Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University
“Any experience I’m afforded is one I learn from and try to give back to others.”
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Fun Fact About Yourself: The name Afua is given to women born on Friday from the Fanti Tribe in Africa. I was born on Friday, January 1, 1993.
Undergraduate School and Major: DePaul University, Bachelors of Science in Business – Major: Accounting Minor: African and Black Diaspora Studies
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: IBM – Senior Human Capital Transformation Consultant
Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Cornell Tech, in New York City, is a value proposition unique to Johnson as a result of its Johnson Cornell Tech MBA program. I plan to transition into the venture capital industry as an investor, in early stage startups in Africa post-MBA, either in the short or long-term. Cornell University has a thriving entrepreneurial community and I would like to connect with as many founders as possible. I also want to connect with the undergrads who founded Cornell’s first Black venture capital fund, BlackGen. Cornell Tech and offerings like the FinTech Intensive are a tangible way I can leverage the entrepreneurial ecosystem and learn more about FinTech and where the industry is headed.
What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? My MBA classmates are very engaged with each other. I describe them this way because we have been forced to connect virtually, as a result of the pandemic. We were not even able to participate in person in Johnson’s admit weekend, called “Destination Johnson”. As soon as Johnson launched our Slack channel, my classmates Dimakatso (Demi) Hayes, Rachel Rothbarth, Benjamin Goulet, and others came up with a million ways for us to connect and learn more about one another. There are standing zoom calls, golfing fundraisers, conversations around diversity, and roommate matching – and 95 percent of these initiatives are student-led. The second year students have been readily available to answer any questions, share their experiences, and give us guidance on how to be successful in our first year.
What club or activity excites you most at this school? I am excited to participate in the BR Ventures Fund. My long-term goal is to transition into venture capital in Africa, and to establish a fund and startup incubator. I am excited for the opportunity to learn and work with my classmates sourcing investment opportunities and conducting due diligence.
What was your initial impression of Cornell Johnson? How did it evolve as the recruiting process continued? I was reintroduced to Cornell, and introduced to Johnson by Admissions Associate Director, Eddie Asbie. During his presentation, he opened my eyes to new possibilities about the MBA program at Johnson while I was attending my second seminar as a Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) MBAPrep Fellow. In high school, I wrote off a lot of schools that were in small towns or “college towns.” I enjoyed city life and the opportunity to leave my institution and be immersed in the black (or urban community) when I wasn’t in the classroom. Eddie, the MLT team, and my peers in MBA Prep, who attended Cornell for undergrad, shared how great their experiences were at Cornell and in Ithaca. My perspective continued to evolve as I spoke to professors, administrators, alumni and current students. Every member of the community has responded to my emails and taken the time to speak with me. A majority of them have offered to prep me for interviews, sponsor me for opportunities, and connect me with colleagues so I am better informed. Eddie’s openness and eagerness to help were exemplary of the Cornell community.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The biggest accomplishment in my career was leading a manufacturing systems SAP to Oracle transformation for a global healthcare device company. I led the transformation for their plants in Costa Rica. The client liked the work so much they awarded us with a bonus. The project touched on all of my favorite aspects of being a consultant. I had the opportunity to travel and work with a diverse team. The impact was tangible and I had a stake in affecting change.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I chose to pursue an MBA for three main reasons: 1) Align my career trajectory with my long-term goal to return to West Africa to work on economic development; 2) Build upon my existing network, and to take time to explore my interests; and 3) recharge my career.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? HBS, Stanford GSB, Wharton Lauder, MIT Sloan, Yale SOM, Emory Goizueta
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most challenging question was, “Is there anything else you would like the admissions committee to consider?” It is a challenging question because it is open-ended and it is almost as if the entire application process flashes before your eyes. I chose to use that moment to double down on wanting to be a part of Johnson’s amazing community and that I would bring my whole self to the experience.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? I assessed fit on the differences between my undergraduate institution and graduate school. I did not want to feel like I went to the same place twice when it came to the network, geography, and career outcomes. Global recognition was also important because I wanted to attend a program that had a presence and was respected in Africa. I also observed the soft skills students, professors, administrators, and alumni possessed. I am a nice person and a good listener who genuinely cares about people and their success. During the application process, if these qualities were displayed, it made an impression on me.
What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? My defining moment was moving to Ghana at the age of six. My father, a Ghanaian immigrant, moved our family to Ghana because he wanted to dedicate himself to contributing to his country’s economic development. Moving to Ghana opened my eyes to the reality of the world. I was finally in school with people who pronounced my name properly and knew the significance behind it, and teachers that cared for my well-being and development. I also became extremely independent, as my dad was a single parent at the time. I would walk a mile or so to get my hair braided, complete all my homework, and listen in on my dad’s business calls and meetings. I thought it wasn’t fair that class determined the quality of life you experienced. I also recognized my privilege in having two parents with master’s degrees, who attended school in the United States shortly after their countries had gained independence. The experience always stuck with me and when it came time to apply to business school; I knew I was ready to fulfill my long-term goal. The experience taught me to be empathetic, compassionate, driven, and to always think about others. I think these qualities will help me foster community in school and bring a different perspective to the table.
What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? Lululemon is my favorite company. I am biased because I’ve been working for Lululemon for the last few months to save money for business school. I worked at Lululemon’s first experiential store in the country, which included a retail line, a “sweat” space, and a “fuel bar” (restaurant).
When the pandemic hit all the stores were closed. However, Lululemon still paid employees for their scheduled hours through the end of July. Lululemon’s sales for the past few years allowed the company to have healthy financial reserves to continue to pay employees along with acquiring Mirror, an innovative at-home fitness company. I think business students can learn three things: establishing values that lead to good decisions, setting organizational behavior and how to treat employees, and focusing on what you do have versus what’s lacking. In this case, Lululemon was able to achieve business goals by focusing on its people, core products and solutions that addressed the roadblocks presented by the pandemic.
DON’T MISS: MEET CORNELL JOHNSON’S MBA CLASS OF 2022