This is Lightbox, a segment of the twentysomethingbytres newsletter. Every month, I will be interviewing a twenty-something-year old to get insight into what life is like for them, the careers they are building, challenges, ideologies and more.
It promises to be a great time.
This month we will be speaking with Mary-Esther Anele, a 400-level law student, and the founder of InclusivelyRemote, a company that connects people with remote work opportunities, and helps them live healthier work lives. In this article she talks about growing up, her passion for Human Resources, starting InclusivelyRemote and so much more!
It’s a great interview, so please like, comment, and share if it resonates with you.
Hello Mary-Esther. Please introduce yourself to us!
My name is Mary-Esther Anele, and I like when people call me by my full name, “Mary-Esther.” When people shorten the name, I prefer they call me “M-E” instead of Mary or Esther. I am a penultimate year law student at the University of Lagos, pursuing a career in Human Resources (employment law and compliance). I’m a bloomer, and I love learning and exploring the world.
Currently, I am building a Startup called InclusivelyRemote. It is an HR-Tech company targeted towards remote opportunities. We help job seekers get remote opportunities, promote remote startups and ensure they have access to qualified candidates worldwide. Aside from this, I provide job seekers with career tips, build their confidence, and give them that hand that lets them know they are not alone and can grow and have the best career possible.
I really believe that your work life carries a lot of weight. You spend about 40 hours a week working, so if you are in a bad job, it will affect you, your relationships, your life, your health, etc. My whole mission in life is to help people work in a job they love and find a safe place in their careers.
I was hoping you were going to tell us about your work as a content creator as well, but I’m guessing you want to focus on InclusivelyRemote?
I think one of my issues now is trying to combine both of them because people find it hard to believe that I am doing two different things. What I would just say is that content creation was like a hobby before, and now it has become a part of me and has generated income for me asides from InclusivelyRemote.
Sounds good! Can you share your background with us? What was growing up like for you?
Growing up, I was a shy kid. From primary school to like JS1, I was bullied at school, so it really affected my self-esteem. I wasn’t confident, and I shrank, basically. I tried not to stand out so people won’t see me and bully me, but over time I started learning to come out of that zone and be a butterfly. I’m really grateful for family and friends because I remember my mom had to move schools for me over five times, and then I finally got to a really good secondary school I finished from. She said, “this school is good because Mary-Esther would fit in well”, and funny enough, I did. That really helped my esteem, and I started to evolve and discover my passions.
When I clocked 18/19, things really changed for me. I don’t really know what happened, but I had a switch. I can’t define it. Thinking about it now, 2019 was that year of transformation. I just transformed. Ever since then, it’s been amazing.
Going off-tangent of that question, how would you say navigating your twenties has been for you?
I think my twenties were unexpected. I had this idea that twenties was adulthood! You know? And life will be so different, but in reality, it basically feels the same. I feel peace, which is crazy because the twenties are when there are so many new challenges. Regardless, it’s been a series of adventures. Trying relationships, building my career, trying out different places, becoming more confident in myself, becoming more self-aware, handling bills and breakfast (laughs), etc. But my twenties have been amazing with my friends because I would never have imagined my twenties without them. I thank God every day for them. He gave me the right set of people who have helped me face everything so far.
What would you say have been the highlights?
Discovering myself, basically. I talk to my clients who are in their 40s, and they are trying to discover who they are, and the fact that I have been able to do so at such a young age makes me happy. I discovered that I have so much strength in me. Also, starting my own company at twenty-one. It’s so hard to believe, actually. Then getting my first million!
Osheyyy, Mary-Esther money! God when?
(Laughs) I have made an amount of money I never thought I would have made in my twenties. So yeah, I think the only thing that’s left is Love, but I know I’m going to find that too!
What have been the lows?
I think I am just trying to find the time. I struggle with the fact that some of my friends don’t understand that I am a naturally ambitious person. So most times, I hear things like, “Mary-Esther is always busy, Mary-Esther is work, work work”, and that puts me down because people think I do that on purpose, prioritising work. But I don’t. I love hanging out with my friends, so my goal has been trying to find more time to spend with the people I love. It’s overwhelming too. I am not yet done with school, so I have to carry my education, the company, and also be a cheerleader for other people. In reality, I’m a saviour who sometimes needs saving.
If you could go back in time and have a conversation with your younger self, what would you tell her?
I would tell her: do it, speak up, don’t care. That was when I lost many opportunities because I was too timid and scared to be in the spotlight. People hated me because I was a teacher’s pet and, for other reasons best known to them, so I didn’t want any extra attention. I remember we once had a debate in school, and because I was timid, the teacher gave my write-up to someone else to present. That was the first time it dawned on me that I was at the backstage. Because I thought I wasn’t good enough, my own speech had to be read out by someone else. So I will tell her: do it, speak up, don’t care.
How did you start InclusivelyRemote?
I started InclusivelyRemote on April 4, 2021 - I can never forget because that was three days after the day I was laid off from a remote job. Before I got that job, I had been searching for a job for over 13 months. I was experiencing near-success syndrome with jobs I had been applying for. I’d get to the final stage, only to be told, “Sorry, we can’t go on with your offer.” One major event that really struck me was when in one incident, I had gotten to the final stage after five stages. Ten minutes before this interview, where I was only supposed to discuss pay and sign the contract, I got a mail that said: “Hello Mary-Esther, it just came to our notice that you live in Nigeria. Sorry, but we can’t go on with your offer.” I tried to reason with them, but they didn’t budge. It was so devastating.
