Esther Ajose, Senior Innovation Coach

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Esther is our resident question asker and wonder-er, her many catchphrases include “I wonder if…”  and “Oh so why do we do it that way?” We dived into Esther’s dazzling mind to find out what an average working day has in store for her, what her morning routine looks like and her predictions for the next year.

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What’s your work background?

I love and I’m passionate about culture, human insights and strategic approach to understanding things. I studied Social Anthropology and have always had a curiosity for all things culture/cause and effect. My alma mater’s ethos was “rerum cognoscere causas”. That’s fancy language for “to know the causes of things”. And I basically pursue a professional career that aims at doing just that. My early career moves saw me in the public sector space trying to figure that out. That evolved into some pretty cool opportunities to work on all things Culture & Innovation Strategy. Pulling on my background in social anthropology and innovation to help people better see, feel and make things happen.

Why did you choose to come and work at &us?

Honestly, the people. After talking to Alex Sisan (our People & HR Guru), it sounded like a place where authenticity and capability merged to create some pretty kick-ass good trouble. Secondly, we get in the weeds with clients, encourage curious minds, willing hearts and skilled hands. 

What does your morning routine look like?

I usually check my calendar the evening before to get a feel for what my day will look like. Then I can decide if it’s a quick-cuppa-tea-then-jump-into-a-client session morning, or a you-have-time-for-a-toast-andtea, internal ideation session with the team kind of morning. But what it always has, is a range of options that allows me to flex different strengths that give me energy.

What does an average working day have in store for you?

Zoom – eek. Though we’re finding more and more ways to not let it deter us from having meaningful moments. What’s consistent in my day is there’s always time pencilled in to collaborate internally with the team in terms of what journey we want to take clients on. Also, engaging with the clients either in a facilitated workshop or 1:1 coaching. 

What’s the best thing about your job?  

The brilliant and eclectic range of people at &us. Drawing from that knowledge pool and getting a chance to be creative with such rebel geniuses is fun! That, and the freedom to be able to pivot in how we address different challenges in a way that’s creative and responds to what we see clients going through.

How has your work day changed in the last year: What new things will you be keeping? And what can’t you wait to go back to?

I love the freedom to be able to work anywhere, even though I end up WFH most days. So I love the option of the quiet space that WFH enables but also, the buzz of a coffee shop or the office if needs be. It keeps me on my toes and forces me to think differently. We’re getting back to it little by little, but I guess I miss the team interaction, and learning on the frontline of seeing your teammates ‘work out loud’ so to speak. 

Predictions for the next year? What will clients want most of in the next 12-24 months?

From a human insights perspective, businesses need to continue to make a concerted effort in designing internal processes and practices that reduces employees’ mental load. As the world continues to experience historical changes that ricochets into our every day, designers and businesses alike need to make space for practising care. It’s not enough to talk about it, we should deliberately design and build care into our frameworks, systems, and engagements

What is the most random thing on your desk?

An orange, portable Bluetooth radio my friend gave me as a gift. I had forgotten the radio existed in that form!

Who was your last email from?

Haha – an email notification from Zoom letting me know Rachel, one of our Lead Coaches, has joined our ideation pow-wow session.   

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

Hard to narrow it down to one. But Aunt Maya Angelou wrote one of the better advice(s) I’ve heard like this: “…..I’ve learned that you can tell a lot by a person by the way s/he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled christmas tree lights..I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back…I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one”

(NB: Maya Angelou is not my real aunt. Only my ancestral one, in all lifetimes)

What did you want to be when you ‘grew up’?

Briefly an accountant, which, given how much I suck at numbers (like really suck!!!), I’m eternally grateful not to have pursued. But consistently for a while, I worked towards becoming a commercial lawyer. Not sure if the law would have been able to take my unstable magical ways though….

How do you relax outside of work?

Reading, music, community work, but mostly I’m a massive fan of napping. Top strength. 

What would be your super power if you had one?

Does napping count? If not, then sass, or the dexterity of my black hair magic.

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