2019 MBAs To Watch: Ony Mgbeahurike, Washington University (Olin)

Ony Mgbeahurike

Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis

An African business enthusiast with a passion for increasing food supply in Africa.”

Hometown: Oakdale, Minnesota & Owerri, Imo State Nigeria

Fun fact about yourself: Participated and won Mr. Africa Pageant in undergrad at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, BAS, Manufacturing Operations Management 

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? The Village Company, Sr. Supply Chain Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Danone North America, Denver Colorado, Associate Brand Manager Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? Danone North America, Associate Brand Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Senator, Graduate Business Student Association (elected)
  • Center for Experiential Learning, Senior Project Manager/Fellow
  • 1st Year “Most Likely to be in an Olin Brochure 10 Years from Now”
  • Co-Founder and President, Olin Africa Business Club
  • 1st Place Winner, PepsiCo MBA Case Competition
  • Rising Star Award: WashU Graduate Programs (awarded to an individual graduate or professional student who has demonstrated outstanding leadership potential across WashU graduate programs)
  • Wallace L. Jones Consortium Fellowship Recipient
  • Piloted, co-designed and introduced the Africa Business Course Landscape course at WashU Olin Business School, making WashU Olin, one of the few schools in the U.S to teach a course on the business landscape in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Co-designed and hosted the first and second Annual Olin Africa Business Forum.
  • Deans Scholarship Recipient
  • Chairperson – 1st & 2nd Annual Olin Africa Business Forum (2018 & 2019)
  • Bauer Leadership Fellow
  • Olin Africa Club Awards: Outstanding Breakthrough Club (WashU Liberman Graduate Center) & Pushing the Envelope (Olin GBSA)
  • Olin Admissions Student Staff (Consortium & Africa Recruiting)
  • Co-President & Liaison: Consortium @ Olin.
  • 2019 Outstanding Club Leader Award: Olin Graduate Business Student Association (GBSA)
  • 2019 WashU Skanderlaris Entrepreneurship Award (due to my snack company start-up: Good Soul Company)
  • 2019 Dean’s Service Award for Co-founding Olin Africa Business Club

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I recognized a gap during my first year that WashU Olin was lacking education and exposure on the rising economic opportunities in Africa, and I thought it would be a big miss if future business leaders in my class weren’t aware of it. To change this, I met with fellow first-year African classmates to start the Olin Africa Business Club.

Upon the club approval from the student government, we designed a strategy to integrate the club to the Olin community by hosting various social and professional development events including the First Annual Olin Africa Business Forum (and subsequently the Second Annual Africa Business Forum.

In the same effort, I partnered with Professor David Meyer to launch a course focusing on the business/industry landscape in Sub-Saharan Africa. To kick off this course, Professor Meyer and I worked on a proposal and syllabus and presented to the WashU Olin Academic Committee. It was approved and included as an elective in Olin’s courses starting Spring 2019.

As I reflect on my time at WashU Olin, I am excited and proud that it is a place where I can contribute to the community in academically, socially and professionally.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my role as international supply chain planner at General Mills, I collaborated with various cross-functional team members to launch new snack products around the world. I worked on a particular product launch where it was challenging to source some raw materials, and secure production capacity to fulfill the production run needed for a new product launch in France—this would have delayed the launch by more than six weeks, missing a holiday sales opportunity. I was able to spring into action and collaborated with various vendors and plants to successfully secure the needed resources, produce and ship within the timeline with no delays.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Kurt Dirks is the professor of Power & Politics, a course that focuses on the politics in the workplace, and how to groom one’s career in the workplace. Kurt did a great job of walking the students through a journey of how to better position yourself to thrive in any organization while managing the power and resource dynamics. Kurt was very open-minded to each student’s thoughts and opinions about sensitive topics and shinned more light on how cultural fit and poor misunderstanding of performance metrics can lead to horrible career experience or even termination. Through Kurt, I developed tangible skills in understanding how influence and politics in the workplace plays a central role in one’s career advancement.

What was your favorite MBA Course? The Global Business Environment in the 21st Century is course centered on the interaction between business and government policy. This is a crucial course as all businesses and nonprofits are in one way or another influenced by government policies either at the federal, state or local level. We had the opportunity to network with local government officials as they shared their experiences in public service and how policies impact business. To cap the experience, the whole class visited the Brookings Institute in Washington, DC, to further engage with policy-makers. My biggest takeaway is how business leaders can impact government policies that benefit society. The instructor, Professor Lamar Pierce, did a great job of preparing the students to think critically on how government policies can impact their company performance.