That made me more outspoken on LinkedIn. I started talking about remote work in Africa and companies giving Africans a chance. Then I got that remote job, and I don’t know what happened, but on the third day of my onboarding, they told me that they didn’t want to work with me anymore, and the arrangement wasn’t working for them. I tried to beg, I even volunteered to work for them, and they said no. I could not even cry because I remember my sister cried on my behalf. Then something told me: Mary-Esther, this is something you have been doing on your own; why don’t you start your own job board?
I remember looking for names, and my Godmother came up with InclusivelyRemote. I didn’t have enough funds to register a domain name, so I created accounts on all social media platforms and started a newsletter on substack.
That evening I went to see a friend, and I told her, “You know what? I give myself one month to get a hundred subscribers.” The shocking part was that the week after I started, I got 150 subscribers! From then on, I started getting a lot of subscribers and messages from people thanking me for the newsletters. On TikTok, I got 13k followers in three months, and I think it was just God’s plan. Rejections and layoffs are just a redirection.
One thing that really touched my heart was someone messaging me early this year, a student in Kenya who had been getting a lot of rejections. She was looking for an internship in a hotel (she studies a course along the lines of hospitality) and was having such a hard time. Do you know that as we spoke, she told me that someone had recommended her for an interview opportunity at Hilton in Kenya? I gave her tips, and the next day she wrote back telling me she had gotten the job. I was like, wow! That was also exactly how I got into HR. I had been facing a lot of rejection only for one person to say, “Mary-Esther send your resumé, and I will send it to the HR at Deloitte.” And that’s how I interned in the Talent and Acquisition department at Deloitte and fell in love with HR. Like I said earlier, sometimes rejections are redirections. No matter how things are at the moment, there is a green light somewhere. And when you get there, you will look back and think: “What? Is this what God has been preparing for me?”
So yeah, that’s how I started InclusivelyRemote. It’s been overwhelming, but the fact that I get to do things for people keeps me going.
That’s amazing. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story. What made you passionate about HR and Remote work?
Normally when I get this question, I tell people that Law is a tool that can be used in every sphere of life, and I use my own knowledge of Law in the workplace to create policies for people that will help companies create a better working environment for their employees. My WHY is that I need to create a safe place for people in the workplace. Most people dread work. Growing up, I hated the thought of a 9-5; many people do too. But when you make a working environment enjoyable for people, they will want to go to work every day. Most people use work as an escape from relationships and life issues, so imagine if the work they are going to also compounds and gives them issues? So for me, the why is creating a safe working space for people. I need to help companies create policies that generate diversity, inclusion, equality and, most especially, a safe space for all employees regardless of their background.
One thing you think everyone should do before they turn thirty?
Honestly, I will just say: Live. I would like to retire in my thirties. People think they want to shift all the work to their thirties, but your twenties are when you are meant to work, experiment, try different things, fail, stand up, and do a lot of things. Don’t be scared of failing in your twenties. You need to fail to do better. Take charge of your life. Come out of your comfort zone. LIVE. I will also advise that in your twenties, you find a safe environment for you. Find your community. It will help you grow as a person and navigate life. You can’t do life alone.
Three things you can’t live without?
—That’s true. You are always on your laptop.
I can’t live without K-dramas.
And I can’t live without loved ones.
How sweet. Any last words?
E go be. Las las, we go dey alright.
Word. Thank you Mary-Esther!
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Mary-Esther just published a book titled: The Remote Salary Handbook, and here is what she has to say about it:
As an African remote worker/freelancer, I have struggled with getting fair pay. Most times, I have had to settle for less, and this is the same for many African freelancers and remote workers. The Remote Salary Handbook is an invaluable resource for remote workers and freelancers who want to ensure that they are being fairly compensated for their work. This comprehensive guide provides detailed information on the factors that determine remote salaries, as well as tips and strategies for negotiating the best possible compensation package.
Click this link to get it: https://selar.co/pb6x
Media I Consumed this Week:
(Where do I even start from?)
Watching: The White Lotus Season 1, because it takes me forever to finish shows. It was great, though. I enjoyed it. I watched The Glory. I loved it so much, and I wish I could wipe it from my brain and watch it all over again. I watched Parasite. Phenomenal movie and deserving of all the accolades it got. I watched some telenovelas, and Too Hot to Handle (latino), which made me feel nostalgic.
Reading: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Mossfegh, and I am oddly endeared to this book. It has such a sardonic and cold female character who is clearly suffering and denies herself the pleasure of this knowledge. I think it’s fascinating how she reveals what I consider very disturbing patterns, dynamics and relationships without any hints as to the effect these might have had on her. It displays depression in a way I wish more authors would: less melodrama and more self-destructive tendencies. I feel so much tenderness for her, even though I acknowledge she is not the best person or friend. Nevertheless, I really enjoy books that flirt with my notions of morality and this one did.
Listening: I have been listening to self-made playlists. Here is Blue is the Warmest Colour.
Thank you so much for this Tres! I’m so impressed by Mary-Esther’s resilience and compassion. It is so inspiring. 🥺
The drive is so impressive🥺. Young and thriving is really where it’s at.