Pivoting from Hospitality to the Tech Industry
“I wanted to be a chef!”
For a young girl who grew up wanting to delight the world with superb culinary treats, Adeola Sokunbi never imagined she’d find real fulfillment as a Compliance Analyst within the technology industry. From going back to law school seven years after receiving her undergraduate degree, to pivoting careers in an unpredictable pandemic, Adeola’s path has been shaped by unexpected disruptions that fostered personal and professional growth in the most unpredictable ways.
Most hospitality administration majors at Georgia State University prepare for a career in well…hospitality management at a hotel or restaurant. Other paths with this background are often found in event management like festivals and sporting events, which Adeola was fortunate to have had experience early on in her career after graduation. Once she got her bachelor’s degree in hospitality, Adeola had the incredible opportunity of working the 2012 London Olympics for Coca-Cola’s Venue Operations team, responsible for handling inventory and logistics for the Olympic Stadium - no small feat as that site welcomed a quarter of a million spectators daily! At the time, the now widely-used iPad was new tech Coca-Cola had just integrated into their logistics system, introducing Adeola to a new world of efficiency where technology merged with business to simplify complicated and tedious processes.
Falling in love with Legal
After the 2012 London Olympics, Adeola transitioned to working full-time at several venues including what is now theMercedes-Benz Stadium, Centennial Olympic Park, and Georgia World Congress Center. She did this for nine years predominantly in their sales department negotiating contracts, promoting the location to potential vendors and producing programming for major festivals and events like NCAA Final Four, ONE Musicfest, and Super Bowl LIII. Being a part of such major events working behind the scenes presented challenging scenarios that pushed Adeola to grow and develop certain skills within the legal field like contract negotiation, risk management, strong communication, and staying calm under pressure. In fact, it was within this role where she discovered a deep interest in the legal processes, mostly in compliance. However,becoming a full-time attorney was not the goal. After some soul searching and encouragement from family and friends, Adeola found the perfect launchpad in a Master’s degree program with the University of Georgia School of Law to set herself apart.
How did I get to Tech?
Upon graduation from Law school in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic was escalating, Adeola was navigating an uncertain world with dwindling corporate structures, little to no in-person events and most importantly, few job openings. Instead of immediately applying to jobs, she decided to focus on learning all the ways she could use her new Law degree focusing on GRC (governance, risk & compliance) roles. For more real-world understanding, she took initiative by reaching out and speaking to legal counsel across several industries resulting in an initial and “very open” phone conversation with Calendly’s Associate General Counsel, Justin Bouchard. Adeola was given information on how Calendly runs operations with a focus on their legal activities including areas where her degree would prove useful.
From that conversation Adeola landed a 6-month part-time role in Calendly’s legal department that gave her a chance to shadow and learn what it would be like to work in tech using her law degree. She went from observing legal counsel to actually being on the legal counsel team experiencing different projects – a hell of an opportunity which led to deeper understandings (CCPA & GDPR) and a fuller picture of GRC practices within tech. At the time, Adeola was familiar with and admired the Calendly tool but was still very new to the technology industry.
“One of the things that really jumped out to me, and I felt like it was a really important piece to add to my story to share with others, is that working in tech is literally working in business…the product itself happens to be a technical product…that’s one of the biggest things I learned while being able to start off in Calendly from a part-time perspective.”
Having the opportunity to dive deeper and be challenged by issues like data privacy, risk management and non-compliance implications gave Adeola a major sense of fulfillment. At the top of last year, she transitioned full-time into her newly-created role as a Compliance Analyst within the Calendly Security Department. Talk about growth! So what’s her advice to those who have never worked in the tech field but are considering roles in that industry? Don’t shy away from it! Daily operations still function as a regular business would, with sales, marketing, HR and other typical departments present. Just because it’s “tech” doesn’t mean it is different.
For the Culture!
During those six months at Calendly, Adeola completely fell in love with the Calendly culture with specific mention of the warm learning environment being highly valuable for someone breaking into a new industry. Her team members were and are always available and patient when explaining new content, engineers are readily available to break down complicated product issues, even code, for easy analysis and she always felt seen and heard. Once she became part of Team Calendly, she received meaningful perks like remote-first flexibility, access to WeWork locations, exposure to new experiences like Pilates, unlimited PTO and a $1,000 to use just because!
“The moment I transitioned and got the perks, I was just so excited! Calendly backs benefits up with dollars - You just get $1,000 to go on vacation?! Not only the fact that you have flexible PTO but the fact that there’s money in place for you to be able to afford to go on a vacation regardless.”
Adeloa also found inspiration from Calendly’s core values and she embodies them daily in her personal and professional life in helping her lead with compassion, focus on outcomes, and always strive for distinction.
“Even if you’re in a tough point working on a project or dealing with a customer who doesn’t seem to want to negotiate the way you would like to negotiate, or are even trying to understand a coworker who’s in a completely different department, having that mantra of Start With Human reminds me that it was everyone else’s first day at one point. If you’re encountering something difficult with an individual, a lot of the time this has nothing to do with you because again we are all human and there are other things that are happening around us that may show up in the way we work.”
Pride in the Journey.
Adeola is proud of the journey thus far and has every reason to be. No natural, powerful river runs in a straight line from source to mouth. Her journey meanders with change creating a gorgeous trajectory that no one - not even her - saw coming, making it clear that by putting fear aside, putting in the work and embracing change, one will always thrive against adversity. We’re still in a pandemic but just recently she passed her CIPP/E certification through the International Association of Privacy Professionals, boosting her resume and setting herself apart further. She is an achiever and it’s Calendly’s honor to have a woman so fierce in their corner.
You don’t always have to wait to be invited for a seat at the table. Adeola brought her own seat to the table and a room was made for her.