HILLSIDE, NJ — Iyore Olaye’s passion for the sciences and technology were evident even while she was growing up in Hillside, where she spent weekends and summers while visiting one of her parents.
“Iyore was a very ambitious and hardworking, phenomenal student,” her sister, Iredia Olaye, said. “She just gravitated towards the sciences, playing with microscopes or inspecting specimens in leaves.”
That passion has brought national recognition to Iyore Olaye, 22, who was named to two of Forbes Magazine’s 30 under 30 lists Nov. 14. She was honored for her work as a research and product development engineer at Walker & Co., a Silicon Valley-based company that creates grooming and beauty products for men and women of color.
“There’s so many products and things that women or people of color consume and when we look behind the wall, you don’t see the people who are making the product,” Iyore Olaye said. “It’s really important for women of color in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to be present enough and be visible so others can use our struggle or our journeys as inspiration.”
The magazine honored Iyore Olaye in the retail and e-commerce category; she was also recognized in a separate category for being one of the youngest honorees. Six-hundred people were named to the comprehensive 2018 list, which acknowledges young innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders.
Iyore Olaye, who graduated Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering in 2016, is one of 24 employees at the west coast start-up company, where she incorporates technology with its products and marketing. For example, she created an algorithm for the website’s online consulting service that matches customers with grooming products based on their individual needs.
“Essentially, I knew that I wanted to be challenged,” Iyore Olaye said of her career choice. “I was excited about STEM and I knew that there were so many industries I could be in.”
Iyore Olaye’s older sister called around 5:30 a.m. to share the news of the listing with her, disregarding the time difference between the east coast and San Francisco.
“My sister actually called and said, ‘oh my gosh,” the honoree said, adding that she may have been groggy, but that didn’t detract from her excitement.
Iyore Olaye, who grew up partly in Hillside and attended school in Winslow Township, said her parents “just wanted us to encounter education, so they’d buy us books even as Christmas gifts.”
Today, Iyore Olaye is giving back. She has created a scholarship program to support one graduating high school senior who plans to major in a STEM program.
“It’s not just a monetary gift it’s really an opportunity to provider mentorship,” she said, adding that it’s focused on helping students get through their freshman year. “The most difficult time for me was my freshman year — just going to a lot of difficult classes and trying to acclimate.”
The INO Scholarship, which derives its name from Iyore Olaye’s initials, was exclusive to New Jersey residents in its first year but she now wants to make the scholarship accessible to students nationwide.
For more information about the scholarship, which is awarded based upon need, visit iyorenoelle.com.