2017 MBAs To Watch: Gbemi Maiyegun, SMU (Cox)

Gbemi Maiyegun

Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University, Dallas

“Marketing professional with a global perspective and aspirations to innovate and inspire through diverse platforms.”

Age: 27          

Hometown: I am Nigerian, but I grew up in different countries around the world.

Fun fact about yourself: I was born in Paris, France and I have lived in Lagos, Nigeria, Kuwait, Vienna, Austria and Texas in the United States (El Paso, Austin, and Dallas). I lived in Kuwait for 9 years, and it was my favorite place so far.

Undergraduate School and Degree: 

  • The University of Texas- McCombs School of Business BBA in Marketing.
  • Southern Methodist University- Cox School of Business MBA Marketing/Strategy and Entrepreneurship.

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

  • Teach for America- Boude Story Middle School 7th grade language arts teacher
  • H&R Block- Marketing Coordinator Internship
  • AMN Healthcare (Staff Care)- Account Consultant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Kimberly Clark- MBA Marketing Intern in Roswell, Georgia

Where will you be working after graduation? General Mills- Associate Marketing Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Honors:

  • Business Dean’s Merit Scholarship recipient
  • Dunning J E Scholarship recipient
  • Accepted into the Disney Leadership Institute.

Leadership roles:

  • First Year Officer of the Marketing Club
  • President of the Black Graduate Student Association
  • Cox Student Ambassador

Membership:

  • National Black MBA Association
  • Women in Business
  • Strategic Alliances Club
  • Marketing Club

Campus activities:

  • I was selected for a Teaching Assistant position within the Department of Management and Organizations, Master Negotiation course.
  • American Airlines AAdvantage Consulting Project

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my volunteer work as a Cox Student Ambassador. Through this program, we partner with students, applicants, alumni, and the global business community to assist with the recruiting and selection of an exceptional class of future business leaders. Through the year, we hosted prospective students on campus, took them on tours, and gave them a taste of what the full-time SMU Cox MBA experience is like. I was also given the opportunity to speak to students from all around the country and the world about the application process and provide insights based on my experience at Cox. Being a liaison between prospective students and the SMU Cox school of Business has been an honor and a privilege, and I have enjoyed being able to share my experiences and provide others with information that could potentially be a stepping stone to their success at business school.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my professional career, I am most proud of my time with the Staff Care Division of AMN Healthcare. I was promoted out of the training program early, and utilized my prior experiences to navigate my way through the organization. As an account manager at a large sales staffing company, I developed and executed strategies to fill long and short term client needs that would result in increased revenue for clients and continued healthcare services for the community. Working in a sales environment can be challenging at times, but in my two years at the company I was promoted to a consultant, received stellar recommendations from higher management, and maximized profit margins for Staff Care, Inc. by generating up to $100,000 monthly gross profit. Through this experience, I learned that leadership is not about how long you are at the company, or the amount of knowledge you think you know. I learned that being a leader is a mindset. It’s about agility, innovation, knowing one’s own strengths and weaknesses, having an inquisitive mind, and developing the appropriate thought patterns. This experience taught me the importance of exposing myself to other functions, and constantly breaking the glass ceiling of what an “ideal” leader is thought to be. I believe this mindset has gotten me to where I am today, and can help me excel to unprecedented heights

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA Professor was Robin Pinkley, who taught my Master Negotiation course in the Fall of 2016. I enjoyed that Professor Pinkley strived to show us how every concept she taught in class was applied in the real world. She also comes from a very experienced negotiating background and has worked as a negotiating consultant for many different companies and institutions while getting media coverage from many different networks. Professor Pinkley always challenged us and pushed us to our limits, but explained that there is a reason behind every action that we make. Through Professor Pinkley, I was able to learn the importance of negotiation and how strategies can be applied to almost every facet of life. I have walked away with a true understanding that I should not accept “no” for an answer, to always challenge the status quo and to always strive for progress, not perfection.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Global Strategy has been my favorite MBA Course here at SMU. As a Nigerian woman who was born in Paris, and raised in Austria, Nigeria, Kuwait and Texas, I truly consider myself to be a global citizen. I understand how cultures in different countries can affect business – in particular the effectiveness of marketing and the importance of competitive advantage. This course enabled me to connect different segments of my prior knowledge and helped me understand strategies behind globalization. I have learned a lot about the intricacies of the global business economy and the connections between multinational corporations around the world.

Why did you choose this business school? After doing my research, I realized the tremendous opportunities that the Cox School of Business offers, including: networking, a structured mentorship program, a unique culture, a rigorous curriculum, and an esteemed faculty. It was apparent that Cox strives to cultivate global citizens through creating a diverse student body and built-in study abroad opportunities for full-time MBA students.  Having lived in Dallas, TX since 2011, I was exposed to alumni, mentors and colleagues who shared their amazing experiences at the Cox School of Business. As a graduating 2nd year MBA, I am proud to have been part of one of the top programs in the country that equips students to change the world.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I have enjoyed my interactions with my classmates, administration, the faculty and members of the global business community. Being an MBA student has opened up doors for me that I had limited access to before. I have classmates from different countries around the world and a wide variety of professions. I take every opportunity that I can to get to know the people that I meet on this journey and to understand what led them to where they are today. At different events, I look around and appreciate the opportunity to be surrounded by c-suite executives, community leaders, people with unique perspectives, future leaders, and innovators of the world.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? The most surprising thing about business school for me was how many of our professors view MBA students as their colleagues. Professors were very open to discussions, collaborations and helping students grow academically or professionally. These interactions created a very comfortable and collaborative atmosphere at the Cox School of Business and allowed students to freely express their ideas and open up to explore new ways of learning.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?

