Becoming a Tri-Sector Leader with Lekan Olawoye

With Lekan Olawoye
Lekan Olawoye Lekan Olawoye, Founder and CEO, Black Professionals in Tech Network (BPTN). A passionate advocate for organizational change and lasting progress, Lekan is a leader who is equally comfortable offering high-level business advice as he is passionately speaks on how to be an effective ally. His organization, Black Professionals in Tech Network (BPTN), is the largest of its kind with an organization spanning over 32,000 members. Lekan's cross-sector experience gives him the skills to foster transformational change and provide critical guidance on harnessing the power of meaningful diversity.

How has being a Canadian company helped you as you build this global movement of black people in technology, around the world?

  • BPTN started in Toronto, because there was already a familiar understanding with the Toronto landscape. And because Toronto is a global market locally. It was easier for BPTN. to expand 2% of member are from the UK, 3% in Africa, and 1 to 2% in the Caribbean.
  • Toronto folks are connected to those networks, and having anchored the business in Toronto, it enabled BPTN to to easily migrate to the US market. This enabled the organization to have connections in other areas, and other cities that has now enabled it to grow to 95% of the US states.

How does the nonprofit sector underestimate people who have no experience within the nonprofit sector? 

  • The initial battle in terms of underestimation is having complexity to be nimble and to pick up skill sets quite quickly. As a non-profit leader, you have to be nimble. There is no room for sticking to certain structures and not understanding, because a funder will not be able to fund you.
  • When you can become nimble, you are adaptive and you can learn very quickly. These are skills that are often underestimated by folks in government. As a leader there is a necessity to be on top of community changes, community needs change. And you have to adapt to them, or you’re not useful to the community.
  • Adaptability, and agility, is something that is underestimated by others.

What is BPTN?

  • BPTN (Black Professionals in Tech Network)  is a for profit corporation with an HQ Toronto, we have a US HQ in Atlanta. BPTN is the largest network of black tech in North America where I’ve just been told I love this morning with 34,000 members.
  • What is the problem the organization is trying to solve? The problem is the network gap, BPTN believes that black professionals have skill. Black professionals have experience, and black professionals have education.
  • The business model is to support black professionals. Black professionals do not pay the organization a cent, as members of the BPTN. You become a member, from there support is given to you by connecting people into peers of the black professionals to feel a sense of  community and understand where your tribe is.