Olatoke Adeboboye had so much to offer the world, but she needed support in recognizing it after graduating from Humber College's Project Management certificate program.
With an undergraduate degree in political science and a master's degree in international relations, Adeboboye felt she needed another credential to excel in a changing workforce. The program increased her knowledge of industry 4.0, project management and tech.
"It wasn't that I wasn't confident, but when you've had experiences in life that made you doubt yourself, it does something to you," she said.
She applied to become a Fellow with Accelerate Her Future (AHF). AHF is a career accelerator for self-identified Black, Indigenous and women of colour (BIWOC). The organization provides programs to support them in launching their careers in business and STEM and helps them build networks of action and solidarity.
AHF offers a 10-week Fellowship Circle that includes group mentorship circles, career learning labs, fireside chats and networking opportunities with leaders in STEM and business.
"Being accepted, meeting women of colour breaking ceilings, directors, you name it – I met with all of them. AHF was the push I needed. I needed to hear, 'you are worth it, you are enough," said Adeboboye.
Adeboboye had a young child at home and one on the way while attending Humber College and took a few years to complete her program.
"It took a lot of courage but my children became my 'why.' I didn't want to be unsure about my career choices, didn't want to not have enough professional or educational reasons not to be able to get the jobs I really wanted," she said.
AHF is informed by the lived experience of BIWOC, including the Fellows themselves. The organization's values are courageous action, compassionate engagement, authentic voice and transformative solutions.
For Adeboboye, the experience was valuable and affirming.
"Every interview I went to after AHF, I got the offer."
She now works at the University of Windsor as an intake coordinator and aspires to be a consultant in the field.
AHF recently partnered with Humber College to promote its programs and make it easier for Humber's BIWOC students and grads to access them.
AHF founder Golnaz developed the organization from a seed of an idea in 2016, born out of her lived experiences and the microaggressions she has faced as a racialized immigrant woman. In 2018, Golnaraghi and research partner and founding AHF team member Sumayya Daghar hosted a design session with BIWOC.
"We brought together a group of women at different stages and this validated the need for this work," said Golnaraghi.
In 2019, AHF launched its first summit pilot, held at the University of Toronto.
"We knew we were on to something. We had women there who were students and recent grads transitioning into their careers who were saying the experience was transformational," Golnaraghi recalled. "There was something powerful about attendees seeing themselves reflected in the room while engaging in meaningful conversations and sessions tailored to their lived experiences."
When COVID-19 hit, Golnaraghi and the AHF team pivoted and designed an impactful fellowship program online, which brought AHF to a national audience. The transformational experiences continue.
"When your voice, your lived experience, your stories are seen, heard, validated and appreciated and someone says, 'I know what that can feel like. My experience is different but here's how I navigated, and I see you - there's something very powerful in that," said Golnaraghi.
AHF is hosting its second Summit from November 5 to 7. The changemakers speaking there are dynamic, inspirational and innovative. Recent Digital Business Management graduate Michallia Marks is one of them.
"AHF has significantly expanded my network with women in tech and business throughout Canada. It's comforting to have leaders at various stages of their career to rely on for support," she said.
Marks attended the in-person summit in 2019 as she was finishing her bachelor's degree – her proudest accomplishment and just one of many.
"I've been given many opportunities to develop my leadership skills, from sitting on AHF's Advisory Group to moderating fireside chats."
Marks describes herself as a "student of leadership." If her involvement with AHF is any indication, she's a star pupil. Marks will be moderating the aptly named "Fireside Chat: Leading Change through the Power of Your Voice" on November 6.
Learn more about AHF and opportunities for BIWOC here.