I would tell students to do as much research as they can to ensure that the MBA program is the right program for them. When we get into business school, networking is stressed as an essential part of the curriculum. This is something that I wish I had started doing way before my acceptance into business school. I would advise prospective students to go to as many networking events as are offered to prospective students by Cox School. MBA students learn to always ask for help when needed and to try to make as many connections as possible in areas in which they are interested. I would advise prospective students to look into their current networks to see if they have any connections to current MBA students in other schools (as well as at the Cox School) so that they can gain insights into the program and the business school application process. It is also important to attend events and get to know current students to get a feel for the business school culture. Studying for the GMAT, working, networking, and filling out applications can be time-consuming, so prioritizing and time management are key to ensuring overall success.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about business school is that job offers will start flying your way as soon as you start networking. That is not always the case. I have learned that one must stay positive and continue to persevere regardless how many times they will hear “no”. Landing the ideal job takes a lot more than just showing up and putting on a smile. Students should be prepared to do a good amount of research about the company, industry, and role. I also made sure to be myself in all interactions with people from the companies I was interested in, to be honest about my background and aspirations, and to follow up afterwards. The job search is a learning experience.  Although it is challenging, it will be very rewarding in the end.

What was your biggest regret in business school? One of my biggest regrets in business school was not taking advantage of more of our study abroad opportunities. Although I was fortunate enough to go to Hong Kong and Shanghai for our Global Leadership Program, SMU also offers additional global travel opportunities. I wish I had participated in at least one more global leadership trip where I could visit companies and also take courses in another country.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The MBA classmate that I most admire is Lauren Creed.  She is a very hard-working student and leader on campus and always goes out of her way to volunteer her service, time and expertise whenever she can with a smile on her face. She strives to do her best in every aspect of her life, but she will also go out of her way to help and uplift others. Her work ethic and passion for marketing have inspired me, and I am thankful I have been able to learn from her along the way.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I planned out my future, and knew that an MBA would be critical to me growing in the next phase of my career.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school…I would have opened up an online candy store with sweets from all around the world.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would make it mandatory for MBA students to be active in at least one community service project for the duration of their time in business school. It is important to appreciate where we are and also give back to communities in need. Moreover, I would also like to see a social justice course incorporated into the core MBA curriculum.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long term professional goal is to grow as a brand manager within an international consumer packaged goods company and eventually work in new product development. I would also like to do brand management in another country, as I am very interested in marketing from a global perspective. I also plan to one day have my own marketing consultancy practice aimed at helping large multinational companies tailor products and marketing campaigns to a variety of cultures. As the company grows, I hope to expand my operations to include consulting these companies on how to navigate the different climates, legal systems and economic wealth to provide quality products and efficient operations in various international countries. Having lived overseas for most of my life, this is a career path to which I would be uniquely suited. As an educated female minority, I also desire to join the ranks of the successful motivational women that inspire the millennial generation. I want to use my platform of influence and resources not simply for my own personal success and growth, but rather to teach and influence others to reach success as well.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would like to thank my very hardworking parents for bringing me into this world, and instilling in me the importance of education and the love for others. My parents have always taught me that education is the key to success, but to remember that education is far more than what you learn in the classroom. They have set the standard for me, and constantly push me to the the best that I can be. I would also like to thank my siblings for always being my biggest inspiration and source of motivation when I stumble upon different challenges. My family has always been a big influence in my life, and I am fortunate to have such hardworking, loving and caring people lead the path for me and I will forever be grateful to be standing on the shoulders of giants.

I am also thankful to my friends and mentors who constantly challenge and encourage me, and are also great examples of tenacity, strength and continued success. Lastly, I would like to thank anyone who has believed in me along many, many journeys and supported me in many different ways.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? One word: Authentic. I’m a woman who decided long ago to never be anybody but myself, unapologetically. Whether people love me or hate me, I believe that being true to oneself is the best gift to offer society and that’s how I’d love to be remembered.

Favorite book: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Favorite movie or television show:  Tie between Modern Family and Atlanta (on FX)

Favorite musical performer: Bad Gal Rih Rih

Favorite vacation spot: Dubai, UAE

Hobbies? Dancing, mini-adventures, traveling, tasting candy from around the world.

What made Gbemi such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Gbemi Maiyegun is truly a citizen of the world. Growing up as the child of a father in diplomatic service has given Gbemi a unique perspective that helps her appreciate the strengths that come from diversity, especially global diversity. As you can see from the questions that Gbemi answered, she has a strong passion for giving. In fact, her desire to give back defines her approach to leading others and makes her a compassionate, well-rounded, well-respected leader among her peers. In the SMU Cox MBA program, Gbemi has taken leadership roles in various student clubs and has worked closely with professors. Her service as an admissions ambassador in the SMU Cox MBA program was an invaluable help to both the admissions team and the prospective students with whom she worked. Taking full advantage of the many opportunities the MBA program offered her strengthened Gbemi’s already strong networking abilities and her career search potential, which in turn helped her land both her internship at Kimberly-Clark and her new full-time position at General Mills.”

J.R. McGrath
Director, Full-Time MBA Admissions
SMU Cox School of Business

 

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