What is the Value of a Formal Education in Digital Marketing?

Many in the digital marketing industry think that a formal education is unnecessary. T. Adeola Osinubi not only disagrees with that thought but is also taking action to remedy the situation.

In his book, Straight Outta Context, he explains how he was taken in by bad actors who were more than happy to take his money and teach outdated, questionable, and even dangerous techniques to gain rankings in Google.

It wasn’t until he enrolled in a degree program that he learned the marketing principles, formal approaches, and industry best practices. He now teaches others not to be taken in by the “just Google it” crowd as an alternative to education.

Matt and T talk about the benefits of education and the lessons that they both took from the college experience. However, they also recognize the many obstacles facing today’s generation of students and the additional barriers facing low-income families and minorities.

About T Adeola:

From the City that birthed flight, funk music, and the classic literature of Paul Laurence Dunbar; T. Adeola is the next classic hail from Dayton, OH.

A “pain in the teacher’s class” turned successful Young Black Professional, T. Adeola transitioned from being a card-carrying member of “The Bad Kids Club” with chronic suspension, truancy and barely graduating High School to graduating Salutatorian from Full Sail University’s Digital Marketing Bachelor of Science degree program. From there, he went on to manage search, social media and email marketing campaigns for national and international conglomerates including Cox Media Group, ACCO Brands and Procter & Gamble (P&G).

Having managed interactive, digital and mobile programs of various complexities; now he’s on a mission to pay it forward by helping troubled males of color escape the school-to-prison pipeline by tapping into their greatness and exposing them to the benefits of professionalism. To that end, he co-founded STEM Whisperers; a College & Career Readiness STEM Workforce Development Program designed to replace the school-to-prison pipeline with a Marketing Technology (MarTech) career path.


[00:00:00] T Adeola Osinubi: Because this key word went here, that means that this key word is going to go there. No, no, no. A lot like different keywords, you’re going to land differently depending on the decision that’s being made. Because what I tell my students is that the funnel or the customer journey or however you want to describe it, it describes a decision-making process and that decision-making process is going to look different depending on the decision being made. So if you’re planning a family reunion or vacation, that’s going look very different than if you’re deciding whether or not to, to throw that extra pack of ice cream in your Instacart.

[00:00:57] Bumper Intro-Outro: Welcome to Endless Coffee Cup, a regular discussion of marketing news, culture, and media for our complex digital lifestyle. Join Matt Bailey as he engages in conversation to find insights beyond the latest headlines and deeper understanding for those involved in marketing. Grab a cup of coffee, have a seat, and thanks for joining.

[00:01:24] Matt Bailey: Hey, welcome dear listener to another episode of the Endless Coffee Cup. And I’m so excited this episode, because I received a book this week that I, I had to plow through, I couldn’t put down because I felt like I was talking to a kindred soul reading this book. And so I want to introduce to you T Adeola, and he has written a book, “Straight Outta Context,” and wonderful book.

And it’s so timely because right now, within this industry, within the digital marketing industry, there’s such a debate about the value of a college or university education. So T, hey, give us a quick introduction about yourself and what was it that made you want to write this book?

[00:02:12] T Adeola Osinubi: Well, thanks so much for that, Matt. I greatly appreciate that you got me all warm and fuzzy on the inside. It’s always great to have somebody else talk about you, cause you’re like, wow, that sounds really good.

[00:02:22] Matt Bailey: It does, doesn’t it?

[00:02:24] T Adeola Osinubi: The long is short with me, is that I actually drank the college Kool-Aid. When I was a young person, I graduated high school almost 20 years ago and I cannot believe I am old enough to actually say that next year is going to be my 20-year reunion.

But for the first decade I was just Googling it. So I like to tell people, I took the longest gap year ever. My gap year turned into a gap decade. I graduated in 2002 and went back for my bachelor’s in 2012 and the proceeding decade, I did it all. So what was happening, is that unfortunately I ran into named discrimination as I entered the workforce.

And, um, I have found a difficult time finding employment because some of the HR is, they’ll take one look at your name and if they can’t pronounce it, they’ll just delete your application. So once I found out that this is what was happening, I was like, well screw that. I’ll just go online and make money. And so that’s what I typed into Google, “How to make money online?”

[00:03:29] Matt Bailey: Alright.

[00:03:29] T Adeola Osinubi: And then I found myself in the collections of the folks selling lotions, potions and all of the other, you know, work from home sort of things, and I learned a lot. That, that’s not to be disparaging, but it, um, it wasn’t quite as advertised, let’s put it that way.

[00:03:44] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:03:44] T Adeola Osinubi: And so I did that for literally a decade and then I, um, started a family and decided that I needed to do better for my child.

And then I got serious and got uh, enrolled in degree for digital marketing at Full Sail University. And I, and I remember how I got there. So I got hustled by Shannen Doherty, right. So I was, um, I think I was driving a forklift at the time. And I just got off and, uh, it was like, you know, three o’clock in the morning.

So I’m sitting on the couch, winding down and then, you know, Shannen Doherty, a commercial comes up and she’s got pajamas, like, “Hey, I’m in my pajamas and I’m going to school, and you can too.” I’m like, “What’s up Piper?” You know what I’m saying? She had just got killed off of Charmed. I think I might’ve been watching Charmed at the time, actually.

[00:04:36] Matt Bailey: They know their audience. That’s great advertising.

[00:04:38] T Adeola Osinubi: Yep. Indeed. And so she pops up and she’s like, “Hey, I’m going to school in my pajamas. You should too.” And I’m like, “Yeah, you’re right. I should do that.” And so I found my way to Full Sail, and what I found refreshing about, um, Full Sail University’s degree offering is that it was an accredited degree program.

It wasn’t a certificate or just another program, no, no. This is an actual Bachelor’s of Science degree. And so I did that and then I graduated in 2015 and from there, uh, worked at Cox Media Group in Atlanta, I was an SEM campaign manager, so, uh, Cox Media Group, they’re their media conglomerate. They own television stations and newspapers.

