Jumoke Dada is a passionate social entrepreneur and technology consultant, who worked in several corporate information technology roles before deciding to strike out on her own and launch her tech and marketing solutions company, Signature RED. Through Signature RED, Jumoke focuses on curating programs that teach women everything from coding, to golf, and networking. Learn more about Jumoke below...
Where did you grow up? What were you like as a child?
I grew up in Fort Greene area of Brooklyn, which at the time was very different from the Fort Greene of today, so I was exposed to a lot of culture, art, and street life at an early age. Most of my schools were located in the Bedford Stuyvesant area which wasn't the best area at the time, but I was always kept. Looking back I know that I was protected from a lot and could be telling a very different story today if not for the grace of God. There's not one thing that I would change because overall, I had a great upbringing and I loved growing up in Brooklyn.
Who were your biggest influences during adolescence?
It sounds corny, but my parents. As a youth, I noticed that they always had a zest for life, great work ethic, and unshakable faith. I was also heavily influenced by music, especially hip hop culture.
When did you discover you had a knack for technology and marketing? What were some of your earliest projects?
In college, I learned that I had a knack for marketing as a result of getting involved with different organizations on campus. I often found myself in roles where I was responsible for promoting activity to the student body. I didn't have a knack for technology, per se. Outside of going to the library after school, I never really used a computer before I went to college. I actually created my very first email account at college. After realizing that I was stronger in my STEM classes and art was more of a "like", I decided to study Computer & Information Sciences which led to my appreciation of technology
You started college at just 16. What brought you to university at such a young age?
I was excelling academically so I skipped a year of school which allowed me to enter college one year earlier.
My college experience was great. I started at 16 years old so it was very much a coming of age time for me. Being away from friends and family in a new city caused me to mature quickly. It took some time for me to choose a major because I struggled between loving the arts and being stronger in STEM classes but STEM won me over. I also became a leader of sorts on campus as a result of my work on Temple Student Government, Program Board, University Disciplinary Committee, Association for Computing Machinery, and more. I had a very well-rounded experience. I love my Alma mater. Go Temple!
What did you initially study at Temple before discovering computer sciences?
I was undecided when I went in but because of my love for music and planning, I wanted to work in the entertainment industry. I decided against it after an internship at a magazine. The only other thing that I considered was law school because growing up, everyone told me that I should become a lawyer. I was very expressive and always standing up for someone or something. In the end, I realized that I was stronger in STEM classes and I knew that medicine and engineering were out.
How did college equip you for life after school? How did you decide what you wanted to do next?
It prepared me really well for both my personal and professional life. Most of the people that I grew up with looked like me in that they were primarily African American, therefore, it was nice to experience diversity that the university offers.
Prior to graduation, I was hired to work in the information technology department for a great company and I was able to start immediately. I later went back to Temple to get my real estate certification.
Have you faced adversity during your career? How did you overcome those challenges?
I've been blessed in that I've always worked at great companies, but being a woman in the corporate world has its challenges. Being a woman in tech has its challenges. Being an African American woman in tech has its challenges. In each space, there were definitely times when I dealt with not being heard, seen, or respected in different roles. I have a really strong sense of self, so whenever I'm in a situation where there is even a hint of undermining, second guessing, or the like, I go inward and I talk to God. He has designed me to be extremely confident in Him and His plan for me...wherever I am. He has also designed me to be extremely confident in my skills and abilities. I overcame each obstacle by keeping the faith and pressing forward.
How do you think more women can be heard, seen, and respected in the workplace?
Be heard and seen. I know that it may not seem that simple but I'm a believer that women have to do the work AND speak up too. In other words, let it be known that you did the work or can do the work. If you want a project, ask for it. If you want a new opportunity, seek it. If you want a job, apply for it. As far as respect goes... demand it. Remember that you have to teach people how to treat you.
What are some crucial characteristics you believe every leader should possess?
Integrity. I think it's imperative for a leader to do work in a manner that is honorable, respectable and effective. Unfortunately, there are many people in the world that do the opposite therefore my hope is that a leader would set a good example.
