Janice Omadeke Shares Her Passion For Mentorship and Diversity Training
The Forrest Files: November 17, 2020
Janice Omadeke is the CEO and Founder of The Mentor Method, an enterprise platform helping companies keep and develop their diverse talent using the proven power of mentorship. Using a double-blind algorithm, The Mentor Method is closing the opportunity equity gap in the workplace.
Omadeke is a 2020 Austin Under 40 nominee and winner of DivInc’s Champion of Change Diversity Champion of the Year for the city of Austin. Venture-backed by funds including Backstage Capital and Capital Factory, her company was a finalist at the Grace Hopper annual conference in 2018, is a MassChallenge Texas Gold winner, a 50 on Fire winner for both Austin and DC Inno, and a 2017 Startup Grind Global Exhibition selection.
Black Enterprise recognizes Omadeke as one of DC’s top 5 black women in tech. She has also been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur magazine, and she was a subject matter expert at the 2016 White House Summit on Building the Tech Workforce of Tomorrow.
She is certified in Entrepreneurship from MIT, and is PMP certified with over 10 years of corporate leadership experience for Fortune 500 companies.
Asked what has inspired her creativity during the many challenges of 2020, Omadeke responds: “I remember the worst situations I’ve overcome in my life, and know that I have the resilience to make it through. Plus, there’s work to do to make the world more equitable for minorities globally. I’m motivated to play my role by any means necessary.”
Before re-locating to Austin, you were based in Washington DC. The two cities seem very different in a lot of important ways. But are there similarities that people aren’t aware of?
Both cities have a strong sense of pride in their communities and the accomplishments of their founders, community builders, and others have in scalable impact. Both cities are collaborative and focus on the greater good.
How does the Washington DC entrepreneurial ecosystem compare to the founder scene here in Austin?
I started The Mentor Method in DC. My early-stage advisors, mentors, and investors are in DC and central to the direction of The Mentor Method. I’ll always be grateful for the way the DC startup community embraced me and the business lessons learned prior to moving to Austin. The focus is the biggest difference between DC and Austin’s startup scene. Austin has a strong focus on CPG and media. DC has a strong focus on defense technology, FinTech, and Healthcare Tech.
Was there a specific reason you relocated to Austin as opposed to Silicon Valley or another startup-focused city?
Yes, it was the MassChallenge accelerator, one of the top 20 accelerator programs in the country. I moved to Austin in April 2018, participated in the program, was one of eight companies to win non-equity funding, and continued to grow my business and founder support system.
Did you play around with other entrepreneurial ideas before arriving at the Mentor Method? Or was the mentoring process always one of your big passions?
I pursued ideas through intrapreneurship, building lines of service and opportunities for the companies where I was employed. The Mentor Method is my first full-time venture.
From your perspective, why are mentors so important?
Mentors help you refine your leadership skills, and teach you hidden chapters of career playbooks many don’t have access to. This transfer of institutional knowledge creates a wave of change, as most that receive mentorship want to continue mentoring others in the future. Mentorship curates stronger leaders, builds confidence, expands networks, and connects people to a safe place to share their most pressing hurdles.
What kind of companies does the Mentor Method serve?
Companies seeking to build inclusive retention tools. Whether that’s the non-profit around the corner, or the Fortune 1000s, we have solutions that support any company’s DEI mentorship goals.
Are your clients mainly based in Austin? Or, is location less important in today’s virtual world?
The Mentor Method has customers globally. In our virtual world, connecting to the right mentors matters more than their geographic location.
How has the concept and execution of mentoring changed during the pandemic?
The Mentor Method team is seeing an increase in demand as companies recognize that virtual connection and virtual leadership development are more important now than ever before. Our model existed years before COVID, and is sustainable during this climate. Our biggest adjustment has been expanding our team to ensure we maintain the same level of technology experience our customers expect as we continue to scale.
Studies show that only about 3% of VC funding goes to black founders — which means fewer black startups and less interest in black startups. In your mind, are there any easy solutions to this cycle of under-representation?
Yes — invest in and buy from black-owned businesses. Take notice of oppressive societal messaging indicating black founders are high-risk and play a role as an ally to correct the narrative. You’re missing out on high-ROI opportunities by keeping such a narrow funding aperture.
You were one of the founders of the Mosaic Awards, which helped highlight diversity and inclusion in the Austin ecosystem. What has been your favorite memory from this experience?
Arlan Hamilton was our keynote speaker at the 2019 Mosaic Awards, which was great to introduce her to leaders in the Austin community. She’s an investor in The Mentor Method so it’s always nice to spend time with her. Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette of won the legacy award, and that was a very touching moment. She’s a role model that inspires thousands of people. I can’t explain how it felt to award her for her work, knowing that this was a nomination from the Austin community.
Aside from the Mosaic Awards, what other events, organizations and businesses have done a particularly good job of bringing attention to the challenges of diversity and inclusion in Austin?
Do you see Austin as your long-term place of residence? Why or why not?
Yes, I see myself continuing to build a life in Austin. I enjoy my contributions, have an incredible support system and friends, and the city will only continue to grow and need experts in DEI and innovation to drive positive change.
More and more bigger tech companies are planting a stake in Austin, ranging from Tesla to the giant new Apple facility. How do you think this continued influx of talent will impact entrepreneurs such as yourself?
Those companies will need retention and engagement tools. Apple and Tesla coming to Austin will create more job opportunities, which I hope will have exceptional diversity recruitment and hiring processes. I’m looking forward to bringing The Mentor Method to corporations new to Austin to ensure they adhere to Austin’s culture of innovation and inclusion.
What is your favorite book or the last great book you read?
My favorite book is “The Power of Positive Thinking.” My parents gave me a copy when I was young, maybe 10 or 11, and it affirmed the gift of my optimism and outlook on the world overall. The teachings from that book are reflected in my approach to problem-solving and scaling The Mentor Method. Building a business is hard, and your mindset can be the difference between growth and failure.
The last great book I read was “Never Split the Difference,” which covers negotiation strategy. As a founder that is black and a woman, it’s even more important to keep conditioning myself for critical business scenarios. Plus you negotiate on a daily basis whether you recognize it or not.
Janice Omadeke photo by Errich Petersen.
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals.
He also posts frequent interviews on Medium with innovators and thought-leaders from Austin, across the United States and around the world. Browse here for the full list of these interviews.