In partnership with Goldman Sachs, we're putting the spotlight on professionals who embody a personal mission to make things possible. Below, we talk to Funmilayo Oludaiye about building relationships, and how they can benefit you and your career. Don't miss the rest of the series, coming soon.
Funmilayo Oludaiye ("Funmi") fell in love with coding in college, and has been hooked ever since. Now, the 29-year-old, Nigerian-born woman is a software programmer at Goldman Sachs. “I was drawn to this idea of writing code out of nothing and creating software out of it,” she says.
Even now, when managing people is at the center of her work as a vice president in technology, she makes time to code and learn new technologies. “Staying technical requires more than just coding. It's especially important to keep up with the evolution of tools and languages in the tech industry.”
But what truly defines Funmi’s unique professional experience as an engineer is as much about humans as it is about the digital realm. “A lot of what got me to where I am now is about the work that I did,” she says, “but it’s also about relationships.”
Bringing Experiences to Software
The tech world, unsurprisingly, requires technical skills. But Funmi’s life experiences are part of the benefit she brings to her team.
“Representation really does matter,” she says. “If you have a team without diversity—of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives—you’re going to end up with similar ideas, not a lot of innovation.”
For example, a recent project Funmi worked on allows consumers to apply for loans through an online tool. The team had to imagine different ways people might use the tool, and a diverse set of life experiences was critical for doing so. One person might want to take out a loan to take a vacation or buy a boat, but another might want to pay for their wedding or to move across the country.
“Someone else in the room might not even think of that idea,” says Funmi. “So we end up with a product that’s a lot richer in functionality.”
A desire to have more diverse voices in the industry is why Funmi is involved in programs that support and encourage women and people of color to get into the STEM fields.
The Value of Relationships
From organizing meet-ups for programs like Girls in STEM @ GS, to attending industry networking events, Funmi prioritizes making connections with people in her field—even though it doesn’t always come naturally. “I'm an introvert and I don't really enjoy going to networking events,” she says. “But going to events like that and building relationships is important because you just never know where the next opportunity is going to come from.”
Funmi’s current position is a testimony to that. Back in 2008, when she was interning with Goldman Sachs, she attended an industry networking event where she connected with a woman who worked at another firm. The following year, that woman started working at Goldman Sachs, and the two reconnected, checking in with one another throughout the years. During a catch-up a couple of years ago, the woman mentioned a new team at Goldman Sachs that she thought might be a good fit for Funmi. She was right.
“This was literally the connection that got me my current job, and it was someone who I met as an intern in 2008,” she says. “It really shows the power of relationships.”
A Personal Approach to Management
Two years into managing her own team, Funmi now aims to be that critical relationship in their lives. She learned a lot about the type of leader she wanted to be from past managers who added to her professional growth, helping her learn how to set and accomplish goals.
But what she has learned as a manager is that while specific goal-setting is a great motivator for her, some people operate differently, so she meets them where they are. “I try to vary the way I work with each member of my team based on where they are in their careers and what they’re looking for,” she says.
Part of her advice to her team members—and to anyone in software development—is to value and leverage their relationships along the way, from managers to colleagues throughout the industry.
All the relationships in the world, however, can only help engineers who put one thing above all else: Investing the time and energy into the craft, Funmi says.