For Black History Month 2022, we wanted to focus on uplifting the voices of our employees. We wanted them to lead the conversation and communicate their stories and challenges in a way which they are comfortable in order for us to continue to learn more about Black History, the impact it has on our team and shed light on the difficulties that go unnoticed to so many of us each day.
Our Marketing Manager Liz Partridge, sat down with Senior Insights Analyst, Eniola Opesan, who has been with Little Dot since November 2021, who was kind enough to tell us her story.
Liz: “Thank you so much for stepping forward, Eni, we are thrilled that you are taking this time out of your day to chat with us.”
Liz: "Tell us a little about yourself: where you’re from, where you grew up, your family and heritage - all the things that have made you who you are today."
Eniola: “So I was born in West London but raised in East London, more specifically Newham, near the London Olympic Park. My dad was Head of Maths at a nearby school in Leytonstone. Heritage-wise, all of my family are Nigerian, and from quite an academic background. I know it’s rare for people of their generation to have been to University, however both of my parents and my wider family have achieved that in their lives.”
Liz: “One of my favourite writers is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who wrote a wonderful book called Half of a Yellow Sun, I don’t know if you’ve read it? It feels quite pertinent to BHM as it follows the story of a young boy in 1960s Nigeria during a civil war. A must-read in my opinion! ”
Eniola: “Yes that does ring a bell! Another great resource that relates strongly to heritage and BHM is Purple Hibiscus and Americanah, which are both also written by Chimamanda. I remember reading Americana during my GCSE studies and it was a big influence on my life.”
“Strangely enough, my family has never told me too much about Nigeria and the specifics of where they are from. From what I can remember my dad was actually born in England and my mum was born in Nigeria, in a town just outside one of the larger cities. She didn’t spend that much time in Nigeria as my Grandfather was a diplomat, therefore had to travel around to different countries quite frequently, which meant she was never in Nigeria for a long period of time, but in fact travelled the world from a very young age. My parents both then moved over to England together, got married and had me and my brother.”
Liz: "Do you feel like even though you were born here in the UK, your parents and your heritage have played a part in shaping who you are today? Do you feel that there is a Nigerian influence and culture within your home and life now?”
Eniola: “Yes and no I would say. When I was a lot younger I wouldn’t say that I was ever taught too much about my culture. What I did learn was from reading about it and learning that I took upon myself. Now I am older, I definitely feel there is an essence of my culture in the household for sure.
In terms of growing up, I would say there was quite a stereotypical African upbringing on other sides of my family, in terms of the whole ‘parents working super hard to get you to where you are now, putting pressure on you to be academically successful and have a good job etc.’ However with me and my brother I feel like my parents put less emphasis on this, we had much more freedom to explore what we wanted to do, provided we were still working hard in school as well. And I feel this slightly more lenient upbringing is a big reason I do what I do now, as I never felt there was a certain avenue I “had to” go down, I was allowed to explore my options.
Liz: "What is your role here at LDS? Tell us about the journey that led you to where you are now?"
Eniola: “It’s quite an obscure journey! So my job at LDS is Senior Insights Analyst, basically working with lots of data, but rather than the expected weekly, monthly, quarterly reporting that data is commonly used for, my role is more about using data to investigate new ways that can benefit the company or solve a specific problem. So for example, at the moment I have just finished building a video benchmarking tool, which teams can use to compare the average performance of videos over different periods of time, which then allows them to set targets and KPIs.
But strangely enough, at uni I didn’t learn anything about data science or data analysis, my degree was actually in Crime Scene Science - aka training to be a Forensic Scientist in a lab and doing CSI work. It was during the last year of my bachelors I had a module where we studied crime scene data, and how it can be used in an investigation, and in that I learned about Python and analytical skills. I enjoyed this so much to the point where I didn’t want to be a CSI anymore, I wanted to work with Crime Data. Then, funnily enough as I was finishing my degree one of my lecturers recommended to me that I do a masters in Crime Scene Data and Data Analytics, and so I did!”
“Once I had done this, I decided that delving into crime maybe wasn’t something I wanted to do, however I still had a love for data, therefore I took that to an industry I did find interesting which was Media, which started at the job I had before Little Dot Studios. I was an Insights Analyst for a traditional media company - so TV, Radio etc - and that is where I did a course that took a much deeper dive into coding and SQL and other relevant knowledge.”