So the same small businesses you’d see advertise in the evening news or the Sunday paper, they just took that ass and put it on Google. And then from there bounced around a small, a few small boutique agencies. Then I came back up north to Dayton, Ohio where I’m from and, something I swore I would never do, by the way, because the winter, I went down south the winter, I went down to Atlanta with sorts of, uh, 2015. We had two weeks, not a continuous 14 days, but two separate weeks where the temperature did not get above zero. So it was sub-zero the entire week, and I think the cold is, was like -20. It was a terrible winter.

I was like, I am never coming back up here. And then three short years later here I am. Then I’ve found myself an ACCO, ACCO brands. They own most of the brands in the office and school supplies space. So Mead, Five Star, Trapper Keeper, Day-Timer at a glance. And then, um, from there, I got poached to SeeMe Beauty, which is one of, uh, PNGs, newer brands.

And it’s, uh, cosmetics for ladies who remember the eighties, AKA 50+, but they don’t like to be called 50+ in advertising. They prefer eighties girls. So here I am, this big, burly, black man, schlepping cosmetics for, uh, middle-aged women. And then, yeah, that’s, uh, that’s been my journey.

[00:06:48] Matt Bailey: Oh my goodness, because now that’s, that’s like my age group there. This, I went to high school in the eighties and that is, I know exactly the cosmetics you’re talking about because that was, I mean, that was like the height of hair and cosmetics.

[00:07:04] T Adeola Osinubi: Yep.

[00:07:04] Matt Bailey: It’s just, man. That’s one thing that fascinates me about digital marketing is the clients. The, the, the industries you get into that you never imagined you would ever, ever interface with. And all of a sudden you become an expert about this little niche and the variety of businesses you get exposed to is just incredible.

[00:07:29] T Adeola Osinubi: It is, and, and it’s, uh, as you well know, digital marketing is a space for lifetime learners, and I learned a lot. It was great from a content marketing perspective because, hey, you know, I’m not a woman, let alone a 50+ year old woman, so I had to get up to speed really, really quickly.

And it was, it was interesting from the standpoint of identity, because the name of the brand was called, SeeMe beauty, like S E E M E, SeeMe because these women felt invisible because most of the cosmetics industry is geared toward young women. And so they, they didn’t feel as though they had a voice.

Also just the, the story of how it came to be. So what happened is that, um, these women were calling up Secret customer service, customer support and was like, “Hey, you guys changed the formula of your deodorant, it’s not working anymore. You need to change it back because I’m sweating more. And my sweat is more stinky. So you need to change it back because it used to work. Now it doesn’t work anymore.”

And then the customer service folks were like, “No, actually we haven’t. Um, but it turns out there’s a good reason why you’re sweating more, and your sweat is more stinky. And that’s because that’s what happens during menopause.”

And the women are like, “Really?” I’m like, “Yeah, really.” Because menopause is interesting. There’s an interesting social taboo around it. I mean, it’s going to happen to a little more than 50% of the population. Everyone knows it’s going to happen. No one says anything.

[00:09:00] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:09:00] T Adeola Osinubi: And so when it starts to happen, women are like, “What the hell is this? Like, this is new. Like, what’s going on?” So all of a sudden their beauty routines that they’ve had literally for the last 20, 30 years don’t work anymore because their body chemistry is changing and they don’t know how to, you know, they don’t know how to cope.

And so, um, yeah, anyway, I said all that to say content marketing for that was fun. Uh, it was genuinely fun. Um, because some of these, you know, I’m not going to call them old ladies, but some of these women are funny. Like it’s just very candid about, you know, how they’re feeling and that type of thing. And the ability to, you know, take yourself out of your shoes and put yourself in the perspective of someone whom you’re trying to serve, um, to your point, that will serve you well in business and in life.

[00:09:51] Matt Bailey: Absolutely right. And that’s, you know, you run into people that you, you have to learn about them. You have to engage with them. And they are completely different from you in many different ways, but yet you have to learn to appreciate those differences and then market to them, which I think it creates a lot of empathy for that.

[00:10:00] And I that’s one thing I do love about the digital marketing industry is, it has that challenge for people that it, it does challenge you to learn about others and your, your target audiences and get some of those nuances that you normally would never ever understand.

[00:10:30] T Adeola Osinubi: For sure. You, you said it very, very well, because believe you, me. I, I never thought that I would know so much about menopause. Yet, here we are.

[00:10:44] Matt Bailey: That’s a sh, okay. That’s another show. I’m going to stop there with that because we could go on a whole different tangent there. What I want to talk about from your book, and I loved it. The whole straight out of context is not just, it’s not a take-down of Google.

Rather, it’s this takedown of the attitude that I don’t need college. I don’t need higher education because everything I need to know is in Google. And I felt you did a great way of presenting this, but presenting this to that, you know, teenager, who’s not sure where they’re going to go and the voice, the information, and how you presented it, I thought it was powerful. And as I said in the intro, right now in our industry, we’re seeing a lot of debate about the value of a college education in digital marketing.

So I found this to be extremely valuable and two different levels there. Uh, obviously with your experience, now in the book, you talked about how you started down one path of making money, and then you decided to get a degree.

What was it that brought you from I’m making money, I’m doing all this online, you, you were in the online industry, but what was it that made you realize that, “I need more, and maybe it’s found at a university.”

[00:12:11] T Adeola Osinubi: In a word, “digital discernment,” which is actually two words, but, um, digital discernment is really the main thing that most people lack and think that they have, but they don’t.

And so what I mean by digital discernment is the ability to both categorize and contextualize online information or digital information. And so, see what you, what you find online is that it’s really the wild west in terms of the quality of information that you’re exposed to. And just because you know how to use Google does not mean that you know how to parse the real from the fake, which is a collective lesson that we all learned after the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election and the Cambridge Analytica fallout.

And so I’m not, don’t worry, I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole. So we don’t have to worry about that. But the point I’m making is that a lot of people got duped, right? A lot of people thought they were getting credible information and it turns out that they weren’t. And so they, they had, no, they had no mechanism by which to actually differentiate things.

And so there’s this old saying, “Take it with a grain of salt.” Well, that assumes, you know what salt tastes like. Right? And so if you’re, if you’re brand spanking new to an industry, you don’t, you haven’t had your first lick of salt, so you don’t know, “Okay. What am I being presented with?”

