Interview with Bukola Adisa, the founder and CEO of Career Masterclass

Bukola Adisa is the founder and CEO of Career Masterclass which is a platform dedicated to enabling the progression of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) professionals in the workplace.

Through webinars, live events and the annual conference, Bukola teaches practical career tips to a varied BAME audience which has resulted in tangible career progress for the participants.

What’s your career background? 

I’m a Senior Governance, Risk and Controls expert who has held leadership roles in global financial services organisations such as Barclays, HSBC, RBS, JP Morgan and Deloitte, in a variety of roles spanning Audit, Compliance, Financial crime, Risk & controls.

Where did the idea for your business come from? 

While I was leading 100+ employees in a blue-chip firm, I saw how rare it was to see underrepresented professionals in leadership positions especially those from black and ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Overtime, I began to see clearly that there were knowledge gaps, and this was why the C-suite seemed elusive to many of them. I started hosting career development sessions in my free time to help professionals, particularly those from a black and ethnic minority background, by arming them with necessary tools to succeed in their career. This has now turned into a lifelong passion and a growing business. 

How did you move from idea to actual business? 

Our journey is unique as I did not actually set out for Career Masterclass to be a business. It was something I started as a direct response to the shocking stats of black people’s progression in corporate organisations. I was a successful executive and I ran the organisation in my spare time with the help of volunteers.

The growth was organic and the evolution to an EdTech platform that it is today was as a result of glowing feedback from the community on the efficacy and uniqueness of the content. It just shows that there are so many different paths to building a business.

What’s your USP? 

Career Masterclass is for professionals, by professionals. No other platform shares relatable career development content from professionals who have worn the same shoes and walked the same path. We don’t just teach textbook-based principles, we share strategies, real- life lessons and actionable insights.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome? 

The biggest challenge for me was transitioning from a successful corporate career to running my own business. I was fortunate to work for global multi-billion-dollar companies and it took a while to adjust to having to be the boss, to speak to clients, hire people, build structures etc.

Also, it is no secret that black women get less than 1% of all funding which means the playing field is not level but the good thing is that this forced me to be nimble, to run an incredibly lean and efficient organisation and to be ruthless in prioritisation which means we are a very agile organisation with an impressive pace of execution.

And your proudest moment so far? 

I am proud of the work we do every day and that we play a significant role in a lot of people’s career advancement. When I read the numerous impact stories, testimonials and receive messages of thanks, it makes me grateful that I chose this path (or that the path chose me) and also makes me incredibly proud.

Why is work so important to you? 

Work is so important to me because it gives me a platform to change lives. II consider what we do at Career Masterclass as critical because oftentimes, we come across incredibly talented people who for one reason or another have been consistently overlooked and through the work we do, we give them hope, confidence and motivation to continue pushing themselves. The results we get are phenomenal and make me so proud.

Who inspires you? 

I’m inspired by several entrepreneurs who are pushing the envelope and building organisations that are clear pacesetters.

  • Sara Blakely – CEO of Spanx. She is a person of purpose and built an incredibly successful organisation without taking external funding.
  • Michelle Obama – She is an example of elegance, grace and class. An inspiration to black women everywhere.
  • Bozoma St John – CMO of Netflix. She is unashamedly herself and makes no apologies for who she is and she is doing amazing things at work
  • Beyonce – Her hardwork and commitment to excellence is staggering

Find out more about Career Masterclass.