2020 MBAs To Watch: Franklyn Nnakwue, Washington University (Olin)

Franklyn Nnakwue

Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School

I am a highly motivated and result-oriented individual, passionate about healthcare, technology, and the public good.”

Hometown: Achalla, Nigeria

Fun fact about yourself: The first time I engaged in public speaking was a total disaster. However, I was determined to improve my public speaking skills, and I set out to learn and practice. The next time I had the chance to speak in public, I received a standing ovation. That experience taught me that I could acquire any skill if I am determined.

Undergraduate school and degree: University of Ibadan, Bachelor of Medicine; Bachelor of Surgery (MD)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Consultant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Where will you be working after graduation? Not yet finalized

Community work and leadership roles in business school:

  • Bauer Leadership Fellow
  • Co-Chair: 2020 Class Gift Campaign
  • Officer: Olin Africa Business Club
  • Member, Planning Committee: 2019 Olin Africa Business Forum
  • Co-Director: Olin Student Ambassador
  • Senator: Graduate Business Student Association
  • Chairman, Planning Committee: Career Symposium
  • Chairman, Planning Committee: Faculty-Student Event
  • Fellow: Net Impact
  • Board Member: St. Vincent Home for Children
  • Program Committee Member: St Vincent Home for Children

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Last semester, as part of the Center for Experiential Learning Practicum, I led a team of students on a data analysis and strategy project for one of the biggest players in the senior living industry. Even though the project was challenging, I am proud of the creative solutions that the team developed to meet the expectation of the client despite a tight schedule. In addition, the Bauer Leadership Fellowship has helped me to continue my leadership evolution and is a testament to my leadership capacity. Also, I am grateful for the various ways I have contributed to the success of several clubs as a senator and for leading the initiative to organize Olin’s Annual Career Symposium. The landmark event will prepare students to maximize career opportunities in a global economy. As co-director of the Olin Student Ambassador, I am grateful for the many ways I have helped several prospective students to discover the magic of Olin.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It required a lot of courage to work with UNICEF in some of the most challenging places on earth. I am grateful for the impact I made to expand access to and the quality of healthcare for thousands of refugees, and for the many lessons I learned in team leadership, project management, teamwork, and data-driven problem-solving while doing so. To provide some context, parts of northeastern Nigeria were ravaged by Boko-Haram insurgency leading to the displacement of thousands of people. Working with UNICEF, I led projects to improve the quality of healthcare for refugees. Some of these places were inaccessible and our capacity was sometimes constrained. Through innovative problem-solving and new partnerships, I was able to make giant strides in addressing maternal mortality, infant mortality, and other health challenges.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Dan Elfenbein was my favorite MBA professor. His Introduction to Management and Strategy class was fabulous. It expanded the breadth of my thinking and taught me different frameworks to examine business problems. But more importantly, he is a great person and his feedback and friendship have helped me in my career and professional development.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? It’s likely the combination of unique cultural events like One World, Diwali organized by the Olin India Club, Spring Festival organized by the Greater China Club, and the Olin African Business Forum organized by the Olin Africa Business Club. These events elegantly portray the breadth of diversity on campus and demonstrate that Olin is a truly global MBA. Our blend of diversity and community makes me excited about the future of Olin. I also found the platform industry series that exposed me to leading companies across various industries very helpful.

Why did you choose this business school? The simple answer is mutual fit. Olin’s values (integrity, collaboration, diversity, excellence, leadership) strongly resonated with me. In addition, I found the emphasis on experiential learning very attractive considering that I was coming from a non-traditional business background. I have lived that promise by leading a CEL practicum project, and it was learning on a different level. It gave me the opportunity to simultaneously develop my leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills while solving real-world client problems and creating value. As an international student who had not lived outside my home country before my MBA studies, the community was a strong consideration for me as well. I am grateful to have been part of this strong collaborative community and for the many life-long friends I have made. Olin’s world-class faculty, global focus, and strong reputation were also an irresistible magnet for me.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I’d advise him/her to really research the institution and understand what makes WashU Olin truly unique. Talking to current students, especially student ambassadors who are on the Ask-a-Student page on the website, would help them unlock key insights. There are many ways that Olin can make your dreams come true, so really understanding the value of this truly global program and what your goals are can help you determine how you can fit in/contribute to the program and how the program can help you achieve your goals.

What is the biggest myth about your school? One of the reasons why people go to business school is the strong network that it bequeaths. Not every program, however, fulfills that promise. When I was considering business schools and was told that Olin is a strong community where everyone knows each other by their name and story, it sounded incredible. My experience has proven how well Olin lives up to that expectation. Through a combination of structure and culture, Olin creates an environment for friendships to flourish. I am excited by the relationships that I have built here, and I am confident that my colleagues and I have a partnership that will last a lifetime. The newly launched Global Immersion semester abroad in the MBA program is special because it will give students the opportunity to form strong bonds while gaining global business fluency as they journey around the globe.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? One can get so busy with the MBA experience that one forgets that the business school is just one out of several schools at WashU. I would engage/network more laterally across WashU. It always helps to have a broad perspective and networking/building relationships with students in other schools would have helped with that.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I have been blessed to have incredibly awesome classmates whom I deeply respect and admire. However, Justin Smith really stands out. I connected with him before resumption, and I thought he was a great guy. His grace, character, leadership, and dedication reflect his military background. He is also always willing to lend a helping hand and is such an outstanding person.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents are businesspeople. Growing up, I always thought they would have done much better if they had received formal education. They inspired me to pursue excellence and to be curious about the things that I am passionate about. And so, when I became interested in making an impact in healthcare, it was only natural that I started considering a business education.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First, leaders never stop learning. Hence, I will continue to build my competence in topics that I am interested in through self-directed learning. Second, I want to make an impact, especially in healthcare, by leveraging technology to create/unleash solutions that would improve outcomes for patients.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as one who really cared about the experience of others, treated others with respect, was willing to take initiative and who is always willing to lend a hand.

Hobbies? Running, traveling, reading and having a great time with friends

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

“Franklyn Nnakwue is the kind of student that every instructor dreams about having in class: impeccably prepared, critical, yet kind, and able to make creative connections across classes and topics. As great as it was having Franklyn in class, he was even better out of class. Formerly a practicing physician in Nigeria, Franklyn taught me quite a bit, both about growing up in that country and about public health, politics, and progress there. My favorite moment was running into him at O’Hare Airport as he was returning St. Louis after a job interview (and I was returning after a conference). I still have the photos: he was much better dressed than I!

I have no doubt that Franklyn will make a big impact on the global healthcare industry over the course of his career. He has all of the skills necessary to be a top leader: he’s well informed, empathetic, a great listener, gives his all to his teams, and works to get better each day. Despite his quiet demeanor, he has earned the respect of each and every classmate and instructor here at Olin through his consistent, outstanding performance. My advice to him, and he knows what this means, is to remember to be ‘one louder.’”

Daniel W. Elfenbein
Professor of Organization and Strategy
Academic Director, Consulting Platform


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