Antoine Kouao Adou
“Ivorian native, entrepreneur and finance professional, I am passionate about real estate and architecture.”
Hometown: Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Fun Fact About Yourself: My matrilineal great uncle was a post-colonial activist, writer, screenwriter, philosopher, educator and creator of “Bossonisme,” Jean Marie Adé Adiaffi. He won the Grand Prix littéraire d’Afrique noire for his novel “La Carte d’identité” (The Identity Card, 1980), which denounced the cultural alienation of post-colonial Africans. Adiaffi is one of Ivory Coast’s top leaders and activists of the 20th century.
Undergraduate School and Major: The City University of New York, Brooklyn College; Bachelor of Business Administration, Finance and Investments
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Scholastic, Inc. (Headquarters in New York), Senior Financial Reporting and Overhead Business Analyst
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? I chose UNC Kenan-Flagler because of its unique MBA real estate track, entrepreneurship tools, and diverse career opportunities. As an aspiring commercial real estate developer pivoting from a financial planning career, it was imperative to gain industry knowledge and exposure.
What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? They are all very engaging. The current COVID-19 crisis has forced us to only connect remotely. Via the MBA group chats, every one of my classmates has been ready to help and don’t miss a chance to share relevant updates about deadlines, assignments and webinars, news about the school, or any general matters. The students’ high-level engagement has created a sense of community, even in a virtual group chat.
What club or activity excites you most at this school? The Real Estate Club and student investment funds.
Joining the Real Estate Club and student investment funds will allow me to connect with students with similar career interests, participate in students-led projects, and gain industry exposure while engaging with second-year MBA students, alumni and investors.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The achievement I am most proud of was reporting on two overhead businesses’ annual budget (over $8 million) and being the youngest analyst in the corporate finance department at Scholastic Inc.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? My decision to pursue an MBA started with the desire to change my career path, to leverage some of the entrepreneurial resources available through an MBA program, and to develop managerial skills. West Africa’s rapid population growth represents tremendous opportunities for urban planning, public housing and development projects that are currently limited. My combined passion for architectural design and the pressing demand for housing in my hometown has nourished my decision to pivot into commercial real estate development.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? The University of Michigan, Ross School of Business, and Yale University, Yale School of Management
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The question “Tell me about yourself.” I always find it hard to capture one’s career experience and entire persona in just a few lines.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? The factors I prioritized aligned with my short- and long-term career goals. I evaluated schools based on the quality of the program and the curriculum, the school’s national ranking, the class size and student profile (gender, minority representation and international student population), the faculty experience, the student/faculty ratio, the alumni network, career and leadership resources, and the cost of the program. I assessed each school culture by connecting with current students and alumni and chatting about their experience. I knew UNC Kenan-Flagler was the best fit for my MBA studies when it checked all my career and academic requirements. The program costs, student resources, alumni network, and jobs acceptance rate of recent graduates are among the factors that shaped my decision to apply to UNC Kenan-Flagler. Finally, engaging with admissions officers and faculty, in addition to connecting with students and alumni, allowed me to gauge the level of support to expect once I enroll.
What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? The wake-up call was in December 2019 and the defining moment was in April 2020. I have always wanted to devote myself to a career path that was personally fulfilling and allow me to help people. During my tenure at Scholastic, I enjoyed being a part of the company’s mission to provide books and educate kids worldwide. Although I contributed to that mission as an employee, I always wanted to do more than preparing financials for a board of directors. Additionally, I was missing some of my entrepreneurial fulfillment. As a project manager with a love for construction and design, I knew a career in real estate development will be personally fulfilling and will allow me to make an impact — providing housing for communities in my hometown and America.
Early this year, I decided to resign from my role at Scholastic and get an MBA to pivot into a career in real estate. I prepared for business school by first applying for the New York State real estate license and learning the basics of the industry, then connecting with a few real estate developers in the New York metro area, such as Edwin H. Cohen, Prism Capital Partners; reaching out to MBA real estate students and faculties at UNC Kenan-Flagler; and finally, by reading real estate development books such as The Birth of a Building by Ben Stevens and The Real Estate Game by William J. Poorvu.
What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? SOHO China, Chinese leading office developer. In 1995, Zhang Xin (former investment banker) and Pan Shiyi (husband and Chinese businessman) ventured to create SOHO (Smart Office Home Office) to offset the increasing demand for new real estate infrastructure, notably in Beijing and Hong Kong. Today, SOHO China has developed over 5 million square meters of commercial properties and reshaped China’s skyline, building up some of Beijing’s and Hong Kong’s tallest, stylish and most enormous skyscrapers. The takeaway for business school students would be (1) understanding SOHO China’s business model and aggressive market penetration strategy, and (2) learning the company’s innovative response in positioning itself and becoming one of China’s top real estate developers.
DON’T MISS: Meet UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Class Of 2022