In generally speaking, in a collegiate setting, they have what’s called accreditation, meaning that there are certain, you know, checks and balances in place that have to be observed and upheld, or else the institution loses their accreditation. So you typically aren’t going to have to worry about any, um, you know, pyramid schemes or anything like that being pawned off on you in the university setting because it’s against the rules.

Whereas if you just go to Google, it’s no man’s land. And there’s also this, this weird social phenomenon that comes with Google, where some people feel like they have to have perfect information. And I’ve actually heard people say, there’s no excuse not to know anything, because you could have just Googled it.

Which is, no, that’s not how that works. That’s not how any of that works. Now, Google is a great thing, but what I often tell people, it’s like, okay, think of Google as an information genie. Right? It’ll give you whatever you ask for, but you have to ask, and it helps if you ask properly.

So there’s this old Geico commercial, I actually show it in my classes when I teach in the evenings. It’s an old, um, this I believe is from 2014 or something like that, but it starts off the regular way. “Did you know, Geico can save you,” you know, whatever. And then the person’s like, “Everybody knows that.” And then they’re like, “Well did you know genies can be really literal?”

And so it cuts to a guy and he pulls out a genie and rubs it. And the genie pops up. It’s like, “What do you want?” And the guy’s like, “I want a million bucks.” And so the genie gives him a million male deer, because that’s what a buck is, right?

[00:15:38] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:15:38] T Adeola Osinubi: It’s a male deer.

[00:15:40] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:15:40] T Adeola Osinubi: So we know that what he really wanted, he wanted a million dollars. But he didn’t want to ask for that either, because if tomorrow a million dollars showed up in your bank account and you sell tractors or work at subway, IRS is going to have some questions. Right? And so what he really wanted, is he wanted to hit the Powerball. But you don’t want that either, because I don’t know about you, but where I’m from, if you on the TV talking about, “I just want a hundred million dollars,” they come to kidnap your mama or snatch one of your babies at a daycare.

So you don’t want that either. And not only that, most lottery winners go broke after five years. So it’s not enough to just have the money, you need a degree of financial intelligence to actually keep the money. So what he really wanted is, “I want to hit the lottery anonymously, but have the financial education to keep my money.”

That ain’t what he said though. He said, “I want a million bucks.” And so now he got to figure out what to do with all this, what all these deer, you know what I mean? And so that, that’s a, that’s an extreme and silly example, but that’s an example of, you know, Google gives you what you ask for, but you have to ask.

So if you don’t know something, if something’s not in your frame of consciousness yet, because you haven’t had a reason to be exposed to it yet, how can you ask for something that you don’t know exists? Answer is, you can’t. It can’t be done because before you can posit the query, you at least have to know what you’re asking for.

And that’s, so that’s the first chink in the armor. The second one is, I actually had a parent, I heard a parent say this before, and I was aghast. A parent told their kid, like, I’m not paying to send you to college for something you can learn on YouTube. And there’s a lot wrong with that.

[00:17:38] Matt Bailey: Oh, yeah.

[00:17:38] T Adeola Osinubi: Um, so again, not going to too, too far down the rabbit hole of the 2016 election, but for those who don’t know, YouTube is a search engine.

It is actually the second largest search engine behind his parent company, Google. And just generally speaking, all of these algorithms are designed in such a way to keep you on the site for as long as possible, because the longer you’re on the site, the more you engage with advertising, the more you engage with advertising, the more money that Facebook, Google, or whoever makes.

So that, that’s the general, let’s call it the prime directive. Right? So what’s happening on YouTube, is that the algorithm figured out that when you piss someone off, they stay more, they engage more because they’re, there, they’re writing all of these, you know, comments of how enraged they are, and they’re sharing, and they’re doing everything.

So YouTube was serving up ever more salacious content, and what was happening, it was radicalizing people. And, um, that was an unintended cookbook, cause from the algorithm’s perspective, it’s like, “Look, my job is to keep you here as long as I can. What’s going to keep you here for a long time and keep you engaged? Me, pissing you off. Okay. Here’s some more fuel for the fire.”

[00:18:55] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:18:55] T Adeola Osinubi: And that’s what ended up happening. And so, um, but again, and that’s, what’s called a content bubble where the algorithms figure out what it is that we have certain proclivities to, and then it serves up more of that and it keeps out anything that would, you know, disturb our content bubble.

Because again, from its perspective, it wants you on that site for as long as possible so that you can click on ads.

[00:19:22] Matt Bailey: Yep. Absolutely.

[00:19:23] T Adeola Osinubi: And so that’s just one of several examples, but I was seeing this going on and I was like, listen, I can’t just keep quiet and not address this elephant in the room because I have small children.

And I, you know, my, my oldest is 11, my daughter is 7, and my youngest son will be 5 at the end of next month. And one, they have to know that, but more importantly, from a purely selfish point of view, my kids got to pick a wife or a husband out of this bunch. And if they’re not going to college, like that’s going to be problematic. You know what I mean?

[00:19:58] Matt Bailey: Oh no.

[00:20:00] T Adeola Osinubi: So purely a self-preservation standpoint, I’m like no, no, no, no, no. Hold on folks. We’ve crossed the line here, bring it on back.

[00:20:09] Matt Bailey: No, I think you did a great job because you explain how, yeah, the more you search, the more you use these sites, Google, YouTube, the more the results are going to rely on your history, your behaviors, your interests.

And yeah, it creates that content bubble of things that, we know you like this, so we’re going to give you more. Whereas at the university level, I like to say, in my level with social media, with Google, with YouTube, it’s all customized content. Custom to me. It’s what I want to see.

When I go to the university level, well now it’s curated content. Curated by either a professor, it’s also had to go through rigorous approval process, and it’s curriculum. And so it doesn’t matter whether I agree with it. It doesn’t matter, uh, if it’s custom to me, it’s not for that very purpose. I have to now deal with that. I have to raise my level to understand that content rather than have it customized to my interests. And I agree with this completely.

College is where you get your ideas challenged. And I think that’s one of the major, I think unspokens. And, like right now, I deal more with, as I’m teaching digital skills, I’m teaching soft skills because that’s what a lot of employers are looking for. That I find even in a professional setting, it’s the soft skills that are missing. And that’s a lot of what college helps you overcome and develop in those people skills of being challenged.

