hands in other things outside of my role. But more important, I enjoy my life outside of my core job and responsibilities as a founder and a CEO.
But all of those things about my life, the people I meet in my travels, my friendship, my family, the influence, my ability to be more effective at my job and be more effective for our people, and when you start seeing your life at a high level like that, you realize, well, 80% of my life, I need to make sure it’s great, my family, my friendships, my health. And then that allows me to become my best self the 20% of my life where I can give as much as I can too. And I think that’s interesting, right?
A lot of people don’t have that 80- 20% breakdown. It’s more like work is a hundred percent and then that causes burnout, it causes depression, it causes sadness. It causes this idea that you live to work and all you’re doing is competing in this rat race. And you know, that could be your life if you choose it. But I think for many of us, we don’t want that to be our lives and we’re seeing technology and we realize that, you know what, even in COVID-19, people are loving spending more time with their families at home.
For some people, it’s still kind of crazy at work. Not everyone has just taken that physical environment digitally, but people still appreciate the fact that they don’t have to commute for two to three hours anymore. We are really being more conscious of how we spend our time, and are we living as humans or are we living as cogs and machines? I think that’s a question that we need to ask ourselves.
The future of society/community [16:29]
Damianne President: [16:29] I was listening to a podcast the other day and it was about the future of work. I think it was Basecamp, but I’m not sure. The person that they were interviewing was a bit concerned about the trend towards remote work and their concern was about what happens to communities.
How do we ensure that we’re still building strong communities. I think we can see that right now. So for example, as offices are closing, there are lots of small businesses that would generally cater to the people coming into the office around them, so restaurants, for example, or cafes that have been suffering.
So how does the change in work and the move to remote work affect our communities and our societies, the other parts of the systems that we’re part of?
Tim Salau: [17:22] Oh, wow. That’s so powerful because I think it’s creating more economic opportunity in our communities. And a great example I’d have for you is in my local area in Oakland, I actually live really closely, probably a block away from this amazing, beautiful restaurant that pre COVID-19, they moved into the neighborhood. Post COVID-19, they were able to survive and that’s because they just rethought their business model a little bit. They eventually went on to offer their food on UberEats and other delivery services platforms. And in addition to that, now they have outdoor dining because the restaurant is formatted in a way that supports outdoor dining.
My belief is that they’ve actually seen more business now that people are working from home and they’re ordering their food from platforms like Uber Eats and others from home as well. So they’re seeing potentially more business. They’re seeing more people actually come into the restaurant because now it’s outdoor dining, which is a little bit more beautiful and they’re enjoying the sun in Oakland.
The business is in a better shape post COVID-19 than pre COVID 19. And I think that’s just a micro example of the positivity this can do for small medium businesses, in a sense. And at the same time, how it’s causing business owners and local communities to think about how are we structuring our cities around the shift. One of the things I’ve noticed is that when I go to the park in Oakland, I see more people at the park now, enjoying themselves with family, with their dog, enjoying the music. Obviously they’re wearing the mask, but maybe that’s an opportunity for mayors and local councils to think about how are we beautifying the city in a way where we’re making more room for parks and places for people to gather and enjoy the value of being outdoors, and then minimizing construction of streets and making sure that streets aren’t wide, as it is in most American cities; we’re a bit narrower and we’re making more room for biking and all of these natural things that people would love to do if they’re working from home and they have 30 minutes to an hour of their schedule to go on a quick bike ride or to take a quick walk to a local restaurant. So it’s forcing our local communities to think about how are you embracing the humanization of living if this is going to be the new mode of work?
A lot of what the future of work is creating is shifting how the future of living is going to happen and look like. Cities are still going to exist but there won’t be as how do I say this… they won’t be as dense. There’ll be more open spaces, more outdoor restaurants, and more sustainable usage of cars, energy to ensure that everyone is feeling as if they’re contributing to the city versus just taking from the city. So I think that that’s what I’m currently seeing at a local level. Cities are adapting to this new shift.
Dealing with scary things [20:17]
Damianne President: [20:17] Of course COVID-19 we didn’t get a time to plan ahead. So it’s forcing people to be creative. We have the saying build the boat while you’re on it or build the plane while you’re flying it or something like that, which may not be the most comfortable, but it definitely provides an opportunity to be creative.
