My 2020 Is Worth More Than A Single Story

Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie teaches us about the dangers of a single story in her 2018 TED Talk

A single story can be a dangerous thing. Be sure to let 2020 hold multiple defining narratives in your memory.

A few weeks ago I gathered with my Acumen Academy fellows to discuss Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2018 TED talk, ‘The danger of a single story’. In it she recounts the danger of using our power and privilege to limit a different identity group to a single definitive story.

Zooming in from the context of systemic injustice to the microcosm of my own mind, I worry about the danger of giving 2020 a single story in my memory. 2020 has brought me the lowest lows and the highest highs. At times it felt like a tragedy, yet other times it felt like a chance to reconnect with my childhood and the simple joys of life.

Too often we are pushed down a single story narrative, an oversimplification that serves the status quo. Too often we are pushed into seeing the world in dichotomous ways, actively avoiding the grey nuanced space where most of us experience reality.

For me 2020 was one big walking contradiction. The year also served me a series of very important reminders.
That I am strong but not unbreakable.
That I am in control but I cannot control everything.
That I may know my shit but there will always be more I don’t know.
That when people really care about making change — anything is possible. That Black Lives Matter.

So here’s a reflection on my career rollercoaster of 2020 and all the stories within it. Stories of loss. Stories of opportunity. Stories of community and stories of never giving up on what you believe you were born to do. Thanks for being a part of it.

January

  • Launched a founders-focused accelerator version of Future Startup Now for underrepresented entrepreneurs aged 18–25.
  • We hosted the first ever Product Hunt Makers Day with dozens of events all over the world including a meetup I helped lead at Second Home in Hollywood, LA.
Future Startup Now launch party @ Huckletree Jan 2020

February

  • I made the most of remote life by working from my friend James’ in Brooklyn thinking little of the COVID-19 virus I kept seeing on the news.
  • Back in London working from The Wing I saw Cindy Gallop speak on the importance of us women doing things our way and earning a lot of money in the process.
Cindy Gallop @ The Wing, London

March

  • International Woman’s Month meant I did lots of speaking gigs and workshops IRL — oh how that would change!
  • Attended Mandem Don’t Cry @ The Barbican — my last IRL event before lockdown.
  • Got laid off from Product Hunt and wrote a viral post about how to survive a COVID layoff.
Mandem Don’t Cry @ The Barbican

April

  • Started sending out job applications, started receiving rejection emails.
  • Focused on Hustle Crew business development, pitched consulting work and workshops to prospective clients.

May

  • Started interviewing for roles focused on community and inclusion.
  • Hustle Crew business development bore little fruit as decision makers were on furlough or dealing with budget cuts.

June

  • WHOA. In the wake of BLM protests, Hustle Crew inbound activity went off the charts. All the inclusion budgets that didn’t exist a month ago were suddenly replenished. Tech companies all over the world booked our workshops daily. We scaled up the team, updated our website, launched new training products and our premium membership. Grateful to be a no-code/low-code maker at this inflection point.
  • B2C demand surged so we launched our first ever free public webinar, ‘How to discuss race at work’ and 1,000+ people showed up live to learn together.
  • We launched our first ever ticketed webinar and generated $10,000+ in ticket sales in less than a week (I’ll write a blog post on this soon to share learnings).
  • I did A LOT of speaking engagements and press features (including a quote in TechCrunch).
  • I received job offers including one I accepted at Brandwatch! I get to co-create my job title — VP of Global Community and Belonging.
Making a mark on history with my friends Layla & Emily

July 2020

  • I experienced the most acute burn out following June’s activities. I processed how my side hustle went from on the brink of extinction to enjoying its highest grossing month in a matter of days. I reflected on the tragic murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd that created a transformative period in history. I realized I have an unhealthy relationship with being helpful and coin the phrase “help-a-holic” which many folks on social media really resonated with. Made it a priority to get back into therapy again and to stop being frugal when it comes to my health and wellbeing.

August 2020

  • My first month at Brandwatch: I speak to all the CXOs and as many stakeholders as I can across the business. I also spoke with my peers across the tech ecosystem and started building my community and belonging roadmap.
  • My dreams come true — I am signed by Josephine Thurley of Independent Talent Group. Finally I can say the words, “Talk to my agent.”

September 2020

  • Hustle Crew launched a free course with FutureLearn on negotiation for women in the workplace — 1,000 people signed up within the first few weeks! One more step towards closing the gender pay gap.
Sign up for the course: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/negotiation-for-women-in-the-workplace

October 2020

  • I’m honored to be a part of the inaugural UK Acumen Academy fellowship. Our first residential includes an IRL Meetup — for the first time in six months I’m meeting new people in the flesh.
  • Computer Weekly named me the 13th most influential woman in UK tech! Pinch me, am I dreaming?

November 2020

  • It finally sunk in just how complex and challenging my new role at Brandwatch will be — especially with the tension of race relations during the US elections. I questioned how authentic I could be as a Black and Asian woman in a leadership team where my peers are mostly male and white.

December 2020

  • I received a copy of a book from my old boarding school, Roedean in Brighton, honoring 100 distinguished leavers and am overwhelmed to see myself included. Hard work really does pay off!
  • We recorded the final Techish episode of the year and note things didn’t turn out as bad as we initially predicted for tech founders and workers.
  • I emailed an update to the entire Brandwatch global team sharing our community and belonging achievements from Q3 and Q4. I felt incredibly grateful to be a part of such a caring and committed team.

Thanks for reading! Let’s see what 2021 brings. Onwards, together✨

VP Global Community & Belonging at Brandwatch. Author of careers book #DreamBigHustleHard Host #Techish