Liz: “That’s so interesting. Obviously the CSI work is cool, but it’s also great how through that course you found something you love and it wasn’t necessarily where you started. I feel like a lot of people go to university with an idea of what they want to do, then from that they discover something else they love, which is what happened with you and that final year module!”
Eniola: “Yeah when I originally applied for University, my first plan was to do pure Forensic Science, which would mean working in a lab every day, which is completely different from where I ended up.”
Liz: "What made you want to work for LDS/in the content/broadcast industry, and also in Insights/data science?"
Eniola: “The main reason I moved to LDS is because I wanted to work more in digital media and social media. After my first job I found that traditional media was something I found quite boring, so the job I have now, even though it is in the same industry, the world is so much more interesting. I also wanted a job which gave me more opportunities to develop my skills and grow within a Data Science role, which is something I feel LDS provides. The longer I stay at LDS, the more I feel my role is continually evolving which is really nice.”
Liz: “So do you feel Little Dot does provide the type of environment where you can grow and reach your potential? And would you say you can see a path of progression ahead of you?”
Eniola: “Definitely 100%”
Liz: “Yeah, well the Insights team is one of my favourite teams really. I think you sit at the heart of what we do, because in the modern day, data dictates a lot of what we do. You touch every element of our business and really help across the board”
Liz: "Last time we spoke you mentioned a bit about black representation within the data science industry, can you tell us a little bit more about that?"
Eniola: “I think it is an industry which basically no one considers. I remember telling my parents that I was going to do a masters in Data Science and they basically said ‘ok great, what’s that…?’ Because they are very traditional. They work in Maths, Chemistry etc. I think the lack of black representation comes from the fact that a lot of us simply aren’t given that as an option. Like I said before, I was very lucky that my parents weren’t stereotypically wanting me to be a lawyer or a doctor, they were both quite creative, which is different from the other parts of my family. Therefore I was given options, then when I explored these options, more came up!”
“I have also found that the more I have delved into data science and learnt more about it, those around me have explored other options too. For example, I have a cousin who I told about my bachelors degree in Crime Scene Science, and she had no idea you could do that! She is now at university doing basically that.”
Liz: “Amazing. I guess that’s one thing, you can now be a role model within your own circle to give those options and tell people about these opportunities that exist that they might not know of.”
Eniola: “Yeah I think a lot of people when you’re growing up sit you down and ask you lots of questions about what you want to do for a living, without giving you a massive list of options. It’s strange, I never really felt I had a role model growing up, I made my own path, but I like to think (not in an egotistical way) that I can now be that role model that I would have looked to when I was young.”
Liz: “No that’s not egotistical at all! I think everyone can be a role model. You are the perfect example with your cousin. You have enabled her to think outside the box and go for something completely different as she has seen you be so successful.”
Eniola: “Yeah that’s true. And going back to your original point about representation, I feel it isn’t just Data Science but probably STEM subjects in general, you don’t see a lot of black people in these roles. It’s almost like trying to find a Unicorn in a way, because we have been pushed to do other things. I feel like there isn’t enough encouragement among black people and especially black women to just explore what they find interesting and then pursue it, especially if they don’t see anyone else like them in those roles.”
Liz: “Exactly, it’s hard to imagine yourself in a role that is underrepresented, let alone push yourself to do it, because naturally you wouldn’t push yourself to do something that it seems like no one else is doing.”
Liz: "Similarly, can you tell us a little bit more about any challenges and experiences you may have faced as a black woman on your journey to where you are today?"
Eniola: “A lot of my challenges stem from being the only one. I was the only black woman doing my bachelors course, I was the only black woman doing my masters course, and at my old job I was only 1 of 5 black people in total for the whole department. This meant it was very hard to get support on anything that relates to me being a black woman, as there was no one there to turn to, I had to rely on myself. I feel I have had experiences throughout my life - but not at Little Dot Studios - where I have had to deal with a lot of microaggressions, or not even microaggressions, it was just subtle racism! For example, at university people would question why I was doing the things I was doing because I was black and in the minority. Saying they weren’t a ‘proper black person thing to do.’ Which was terrible!"