[00:21:57] T Adeola Osinubi: 100%. Um, in the book I talk about the three A’s, which are the actual benefits of post-secondary education. And you just touched on one of them, which is “acumen,” right? So when you go to college, you’re forced around people who are different than you.

And you have to figure that out, especially when they hold positions of authority over you. Right? So I had a situation where, um, I had this English teacher and we just hated each other. I don’t even remember why we hated each other, but we did not get along. And I got a D in that class.

And of course, I was out cause she, she graded all of my papers like they were doctoral thesises. Like they, my papers would always come back bloody red with all of these check marks. And it’s like, meanwhile, someone who wasn’t near as good of a writer would get a B+ and I’m like, “What? I got a D- and they got a B+ and what?”

So I, I went all the way to the Dean and the Dean was like, listen, she’s tenured. So the only way your grade is getting changed is if she submits a change of grade form, which she’s not going to do. So you can take it all the way to the president, if you like, but nothing’s going to happen.

And that’s analogous to, if you’re in a company and you run afoul of a VP, and this VP could be a dirt bag, but guess what? They’re VP. And so you’re going to have to have to figure that out. So either you’re going to have to transfer to a different division or, or go to a different company, but that VP ain’t going nowhere.

And that’s adulting. And adulting sometimes isn’t fun, but we all have to do it. And so the point I’m making is that to your point, the fundamentals are still fundamental. Yes, they’ve, they’ve changed and you, you have to apply them in a different context, but they’re still there. And so, um, having an understanding of that is, is a real benefit.

And like I said, back when I graduated in 2002, I didn’t have anyone in my life at that point who could have steered me in that direction. I was left to just figure it out, which I eventually did. But, um, time is the one commodity that you can’t get back. Right? You can get back money, you can get back soybeans, and wheat, and pork bellies, or every other commodity but time. Once that day, week, year is gone, it’s gone and you’re not getting it back. And it behooves you not to waste your time.

[00:24:36] Matt Bailey: I had to, I had to laugh during that story because it reminds me of my college experience where the department head, so I went into journalism because frankly the internet wasn’t around in its modern style.

So I went the journalism route, and the department head, I felt like she had it in for me because similar to you, I’m getting my papers back and I’m just like, what’s going on? And then I see other people and I’m looking at their grades, I’m like, come on. I know, you know, I was 10 times better than that. Uh, and she mentioned to me once she, she’s like, I’m grading you based on ability. And you’re sliding.

[00:25:15] T Adeola Osinubi: Mm.

[00:25:16] Matt Bailey: Wow. Okay.

[00:25:17] T Adeola Osinubi: Woah.

[00:25:18] Matt Bailey: And for, you know, and, um, you know, 1920, you know everything. And I’m like, well, wait a minute now, you know, that’s, I understand, I get that, but I don’t agree with it. Uh, my work is still better. And essentially, she gave me this, “What are you going to do?” You know, type of thing.

And that’s the thing. I had a challenge. Am I going to oppose, you know, this woman who has earned her position? Am I going to oppose her my entire college career? And part of it was too, we had some ideological differences. And she was challenging me, and I look back on that, I’m like, how valuable that experience was, because it forced me to look at other opinions, other ideas.

I didn’t like it at the time, but oh my goodness. The skills that that developed, and the ability to be questioned. Wow, it was so valuable. So valuable.

[00:26:14] T Adeola Osinubi: Yeah, it’s, it’s rarely fun, but you know, growth and your comfort zone rarely occupy the same space. So…

[00:26:22] Matt Bailey: Very true.

[00:26:22] T Adeola Osinubi: …There you have it.

[00:26:23] Matt Bailey: Very true. Absolutely. Well, I, I’d love, a couple of things that you talked about here, and I thought it was really amazing that yes, in the digital marketing space, you know, if someone wants to get into this space, there’s a high hurdle.

And, you know, being in the education side, I’ve always been aware of that hurdle because, you know, as you were saying, you, you first saw me on, on lynda.com and even being on LinkedIn and some other things. I realized that to access this training, there’s a financial hurdle that has to be taken, and it’s not an easy hurdle.

[00:27:06] T Adeola Osinubi: Right.

[00:27:07] Matt Bailey: For most people to get through. It really presents a big obstacle. And you outline that, especially as well, you know, as far as going to trade shows, which is where the networking takes place, but there’s a barrier there that keeps a lot of people out.

[00:27:22] T Adeola Osinubi: 100%. And it’s, it’s one of those open secrets that, um, so just in terms of career trajectory and accessing best in class information, right?

So, uh, what I say is that there’s sort of three paths that most people go down the first is to just Google it. And there is a lot of great content out there, much of which you can access for free. However, that brings us back to digital discernment. There’s, there’s also a lot of crap out there that you have to have the ability to parse through which again, as the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election showed us, most people don’t.

And then you have conferences and seminars. But these things are, are pre-pandemic, let me say. Pre-pandemic. They were cost prohibitively expensive, so, um, I believe the example I used was Content Marketing World, which shout out to Joe Pulizzi, um, former guests on my show, met him at Content Marketing World 2019, super nice guy. Uh, just a wealth of information, but, you know, Content Marketing World, 1600 bucks just to get through the door.

That does not include your flight, your hotel, Uber back and forth for however many days, depending where you’re flying from because there were, there were, um, people from all over the world flying in for Content Marketing World because it’s the premier content marketing conference.

So we had, you have folks from, you know, Europe and in, in, um, India and all over the place flying. And so once you add all of that back in, you’re looking at $3,000 to $5,000 per person. And the open secret there is that almost nobody pays for that out of pocket, that you’re there on the company’s dime. So when I, and when I went with my colleague, we were there on ACCO brand’s dime.

Now, we had to implement what we learned, because we have to say beforehand, I want to go to this. I’m going to be on this track. I’m going to see these sessions, and this is how this is going to help our e-commerce business, or this is going to help retention and blah, blah, blah. And then when I came back from the conference, I actually had to do that. Right?

Um, but so you, you find yourself an interesting catch 22, where in order to get the job, I have to have the best-in-class information, but in order to get the best-in-class information, I already have to have a job to send me to the conference in the first place.

