As a child, Adaora Udoji fantasized about what her career would be upon adulthood. “Not one shred of one thing that I thought of back then came to fruition in any way, shape, or form. Zero.”
Udoji couldn’t have dreamed up her career path then, because the developmental technology she works with today — firmly grounded in Virtual Reality (VR) — didn’t exist then. Getting to VR was a journey unto itself. One that led to Udoji becoming an award-winning journalist on the frontlines of wars and natural disasters.
All that childhood dreaming built upon one of her inner strengths — curiosity. “I was such a curious kid. At one point I thought I wanted to be an engineer, then an anthropologist. For about an hour I thought I wanted to be a writer.” That curiosity stayed with Udoji as she reached college, but didn’t provide a clear direction, “I had no idea what the heck I was going to do with my life.”
While attending UCLA School of Law to study tax law, a call from a mentor changed her trajectory. Could she help cover the O.J. Simpson trial for ABC News? Udoji a self-proclaimed news junkie, jumped at the opportunity, “It blew my mind,” she recalls. “I walked in there and was like, ‘They pay people to read newspapers and watch the news?’ Even in law school, the New York Times would be stacked up against the wall and I’d make my way through them to see what was happening in the world.”
It was then Udoji discovered a super power: telling stories. Thus began a long stint in broadcast journalism, where Udoji found herself reporting from the frontlines of the Iraq War and the storm-torn New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
And then, curiosity propelled her down a new path, “I became obsessed over everything digital,” she says. “I was blown away by its potential.” That brought Udoji to the world of VR. “I saw the dream,” she says. “I knew this was going to be the next generation of how we consume content and wanted to be part of that.”
She’s parlayed that experience into the world of venture capitalism and now heads the corporate innovation and venture team at RLab in New York, the nation’s first city-funded center for research, education and entrepreneurship in VR, Augmented Reality (AR) and related technologies. Additionally, she’s an adjunct professor at New York University’s (NYU) Interactive Telecommunications Program at the Tisch School of the Arts.
Udoji’s advice to kids interested in careers in VR and technology — be curious. “Be aware of your surroundings and how you interact with the world around you, whether it’s through your voice or a gesture.”
She encourages kids to follow their passions and interests to see how those might intersect with technology. “What are you interested in? Zoology? Healthcare? Education? Wall Street?” Udoji questions. “There are [technology] applications in all industries. The design tools people use are changing because of all of these new technologies. How do you use these new technologies with what interests you?”
The storyteller in Udoji believes no matter how revolutionary or innovative the technology, it’s people that make it relevant, “We’re social creatures, so we’re always going to need engagement — we need to be in the world looking around,” she says. “This is what fuels our imagination. And those [technology] tools are just secondary.”
About Redefining Rosie
This profile on Adaora Udoji, a pioneer in emerging media and technology is a part of our Redefining Rosie: Cool Women, Uncommon Jobs.
Parentology created this series to celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. Due to COVID, the series was halted midstream, but is reemerging. so readers can learn about these remarkable women in the workforce around the world — and in outer space. Check out our other profiles in the Redefining Rosie hub.