Meet Babson College’s MBA Class Of 2020

Dancan Onyango

Babson College’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business

Within all these, my interest lies in advocating for, promoting and expanding access to affordable financial services for the underserved.”

Hometown: Kisumu, Kenya

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love dancing.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Nairobi-Bachelor of Commerce

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Rural Finance Expansion Programme, Zambia; External Consultant

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Other than my work in Digital Financial Services consulting at a continental level, I am involved in activities that seek to improve access to finance for women in my native, Kenya. I am the founder of Jiwo Paro, a development microfinance organization that provides microenterprise training and tools of the trade and sewing machines or startup capital to unbanked entrepreneurs in the textile value chain. Women are marginalized in East Africa, whereby one in hundreds have a formal bank account. Lack of collateral or financial history limits women’s access to credit and consequently, their socio-economic mobility. As CEO of Jiwo Paro, I have been instrumental in changing the narrative of those communities I have been able to engage to date.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Diverse. Through the MBA class, I have learned to engage with people from different cultures and to assimilate into new environments that may appear to be unfamiliar to me. I have learned to work cross-culturally and embrace new ideas and ways of thinking. I have learned that it is important to take the plunge and experience things out of one’s comfort zone, if growth is to be achieved. These ideals have been of great significance to me, and I will continue to build on them throughout this MBA program.

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? In 2016, I took an Executive Education Program on Innovation for Economic Development at Harvard Kennedy School where Professor Daniel Isenberg was teaching. He cited some cases from Babson College, which reflected the current position of Babson as the No. 1 in Entrepreneurship in the USA.  Thus, I chose the Babson MBA, confident that I would receive instruction from top notch professionals on how best I could contribute to the regional and global discussion on financial inclusion by curating entrepreneurial mindset and consequently contributing to social change in Kenya.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Consulting Club

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I am interested in the implementation and monitoring mechanism for financial services, products and standards. The MBA would be a platform for sharing and exchange from diverse backgrounds, countries, and industries where the students draw from. With these connections and perspectives from across the world, I will be better equipped to comprehend and devise strategies to many of the shortcomings I encountered in my work across emerging markets, more so as an independent consultant in what may seem to be a hostile environment for young progressive minds.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Babson has a great reputation for entrepreneurship. First, entrepreneurship has far reaching consequences in solving the problems we encounter daily providing formidable financial services to the poor. I am particularly interested in integrating technology to expand such services. Thus, an MBA within Boston and particularly at Babson was a perfect mix. Babson was supportive. Besides, I am a Diversity Leadership Scholar, which is a full tuition scholarship for the MBA!

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard Business School and the University of Notre Dame

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I wanted to study in a school with an international reputation. I also wanted a program that would impact my personal and professional development as well as gain me credibility in the international consulting space. First, financial support was top of my priority. I needed a scholarship to study for the MBA. Additionally, I wanted an MBA in a place where it would be easy to settle in, where diversity is appreciated. That is why I chose Babson.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? In 2016, I took part in a consulting assignment where I was supporting a top microfinance bank in Cambodia to review its agent banking strategy and products before developing a 5-year strategy plan. Realizing the many challenges that women face in accessing basic financial services, I returned to Kenya and started Jiwo Paro, loaning low income women sewing machines to enable them start their apparel microenterprises. Little as my contribution may be, I believe that it has been instrumental in molding these women into successful entrepreneurs in the textile industry and become successful leaders in their community. I am learning what it takes to grow a startup into a financial partner of choice for all microentrepreneurs working directly with tailors in the textile value chain.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? Given the exposure I will have had out of Babson, I envision that upon my return to Kenya, I will be better equipped to devise strategies to many of my organization’s challenges. Before that, I do want some experience. Thus, I envision myself engaging in a top consulting firm in the US or Europe where I can build on my experiences and knowledge that I will need to position Jiwo Paro on its path to growth.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Five years from now, I envision myself working at working in with an intergovernmental body such as the International Finance Corporation, or The Gates Foundation where I can continue to actively effect change in policy and practice of responsible financial services across the world.

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