2017 Best MBAs: Laju Obasaju, USC (Marshall)

Laju Obasaju

USC, Marshall School of Business

“An enthusiastic, hard-working, tireless leader with a love of history and spontaneous dancing.”

Age: 34

Hometown: Bellmore, NY

Fun fact about yourself: I have been dancing since I was four-year-old

Undergraduate School and Degree:

New York University College of Arts & Sciences – B.A.

New York University School of Law – J.D.

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman LLP – Attorney

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? AT&T – Dallas, TX

Where will you be working after graduation? AT&T – Leadership Development Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Co-President of USC Marshall Challenge for Charity (a non-profit consortium of west coast business schools who compete to see which school’s students can raise the most funds and volunteer the most hours towards charities. USC has won the past seven years in a row)
  • Forté Fellow (dedicated to helping women in business)
  • One of two USC Student Ambassadors for the Forté Foundation
  • Consortium Fellow for Graduate Studies in Management (dedicated to increasing the number of African-America, Latino-American and Native American students in business school)
  • One of two USC Student Liaisons for The Consortium for Graduate Studies in Management
  • Case Fellow at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurship (co-writing cases with professors to be used in the classroom setting at USC and to be published in Harvard Business Publishing for use at other business schools)
  • USC High Tech Association – Mentor
  • USC Leadership & Organization Club – Mentor

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being a co-president of Challenge for Charity. For me it represents some of Marshall’s best qualities – our commitment to making the communities around us better, our team spirit, and yes, our competitiveness. Having “won” the competition for the past seven years (in the form of a Golden Briefcase that has resided at Marshall) demonstrates my classmates’ willingness to sacrifice time and money to help the charities we care about. It is a reminder that those of us who have been privileged enough to obtain a higher education should want to give back. I am proud of the fact that my school exemplifies this mindset.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? From 2012-2016, I was named a “Southern California Super Lawyer Rising Star” by Thomson Reuters, an award given to the top 2.5% of attorneys in Southern California either under the age of 40 or who have practiced law for less than 10 years. I am extremely proud of this, as the award is based on peer recognition, and was therefore a recognition of how my peers viewed me in the legal industry.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Steven Mednick. I had no interest in entrepreneurship prior to business school. However, Professor Mednick was my professor for my first semester consulting class, and as another “reformed attorney” (as I call those of us who have left the legal field behind) I consistently reached out to him for advice and mentorship beyond our project, which he was happy to give. Through this process I learned more about what the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurship had to offer, and wound up taking several more classes, including Cases in New Venture Management which was taught by Professor Mednick. Many of my favorite classes wound up being in the Entrepreneurship program, and it directly led to my being chosen as a Case Fellow for the program. Although I do not have plans of running my own business at this time, I have learned gained substantial knowledge about the startup community, venture capital, and corporate entrepreneurship which will follow me into my future career. For this, I have Professor Mednick to thank.

Why did you choose this business school? I had already lived in LA for eight years prior to attending USC and I had seen how powerful the Trojan Network was. USC alumni were proud of their school, they looked after each other, and they were always so happy to meet other USC alumni! I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of that network.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? It was the collaborative environment and teamwork. Law school had been incredibly competitive with a kind of “you must fail in order for me to win” mentality. At USC, students really approached school with a “there is room for us all to be successful” mentality that helped me flourish.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? USC Marshall has many unique opportunities, from its top-ranked entrepreneurship school to its unprecedented access to the entertainment industry. I would advise anyone applying to seek out what opportunities at USC can further his or her career goals and make those opportunities clear in his or her application.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I love travel and would have enjoyed an opportunity to study abroad. But ultimately, I wanted to be here all four semesters, helping to make this school a positive community for everyone.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Carlie Carpio, a fellow member of the Class of 2017 with a social entrepreneurship focus. Carlie is a fantastic student, mentor, and teammate who also somehow finds the time to consistently support others whenever it is needed. Whether she is using her background as a certified trainer and yoga instructor to take care of our bodies, or leading a meditation to help us take care of our minds, Carlie remains focused on integrating wellness into the MA curriculum for everyone around her. She is an in credibly positive person and a constant inspiration to be around. I also have her to thank for keeping me in shape through our weekly personal training sessions!

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that I was on a career path where I would only be brought in when there were problems, and that I would never be one of the decision-makers within a company.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…still practicing law, and not feeling fulfilled in my career.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience?  I would like to see more focus on increasing the school’s diversity numbers and fostering a strong community for the diverse communities on campus.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? As a career-switcher, I am no longer wedded to a set long-term title that may or may not come about, and the desire for which may alter as I continue down a new path. Ultimately, I hope to find myself in a leadership role where I am creating real value for a company from the top down. I wish to be in a position of influence where I can better the members of my team around me. And I have come to value work-life balance. I have no problem putting in the long hours to achieve success, but it is important that I have the ability to take care of my personal wellness as well.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My immediate family – parents, brother, sister, and brother-in-law – for always being such a support. No one batted an eye when I said I was leaving a career in law to go back to school. They all just asked me what I needed and made it clear they would be there to provide it.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Laju was a strong leader and collaborator who added value to each team and class of which she was a part.

Favorite book: The Parable of the Sower & The Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler

Favorite movie or television show: Game of Thrones – I always knew Jon Snow was a Targaryen!

Favorite musical performer: Vintage Trouble

Favorite vacation spot: Palm Springs

Hobbies? Reading about history (fiction and nonfiction), dancing, baking desserts . . . does napping count?


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