Black History Month 2023: Ensure Others Know Your Worth – Sebastian Ifeanyi Obeta
- Programme(s): MSc Applied Artificial Intelligence and Data analytics, Bradford School of Management
- Job role: Data Analyst, UNiversity of Cambridge
- Country of Origin: Nigeria
Please could you give us a brief overview of your background and career so far, and what your role is now?
I was born in Abia State, with my state of origin in Enugu State, both in the eastern part of Nigeria. I currently reside in the United Kingdom and work as a data analyst at Cambridge University.
My educational journey began with a BSc in physics. However I transitioned to information technology (IT) in 2012 and started working as a system analyst. I gained experience in various industries, including IT, finance, and telecommunications, where I dealt with substantial volumes of data. Realising the growing importance of data, I decided to pursue a degree in data science to prepare for the future.
This decision led me on a path to becoming a data specialist, starting as an AI data scientist in the UK. I aspire to create intelligent systems using a wide range of tools and techniques. To further enhance my career prospects, I pursued an MSc in Applied Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics at the University of Bradford School of Management.
My studies at Bradford School of Management opened up opportunities for me to work as a data analyst with Bradford Council, the NHS, and my current position at Cambridge University.
At Cambridge, I utilise my strong business acumen from University of Bradford School of Management and my ability to communicate findings effectively. I harness my knowledge of computer science, modelling, statistics, analytics, and mathematics to tackle complex challenges and influence the university’s approach to business matters through data-driven insights.
“Showcase your expertise, whether it’s in your services or technical skills, so that people recognise your value. If you don’t assert your presence, it’s easy for others to overlook you.”Sebastian Ifeanyi Obeta
How did your experience at business school help you with the next stages of your career?
My time at Bradford School of Management profoundly influenced my career development. The rigorous academic programme, exposure to real-world business issues, and interactions with a diverse group of peers and faculty members laid a solid foundation in business principles and critical thinking.
The practical knowledge and skills I acquired have proven invaluable in my career progression. I utilised my problem-solving abilities to co-found the “Applied Artificial Intelligence Society (AAIS),” aiming to establish a hub for data science excellence and skill development. This initiative not only elevated the University of Bradford School of Management as a leading institution for data science in West Yorkshire but also across the entire United Kingdom.
I successfully applied the knowledge I gained in various aspects of my work, including strategic planning, decision-making, and problem-solving. Furthermore, the networking opportunities and professional connections I forged during my time at the school opened doors to numerous job prospects and collaborations.
Presently, I serve as an editor for two international journals and am recognised as an AI expert, often featured in reputable media outlets for my insights on AI-related topics. My experience at University of Bradford School of Management played a pivotal role in preparing me for the challenges and opportunities in my career, and I continue to draw upon the lessons learned there in my current role.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience as a Black person in business, as well as a Black student. What are the challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?
I must acknowledge that at the Bradford school of Management, they have created an equitable playing field for everyone, as evidenced by their numerous accolades, including been part of an elite group of business schools worldwide with the triple-crown accreditation -AACSB, AMBA and EQIS- awarded to less than 1%of business schools globally.
While I can confidently speak about my experiences as a black individual in the business world, I must also acknowledge the presence of significant stereotyping and negative biases faced by black students during their job searches.
These biases can be quite frustrating and can erode one’s self-esteem, leading to hesitancy in pursuing job applications that align with one’s strengths. The lack of clear reasons for rejections can be particularly disheartening.
This also impacted my ability to find a mentor, which is why I incorporated mentorship into the society I founded, extending it to students regardless of their background, colour, or religion.
To break into the competitive data market in the UK, I had to develop various strategies that went beyond what I had learned at Bradford School of Management. This involved expanding my network through active networking, which meant not only connecting with professionals on platforms but also conducting intentional research on industry leaders.
I focused on understanding the challenges they might be facing in the data space and positioned myself as a solution provider. This approach facilitated easier access to mentorship opportunities, and I eventually grew into a mentor myself. The success and recognition from my mentees played a significant role in building my confidence. As a result of these efforts, I received several invitations to be a keynote speaker at reputable conferences on a global stage.
Above all, I am a strong advocate for inclusion and diversity, working as a catalyst for positive change in these areas.
What do you think needs to be done to create a more inclusive environment for Black people in business and education?
To establish a more inclusive environment for black individuals in business and education, a multifaceted approach is essential, addressing systemic issues while fostering diversity. An initial step involves raising awareness about unconscious bias, with anti-bias training programmes implemented widely, as biases can influence decision-making regardless of one’s background.
Organisations should proactively cultivate diverse representation in leadership positions, boards, and managerial roles within their structures. Furthermore, institutions and business leaders must create and put into action comprehensive diversity and inclusion initiatives. These should encompass well-defined objectives, measurable outcomes, and accountability measures to track and ensure ongoing progress.
“Every organisation should acknowledge their corporate social responsibility and actively engage with and invest in communities, especially those with predominantly minority populations, to symbolise their commitment to equality.”Sebastian Ifeanyi Obeta
What do you think will be an indicator that we are achieving racial equality in business?
One of the indicators that racial equality has been achieved in any setting is when I, as an individual, enter an interview panel and find a well-represented team. This principle applies universally across all industries.
When businesses embrace this approach by ensuring diverse leadership teams at all levels, including executives and board members, it demonstrates their dedication to inclusivity and equal opportunities. Every organisation should acknowledge their corporate social responsibility and actively engage with and invest in communities, especially those with predominantly minority populations, to demonstrate their commitment to equality. It would be beneficial if every organisation consistently monitored and reported on key diversity metrics, showcasing progress over time, as this is crucial for accountability.
Can you name an initiative or perhaps a person who is helping to create a more inclusive environment for Black business people?
One notable initiative is the Black Data Professional network which is committed to providing resources and support to help all members succeed. Additionally, individuals like Dr Olubayo Adekanmbi, the CEO of Data Science Network, have been influential in promoting diversity and inclusion in the business world.
What advice would you have for other Black business people and students at the start of their careers?
My primary advice to black business professionals and students is to actively expand their network, moving beyond mere connections. Showcase your expertise, whether it’s in your services or technical skills, so that people recognise your value. If you don’t assert your presence, it’s easy for others to overlook you. Therefore, don’t hesitate to promote your accomplishments and advocate for what you rightfully deserve, be it a promotion, salary increase, or opportunities for growth.
In most black cultures, politeness often encourages us to defer to our elders, either by responding respectfully or, at times, by remaining silent and taking action. However, this can sometimes be misinterpreted as a lack of confidence. Striking a balance between developing your self-assurance, honing your abilities, and demonstrating your value is essential, ultimately making you a powerful asset.
Additionally, never forget to embrace and celebrate your unique perspective and cultural background. Diversity can indeed be a strength, fostering innovation and success in the world of business.”
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