2019 MBAs To Watch: Yewande Olusanya, University of Illinois (Gies)

Yewande Olusanya

Gies College of Business, University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign

I am a strong, passionate person, who is not afraid to turn challenges into opportunities.”

Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria

Fun fact about yourself: I walked the runway for a fashion show that donated its proceeds to charity (I am 5’3).

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Lagos, Nigeria – BSc (Economics)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was a Client Relationship Manager at Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Nigeria (the leading bank in Sub-Saharan Africa)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Microsoft, Redmond

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be returning to Microsoft as a Finance Manager in the Worldwide Commercial Business Group.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: 

  • Gies MBA Deans Fellow – Student ambassador for the Gies MBA program
  • President of the Gies MBA Women in Business (WiB)
  • Senior Manager – Action Learning Consulting project
  • Mentor – WiB Mentoring Program, a mentoring program focused on inspiring and coaching female undergrads at Gies College of Business.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The achievement I am most proud of is organizing the 2018 Women in Business Silent Auction. This is an annual charity event organized to raise funds to benefit two non-profit organizations in Champaign. The evening before the event, my VP and I decided to try something new: move the silent auction to an online platform to eliminate the inconvenience of having bidders spend their entire day at the auction location to “protect their bids.” We spent the night uploading images of the auction items to meet the start time deadline; we were able to share the link and instructions before 9 a.m. It was very fulfilling to see a higher turnout from students and faculty. More interestingly, protection of bids led to several last-minute online bidding wars which were fun to watch.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? About six months into being confirmed for the role of an entry-level trainee at Guaranty Trust Bank, I earned a promotion to the next level.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Marcelo Bucheli, my Creating a Global Economy professor. Bucheli’s class was one that you had to go the extra mile to prepare for because he always had a spin to whatever “great” idea you came up with. That kept us on our toes, and it was very exciting.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Creating a Global Economy with Marcelo Bucheli. It gave a lot of insights into the challenges and importance of managerial flexibility and technology innovation in cross border expansions. The class discussions pushed me to think like the business person I was aiming to be. Secondly, it exposed me to the workings of various economies across the globe.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose the Gies Business MBA because of its action learning curriculum, which is “learning by doing.” Being an international student, I was excited that I would be exposed to corporate America from the confines of my classroom. This gave me an edge in understanding how a business professional should process things in the workplace.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? An MBA program should not just be about the academic skills you are looking to gain. Gies MBA is a program that provides you with those skills, while also giving you a platform to develop interpersonal competencies as well as see business from a very diverse, macro perspective.

What is the biggest myth about your school? A friend told me I would possibly experience the coldest winter ever in Champaign. I took that advice with a grain of salt and assumed it wouldn’t be a big deal. Wrong move! Nothing prepared me for my biggest shock ever when I spent my first winter in Urbana-Champaign. To make things worse, my second winter came with a polar vortex.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I had known that the MBA was about more than just books. My MBA program is also mostly about being able to live up to your potential.

MBA alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Business school is indeed transformative. I compare myself now and pre-MBA, and I can say that so much has changed. I have experienced a major change in my mindset. Gies Business has taught me not to just think outside the box, but to create a box when I do not see one.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Zamar Rimba. I think of her as an all-rounder. I admire how Zamar is always willing to take on challenges and responsibilities, even when it is an unfamiliar situation. She inspires me to always reach for what I want, no matter how challenging, and persevere when things do not go according to plan.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My partner. I personally feel he believed in me more than I did in myself. He always felt I had the capacity to achieve much more than I imagined and tried to push me to see that. When I started to toy with the idea of getting an MBA, he encouraged me until I began to make the required steps.

What is your favorite movie about business? Billions – It is a drama series that shows both sides of the corporate world (the right and the wrong), and how one must always think smart to stay ahead of the competition.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? WWYD – What Would Yewande do? This is an inside joke with members of one of my project teams. I am regarded as the no-nonsense person who does what is necessary to achieve the desired result.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working as a client relationship manager, providing financial advisory and proffering solutions to top upstream oil & gas companies in Nigeria. I was offered a supervisory position recently.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? My MBA education is worth much more than what I paid for it. I don’t think I can place a dollar value on the knowledge, exposure, and opportunities I have gained from it.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 

  • Fly in a hot air balloon
  • Walk the skywalk at the Grand Canyon

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? The one who shines “Bright Like a Diamond”

Hobbies? Sightseeing, reading, socializing

What made Yewande such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Yewande Olusanya was my student in two classes at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Creating the Global Economy and Global Strategy. As the titles show, both courses dealt with challenges faced by managers when operating in the global economy. I taught both courses using the case method, meaning that instead of me lecturing, the class was purely discussion-based. This teaching method is not suitable for every student, but Yewande excelled in her participation. She was the type of student who wanted to be challenged. Her cosmopolitan background gave her tools to bring real-life cases of globalization and also led her to conduct sophisticated interpretations of our readings. A combination of strong charisma, rich background, insightful reading of the cases, and grace and humility when acknowledging viewpoints that differed from hers made her participation a crucial element for the class’ success. It’s not often I have a student whose opinions force the rest of the classroom to re-think widely accepted notions of how businesses operate or that force me to re-steer the direction of the discussion. Yewande is that type of student. I am sure her critical reading of the business world and charisma will take her to a road of success in the years to come.”

­Marcelo Bucheli
Associate Professor of Business Administration
Gies College of Business, Univesity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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