2020 MBAs To Watch: Gbenoba Idah, University of Texas (McCombs)

Gbenoba (Benoba) Idah

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

“Inspired by family and driven to contribute to my community.”

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Fun fact about yourself: I have over 40 first cousins in Southern California and over 75 first cousins worldwide.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Cornell University, Urban and Regional Studies & City and Regional Planning

University of New Mexico School of Law

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Blavity, Inc. – Pre-MBA Associate – Business, Sales, and Strategy

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? EY-Parthenon, Private Equity Commercial Due Diligence Group, San Francisco, California

Where will you be working after graduation? EY-Parthenon, Private Equity Commercial Due Diligence Group, Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Venture Fellows, Co-Vice President of Recruiting, Internship: Brand Foundry Ventures
  • Graduate Women in Business, Co-Vice President of Male Allyship
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mentor
  • MBA JumpStart Advisory Group, Member and Mentor
  • Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Member and Mentor
  • Elevate Diversity and Inclusion Conference, Speaker Committee

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As the Co-VP of Male Allyship for the Graduate Women in Business (GWiB), I had the wonderful opportunity to work with my Co-VP, Emma Blumstein and launch a series of events (Gender Games Trivia, small group guided fishbowl talks, gender equity case discussions led by McCombs faculty, and speaker series) and supply swag (Lady Boss + Team Lady Boss t-shirts). Backed by Assistant Dean Tina Mabley, the MBA Student Affairs team, the GWiB board, and the entire McCombs community, we were able to help build bridges, engage students from all backgrounds, and drive the conversation forward about gender equity from the classroom to the board room. It was truly the highlight of my time at McCombs and I am forever grateful for Emma, GWiB, and all McCombs students who helped build a more inclusive community.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my pre-MBA Associate role at Blavity, Inc. in its Business, Sales, and Strategy department. Blavity gave me the unique opportunity to evaluate KPIs, contracts, and metrics to help analyze what steps Blavity should take moving forward as it expanded its various business lines. Founded by DeBaun, Aaron Samuels, Jonathan Jackson, and Jeff Nelson, Blavity ultimately aims to be a digital voice for Black millennials. During my pre-MBA summer, Blavity raised a $6.5 million Series A round led by Google Ventures with participation from Comcast Ventures, Plexo Capital, and Baron Davis Enterprises. Prior to this Series A, Blavity raised a little over $1.8 million from MACRO, New Media Ventures, Base Ventures, Cross Culture Ventures, Harlem Capital Partners, the Knight Enterprise Fund, and others. It was an exciting time, challenging work, and a great team atmosphere to learn about media and tech at a growth-stage startup before starting my MBA at McCombs.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor John Doggett challenges McCombs students to be at their best during each and every class period. I would encourage all current, incoming, and prospective students to take or sit-in on one of Doggett’s class. You (even prospective students) should be prepared to push the boundaries of your ability to use data to address problems facing companies today and how you can best position yourself to compete and lead in any industry post-MBA.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? McCombs Homecoming. If you have never visited The University of Texas at Austin, take the time to go to Austin during Homecoming. Whether or not you are a football fan or even decide to not attend the game, it is an amazing experience where alumni from across the world come back to connect, network, share their experiences with current students, and bring their families to experience the power of the UT network and excitement in Austin.

