2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Tobi Ojo, Indiana University (Kelley)

Tobi Ojo

Kelley School of Business at Indiana University

“Nigerian American servant leader who is passionate about experiencing other cultures and celebrating diversity.”

Hometown: Forest Park, IL

Fun fact about yourself: I have a pet three toed box turtle named Tai Shellington and he is over 10 years old.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Johns Hopkins University; Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Prior to enrolling in business school, I worked as a financial advisor manager for the Vanguard Group.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020?  During the summer of 2020, I interned at Discover Financial Services, which is headquartered in Riverwoods, IL.

Where will you be working after graduation?  After graduation I will be returning to Discover Financial Services in their MBA General Business Rotational Program.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Founder and Leader of the Kelley Diversity Champions
  • Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion on the MBAA SLATE (Student Council)
  • 1Kelley Team Leader
  • Graduate Student Diversity Emissary
  • Co-Director of Investments for the WFAT Endowment Trust
  • Kelley Coin recipient (award presented to Kelley students who most exemplify the Kelley values)
  • Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Fellow
  • John T. Chambers Innovation Fellow
  • Alvin W. Marley Consortium Fellow
  • Mary A. Daily MBA Fellow

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of creating and leading the Diversity Champions during my time at Kelley. I founded the Diversity Champions in the Fall of 2019 after identifying an opportunity to support the efforts of Kelley’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. It was important to me that everyone at Kelley was able to come to the classroom and be their true selves. I also wanted to ensure that as future leaders, my Kelley classmates were knowledgeable on diversity, equity, and inclusion topics.

When forming the Diversity Champions, I wanted to work with individuals who were passionate about DE&I and who were committed to going a step above allyship to champion diversity in all of its forms. We were able to grow from 15 Diversity Champions to 23 Diversity Champions in less than two years.

The Diversity Champions have been responsible for launching the Kelley Ally Certificate, creating and releasing Kelley’s inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion survey, writing a case study, and facilitating a case competition for incoming first-year students centered on a black owned business in Bloomington, creating and delivering trainings around DE&I topics to the Kelley student body, and much more.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Prior to business school, I worked in financial services, which is a primarily Caucasian, male-dominated industry. After working as a financial advisor with the Vanguard Group, I transitioned to a leadership role in my department and was one of the few Black managers in a department of over 1,000 employees.

In my capacity as a manager, I advocated and supported two of my former female employees to become fellow managers in my department. I am most proud of this accomplishment because I was able to increase the number of women on our leadership team and also the number of minority leaders on our team. This experience highlighted the importance of advocacy and mentorship. It also showed that change is not elusive as long as you are able to champion causes you believe in.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose the Kelley School of Business because they placed an emphasis on experiential learning. Through the Academy experience, students are able to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it in real world settings. As a member of the Capital Markets Academy, I had the opportunity to network extensively with industry professionals, which gave me additional insights on possible career paths. My capstone project focused on researching a company, building a financial model, and pitching that company to the investment committee of our Value Fund. The investment committee actually invested real dollars into the company I pitched based on my recommendation. It’s hard to find a program that will give you that kind of real-world experience in your first year of business school.

Who was your favorite MBA professor?  My favorite MBA professor was Professor Brian Miller. Professor Miller taught accounting during our first semester CORE classes. Professor Miller is my favorite professor because he took a daunting subject like accounting and made it approachable. I could tell that he was emotionally invested in each of his students and wanted to make sure that each of us learned enough about Accounting to be effective business leaders.

Another reason Professor Miller is my favorite professor is because he stepped up, in a big way, in the early days of COVID-19. Through GLOBASE, Kelley students are able to provide international consulting to companies in need. A big part of GLOBASE is traveling to meet our clients in their home countries during spring break. Due to COVID, we had to cancel our trips to China, Indonesia and Thailand. Knowing that students still wanted the opportunity to travel and help international companies, Professor Miller was able to offer a new class, GLOBASE Guatemala, to those who had their trips cancelled. He was able to accomplish this feat in a fraction of the time that it usually took to set up a GLOBASE class. Unfortunately, the trip to Guatemala was also cancelled due to COVID, but I will never forget the amount of dedication that Professor Miller showed to the Kelley students and the local businesses in Guatemala during an uncertain time.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA event was the Me, Inc. case competition. During the Me, Inc. case competition, first-year MBA students are provided with a real-world case and are asked to create innovative solutions to the company’s business challenges over the course of a few days. The Me, Inc. case competition reflects Kelley’s culture of collaboration and working together to solve complex problems. During the case competition I solidified bonds with my CORE team and made lifelong friends.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why?  One thing I would do differently is step outside of the Kelley MBA bubble more and see what else Indiana University has to offer. Indiana University has all of the resources of a flagship state university and they are available to all IU students regardless of major or program. I was focused on maximizing my experience in business school, but there was a myriad of experiences at Indiana University that could have further enhanced my time in Bloomington.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Kelley is that it is a school for marketers. It is true that Kelley has a stellar marketing program, but Kelley offers a myriad of majors that cater to the needs of its students. As someone who came from a financial services background and who wanted to return to financial services post business school, I was able to find the right combination of finance, strategy, and marketing classes that set me up for success during my internship and will set me up for continued success when I start my full-time role in the Fall.