[00:30:00] And just the, and you know this, just the serendipity of being in a shared space of, you know, get, grabbing a cocktail and bumping into somebody or, “Hey, you know, I’ve seen you in two other sessions, we appear to be on the same track. You know, what do, you know, what are you into, or what did you get from this speaker? This is what I got from it. Did you get that too?” That sort of thing.

That’s very difficult to replicate online. I mean, folks have been putting up a good effort, but there’s, there’s nothing about actually being in the room with someone and you can call it the energy, the fengshui, whatever you want to call it, but it, you know, it hit different, you know what I mean? When you’re actually in the space.

And then, um, I got tired of, of hitting my head against those paywalls. And so finally, what I did, is I found an accredited degree program, um, like you said, that actually has checks and balances and rigor and all of that good stuff. And, and that’s the route that I chose because like I said, for a decade, cause I’m, I’m, I’m no quitter, but like for a solid decade, I just kept running into the same thing.

There, you can get a little bit of information. You can get a nugget here, a piece there, but it’s never enough to get the whole enchilada. If you want the whole enchilada, you know, that’d be 10,000 bucks. Cause typically at these things, there’s this, you know, VIP coaching, one-on-one training, you know, white glove service, whatever you want to call it.

And you know, that’s the consultancy side of it, and that’s that’s upwards of $10,000 a month. And so again, you already have to have a job to be able to foot that in most cases. And that’s the part that doesn’t get talked about, or at least it doesn’t get talked about enough, which is, you know, access to capital.

And there, there are nine forms of capital. Money is just one of them, but you know, it, it is something that you have to figure out. And so whenever we talk about post-secondary education and the conversation typically steers toward student loan debt, um, which is an issue, um, I’m not, I’m not trying to downplay that or say that it’s not an issue, but what I am saying is that for myself, I don’t begrudge my student loans.

Because without them, I would not be in the position that I’m in now, where this is my second book that I’ve written. I’ve worked for some of the largest companies and brands in the world, networked and went to conferences with people like yourself, I’m on your podcast, as well as when I had my own podcast, I had, you know, all, all the folks that we tend to run with.

Your, your Jason Falls, your Jay Baer, your, your, all of these folks on my show. And, um, I teach now, I’m an adjunct instructor. Just started that, I’m loving it. Um, so I teach in the evenings. Um, my home university is Old Dominion in Virginia, but I’ve also taught classes for, um, University of Wisconsin at Madison, as well as, um, Loyola University, New Orleans.

And so, yeah I’m not mad at my student loans. Um, and if I’m mad at anything, I’m mad that it took me, I spent a decade banging my head against the wall before I figured out, okay, well, let me stop smashing my skull against this thing and go another route. Because had I did that off break, you know, um, our, our, our share friends, you know, Wil Reynolds, um, of Seer Interactive, Brian Fanzo, uh, Mike King of ipullrank, Carlos Gil, I’m the same age as these people.

Um, but with within a year or so, right? Like, like Carlos is like a year older than me, but, I’m age mates with them. But their career trajectory looks very different than mine, because they got certain skill sets when I was busy chasing a book, cause frankly, I didn’t know any better. And so I’m trying to save anybody coming up behind me, a little bit of turmoil and, you know, pass on what, what little wisdom I do have.

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[00:35:44] Matt Bailey: Well, and I think that’s a danger that, yeah, there’s this mentality that I could just go online. I’ll start a business. And in doing so, you expose yourself and you had mentioned this earlier, you expose yourself to every scheme that’s out there. And you don’t have that discernment to know it’s a scheme. Everything sounds great. Uh, everything is full of promises.

And I see this so much, you know, especially in our industry that even smart people tend to get taken in by, I would say some of the studies that are done because they don’t understand, well, wait a minute, that’s an extremely limited data set, uh, you’re only polling your own customers, you know, your only mailing list, which doesn’t create a generalized, you know, statement that you can make about everybody.

Uh, without those tools of how to discern the information, man, you can get taken in on so many different levels.

[00:36:47] T Adeola Osinubi: Yeah. To describe me as green when I first started, doesn’t quite say it. I was damn near (?), I was so green. And if you watch Dragon Ball Z and Piccolo, I was Piccolo’s cousin, I was so green.

And there has to be a level of care and responsibility because you can get, you can learn some bad habits that you’re not aware that you’re learning. So at one of my classes, in that particular evening, we were going over landing pages.

And I had a student, the student actually said to me, he said this to me, he’s like, “Well, I’ve never seen a landing page before.” And I was like, “Yes, of course you have. That’s how you got here.” And he was like, “What?” It was like, “Yeah.”

[00:37:26] Matt Bailey: Oh, that’s great.

[00:37:27] T Adeola Osinubi: “You were on Facebook or somewhere else. You saw an ad, you clicked it. It took you to a landing page. You entered your information and then someone from admissions contacted you. Like that’s what happened, right?” He’s like, “Oh, yeah. That, that is how that happened. Oh, that’s, that was an ad? Oh.” You know what I mean?

And so these, and I’m not saying this to, you know, make jest of him, but I’m just bringing this as an example that, you know, this was an older guy, but it’s like, he had no clue that he had gotten in this very class learning about landing pages from a landing page.

And not everybody, like I said, because of the lack of accreditation in the space and it’s the wild west and all you need is a landing page, some copy, and boom, you’re a digital marketer. Um, you have varying degrees of folks out here, schlepping information. And this is not to say that all of them are bad. Some of them are very, very good, but the ethics vary widely.

[00:38:24] Matt Bailey: Oh.

[00:38:25] T Adeola Osinubi: And that’s something, again, you don’t have to worry about at a university setting because, and maybe this isn’t the most, uh, the best example, but let’s say, you know, you’re a young person. You’re, you’re a 15, 16-year-old boy, and it’s that time you’re, you’re getting into puberty and you’re starting to get interested in the fairer sex, but your father’s not around for whatever reason.

And so you might learn how to talk to girls from a pimp. Now, if your objective is to, you know, reach that milestone, let’s just say, that we all reach at some point during your adulthood, a pimp can show you how to do that, but you’re also going to learn a bunch of bad habits along the way that you’re not necessarily going to identify as such at the time.

Um, because in every class, and I’m sure you have these folks too, when it’s time for Q and A, and you’re talking about SEO and PPC, you have some students that are black hats, but don’t know that they’re black hats because no one has ever told them, “Hey, that’s black hat.”