Tell us about something that scares you. How do you personally deal with things that scared you?
Tim Salau: [20:40] Oh, great question. This is a very honest answer because often the lack of empathy that we’re currently seeing in our society right now, for people who are different, for people who don’t fit a traditional path, and even the lack of empathy we’re seeing for people in communities of color, not to get political on this podcast by any means but it scares me how we don’t hold leaders accountable, especially if you’re in the highest executive office of power. And we start to neglect the needs of people who don’t look like us.
Even for me, I’m a privileged Black man because I’ve been grateful enough to work with Microsoft, to work in a capacity with Facebook, to work with Google and to have some really great companies on my resume, but have accomplished a lot of great things and to even understand how tech works.
We’re thinking of democracy and society where most people don’t understand; they’re not digitally literate. They don’t have access to financial markets or education of financial markets the way I may or many people who are wealthy may. And more importantly, we are neglecting sometimes at a high level, the needs of immigrants.
I am an immigrant who came into this country hoping just for the same opportunities as those who were born domestically. And it scares me when I read sometimes conversations around how social media is distorting things and creating a much more radical world.
I think we’re starting to lose the ability to talk to each other and form bonds and form trust. And that’s scary. That really does scare me because I’ve lived a lot of different lives in this short life. I’ve seen what struggles look like in the hood. I’ve seen what wealth looks like. And more importantly, I’ve seen what suburbia looks like. So I’ve spoken to people. I’ve traveled to places. I’ve been able to empathize with our diverse body of people and develop an inclusive muscle. And I think we need more of that in leadership roles, in organizations and fundamentally within our democracy, even in our politics.
Damianne President: [22:41] What can we do? What can you do on an individual basis against such a big, scary thing?
Tim Salau: [22:50] I think the smallest thing that we can do at a micro level is truly be the change that we need to see, talk to people who do not look like you. You know, often I tell people that I can tell a lot about a leader and who he or she is or who they are by their network, who they have in their network and who they seek counsel from or who they have as relationships. Is it a diverse body of people or is it a homogenous body of people that reflect their worldview or their class?
I’ve learned and I’ve developed a sense of wisdom in reality, in the sense of there are things that are common across all of us, and that’s the reality that we all want to love. We all want to live a good life and more importantly, we all have a giving spirit. And I think the biggest thing that one can do and develop as a leader, especially initiative toward future of work, is developing the empathy and inclusion muscle, and speaking to people, having conversations like we’re having is something that I don’t think leaders do enough with people who don’t look like them and people of communities that they’ve never come from, they don’t live in. We need more of that in the world. We do.
Sharing power and who’s in the room [23:52]
Damianne President: [23:52] Yeah, I think about in terms of access and also knowing how to engage. So, for example, when we see some of the issues that have come up, some of the big brands doing things that make you go, Hmm. Then sometimes we wonder, Oh, was there nobody in the room that could identify this may be problematic? Was there nobody of a different perspective? And sometimes I think that there might be people of different races, of different religions, of different backgrounds in those rooms, but it’s about empowerment as well.
So what does true representation look like?
Tim Salau: [24:36] Yeah, true. That’s a powerful question. That’s a powerful question. You know, true representation, uh, looks like. It looks like us not making it seem as if it’s a surprise where we see someone such as Kamala Harris achieve Madam Vice President stature, right? She’s always been capable; she showed that she was capable and she made history. So true representation looks like when we’re not making history anymore with these opportunities. It doesn’t feel like history when a black male or female founder raises capital and they have a successful business. It doesn’t feel like we’re making history when you see more diverse people going into politics and being able to achieve positions, hopefully such as Kamala Harris in the future.
And it doesn’t feel like history when we continue to see people of diverse ethnicities achieve, no matter what their industry or their sector. It doesn’t feel like history; it becomes the norm. And I think that’s what true representation looks like.
The US is a melting pot; that was the foundation of this nation. So I believe that true representation looks like, Oh, it’s not a surprise when we see diverse leaders across every sector. We embraced that and we realized we’re creating a much better nation whereas systematic oppressions don’t influence our politics; it doesn’t influence our media.
And more importantly, we’re creating networks across every industry that reflects the true stature of our nation, and it doesn’t just reward or give privilege to a select few.