Why did you choose this business school? I identified WashU Olin as a school where I could receive a great education and also make an impact by contributing to the community in a meaningful way. The Center of Experiential Learning (CEL) was a major attraction for me, especially the work being done in Africa where, in fact, I later led projects in my home country Nigeria. Also, the Brookings DC Residency through the Global Business Environment course was particularly attractive because that was an area where I lacked understanding—how business and policies intersect.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? WashU Olin cherishes accomplished candidates who are intelligent but humble, thus be yourself during the application process and truly understand if this is the right community for you. Also, WashU Olin is focusing a lot more on developing global business leaders who see the world in a 360-degree view. It’s important to critically assess if WashU Olin is the type of learning environment you want to be in, and come with an open mind to contribute in class and in the community.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I expected WashU Olin to be a place where it’d be difficult to make a difference and impact the community. I was quickly proven wrong as my classmates and I have been able to make significant changes to the social, academic and professional development opportunities. WashU Olin’s administration, faculty, and staff are very open to new ideas and exploring possibilities to improve the students’ experience.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Business school is very demanding and it can be a struggle balancing personal and academic life. Thus, I would have reshuffled some of the major personal activities that occurred during my first year.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? The MBA experience at WashU Olin has transformed my ability to build highly effective teams that truly deliver value. This has come in handy during the formation of the Olin Africa Business Club, where I had to assign roles to my fellow co-founders and classmates and also perform the same exercise for the Class of 2020 first-year officers. During these times, I’ve seen myself grow in identifying talent, grooming talent and positioning talent that will lead to the development and growth of the club. This was a skill set I didn’t have coming into business school. Through various group projects and leading teams during our Center of Experiential Learning consulting projects, I’ve noticed my ability to analyze the organizational and project needs and staff it appropriately.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Gheremey Edwards is a friend who brings light, energy, and enthusiasm to the class and people around him. He cares about the development of others. As VP of Diversity and Inclusion for the Student Government, he made strides in expanding how his classmates approached sensitive topics about diversity.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? During my time at General Mills, Anton Vincent, then president of Snacks BU, became a mentor who inspired me to be my best and aim for the highest potential. Having learned how Anton’s career has grown at General Mills, I became inspired to go to business school to achieve success as he did. Anton also dedicated his time to coach, mentor and advise me on business school applications, choosing the right internship option, and even connecting me to people in his network at Danone North America before I started my summer internship. Anton’s corporate success is also inspirational as a minority executive in corporate America.

What is your favorite movie about business? Jobs: The biggest lesson I learned is how Steve Jobs never allowed the leadership crisis at Apple early on to deter his own vision to be a global leader. He pursued other business ventures with the same passion as he did with Apple.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? Circle of Death: During a networking event, many MBAs would surround a recruiter who was all trying to get attention. It’s an awkward moment to join a conversation or leave it.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working at a consumer packaged food company in the supply chain.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? The dollar value of the MBA is worth more than I paid for it as I started business school to maximize my experience not just in the classroom, but in building networks, relationships, job opportunities and significantly expanding my problem-solving skills and building highly effective teams.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Go on a Europe tour, visiting 7-10 countries.

– Start an endowed African Scholarship Fund for international students and establish a WashU Olin Africa Center of Leadership.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d want my classmates to remember me as a friend that shed more light on the beauty and economic potential of Africa across campus.

Hobbies? Cooking: I love cooking and it’s a way for me to de-stress. During my internship, I cooked for my whole brand marketing team as a parting away gift.

Watching political shows like Homeland, Designated Survivor and Madam Secretary, and other shows like Suits and Greenleaf.

What made Ony such an invaluable member of the Class of 2019?

“From the beginning, Ony’s story was a compelling one. From Nigeria, he immigrated to the United States, settled in Minnesota with his family and struggled to find his passion–one that ended up being very different from the path that was expected of him. He was drawn to WashU Olin because of the opportunity to be heard and to make a difference. I am proud to say, he has made all the difference.

During his time at Olin, he co-founded Olin’s Africa Business Club, highlighting the importance of the region as we continue to build our global expertise. He collaborated with a faculty member to launch the first class at Olin to focus on Africa and the impact this region is having on business and global supply chain. In addition, he has attracted prominent speakers with expertise in this area to campus to increase awareness and encourage conversation on this subject.

With his efforts to increase awareness of the importance that Africa has and will continue to have on the business community, he reminds us of the importance that Diversity plays in the MBA experience and the experience of his classmates. This year, he led efforts to establish a group that would be dedicated to helping Olin with our efforts to increase and incorporate diversity and inclusion into the lived experience here at Olin. He has spearheaded call campaigns, email campaigns and 1:1 outreach and served as a host for our prospective students at on-campus events designed to share our efforts focused on this initiative.

Ony has been a proactive role model for his class and our community, and it has been my greatest pleasure to know him. For years to come, Ony will be remembered as a passionate, proactive, inspirational, collaborative and innovative leader, and I am confident he will continue to be recognized as an invaluable member of any team and organization he leads and joins.”

Ruthie Pyles Stiffler

Assistant Dean and Director

Graduate Programs Admissions

Olin Business School

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