Vision. I believe that a leader should be a problem solver, a motivator, and a visionary.
Great work ethic. I think it's important for leaders to work and lead by example. It's so much easier to sit back and tell people what to do or piggyback on or take credit for the work others have done, but it's admirable when he/she is able to roll up their sleeves and get the job done when a situation calls for it.
What does it mean to be a social entrepreneur?
In my opinion, being a social entrepreneur means that you work with the mindset and intention of doing what will ultimately impact the lives of others in a good way. You think of ways to make lives better with what you build, promote, etc., and you earn income from it. You earn a living by doing good.
Why is it personally meaningful for you to give back and support other women?
I've always been a woman-friendly woman. I have four sisters and my mother so I appreciate what women mean to each other. I also recognize that we really need each other if we're going to make it. We are a unique species and in my travels I see that we are more alike than we are different. I'm passionate about keeping women connected and equipped with the tools and resources that they need for their personal or professional goals.
You were one of the first women in Philadelphia to bring attention to the plight of the Nigerian girls abducted by Boko Haram in 2014. How can we, as a society, work to protect the rights of women on a local, national, and global scale?
Well, for the world in general it starts with seeing and understanding our value. Without women, there is no life. We give birth. We feed. We nurture. Recognize our worth and see our value. If that is done in societies where women and girls are prevented from going to school, or mutilated, or abused by men, they would think more about the impact that they are making and how they are affecting future generations. For women and girls, we must truly be our sister's keeper. What I mean by that is see ourselves in each other and help one another whenever we are in a position to do so.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Let God lead.
Tell us about the Legally AMBITIOUS workshop.
I launched Signature RED with an initial focus on women-targeted marketing because I wanted to move away from technology and I wanted to utilize more of my marketing and planning skills. While attending after-work events in the city, I noticed that women were very comfortable asking me about how to network, make career changes, or promote their work, so I realized that women could benefit from an event series focused on learning different skills. I created Legally AMBITIOUS events and hosted 3 editions: The Networking Edition, The Lifestyle Edition, and The Tech Edition. Some of the events included Cars 101, Golf 101, Networking 101, Build Mobile Apps 101, and Ruby on Rails 101. Today Legally AMBITIOUS is centered around technology related events and resources like Techies Who Brunch and the Tech Women Network.
Why did you decide to start Project ALOE?
I was doing a lot to help women achieve their professional goals through my Legally AMBITIOUS educational workshops and one day I realized that I needed to do something to help girls. There were so many things that I lacked as a young woman and I realized that I was in a position to be for others what I needed at different points in my life. When someone asked me if I wanted their curling iron, I declined because I realized that I had a lot of unused products. Fast forward, I decided to conduct a beauty drive and I asked friends to help me. When the time came to determine who to give the products to, I remembered what it was like for me when I left home to go away for college. I realized that giving products and advice to college-bound girls was the best way to go.
What inspires you?
Innovation. Good People. African Culture. Music.
Why is it important for more women to choose careers in STEM?
I think it's important if that's what you truly want to do. I'm finding that a lot of parents and powers are pushing for more women to get in STEM careers, but the reality is that it's not for everyone. There is a lot of money to be made in it so if earning a great income is a priority, I wholeheartedly recommend it. If building and creating things that help make things more efficient, fun, or effective for others, I recommend it. I'm just not someone that advocates for the sake of advocating for more girls to pursue it simply because of the growing need. It's a personal decision. I support anyone that chooses it, I just don't push for it. Even I walked away from tech at one point.
What is a good first step for a young person who wants to get involved in coding or STEM?
I recommend that students look into what programming and classes their schools or neighborhood organizations offer. The internet is also a great resource. I will have a directory of resources on TechWomenNetwork.com.
What’s next for you?
I am excited because on March 1st, I will be launching my first platform: TechWomenNetwork.com. It's the first digital cafe for tech-savvy women where they can showcase their skills, find resources, and connect to other women. I will also continue to provide technology and strategy consulting services. When I have down time, I love traveling so I definitely look forward to more #DadatheExplorer escapades in the coming year.