Ideas about building a better world [26:25]
Damianne President: [26:25] Last weekend, I met with my book club. We read and discussed a case for reparations by Ta-Nehasi Coates. I found it so interesting. I always wondered if the issue is one of access, if the issue is one of the door being closed, or the ceiling being lowered even if you do have access. And it seems like it’s kind of all of the above often that people can encounter. And so as you speak about what representation looks like to you in terms of it being normalized, this is really making me think that it’s about everybody has the access and the opportunity. And so it is a surprise because we know that not everybody has the access, not everybody has the same opportunity. There are so many more barriers to people based on how they look, based on their race, based on their sexuality. And so, yeah, I’m with you on that vision.
Tim Salau: [27:33] Let’s make it happen. And you know what I think is education and access are huge elements. That’s why I’m passionate about education. And, you know, I think that education actually does matter. It’s an infinite battle in the sense of there is always going to be a fight for us to educate people who aren’t, who don’t have the same access as even maybe you are I who understand tech, who work with companies, who do things such as creative podcasts and talk to people who are really in their fields.
There’s this responsibility that we’re always going to have in ensuring that information and that access to exposure and representation gets in the hands of people who may not be chasing the same roles that we’re in. But if they were just to, you know, find out about it, become curious enough, it will change their path, it will lead them to becoming more financially literate, understanding the power of technology, understanding the things that they have at their disposal. So I’ll often see even the work that I do as the CEO and founder of Guide, this company that we’re building. We’re building a company that’s on an infinite mission in the sense where quality access to education is always going to be around and even fundamentally the need to upskill your people to be great in their work and their roles is always going to be around. I don’t think that’s something that will never not happen.
So I think that when we think about being the change that we want to see, we have to realize that, you know, systematic oppression, systematic racism, access to quality education, those aren’t going to be issues that are solved overnight. They’re systemic issues and there are infinite battles. You’re always going to have to choose what side you’re on and be on the side where progressive change is being made versus settling for what the status quo is. And right now the status quo just isn’t good enough and we can create much, much better.
Damianne President: [29:24] It’s so interesting because many years back when I lived in India, I read the Thomas Friedman book The World is Flat, and I think there’s been several iterations of it since then. But I was so upset as I was reading that book because I was like, Okay, I understand that it’s the possibility of the worldwide web and web 2.0 and all of that stuff, but the world is not yet flat with technology.
As I visited different places in India and saw people and saw how they lived, I was like, the world is not yet flat when people can’t even afford enough food for them to live. I very much think about the systems that are at play. I think that sometimes we can fall into the trap of seeing technology as being the solution, the savior.
How the tech sector can contribute to a better world [30:17]
I think that there is more to the picture than just the technology. As we talk about trying to be the change we want to see in the world, what are some of the things that the tech sector, about technology we need to consider, and we need to think about?
Tim Salau: [30:36] Well, I think one of the things that we have to realize that it’s not always about the technology. Sometimes it’s about the humanity of the people that we’re serving. And often, too many times in the tech sector, we focus on the tech, the tech, the tech, the tech is going to save the world, is going to be world changing. It’s really powerful, so unique; look at it mixed with this product.
But we forget to think about the human, the customer experience, their circumstances, their access levels, their digital literacy. And I think we need to start optimizing around how do we build a technology that is subservient and it serves a purpose for a person, a customer and their circumstance. And we try to meld the tech, the product with their needs. We should often start with the customer experience first, and then work backwards to create something that’s truly human. And in the tech industry, we get really enamored by what’s next, whether it is a blockchain, a crypto.
Who are we truly serving and how does it really reduce barriers to access and creating economic opportunity or fundamentally shifting the narrative to where humans are able to leverage the tech to be better people? one of the test case examples I love using was often with self-driving cars.
You know, the technology continues to be built. There’s incredible use cases coming out around it. There’s all kinds of tests being done in California and other places around us such as Pittsburgh. And you know, this shift is still happening. But if you go talk to anyone in low-income communities, they don’t care about self driving cars. They can care less about what’s going to happen with the technology cause they’re still trying to make sure that food is on the table for their families. They’re still trying to make sure that the gas stations are still available. They could care less about what type of energy models are being used to create self-driving cars or, you know, who it’s serving. Those people do not care because it doesn’t really reach them, or the messaging and the product doesn’t really speak to them and their circumstances.
