Esther Ayorinde-Iyamu has been the backbone of the WNORTH community and one of our Founding Members. Esther’s energy is easily spotted in the crowd. Former NFL and NBA professional dancer, Esther’s background boasts 16 years in Tech across roles in Sales, Business Development, and Product Management.
In March 2022, she posted a surprising update on her LinkedIn profile; “I did a thing! I’m putting on new stilettos as an entrepreneur.”
Esther has turned her burnout recovery into a mission to help underrepresented professionals feel empowered in the tech industry. She founded GrowthQ to make tech sales careers more accessible for diverse communities, weaving in wellness best practices and burnout prevention.
We sat down with Esther to find out how she transitioned from the corporate world into becoming a full-time entrepreneur and what we learned can help many women and people of color who are dealing with the challenges of burnout.
Esther, congratulations on taking the leap and founding your startup! What inspired you to do that?
I had two reasons to take the leap. Burnout and realizing the depth of true wellness at work. Women and working mothers were experiencing burnout at dramatic rates during the pandemic. In the UK alone, one in five mothers has quit their jobs over poor parental leave policies. In the US, a recent Forbes article cited Black Women aging 7.5 years greater than their peers due to Burnout from stress, microaggressions, and inequity in pay. Burnout is more real now than ever and costly to companies.
My experience was no different. Though my career was accelerating and I enjoyed my work, the isolation of the pandemic coupled with a traumatic health experience took me over my limits into burnout.
Why did you choose to leave the corporate world?
At the end of 2020, I suffered a 2nd Trimester pregnancy loss, which only happens to 2-3% of expecting mothers. I went back to work about a week and a half later, hiding it from those who weren’t close to me. 6 months later, I was rushed to a hospital with what was thought to be a heart attack. After an extensive cardiac workup, my doctors confirmed it was a panic attack, which has almost identical symptoms, and your endocrine system reacts in the exact same manner. My body finally said, “Esther, It’s time.”
Thankfully, the company I’d worked for at the time was incredibly committed to the wellness of all employees. My boss, my team, and my peers were all highly supportive and helped me have the space I needed to take a step back and heal.
During my time off, I researched technology that could help me measure all levers of my body, from measuring my sleep with a wearable to using my breath to measure my metabolism. I also spent introspective time rediscovering my ethos, clarifying my superpowers, and writing a new narrative for how I wanted to spend my life. It’s funny how a dose of mortality will redirect your focus to what’s most important. I’d realized I was working so hard, spending time doing things I was great at, and thus others wanted me to do more of but weren’t part of my life’s mission. I needed to rewrite the narrative of my career to fit with my ethos and superpowers.
How has your burnout recovery shaped the mission of your business?
I heard a quote once that said, “You’re best poised to serve the person you once were.” I recognized an opportunity to share my story and create solutions to problems I’ve faced. Looking back, I needed two things: First, tools and support to help me navigate my physical and mental health to be in the best position to optimize my performance. And second, a support system to help me navigate this new high-performance lifestyle.
This drove the birth of my company, GrowthQ. We are committed to closing the wage and wellness gaps for underrepresented high performers who want to do their best work in careers that showcase their superpowers. We do this by offering three things:
- Educational Content in full spectrum wellness: physical wellness, financial wellness, and job readiness
- Human connection through intelligent mentor matching
- Diverse talent placement as fractional interview panelists or full-time roles
What other initiatives are you working on right now?
Outside of my work on GrowthQ, I’ve been getting deeper into investing in early-stage startups. Closest to my heart has been my Mentor Cohort which is a month-long intensive where I personally mentor and pour my experiences into Women and People of Color who may feel they have hit a glass ceiling. We focus on breaking limiting beliefs, identifying superpowers, and accelerating careers with the lessons I’ve learned over two decades.
Can you share some advice for women who found themselves at career crossroads?
- Build your Board of Advisors as a support system for your career. Your Board of Advisors should consist of a coach, mentor, sponsor, and peer group. Knowing the difference between each of those is important to empower them to support you.
- Listen to when or if your body tells you it’s burned out or uncomfortable. If you feel triggered, channel what your body is trying to tell you. Fear is a gift, it informs you ahead of pain or absence of safety. Jealousy is a gift, it’s informing you of something you desire but don’t yet have. Pay attention to your inner voice. It shows you your purpose and where to go.
- Financial wellness unlocks creative freedom and confidence. 77% of working professionals making a solid living struggle with financial anxiety. Can you believe that? And that’s not from not having enough, it’s often just from the intimidation of financial literacy. I was no different. Moving from a corporate role to being an entrepreneur forced me to become much more financially literate, but honestly, I didn’t have to wait until now. There are immense amounts of free, simple, and non-intimidating resources to help you learn the basics. Making small changes to your financial wellness does wonder for your confidence to focus on your superpowers.
Overall, there’s never been a better time to try new things and build muscles to get back on the wagon. If you’re uncomfortable with the space you’re in right now, you can use this opportunity, fear, and discomfort to channel yourself into your purpose.
- Find a Mentor or Mentee at GrowthQ.co
- Looking for tech sales talent or diverse interview panelists to help you hire the best? Connect with us at GrowthQ.co
- Woman in business looking to elevate her career? Join Esther’s next Mentor Cohort; all participants receive a scholarship for a 1-year membership to WNorth Leadership. Contact email@example.com
Esther Ayorinde Iyamu is Founder of GrowthQ, the Match.com for mentorship, diverse interviewers-aaS, and tech sales talent. Esther also recently joined as General Partner for VC firm, 1Flourish. Esther is a 16 year Silicon Valley tech veteran, a 7 year NFL and NBA Dancer, and investor known for her wellness advocacy, her connected tech industry network, and her Go-To-Market expertise. Esther was recognized as Diversity Women Magazine’s Power 100 executives and The Network Journal’s 40 Under 40 list. She was the first Black Dance Captain in franchise history of the New York Jets and started her first startup at 19 years old in her dorm room at Santa Clara University. As a Tech Sales thought leader, Esther has been a featured guest lecturer at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, Santa Rosa Community College as well as a guest speaker at companies like Facebook, Gong, Snowflake, Cisco, Clozd, and Braze. Her new company, GrowthQ is dedicated to helping close the wage and wellness gaps for underrepresented tech talent by succeeding in a career in tech sales.