What surprised you the most about business school?  What surprised most about business school is how passionate the alumni base was about the MBA program. I expected networking to be arduous task, but the Kelley alumni made it easy. Every person that I reached out to was happy to set time aside to chat with me and help me reach my goals.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? During the application process, I focused on networking with current Kelley students, Kelley faculty, and alums prior to submitting my application. Through my conversations I was able to create advocates and gain a better understanding of what Kelley had to offer.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The MBA classmate that I most admire is Siafa Hage. Siafa had an impressive career in international diplomacy prior to business school. He held positions with the World Bank, served as a Liberian diplomat, and fought the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone in his past life. Every time I chat with Siafa, I am impressed with his global perspective and always leave the conversation more mentally enriched. He is always looking for ways to have a positive impact on as many people as possible, and I am excited to see what he will accomplish in the business world. Siafa is truly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. He champions these ideals in the way he carries himself and in the way he treats others.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit?  COVID threw us all for a loop, but Kelley did an excellent job minimizing the disruption for its students. As Kelley students, we benefited from Kelley also being a top five online MBA program, so a lot of the virtual learning infrastructure was already in place. Several Kelley professors taught in the Full time MBA program and also taught in the online MBA program. When it came time to start classes in the fall, Kelley created a hybrid learning model that allowed students and faculty to get the benefits of in person learning while also being safe.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I did not study business in college and had a nontraditional background prior to entering financial services. After college, I decided to pursue a career in financial services based on conversations that I had with my mentor. As an Asian male in the real estate industry in Chicago, my mentor showed me how financial services could not only increase my acumen but could be used as means to help individuals reach their goals. Following his lead, I jumped into the financial services industry head first and have not looked back.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • Become CEO of Fortune 1000 financial services firm.
  • Start a fintech firm that caters to underrepresented minorities in marginalized communities.

What made Tobi such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Most MBA students are satisfied with leaving their program after two years with a degree and a full-time offer, but for Oluwatobi (Tobi) Ojo, the goal seems to have been so much bigger. Throughout his two years at the Kelley School of Business, Tobi’s passion for diversity and inclusion has translated into a lasting legacy that will remain long after his graduation.

In Tobi’s first year, he founded the Diversity Champions, a volunteer groups of students who made it their mission to support existing diversity initiatives of the school, but also to push new ideas forward.  The Champions, under Tobi’s leadership, created Diversity Awareness training for visiting exchange students; initiated a baseline diversity survey of the current MBA students; and crafted a proposal for Kelley’s Diversity Ally Certificate Program. Beyond the Diversity Champions, Tobi became the vice president of diversity for the MBAA Slate and co-wrote the diversity case that was used during orientation for incoming Kelley Students.

In Tobi’s second year, he has continued to build on his success and expanded his impact to Kelley’s undergraduate programs and the greater IU Bloomington campus. He and the Diversity Champions started a mentoring program for like-minded undergraduate students, and as a student leader in 1Kelley Consulting, Tobi is currently leading Kelley undergrads through a live project supporting a small, locally-owned business. He also has become a volunteer emissary for the University Graduate School where he engages with prospective IU graduate students and shares his experience moving to Bloomington, becoming part of the IU community, and joining the Full-Time program at the Kelley School of Business.

As Tobi starts counting down his days as a Kelley student, he is laser focused on D&I, not just for the coming months, but also after he is gone. He is still planning events, like Kelley’s Diversity Week, and locking in more training opportunities for his Diversity Champions. But he is also busy recruiting the next wave of Champion volunteers and identifying his successor(s) that will pick up the baton. He is serious about ensuring the sustainability of his work.

As Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Graduate Programs, I am honored to nominate Tobi. I came into my role just days before COVID stopped normal campus operations and the summer brought cries for social justice across our country. The foundational work done by Tobi in his first year truly set me up for success in being able to respond to student needs and he has been a great partner in helping to make the Kelley School and IU a more welcoming and inclusive place for all.”

Regina Funk
Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Graduate Programs

This is an early preview of our 100 Best & Brightest MBAs, which will be released on May 10th. 

DON’T MISS: 100 Best & Brightest MBAs: Class of 2020

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