So an opportunity to flip that model is to be able to say we’re using self-driving cars as an opportunity to offer your kids, your families an opportunity to focus more on maybe getting that side gig or really allowing families or people who are struggling to pay rent. Being a self-driving car coordinator, that could be another job opportunity that’s created due to this technology, different narratives to pull from on why this technology can matter for people who it doesn’t really reach right now.
Are we just early adopters or people who loved the drive Teslas and things of that nature? But what’s an opportunity where I can humanize it and tell narratives and stories on why matters for those families who are living in communities where tech isn’t always available or understood? And how does it really change their circumstance and change their livelihood? And I think that’s where we need to get with technology, really humanizing it to where it matters for people who don’t often understand how it works.
The importance of mentorship [33:40]
Damianne President: [33:40] One of the terms that we used to often use in education to do with technology was the whole idea of digital divide. I don’t hear that term used that much anymore, but it still exists. I was recently reading something about how many students in California and in New York and many other places certainly did not have access to digital devices at home in order for them to do their online courses during COVID-19 for example.
So I think a situation like COVID-19 shows a lot of the fault lines that exist within our structures. One thing I noticed in reading about you is that one of the things you consider important is to provide mentorship for people. Why is mentorship so important to you and how do you engage with it?
Tim Salau: [34:28] Yeah, for me growing up, I never even realized I would be doing the thing I do now in tech. And I believe at early stages mentorship, and even more importantly sponsorship, is being able to have someone in your life that elevates you into greater opportunities and becomes an advocate for you is even more important.
I think mentorship comes in all shapes or forms, online, physical. The most important thing is that you’re seeking it. And I think it will give you the exposure, the opportunities that you need. Instead of thinking of life from your own, in your purview, when you have mentors who can act as guidance for you, they’ll share their own experiences, their insights with you, and you’ll be able to make your own judgments accordingly.
I think that’s powerful because so many people in the early stages of their careers, whether it be after they graduated high school or after they graduate college, they don’t necessarily know what they’re great at, what their strengths are, but sometimes speaking to a mentor can unlock that for you.
A good example is in my community, from our Guide community. Before Guide even existed, there was something called the Mentors and Mentees Community that I founded in 2017. Because of that community, so many of the members in our community went on to getting jobs with Facebook, Google, JP Morgan, and amazing companies.
One of our amazing community champions, her name is Blessing Adogame. She often thanks me for really sparking a fire in her or becoming a community leader. She has our own community that she’s built now to help people get into technology and take control of their careers. But she often tells me that you were an inspiration for me because I saw you doing it and being representation in terms of the work you’re doing to get to Google, to get to Microsoft, and as a “LinkedIn influencer”, and that representation and my influence is a spark of inspiration for her to realize as a woman, she can do it in the work that she’s doing. And as she’s not only been relegated to who she is at work, but she can be just as influential and as powerful online with her social network and form her own communities. Mentorship is just like that, right?
Being the change that you want to see and inspiring someone to realize that your path isn’t linear; you can construct and design your career how you want and I think that we need more people being that representation and that guide, that mentor for our next-generation talent outside of the workplace, but definitely in the workplace too.
If you look at the studies, Black and Brown women and men in corporate America are hurting and they’re struggling to progress in their careers and even attaining leadership roles, board member roles. We need more guidance sponsorship for them and also other ethnicities in the workplace who aren’t really getting the visibility and the sponsorship that they deserve.
Finding mentors and sponsorship [37:23]
Damianne President: [37:23] And how does this happen at work? Because I think one thing I noticed is that sometimes there’s a connection missing with somebody who might not look like you, or there are so many stereotypes of the aggressive, angry, whether or not you’re a professional based on your hair. There are so many pieces to the puzzle that are different for Black and Brown folks than for White people, people who look like most of the CEOs or most of the people doing the hiring. What advice do you have for somebody who’s listening and who is trying to find those opportunities, but they’re not really sure where to go?
Tim Salau: [38:12] I would say to them I empathize with your struggle. I think one of the things I don’t often like doing is recommending that people who are already minorities in a working environment, who aren’t getting that exposure, to level up in leadership and sponsorship.
