Managing Director of Emerging Markets for YouTube EMEA.
We spoke with Alex Okosi, Managing Director of Emerging Markets for YouTube EMEA, to get his thoughts on the outstanding talent included in the Top 10 UK Black Role Models feature and learn about the other initiatives he has been involved in which put the spotlight on Black role models in the UK and beyond.
Google are supporting this first ever EMpower UK Black Role Models List. What were your thoughts on seeing the individuals who have made the List?
Two words – “Blown away”. It’s amazing to see the impactful work that these individuals are doing and what they’ve been able to accomplish. They have all overcome real adversity in their journeys and it’s inspiring to see the leadership roles they are playing in their fields and in their communities.
Alongside these Lists you have also been actively engaged in other initiatives to showcase Black talent at Google – can you tell us about these?
In my role at YouTube, we’ve worked to actively shine the spotlight on creators and artists of all backgrounds that use YouTube as a platform. I am especially proud of the work we are doing to drive YouTube’s Black Voices Fund, a $100M commitment that is focused on growing and promoting black creators and artists on the platform. Beyond my day to day job at YouTube, I’m also involved in driving Google’s racial equity initiatives to ensure that as a company we are delivering progress that is meaningful and sustainable.
“It is important that we have stories, creators and artists on our platform that reflect the diversity of communities that YouTube reaches.”
How important do you think visual Role Models in business are?
I think visual Role Models are crucial, particularly for groups that have traditionally been underrepresented or not celebrated historically in the way they deserve. In business, seeing relatable Role Models can be inspiring as they provide a proof point that aspirations are attainable, challenge stereotypes and drive change.
How does this idea of ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ affect the approach you take with such a powerful visual content platform as YouTube?
I am passionate about making sure that I contribute to YouTube’s mission of giving everyone a voice. It is important that we have stories, creators and artists on our platform that reflect the diversity of communities that YouTube reaches. By leveraging visual content on YouTube to celebrate the intellectual power of the communities on our platform, particularly those previously disenfranchised, it enables them to see that they can be whatever they strive to be.
What role do you think organisations can play in supporting and promoting diversity and equity in wider society outside of their own offices?
I think it’s important for organisations like ours to set the tone on the importance of promoting diversity and equity as they are an important part of the fabric of society at large.
That is why I am excited about the initiatives at Google that I spoke about earlier, and why we’re thrilled to be partnering with INvolve to shine a spotlight on trailblazers at other organisations that are leading the way in this effort.
“I think it’s important for organisations to set the tone on the importance of promoting diversity and equity as they are an important part of the fabric of society at large.”
Please tell us a little about your own career journey until this point.
I have had amazing opportunities throughout my career to work on developing engaging content and campaigns that not only entertain and showcase amazing creatives and talent but also serve to socially empower audiences.
I cut my teeth working as part of the MTV integrated marketing team in New York before moving over to Los Angeles to work on the network’s distribution business. Driven by my passion to create a platform for showcasing the power of African music and youth culture, I developed the business plan for launching MTV in Africa. I spent 15 years growing ViacomCBS’s business in Africa to a multiplex of 10 localised channel brands before transitioning to my new role here at YouTube to lead our EMEA Emerging Markets business. I am excited about the opportunity to leverage the scale of the platform to continue creating opportunities for creatives and artists.
When it comes to your own career journey – who was your role model and why?
I’ve been inspired by audacious visionaries who transformed their art into big businesses such as Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and Jay Z (“I’m not a businessman – I’m a business, man”). Equally in my career, I have had amazing mentors from all backgrounds that were great role models for me, but I must say that the guidance and support that I received from 3 different Black leaders that I reported to earlier in my career really set me up for success. By witnessing their incredible work ethic and expertise, I was motivated to always pursue excellence in the workplace. I still apply the lessons I learned from them of how to show up as a Black leader in the corporate world. My ambition is to set a similar example for others.
How has your lived experience helped you succeed into the position you work in today?
I have always lived with the belief that if I remain focused and worked very hard towards my goals that I would find success. This has served me well as I navigated attending numerous high schools, experiencing racism first-hand on multiple occasions and working much harder than my colleagues to get recognized.
Throughout my journey thus far, I have been fortunate to work in organisations that allowed me the opportunity to lead with my authentic voice, while working collaboratively to deliver great value to our partners and communities.
In a short sentence – what would you tell your 18 year old self if they could see you now?
Keep working hard, build authentic relationships, be a good person and good things will happen.
Hear more from Alex
Founder of the EMpower Role Model Lists, Suki Sandhu OBE, spoke to Alex about the UK Black Role Models feature and his wider work for inclusion at YouTube.