Aisha Addo; Toronto;
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I would say that I empower girls to find their true passion, and I also create opportunities for women to be their best authentic self.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
George Brown. I studied business administration and accounting.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
It was actually working at a summer camp as a counsellor.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
I think my big break would be when we first got funding for my non-profit, [which promotes leadership skills in young women around the world]. That was when I realized that there were people out there who believed in what I was doing. It took lots and lots of applications to get that funding.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
To be honest, I think I have that moment every day. There are sometimes when you wonder if this is really going to work—Am I on the right track?—but I find I get validation from people who are excited about what I’m doing and that happens quite often.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
Trying to launch [an ride-hailing service for women] as soon as possible. However, there were things that were just outside my reach and beyond my control, and I considered that a little bit of a failure because we had promised people that we were going to launch, and it seemed like it was taking forever. But in terms of bouncing back, I’ve talked myself through issues that were beyond my control: our insurance hasn’t cleared, for example, and that’s keeping us from launching. Talking that through has helped me realize that I’ve done all that can on my end and it’s important to be patient with the process.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Stay true to yourself. Because there are a lot of people who will always have an opinion on how you should your business or your life, but I think listening to your gut and your ideas is really key—as is enjoying the process!
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
Trying to conform to someone else’s ideal of what success should be or what my business should look that.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
I think that feels so constant, because of the field that I’m in. But I’ve learned to always allow my experience and my expertise to speak for itself. I try not to feel intimidated by other people just because I’m a woman. I also use it to my best advantage in the sense that people might expect the least of me because I am a woman and I show them that that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I show them that I can do so much more because I am a woman.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
I think because I’m a startup, and it’s early days, I’m still not making a full income from my work. Because I’m the founder, I have to make sure that everyone else is paid accordingly and that often comes at my own expense. So right now, I’m not yet making a full income from my work but in the future, as my company grows, I most definitely will. I definitely have a side hustle; I do a lot of speaking engagements.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
That we’re lazy. I think that’s one of the most hurtful ones. I find that millennials actually work twice as hard for the most part.