And I say that with a bunch of empathy, because that was me. Like I got ahold of some “courses” and all of this stuff. And at the time, from my perspective, I was just learning the game from somebody who knew the game.

[00:40:00] It did not occur to me that keyword stuffing and URL spoofing and all of these other things that have gone of the way of the dinosaur, as well they should have, it did not occur to me at the time that this was cheating, or this wasn’t above board because I got a bad guru who was like, “Hey, you want to learn how to make money? I know how to make money. I’ll teach you how to make money. Here’s how we make money.”

And because the guru was all that I knew, and I did, I didn’t know anything else, I was like, okay. Let’s go spoof some URLs. Like, like, I’ll, cause again, green as a blade of grass, I had no concept whatsoever. I didn’t know who Matt Cutts was. Um, Penguin, Panda, like that was all foreign to me. And so when I get these students, I’m always very gentle with them because I understand that from their perspective, they just think they’re being clever. Right? Like, “Oh, well, if that’s how you, well, what if you do this? And what if, how can, well will this work?”

Now, now I’ll always tell them, “You’re thinking the right way. I enjoy the initiative. Um, and I, I like the ownership you’re taking in your, in the success of your business or your company. But what I need you to understand is that Google is very sophisticated at snuffing out that type of activity, what they go call black hat. And so, um, you, you, you want to get away from that because you run the risk of being de-indexed, which is when Google will just completely drop you from this ecosystem.”

And I tell them, some big companies have been taken advantage of and gotten de-indexed. JCPenny, BMW, some large names ran afoul of Google, but they didn’t know good like, they, they just outsourced and hired an agency and hired a guru to handle it for them. And they had no clue that, you know, they were putting up a link farm, and then next thing you know, Google drops the hammer and BMW was like, “What the hell just happened?” You know?

[00:41:50] Matt Bailey: Yep. Yep.

[00:41:50] T Adeola Osinubi: And so you got to take care with people, and you gotta have ethics because there, there are a lot of black hats who do not know that there are black hats. They don’t know, they just got duped by a bad guru. Let’s just call it guru prime. The guru prime knows exactly what they’re doing.

[00:42:08] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:42:08] T Adeola Osinubi: But, but, but their flock doesn’t and they, and they, and they just blindly drink Kool-Aid and next thing you know, they’re getting sued because they just got a client de-indexed.

[00:42:19] Matt Bailey: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:42:21] T Adeola Osinubi: And it’s, and it’s not cool.

[00:42:22] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. And that was something I saw very early as the gurus, I, I’ve always been fascinated by the business plan of different companies. And one of those things I saw arise very quickly in this industry, especially in the early 2000’s was the rise of the guru, but they weren’t making their money as a practitioner.

They were making their money selling a system to other people. And when you see that, man, was it a big red flag, because, you know, in the eighties, my dad kind of jumped around in some of these different, you know, schemes. So I was, I watched what he did and, and kinda got a sense of how they worked and, you know, eventually he kind of figured it out as well.

And so it was kind of easy to spot then when I saw it happening in the SEO industry, which is why I see the value of getting into an accredited, or I would even say a certified level. And what I, when I say certified, I’m saying a third-party certification. I see a lot of people with a lot of, “Go through our course and you get a certificate, or you get certified,” but it’s their certification of finishing their course.

That’s why I love third party endorsements or third-party certificates, because now it’s someone who’s removed, who has nothing to do with your training. All they did was evaluate your training to see if it meets a certain level of standard. I tell people all the time, a certification from the company that trained you is worth very little.

It’s that third party that you need. Now, whether it’s a certification board, or body, or university, because ultimately what they’re going to do, I love this word, they’re going to unlearn you. They’re going to break those bad habits, those things that you assume, or that you thought you knew, there was a level of unlearning. And that’s one thing I did like about the university experience is, I had to be taught that I was wrong before I could figure out what was right. And you go into a lot of that as well. It was really a, I liked that part of it, it’s just, I had to learn I was wrong.

[00:44:37] T Adeola Osinubi: Yeah. They had to force or have to break me of a bunch of bad habits that again, I didn’t know I had. Um, it was just in, like you said, I like how you put it, un-learning is when I really figured out, “Oh, okay, so there are levels to this.”

I was thinking about this as one thing and it is, but there, there are levels to the one thing. And so there, there are different ways to approach different things and that, and that’s an appreciation I just flat didn’t have on my own when, and most people don’t. And then, like I said, the way that I close the book is with an unfortunate but true story about, you know, my best friend, his cousin recently was murdered and, um, his cousin didn’t have a good go of it.

Like he had a, he had a legitimately rough life. His dad’s doing life in jail. He got mixed up in the wrong stuff and was in and out of prison, but he was still a good guy, like very smart, very intelligent, like, there’s not a whole lot of difference between he and I, other than we made certain choices at certain stages of our life.

And so our paths started to diverge and the, um, now the do that I use is that it said that, you know, if you’re flying from New York to Chicago, at one degree change in trajectory over Chicago is the difference between landing in San Francisco or San Diego, which are 500 miles apart. Right? And so…

[00:46:11] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:46:11] T Adeola Osinubi: …one degree may not sound like a lot and it’s not, but when you extrapolate that over the course of the journey, it translates into a big difference.

And so, you know, these, these choices that you make early on in life, they, these have an outsize impact once you, once you play it out. And so, because I can remember being a young person, like why are these old people on my case? Like, gee, cause like, I didn’t know. I had no clue what I wanted to do when I graduated high school, none whatsoever.

[00:46:50] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:46:51] T Adeola Osinubi: Because, and this is what I like to tell people, is that a lot of people don’t know what it’s like to have a high aptitude. And here’s what I mean by that. So sort of an, um, discourteous way of describing people with high aptitudes, the saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

However, I have such a high aptitude that I can, I can, I’m like a Swiss army knife. I can, I can function in a variety of spaces. So, it’s, the flip side to that coin, this was called the paradox of choice is that I have a difficult time choosing where to go, because I can do so many things, if that makes sense. So if, if, if you’re a student athlete and you can ball out of control, but you can’t read, it, it’s fairly simple which path you should take, right? You should stick with the basketball because you know, you don’t know how to read.

