Columbia Business School
Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Entrepreneurial globetrotting foodie who believes in the power of possibility, positivity, and bringing people together
Hometown: Ogidi, Nigeria
Fun Fact About Yourself: While developing a tech start up in South Africa, I was featured in commercials and voiceovers across Africa, as well as the South African version of Shark Tank.
Undergraduate School and Major: University of Pennsylvania – BA in Political Science, Communications, African Studies
Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:
Account strategist, Google (USA)
Program manager, Anzisha Prize at African Leadership Academy (South Africa)
Tech startup founder (South Africa)
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: As a first generation Nigerian-American, a deep understanding that ‘talent is universal and opportunity is not’ has always been a driving force in everything I do. It was this desire to make my life count that inspired me at 23 years old to listen to my intuition and leave the US for a position in beautiful Johannesburg, South Africa, where I knew no one. It was a total leap of faith that ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
As the inaugural program manager of the Anzisha Prize, a $100,000 pan-African entrepreneurship award funded by The MasterCard Foundation, I worked closely with the founder of African Leadership Academy. In many ways, it was my first startup. I was a team of one, with a small budget and ambitious mandate to scale a youth entrepreneurship award across Africa. I realized very early on that building a truly pan-African award would require a massive team effort. The first action I took was to focus my efforts on brokering strong pan-African partnerships with mission-aligned organizations and media entities, that could help us evangelize the award in their countries. I traveled to nearly a 1/4 of the African continent and delivered presentations to key stakeholders, hosted marketing sessions, and conducted media interviews. I wrote original content and developed various marketing campaigns. I went from knowing no one to build a pan-African network of over 100 entrepreneurs, NGOs, volunteers, and global media entities. Watching the inspiring young entrepreneurs that I helped identify being featured on Forbes and CNN has been among my proudest moments. Over the course of 3 years, the Anzisha Prize entrepreneurship award grew from a team of one to a team of many, and from a nascent award to one that spans 35 countries, 4 languages, and inspires thousands of young people.
Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? One piece of advice in the form of 4 micro tips:
Tailor your GMAT study plan to suit your learning style: I’m a visual and experiential learner. I bypassed GMAT instructional book sets and online classes because they did nothing for me. I was also in South Africa and the time zone differences weren’t conducive for US-based online courses. Instead, on-demand video tutorials like GMAT PrepNow paired with hundreds of timed practice questions were a winning combination for me.
Don’t read the discussion boards: The only thing more grueling than preparing your application is waiting to hear back. It’s easy to psyche yourself out and obsess about your odds if you follow the certain MBA discussion boards too closely. I remember seeing a particular site that displayed applicant dings in real-time and immediately began conjuring up all sorts of doomsday scenarios and reasons why I would get dinged. I had to remind myself that I don’t know the backstory of that anonymous person with a 790 GMAT that got dinged from that top business school. You are much more than a number. Your story is unique and your experiences are rich. Be sure to reflect that in your essay and interviews.
Carry around a notebook to jot down ideas: Essay inspiration can come from anywhere.
Interviews: The STAR method is your friend. It is a helpful framework for structuring your interview responses. First provide an overview of the Situation, then describe the Task at hand, the Action you took, and finally the end Result.
What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? I chose Columbia Business School because I felt that it was the perfect trifecta: incredible school, incredible location, and incredibly global student body and alumni network. I’m a career switcher that’s interested in pursuing a career in finance post-MBA. My ultimate goal is to increase access to capital in emerging markets and facilitate deals between investors and trailblazing African companies that are building the future. Columbia was a natural fit with its globally recognized finance program.
I was particularly drawn to its renowned value-investing program, of which Warren Buffet is an alum. I’m also a curious person that derives energy from trying new things and immersing myself in dynamic environments. As a CBS student, New York, and by extension the world, is truly my oyster. Columbia’s location in New York affords me the opportunity to seamlessly integrate in-semester internships, impromptu coffee chats with industry leaders, and the vibrancy of the city into my MBA experience. I wanted my next two years to be an incredible adventure and I know that Columbia fits the bill.
What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? It would be great to close out year one knowing that I’ve formed deep connections with my classmates, contributed to the CBS community in a meaningful way, stretched myself academically, secured my dream internship, made progress on my personal passion project, and accumulated a solid list of NYC brunch spots. I will have overachieved if I learn how to navigate the New York subway system.