Meet The HEC Paris MBA Class Of 2020

Omonefe (Nefe) Etomi

HEC Paris

“Accountant/Consultant by day, musician by night, world traveler in between. (I believe in learning to grow myself as well as those around me.).”

Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m a recording artist and my dad has 29 siblings… I have so many family members we have an excel spreadsheet that I maintain to keep track of them!

Undergraduate School and Major: BSc Accounting and Finance, Warwick University (UK)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Areedi Consulting, Junior Consultant.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: This has to be launching a new career within my career. In September 2015, I wrote, recorded and released my first album, ‘Smile’, focusing on inspirational and uplifting music, telling a story with five tracks. My two original songs “Live Your Life” and “Done Crying” encourage people to learn to remain positive and love themselves. Creating this album was particularly challenging as I was recording whilst studying for the three final exams for the Association of Chartered Accountants (ACA) and working at Deutsche Bank full time. The timing seemed so bad that family and friends discouraged me from carrying on.

In the end, the album launched two weeks after learning I had passed all of my exams. Since then, my songs have been streamed thousands of times, and I have performed at various events. I also released two music videos, which have aired on television across Africa. One of the reasons I continue to invest in music is because of messages like the one I received last year:

“My New Year has absolutely sucked so far with an onslaught of bad news; I couldn’t work yesterday because I was so down. I watched your music video today and I was smiling so hard, I cried tears of joy! If you ever feel like what you are doing is minor, it is not! Follow your dreams and keep touching lives as you do. You genuinely put a smile on my face and it is safe to say your song is going to be on repeat for the rest of the evening.”

I have never been able to picture myself having just one career and this achievement has shown me that these two areas make up a huge part of who I am and I can thrive in both with hard work, dedication, and an amazing support system.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Collaborative. Honestly, I have been blown away by how helpful everyone has been. Literally, you can ask questions ranging from what a word means in French to interview tips and people will go out of their way to help you and tend to go beyond your initial request. We also joke about how our group chat is like a 24 hour helpdesk because we have all time zones covered; your query is usually answered within minutes. I cannot wait to meet these amazing people!

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? French! With my goal to work across Africa and harmonize French and English speaking (West) African nations, HEC encouraging the fluency in another language with weekly classes is a great way to help me achieve that. Linked to this is the network they have with Francophone Africans already, which will bring me another step closer to my goal. When you look at other factors like their exchange programs, program length (not too short, not too long), I felt like the school was set up just for me!

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school?  I am trying to be realistic with this list, so I do not end up as I did in my first year of university where I joined over 20+ clubs! It will have to be the HEC Africa Club, Tennis Club, and Consulting Club. They will be great ways to help me socialize with classmates, prepare for my future goals, and grow as a leader- as I plan to hold a leadership position.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I knew I did not want to stay in investment banking long term once I had finished my qualifications. These qualifications actually brought my attention to business strategy, so I started looking into that. I did not want to start a new career from the bottom up again. I attended a QS MBA tour. After the first hour, I knew an MBA was for me, as it seemed like the perfect way to swap careers and not have to feel like I am starting all over again (and earning less). I started setting up my timeline and made various decisions in accordance with that.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment?  I talked to people – literally, anyone and everyone who had anything to say about it. I also did a lot of reading online to see what other people had to say, as well as studying the facts and figures. It was important for me to pay attention to those in a similar situation to mine, who are also willing to change careers and move to a country with an unfavorable currency and exchange rate. I felt like the proof was in the pudding. If it was worth it for so many people, why would it be any different for me?

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to a few schools in the US, including HBS, Wharton and Stanford GSB, because going there would have saved me from applying for a visa, which sometimes can cause a lot of stress. I would have been able to visit my family there more often; the African alumni network in many of those schools is great. At the time, I wanted a 2-year program so I could really maximize my MBA experience. I do believe if I ended up in any of those schools I would be as excited, but the general feeling my family, friends and I share is that HEC and I were meant to be!

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I made a very long list of EVERYTHING I wanted to get out of an MBA program. Using mba.com school compare as a starting point, I went through the various schools’ websites to see how their program or the school at large worked with my list. also made sure to talk to students and alumni. Then I made an honest assessment of my personality, the kind of environment I tend to thrive in and I factored that into my considerations.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? It has always been clear to me that my country functions below its true potential, particularly when it comes to optimizing its resources and caring for its citizens. While this irked me as a child, I imagined things would improve during my adulthood. However, on December 10, 2005, it became apparent that this was not the case. On that day, 60 of my schoolmates died in a plane crash in Nigeria. Due to infrastructural inadequacies, the aircraft was faulty and the fire trucks that responded to the incident had no water to combat the flames. My best friend and other students who made it out of the aircraft were turned away from two hospitals due to the unavailability of oxygen; they died on their way to the third. This was my first real interaction with grief, loss and the transience of life. While I mourned for all the lives lost, a desire was fueled at the age of 14, to prioritize conscientiousness. I decided that whichever path I chose to take, I would aim to influence a positive change in the nation to improve the lives of citizens. From then on, I met my academic, personal and professional life with renewed vigor and determination.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? Work for a top consulting firm in a country other than my home country to continue to increase my international exposure and harness skills necessary to become a renowned leader.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Running my strategy-consulting firm with branches across Anglophone and Francophone Africa. Transforming business culture one SME at a time.