And so it’s easy to be focused when you have a low aptitude. However, when you have a very high aptitude, and you can function either way, it’s like, okay, so what do I do? Like Drake said in one of his songs, you know, how you supposed to find the one when any one will go with you? Right? Like, that’s, that’s difficult for me. And so I was directionless for a while, not because I had a flawed character or because I didn’t have a work ethic, but because my aptitude was so high, I can fit in either space. So it’s like…

[00:48:24] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:48:24] T Adeola Osinubi: So, so now what do I do is, um, I don’t know if you watch anime or not, but, um, an anime I enjoy right now is Black Clover, and in Black Clover they have, so when you’re 15, you get what’s called a grimoire, which is the book that has spells, and you do all your magic with. And so they have the Magic Knights.

So you go through all these trials and tribulations, and then you join a Magic Knight squad. And before you can join the Magic Knight squad, the Captains of the squads of, you know, evaluate you and watch you go through your things. And if they want you in their squad, they’ll raised their hand and say, “Yeah, I want you in my squad.”

And so, um, the main character’s name is Asta. He has no magic, like none whatsoever, but then his, his best friend is a guy by the name of Yuno, and Yuno has all the magic. Like, he’s very powerful. So when Yuno, it’s Yuno’s turn, every last Magic Knight Captain raises their hand and says, “Yes, I will take Yuno.”

And so that was, that was me. And so, and then now I’m on the other side, like, “Errr, so now what?”

[00:49:40] Matt Bailey: Yep. Yep. Yeah. It’s so important, and you talked about that, that, you know, in the acumen skills, but then also part of the benefit is the alumni, the connections, uh, the networking that takes place with there. And I thought that was, uh, an incredible, uh, observation there.

[00:50:00] And, and that’s, you, you know, I think that’s something that I’ve related all the time is that, you know, did I need my college degree to do what I do now? You know, I’m a, I’m about 80% no. However, does having that degree make me better at what I’m doing right now? And hands down absolutely.

You know, having that journalism background, but it wasn’t just journalism, you know, it was persuasion, it was marketing, it was English, it was Western novels, it was, you know, all kinds of, it taught me how to think, how to evaluate, how to express my opinion, and then have it challenged and graded.

And those experiences I felt, you know, like you said, it gives you that high aptitude to adapt to just about any situation, which if you’re doing digital marketing, it’s absolutely essential, is that ability to adapt, to selling makeup to 50 year old women, to, you know, it’s that adaptation that is so critical to very quickly get up to speed on what this business does, who their audience is, what’s their selling points, and how do I understand this business in order to market them more effectively?

[00:51:14] T Adeola Osinubi: Yup. And stay on your toes and know how to continually learn and evaluate information because as of this recording, Google is in the process of deprecating third-party cookies, right?

[00:51:28] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:51:29] T Adeola Osinubi: And then of course, Apple and Facebook are beefing because with Apple’s newest update, and so Apple is, has really transitioned from being a hardware company to a services company, right? And their, their, um, unique selling proposition is privacy. They’re all about the privacy. And with their newest update, it basically breaks Facebook’s business model because it does away with the persistent identifier that Facebook uses to prove its value and its tracking.

And so, privacy has always been important. Let’s be very clear about this. Privacy has always been important, but now we’re moving into an environment where you’re, you’re literally going to have to reverse things as they happen because where we’re going to be moving from a cookie environment to, uh, more of an app-based environment.

And what that means from a tracking perspective, is that with cookies, think of it as a buffet at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. You can get everything. You can get as much as you need.

[00:52:35] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:52:35] T Adeola Osinubi: You need some ribs, some sushi, some crab legs, you get whatever you want. Right? Whereas in an app-based environment, it’s more like a wedding menu where it’s like beef or chicken? What, what you’re going to get? You can only pick one, right?

[00:52:50] Matt Bailey: Right. Right.

[00:52:51] T Adeola Osinubi: Because in the API, um, it, and I know I’m throwing around a lot of alphabet soup and digital marketing stuff, I’ll stop, I promise. But it’s a very new space. And what I tell my students is that, you know, you don’t get answers. You just get tools. Right? And then with the tools that you have, you come up with the answers, because one of the sticking points that trips up a lot of students is when we get to, um, classifying keywords.

So, and what we do is we tell the students to say, okay, is this a short tail or a long tail, but which stage of the funnel does this keyword belong in? So is this an awareness? Are they in the awareness stage? Are they in the consideration? Are they about to take an action, or are they about to make a decision? And it depends a lot of time, cause it’s, it’s not a, it’s not a one-on-one for one exchange where, because this keyword went here, that means that this keyword is going to go there.

No, no, no. A lot like, different keywords are going to land differently depending on the decision that’s being made. Because what I tell my students is that the funnel, or the customer journey, or however you want to describe it, it just, it describes a decision-making process. And that decision making process is going to look different depending on the decision being made.

So if you’re planning a family reunion or a vacation, that’s going to look very different than if you’re deciding whether or not to, to throw that extra pack of ice cream in your Instacart. You know what I mean? It’s, it’s, it’s a very different type of decision-making thing because…

[00:54:35] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:54:35] T Adeola Osinubi: …people don’t travel indiscriminately, right? That, that takes a lot of for-planning, it costs money. Then there are activities you have to make sure that you hit, or you gotta, you know, you can’t be in town and not see Great Aunt Gladys, or it’s going to be a problem, cause Gladys cuss out, now. And so you gotta make sure you hit Gladys and do all these other things.

And, you know, it’s, it’s a different type of decision versus something that’s just, you know, what am I going to watch on Netflix tonight? You know what I mean?

[00:55:03] Matt Bailey: Mhm. It is.

[00:55:04] T Adeola Osinubi: And so that, um, some students are okay with that, and other students don’t do well with that. They’re like, no, give me the answer. I need that certainty, tell me what the answer is. And it’s like, listen, you know, you don’t get answers, you just get tools. But if you trust the process and you use the tools that I give you, I promise you will be able to come up with the answer. But if you’re, you’re very rigid and have a, like, “No. 2 + 2 = 4, 100% of the time. So just tell me what 2 + 2 is.”