I don’t like this idea that we always have to encourage them to be the people who form the black ERGs. I don’t think that should be your responsibility. Your responsibility is to stand up for yourself, to stand up for how you believe a workplace culture should be.
Whether or not you lead that Black ERG group or not, just stand up for yourself and for your rights as a workplace citizen, and also as someone who deserves to grow in their career. Do that, and if that doesn’t work, if no one is listening to you and you don’t have any type of influence, I think that’s a testament to the type of culture there is and you don’t deserve that culture.
I think if you can’t change your environment, you either one create your own environment outside of that, or you find a better environment that’s for you. Gratefully, there’s a lot of jobs and opportunities in this world. And I think given your circumstance, make the best decision possible for you, but don’t feel as if you have to force an environment to change on your behalf. When there’s no one that can be an ally to you in that environment, the best thing is to seek those who can be allies. Try to educate them on what effective allyship is.
But even if that doesn’t work, understand that there are environments cultivated for you so you can thrive and you don’t always feel as the minority and they give you a clear sponsorship and leadership path. You could find those environments and you always see yourself too, and you are empowered to do so because it’s your career. So that would be kind of my empowerment and way for them to kind of guide themselves through that type of situation.
Damianne President: [39:57] I heard on another podcast black women working, they recommended that depending on the country that you’re living in, so for example in a lot of European countries, after you have an interview, you can actually ask to see the notes right there. And apparently by the law, they’re supposed to show you the notes.
Then I thought, wow. I think that could be so revealing in some cases, in terms of finding out what could you improve or what can you change or what kind of situation are you actually facing. Is this a place that you want to work?
Tim and Damianne’s mentors [40:33]
Who are some of your mentors either now or in the past?
Tim Salau: [40:37] My mentors right now. Woo. I think I have a lot of them online, a lot of people that I’ve been reading and inspired from. My dad is a great mentor to me. He’s a great man. He’s a pastor in Houston, Texas, leads an amazing church. He’s filled with a lot of wisdom that I’ve inherited in my journey.
I have a diverse body of people who are similar to me in age, but also older than me. One of them is Deborah Owens. She’s a huge advocate around building inclusive workplaces not only for people of color, but also women as well and how leaders can embrace inclusive organizations. I used to work with her and she’s a great mentor for me to tap on when she’s not too busy and I’m not too busy.
And I have women on our advisory board who are great mentors. One of them, her name is Janine Sickmeyer. She is a powerful entrepreneur and founder who built a company for seven years and eventually sold it for millions of dollars. And now she’s a huge advocate around making venture capital more accessible for Black and Brown or diverse founders of different ethnicities and genders. I love a lot of the work she’s doing and she has four kids. She has four kids, is a super entrepreneur and at the same time a supermom as well. So, you know, I learned a lot from her on how you juggle the diversity that is life and business and things of that nature. And she’s currently working on a book.
So I have a diverse body of mentors and people in my life that I often lean in on when I need guidance.
Damianne President: [42:10] As a change agent and you help people to learn what they need to do, what they want to. Do you have a challenge or an invitation for listeners that could help them live the life they want?
Tim Salau: [42:23] Yes, absolutely. And I would also love to get your thoughts on who are the mentors in your life. But my challenge for people who want to live the life that they want is realize no matter where you’re at in your life, early career, mid career, late career, there’s tremendous upside in designing your life the way you want and being patient in that journey.
And the challenge I want to give to you is go ask two to three people that you truly admire or that you respect, what do they admire about you? And given their answer, reflect on why they admire that but also, are you actually emulating that in the career that you’re building for yourself. The thing that they most admire about you, are you emulating that truly within yourself?
They’ll give you an objective idea of what they admire about you, but are you living there? And oftentimes the things that people see in us are maybe our ability to be really people persons, or our smarts, or our confidence. We don’t actually emulate that in our own careers or the things that we do, or the way we take risks.
So I often challenge people to do that because it’ll give them an objective reference on how people perceive them, and then you’ll have to ask yourself do you perceive yourself in the career you’re building for yourself the same way.
For me, when I left my job with Microsoft and when I stopped working within corporations and now I’m building my own venture, I realized that I am now living the life that matches up to how people see me.
