Young, Black & In Tech: Toni Ojo
Careers in tech are becoming more popular than ever. However, it is sometimes hard for young, black people to break into this industry. We are profiling a range of Black people at different points in their careers to inform & educate anyone interested in tech. Here is the experience of Toni Ojo, a UX/UI Designer.
Tell us about your background. What drew you to tech?
I didn’t enjoy anything too technical as a child. I remember ICT lessons in primary school being hard for me to grasp, and I didn’t have much patience for anything outside of choosing fonts in WordArt. Art and design were what came naturally to me, so from my childhood hobbies, you’d never have thought that I’d eventually end up in the tech industry. In 2018, I was reintroduced to tech at a Digital Design workshop by GUAP and Jay Oguntino. I learnt about User Experience and User Interface Design and loved the overlap between design and technology. So that year I learnt the basics from Youtube and experimented with Adobe XD. Since then my knowledge and skills have developed so much and I’ve been able to create my own projects and build a portfolio of work. Now I am the UX/UI Designer at The Ubuntu Network and I’ve definitely found my home in the tech industry.
Did you face any obstacles along your journey?
Teaching myself UX/UI Design became a bit tedious so I wanted to upgrade to a structured online course with certification. Unfortunately, the courses that I found weren’t within my budget, as is the case for many other aspiring designers. I eventually came across Kwanda, who were offering paid UX/UI course scholarships at Love Circular. I submitted my application and was fortunate to be accepted. The number of obstacles that I’ve faced in my tech journey has been reduced because of other organisations like this, as well as online communities like Black Girls in Tech. We help each other by sharing experiences in the industry, job openings, educational events and career advice.
Can you share a short word of advice for other young, Black people wanting to go into tech?
Don’t focus your efforts on one role/practice out of a fear of being labelled a jack of all trades. Experiment. You’ll build transferable skills and at the very least become more appreciative of other design/tech disciplines. Also, as a tech newbie, you’ll find yourself learning from and imitating the experts in your field. But be careful not to follow along blindly, or your work and mindset will be a carbon copy of what exists already. Regularly reflect on what you’re good at and what comes naturally to you, so that you can work out what you want to specialise in, and build a unique career path that reflects what you truly enjoy.
How can we support you & your work?
My website will launch with updated work in time for my graduation this summer! Look out for my favourite and most recent UX/UI Design project about music identity, colour symbolism and data visualisation for Spotify.