Meet London Business School’s MBA Class Of 2020

Nasi Rwigema

London Business School

“Kick your ball hard. Over the wall, over the river… have fun chasing after it.”

Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa

Fun Fact About Yourself: My Father is Ugandan, Mother Zimbabwean, Partner Ghanaian, and I grew up in South Africa.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of the Witwatersrand – Major in Aeronautical Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Solafrica Energy – Project Director

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I feel most proud when my actions and efforts team broad-based positive impact with personal achievement. Being one of the very first renewable energy producers in South Africa, and arguably the first black professional in the field, affirmed my competence as a young professional in a highly competitive industry. Despite the small size of my firm, it was amongst the pioneers that I truly believe gave others the confidence to risk up-front capital and human resources to develop sustainable power projects and encourage governments across Africa to purchase power from them.

Years later, I was challenged to rescue a run-of-river hydro power plant that was in heavy violation of environmental and social conditions, as well as 19% behind its construction schedule. In the 5 months since I took control, I worked with the relevant teams to cure all project breaches and bring the construction programme back on track. I saw tremendous personal growth in myself and demonstrated effective and dedicated leadership through this experience which I am very proud of.

Yet I’ve only ever felt truly proud when my impact has outlasted my stay. Encouraged by my Fellowship to the Young African Leadership Initiative, I started Project Warm in 2015 – a social initiative using the unproductive idle-time that shift workers (e.g. security guards and shopkeepers) have available to produce blankets that are donated to homeless children. The project enlisted and trained 43 workers putting the equivalent of an extra month’s wage in their pockets and keeping 130 vulnerable children warm through the winter. Faced with competing priorities in 2017, I chose to end the project which in hindsight was a premature surrender that disappoints me personally. Sadly, our workers went back to their usual wage in 2017 and the children received no further support.

I chose these two examples as the factors that led to the demise of Project Warm are the same deficiencies I saw at the hydro power project. While the period between joining the project and enlisting for the LBS MBA was brief, it was the ideal extension of my project development skillset and a valuable crash course in business administration, operations management, and encouraging people to do their best work. With this experience, I am confident that I would be able to make a success out of Project Warm in future. I will keep these lessons close to my heart as I embark on new endeavours in the coming five years.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The classmates I have met thus far appear to be curious and confident without carrying much ego or sense of superiority or elitism. I get the feeling most of us are plugged into the experience we are about to encounter instead of dwelling on some sense of an aura that may accompany us in future.

Aside from your classmates, 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 was most attracted to LBS, as an MBA institution, for the impressive diversity of its student body and faculty – diversity in terms of upbringing, international exposure, and professional experience. In my view, the greatest benefit of an MBA is the personal, mental development that is gained in and around class practicing problem solving with people who are smart but, more importantly, have different approaches to you – all under the guidance of world-class educators. To maximise the breadth of perspectives to learn from, inherent diversity is key.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I have a deep passion for the African continent and all efforts to unite its people and improve their circumstance. For this reason, I look forward to engagements and initiatives within the Africa Club.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I believe an MBA, with the in-class experience described above, provides an ideal training exercise for improving the quality of mental muscle-fibre in the ways we think about overcoming challenges. I felt that my career experiences prior to the MBA, while varied and hugely educational, had left me with fundamental gaps in the mental models I employ and in the way I frame problems.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Since my motivation for an MBA was predominantly based on development of self, I paid little mind to the economic comparisons of income and career growth with and without the experience. With the personal value I believe I will gain from this experience in mind, it was easy for me to conclude it to be a worthy investment.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I blindly applied to the MIT Leaders for Global Operations programme, enamoured by the dual degree MSC and MBA despite having obtained an MSC in engineering. I also applied to Stanford GSB as a lover and follower of the technical advancements that are developed on its doorstep.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? It was only after applying to MIT and Stanford that I came to realise what matters most to me; in the end, I prioritized evaluations based on the following: 1) diversity of the student body; 2) quality of the faculty; and 3) quality of the in- and out-of-class experience that each school purported to offer. In carrying out my evaluations, I scrutinized as much of the programme information as was made publicly available, read various perspectives from alumni, admissions consultants, and other interested parties online, and engaged with alumni and current students through various platforms.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Being trusted to project manage a large solar power plant at a very young age was a key moment or period in my early professional career. It was a challenge far bigger than I had imagined for myself. After the initial months of panic and self-doubt, the realization that I was treading water and beginning to swim brought me a confidence that has developed into a key characteristic I attribute to later successes.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? My African passions are most closely focused on access to seemingly basic services such as electricity, water, waste management, etc. Based on the experience and knowledge I gained by working in renewable energy, I aim to work in the sustainable energy sector servicing under-developed African regions.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Ideally, I will be back in Africa with a healthy and growing family. I see myself working insanely hard, having founded and then running a stable and promising infrastructure and services business.

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