I also heard a story recently about someone similar to me being asked to join a video business pitch last minute simply because they were a black woman, as the pitching team realised that everyone on their call was white and a man. It was their first job and they were in a junior role still on probation, so felt like they had to say yes, even though they didn’t work on the pitch at all or even say anything on the call. The pitching team asked her directly to join the call due to her race and gender and she couldn’t say no!”
Liz: ”That’s so unfair to put that on someone, especially in a junior position. As you grow into your career and grow in confidence hopefully you feel like you can push back on these things and call them out, but when you are first starting out it almost feels like you can’t say no as you worry about how you are perceived, even if what you are saying yes to is totally wrong.”
Eniola: “Exactly. And at times it isn’t even done in a subtle way. The girl in the story said that apparently they just approached her directly and said - we don’t have any black people or women can you just join this call? - and she felt like saying no would escalate and turn it into a grand problem with HR, when really she had done nothing wrong and was being treated in a totally inappropriate way. One other thing that I often find I have to be conscious of as a black woman is my hair. In the past when I have done interviews I have always straightened my hair, as I feel having my braids is seen as unprofessional and has been deemed that way in the past, which is ridiculous! But I actually remember when I had my interview for Little Dot Studios, I had my braids in, and I immediately worried that it was a mistake and would stop me from getting the role, however I’m glad to see that the team here couldn’t care less, as it isn’t something that should matter at all.”
Liz: “Yeah I agree. It’s stuff like that which you have to actually think about (even though you shouldn’t have to), that wouldn’t even cross other people’s minds.
Liz: "What do you think large employers, such as Little Dot, can do moving forward to keep helping to push for equality in the workplace?"
Eniola: “I feel like there is still a lot that needs to be done. To be clear, I feel perfectly happy here and have never been made to feel unsafe or experienced anything negative as a black person. But I feel like some people sometimes don’t understand that there are so many things that you can say, without any intention, that are racist. So I think there needs to be way more training on this. I would also say there is work that needs to be done in the hiring process. I feel like people simply say that they don’t have enough black people in their workforce but do very little to actually seek us out when hiring for roles. For example, I know I said it appears that there are less black people working in Data Science, but that doesn’t mean there aren't still plenty of us! Underrepresented doesn’t necessarily mean under supplied. I know so many people who are talented, black data scientists, they just haven’t had the same qualifications and education as others.”
Liz: “Totally agree. It’s so important for businesses to actually help feed the pool of diverse talent from the bottom upwards. Everyone deserves equal opportunities right at the start of their education and their careers. Like you said, you were the only black woman in your classes and doing your masters, because there’s often a lack of support in the black community to get onto those types of courses.”
Eniola: “Yes, exactly. I have been very lucky because I have been brought up in a way that has meant I can get a degree and get a masters, but there are so many people who are brought up in communities that make doing this nearly impossible, and definitely don’t encourage it. I feel like a lot of large companies aren’t aware of that, if they were, they would invest time and effort into training people from the very start rather than expecting people to have degrees and qualifications. They say they are making an effort but really they aren’t”
Liz: “You touched upon training as well, I think that's a really important point. People need to learn that they can talk about this kind of thing without being offensive if they take the time to understand what should/shouldn’t be said. Would you agree?”
Eniola: “Yeah I think there is a big opportunity for workplace training. I think as a woman, and a black person, I feel I need a safe space to discuss my challenges, but at the same time, people need their own safe space to be able to ask questions about what is and isn’t offensive and be made to feel comfortable about learning more about different cultures and backgrounds. Before that though, there just needs to be way more resources accessible to everyone. That way people can learn by themselves in their own time where they feel safe. But also away from the need of a safe space, a lot of black people are just tired of having to explain it.
Liz: “Exactly, while the idea of a safe space is nice, you shouldn’t be expected to take your own time to tell us what’s right and what’s wrong. We shouldn’t have this entitlement thinking someone needs to sit us down and teach us, when we can teach ourselves.”
Liz: “Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us. It is so important for us to put your voice at the forefront of what we’re doing, not just during Black History Month, but all the time. However BHM does provide us with a special opportunity to bring these stories forward at a time when it is being made much more prevalent. I know it can be difficult to talk at length about such challenging topics so we really appreciate you doing this.”
If you want to find out more about Black History Month, make sure you visit the official website here.
Did you enjoy this interview? Why not check out this interview we did with Charlie Reading, Junior Content Editor, during 2022 Pride Month.