I’m like, “Eh, that’s not really how digital marketing works.”

[00:55:43] Matt Bailey: You’re going to have a hard time. It’s all fuzzy math. So, hey, we’re getting towards the end here, T, and this has been a great conversation, but I want to ask you, you’ve done teaching. You, you’ve trained a lot of people. What’s one of the best success stories you’ve had of working with a student that you’ve been able to train?

[00:56:03] T Adeola Osinubi: Oh, wow. So I would say the best success story that I’ve had when, um, working with a student, is when a student got a job shortly after completing the program, but not only that, but they got complimented by someone they respect.

So the student told me, you know, they’re, they’re going out for the job, it was a PPC position. I was like, “Okay, well, you know, I use Answer The Public for keyword research and it’s one of my favorite tools and other good stuff, but don’t forget the basics, and, uh, Dayparting is oldie but goodie, and not a lot of people use their BiD Adjusters, so if you do just that, a lot of times it’ll give you a good result for not a lot of effort.”

And they thought, you know, that, the person interviewing them thought that this person was a genius. Because, cause they, they had, they had, you know, struggled with that, and so, um, I would say my biggest win would be when that happened, the student felt validated.

Just because of how new and rapid things are, imposter syndrome, like, is a real big issue, um, especially for folks who, you know, who did nothing like this before. Like, this person was a nurse before transferring into digital marketing. And to say that it took a lot of courage to make that leap would be an understatement, but when she was able to get that result and felt validated, that made me feel validated as a teacher, like, “Okay. I know what I’m talking about, because you see what they, you see, you see that? I trained that.”

And so, um, that made me feel really good when they do what you tell them to do, and they start to win.

[00:57:55] Matt Bailey: Wow. That is powerful. All the way around, that is powerful. That is so good. And I’m sure that moment just changed her life. Absolutely. You know, just having the confidence then to move forward, and like you said, getting over that imposter syndrome of realizing, “I now know more than everybody here about this, this, this subject about paid search. I know more than everyone.” Uh, that is a, I think when you get that realization, that moment that, “I am prepared to do this, I can do this.” It, it, it is, life-changing when that moment happens. So, I’m so glad you got to be a part of that. And that is so, so amazing. Great to hear that.

[00:58:36] T Adeola Osinubi: You and me both. Thanks. I appreciate it.

[00:58:39] Matt Bailey: Uh, so T, I’d love for you to be able to, uh, tell us where could people find you, they want to know more about you, and also if they want to get the book, “Straight Outta Context?”

[00:58:48] T Adeola Osinubi: Sure. So, “Straight Outta Context” is available on Amazon, in both Kindle and print form. I am working on the audio book as we speak, um, best way to get ahold of me is LinkedIn. So just type in T Adeola, “A D E O L A” into LinkedIn, I will pop up as well as, I’m currently in the process of building a college and career readiness stem program, designed to end the school to prison pipeline. That’s my passion project. And that is at stemwhisperers.com, S T E M whisperers, “W H I S P E R E R S” .com.

Um, I made it to the final round of the University of Dayton Flyer Pitch Competition, which is, um, if you guys are listening to this it’s, uh, Saturday, April 10th, I’m pitching at 3:00 PM. So, uh, I’d love it if you guys will come out and support, but yeah, that’s me. I would give you guys a Twitter handle, but I don’t have one because Twitter deleted my account randomly one day.

[00:59:54] Matt Bailey: Oh no.

[00:59:55] T Adeola Osinubi: And so, I haven’t, I haven’t gotten another one yet. It’s weird. It’s like, I’m not on Twitter doing anything bad or anything, but I go to Twitter one day, and I log in, I go to log in and it says it doesn’t recognize my login. And then I do the whole forgot password thing, it was like, “Yeah, you don’t have an account.” so it just, it just *poof* one day, disappeared.

[01:00:00] Matt Bailey: Wow. Wow.

[01:00:16] T Adeola Osinubi: So yeah, LinkedIn is probably the best way to get me and yeah, thank you, Matt. I appreciate your time. This has been an awesome conversation. Um, again, an honor to, to be speaking with you, cause it’s, it’s been a long time since I was watching you on lynda.com, now we’re here, and this is very surreal for me. So thank you. I appreciate it.

[01:00:36] Matt Bailey: Oh, man. Oh, not at all. Not at all. The pleasure has been mine. I, you know, like I said, reading your book, I was just, it was pumping me up. I was so excited to get through that. And, T, I want to have you back because I want to talk about STEM Whisperers.

[01:00:51] T Adeola Osinubi: Oh, thank you.

[01:00:51] Matt Bailey: I want to talk about what you’re doing there. I didn’t, I wanted to get into it, but I felt like, you know what? In this one, lets us focus on the book, but I passionately want to understand more of what we can do as a digital marketing community to drop the barriers to access, to information, to education, and, you know, how we can help that. So I would love to have you back. Let’s talk about STEM Whisperers, and man, anything we can do to help out with, uh, getting past that next round. You just let us know.

[01:01:22] T Adeola Osinubi: Thank you, sir. I appreciate that. That means a lot. Yeah. We’re prelaunch, so it’s kind of, that’s why I kind of kept it under wraps a little bit, but definitely once we launch and I get things fully stood up, it will be an honor to come back. I appreciate that.

[01:01:35] Matt Bailey: Awesome. T, thanks again. I appreciate it.

[01:01:39] T Adeola Osinubi: Thank you, sir. Have a great one.

[01:01:40] Matt Bailey: Alright. Dear listener, thank you again for sitting in on this podcast and hope this has energized you as well, or maybe it’s brought up some questions as far as your future, should you ingest in a university or degree program, or what is certification look like? If you’ve got any of those questions, feel free to send them to me.

And I’m also sure to be more than happy to answer those as well but thank you again for tuning in to another episode of the Endless Coffee Cup and look forward to seeing you again in the next episode.

Featured Guest:

T Adeola Osinubi

Marketer | Educator | Author | Speaker

LinkedIn profile:  T. Adeola Osinubi | LinkedIn

Website: STEM Whisperers

Book: Straight Outta Context

Listen to T Adeola Osinubi in another episode:

Endless Coffee Cup: “6 SEO Myths That Won’t Go Away”

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