Why did you choose this business school? The challenge of picking a school is difficult and introspective. With that said, the easiest decision for me was when I decided to come to McCombs! During my search, I was looking for a collaborative community, school, and city where I could jumpstart a career switch, expand my professional network, and improve my leadership skills. McCombs provides a commitment to diversity and inclusion and access to all major industries and employers in Austin from consulting and tech companies to energy and VC/PE firms. It also boasts rigorous career services classes and career coaching to help facilitate a career switch, and both informal and formal leadership opportunities.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? You should take the time to develop, refine, internalize, and practice your story as to why you want to get your MBA. From day one during your trips to visit schools – as you interact with current students, alumni, and admissions – you must be able to articulate it with confidence and both clearly and concisely.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth is that McCombs students are overly nice at the risk of being not competitive. McCombs students are extremely talented and sharp, so we are competing with MBAs from across the world for the top employers, jobs and internships, and case competitions. We strive to be the best and always remain humble! Hook ’em!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would have spent more time getting involved in the McCombs Graduate Business Adventure Team by hiking and experiencing the outdoors in Austin. From Lady Bird Lake to Barton Springs Pool and Pedernales Falls State Park, you can reach the outdoors in less than 30 minutes from any part of the city. The city is amazing, so everyone should take the time to explore Austin every weekend.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Emma Blumstein. She exemplifies everything that McCombs stands for and strives to be. Emma has an amazing work ethic and unconditional commitment to excellence while remaining down to earth and kind. We formed a bond while being in the same section and serving together on the Graduate Women in Business board. Emma led by example by working to help others in and out of the classroom. Life doesn’t stop while getting your MBA and you will face challenges, but I am thankful each and every day for the lessons learned from Emma and will miss our daily chats.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My friend and mentor, Roger Knight, Managing Director for Mergers & Acquisitions for TMT at Lincoln International. He helped me think through the decision to go back and get my MBA by vetting all of the potential schools, career paths, risks, and rewards. He is at the top of his field, so being able to have his mentorship and advice was crucial before getting my MBA.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I hope to continue to mentor incoming, current, and past McCombs MBAs interested in consulting. Additionally, I would like to work on diversity, gender, and inclusion initiatives at EY-Parthenon and build a strong workplace community to push the culture forward.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope to be remembered as respectful, thoughtful, and collaborative, and someone who genuinely loved and appreciated the students, faculty, staff, and leadership at McCombs.

Hobbies? Sports, concerts, and traveling (I’m an architecture and art history nerd)

What made Gbenoba such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“You would be able to measure in minutes, not days, the amount of time it took for Gbenoba Idah to become an integral and impactful part of our MBA community, known to virtually everyone as a respected and celebrated member of the class of 2021. Every time a student, staff member, or faculty member interacted with Gbenoba, we all became a little more connected. I have never seen a student endear himself so quickly to so many people in our community in such a short period of time. Beyond all the accomplishments I can share, if you asked me to pick one word to describe Gbenoba’s time at McCombs, it would be “welcoming”.

Whether he was sporting his “Team Lady Boss” shirts he helped create as VP of Male Allyship with our Graduate Women in Business organization or spearheading events to recruit a more diverse class of Venture Fellows or simply having a conversation in the hall, Gbenoba always found ways to bring others in. One of his fellow students shared “I’m proud to go to school with Gbenoba – he is one of the few students that truly makes an effort to know and support everyone. He is also incredibly driven and has had profound success here at McCombs not just in his career, but in his extra-curricular pursuits as well.”

Another student also nominated for this Poets & Quants honor says of Gbenoba, “He is an absolute rock star and has an incredible future ahead of him. Aside from his stellar resume, Gbenoba is probably one of the kindest and most humble men I have ever met. His smile is contagious and he would do anything to help a friend. As a show of his selflessness, Gbenoba has dedicated much of his time during his MBA working with our Graduate Women in Business group to elevate women in business. He personifies the spirit of what makes our McCombs community so special: He is a collaborative leader, smart, altruistic and hard-working.”

Our faculty advisor for the Venture Fellows program, Jim Nolen shared his perspective: “Gbenoba Idah served as one of the VPs of Recruitment for Venture Fellows and was responsible for promoting the experiential learning practicum to incoming first-year students to apply to the program. Gbenoba was the face of Venture Fellows and his outgoing personality enabled him to attract 30% of the first-year MBAs to apply for the program in which only 25% of the applicants are chosen from a rigorous process to become Venture Fellows.

Academically and professionally, Gbenoba has an impressive resume – after receiving his BS in City and regional planning from Cornell, Gbenoba earned his JD from the University of New Mexico School of Law. Prior to McCombs, he practiced law including regulatory matters, M&A transactions, public finance and litigation. As a Venture Fellow Gbenoba interned at Brand Foundry Ventures, an early-stage consumer product investor in brands such as Warby Parker, Peloton, Bonobos, and Allbirds.

Besides Venture Fellows, Gbenoba was the co-VP of Male Engagement for the Graduate Women in Business and a member of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. Never without a big smile on his face, his affable personality helps him in building bridges between people, groups, and organizations. After graduation, Mr. Idah will return to his home state of California to join a consulting practice that performs due diligence for private equity firms.”

As Assistant Dean and Director of the Full-time MBA program, I can safely say that Gbenoba has left a lasting impact on our community. His spirit and dedication to his peers is infectious, and I believe that Gbenoba has already achieved his goal of being “remembered as respectful, thoughtful, collaborative, and someone who genuinely loved and appreciated the students, faculty, staff, and leadership at McCombs.”

Tina Mabley
Assistant Dean and Program Director, Full-time MBA Program

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business


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