Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Kokei Otosi, U.C. Berkeley (Haas)

Kokei Otosi

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“Extroverted, spirited, practical. Endlessly ruminating about how we humans relate to ourselves and each other.”

Hometown: Fremont, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself:  My favorite job was hosting a YouTube show for the Sierra Club.

Undergraduate School and Major: New York University, Public Health

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Van Alen Institute, Senior Project Manager

Berkeley Haas is founded on four Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Which pillar resonates most with you and why? Students Always. I’m a natural learner. I’m a serial hobbyist and enjoy investigating various subject areas, including food, history, music, psychology, religion and cultural practice, to name a few. I think approaching everyone and everything as a student necessitates humility and a vulnerability that can facilitate genuine human connection and personal growth.

Aside from the four pillars and your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose Haas and why was it so important to you? The small class size. I thrive in community. It was important to join an MBA program where I would be known by my professors, career management team, and my peers, and where I could form lasting relationships with my class.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Generosity of spirit, which has been demonstrated by their openness and eagerness to sincerely connect with one another, even in this pandemic environment.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: At my last job, I executed a multi-year, multi-project initiative in a city where my organization had never worked. I liaised with national subject-matter experts, local city government, community leaders, and contractors of varying professions to drive innovation in public infrastructure, specifically in climate adaptation. We created awareness about climate change, a time-sensitive and complex issue to address. Completing that project was the hardest thing I’ve done and I’m immensely proud of it. That experience gave me a greater appreciation of the power of collaboration. The thorniest issues of our time are not one-dimensional and demand contribution from a diverse set of players.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I felt I had gathered enough experience to pinpoint the skills I wanted to refine—both my strengths and areas of improvement. I had gained clarity about what exactly I wanted to get out of an MBA.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stern, IESE, and ESADE

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I was asked to share about the most interesting conversation I’ve ever had. It caught me by surprise, as it wasn’t directly related to my work experience or personal goals. It also impressed me, in its apparent potential to reveal a lot about the respondent. I spoke about a meandering conversation with a friend about new high-resolution photos of the sun captured by the Inouye Solar Telescope. We also talked about the awe, terror, and commitment to caring for those around us.

What was the biggest factor in choosing a particular business school and why was it so important to you? I am keenly interested in using business to drive social change. It was important for me to join a program that encouraged this pursuit and was willing to wrestle with the complexity of it.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? Moving to New York for college was the best decision of my life. That decision was the greatest lesson in risk and reward. It taught me that sometimes in decision-making, all you have is limited data and gut instinct. Business school seeks to form leaders who can adeptly apply data to navigate uncertainty and change.

What is your favorite company and why? My favorite company is relatively new, Hyper Skin. Hyper Skin was founded by a Black skincare guru, Desiree Verdejo. I admire the company for two reasons. First, I have deep respect for Desiree, who has been in the skin care industry for years. She’s been creating products for people of color before the industry’s recent strides to create more products for people of color. Second, its flagship product, a serum to combat hyperpigmentation, is both affordable and effective.

Look ahead two years and picture graduation. How will you know that your business school experience has been successful? I will know my business school experience was successful if I leave with a strong sense of my values, a precise awareness of my personal strengths, the analytical skills to sift through convoluted information, a framework for tough decision-making, experience working with people with different styles, fond shared memories with classmates, and a job, of course. I also need to have had fun, at least once or twice.


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