People have always seen me as a change agent and as a risk taker and someone who’s super extroverted. But when I was working in corporate America, when I was doing things I was doing, and I didn’t necessarily see myself as that, not saying there’s anything wrong in not seeing yourself as that, but I never really took risks before in my life.
If anything, my entire background has been I went to two amazing colleges at Texas Tech University, UT Austin. I then got a job in corporate America. My life has followed the same traditional path up until deciding that, you know what, I have the skills, the ability, the stamina, and the upside to creating and designing and career that I want. I’m going to go do it. I
I’m going to build my own company. I’m going to start speaking. I’m going to start doing all the things I’m doing now. I took that risk. Now every time people tell me I see you as this, it actually matches up so how I’m living my life and how I’m living my career.
In the past, it actually didn’t match up. I was super risk averse. So ask people how do you see me? What are the traits in me that you truly admire? And then ask yourself, do you actually live up to that in your career and where you’re going? And you’ll be surprised by the answer.
Damianne President: [45:05] Yeah, I’m going to answer your question that you threw back onto me.
So I think for work ethic, my dad. Every day, rain or shine, he was up at five and off to work. I was actually just walking with a friend today and we were talking about how we make decisions. And I will say that I’m very driven, like I’m a logical thinker and analytical and all those things. But then like, when do you just let your heart decide? And I was like, when it matches my head and so.
Tim Salau: [45:45] I love that.
Damianne President: [45:46] This is not a new journey, but I started following Brene Brown’s work around vulnerability just because maybe sometimes you can follow your intuition and you don’t have to decision tree everything that you think about. So I’d say Brene Brown mostly because she kind of opened up this whole idea to me about vulnerability and leading in a different way that’s not always head based. And along that same path, I interviewed this lady Sebene Selassie and I’ve been kind of following her from a distance since I interviewed her because she’s a meditation teacher and she has a book called You Belong. And when I talked to her, I just found her so calming.Like you know sometimes you talk to people who practice yoga or meditation and they’re not at all calm and you wonder how well it’s working for them.
Tim Salau: [46:48] Agreed.
Damianne President: [46:49] Sebene really seemed to embody this calm and I was like, yeah, I could use some of that in my life. And so those two. And I listen to lots of podcasts around productivity, work and living a good life. And so around the idea of living a good life, I really like Jonathan Fields’ work. And mostly because he looks at many different ways of what does it mean to live a good life. And Seth Gordon I have been following for years and have taken several of his courses because he always makes me think in his daily blog posts, and what does a thinker like but more opportunities to think.
Tim Salau: [47:34] Yeah, love that. Love that. I love that. It’s great that you can list them.
Damianne President: [47:39] Well, yes. I think those are the ones that whenever something comes up from them, I will often stop and listen or read. At least it will captivate my interest. And I won’t just put it in my read later pile, which happens a lot too, because we definitely live in a world that has a lot of information and opportunity and you have to pick.
Tim Salau: [48:06] Exactly. Couldn’t agree more.
Connecting with Tim [48:09]
Damianne President: [48:09] Where can listeners learn more about you, connect with you, all of those good things.
Tim Salau: [48:15] Thanks for this opportunity to be on your show and your series. Definitely connect with me you amazing listeners on mrfutureofwork.com. Sign up for my newsletter for infrequent updates cause I’m not always actually messaging my newsletter. I only messaged here and there when I’m up to something that’s interesting.
Damianne President: [48:35] That actually makes it sound a bit more appealing because information overload, we just mentioned that.
Tim Salau: [48:41] It’s crazy how many people jam your inbox with their newsletters that you really don’t want to read. So follow me if you want to, follow my work. But also if you want to be a part and down with our movement and what we’re doing with Guide, check out guideapp.co.
Check us out. You know, we’re currently still in beta and we’re going to be doing our public launch next year. And we recently just launched a tea brand for our community called big black tea. So check out bigblacktea.com if you are a lover of tea and you want to support our movement. So thank you so much for tuning in and listening to me.
Damianne President: [49:15] All those links will be in the show notes so people can find them there as well. And definitely go check out what Tim’s doing. Thank you so much for talking to me today.
Tim Salau: [49:24] Thank you for having me. I appreciate you.
Given your circumstance, make the best decision possible for you. – Tim SalauTweet
When there’s no one that can be an ally to you in that environment, the best thing is to seek those who can be allies. – Tim SalauTweet