Meet The MBA Class of 2021: Osemhen Okenyi, University of Oxford (Saïd)

Osemhen Okenyi

University of Oxford, Saïd Business School

Writer and Engineer; inspired by anti-fragility and fueled by imagination.”

Hometown: Edo by heritage, Lagos by upbringing.

Fun Fact About Yourself: I acted in movies as a child; but decided as a teenager that I didn’t want to deal with the attention so I pivoted to engineering to explore my problem-solving side.

Undergraduate School and Major: Electrical/Electronics Engineering, University of Lagos

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Royal Dutch Shell; Senior Business Analyst, Deepwater Projects

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Oxford Saïd’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I was drawn to Said by the emphasis on responsible business and sustainability. I also loved the idea of GOTO: stepping up to world-scale problems and trying to solve them. This year on GOTO, my team is exploring Climate Reset in the context of Building Back Better post-COVID. It’s the sort of thing you fantasize about doing without really knowing how and the MBA at Oxford Saïd gives me the tools, the systems-thinking frameworks, and the confidence to try. I knew that I needed this toolkit to grow as a business leader in the energy industry which is at the crux of crucial issues like the energy transition and climate action.

What is the most “Oxford” thing you have done so far as a full-time MBA student? Cycling everywhere, in sub-zero temperatures and rain. I’ve never cycled so much in my life!

Oxford is known as a place where world collides, be it in the classroom or the dining hall. What has been the most interesting interaction you’ve had so far as an Oxford MBA student? Right now, I’m working in a team with an Italian major who worked with NATO and mentored army officers in Afghanistan. Last term, I took classes with someone who previously worked with the FBI. Oxford and its history attracts a truly motley crew.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In my previous role, I led a multi-disciplinary team to manage EPC contracts worth millions of dollars to deliver project portfolios with headline sizes of hundreds of millions of dollars. My role was to drive continuous improvement in how the contract was executed, and to ensure that emergent complexities and risks were resolved so that the supply chain of services would run unhindered.

It was particularly significant for me because of my passion for knowledge transfer to locals and Nigerian content development. Working with Shell gave the contractors experience and exposure to global standards and best practices. Ultimately, doing business with Shell grew their reputations across West Africa, enabling them to export their expertise beyond Nigeria. I found it personally fulfilling that I was facilitating, in a very tangible way, the growth of technical skills in the Nigerian workforce.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? My primary goal for the MBA was to maximize my learning and expose myself to as much variety as I could. To this end, I signed up for a ton of co-curricular activities (Impact Lab, Creative Destruction Lab, Map The System, Leading the Climate Business Network amongst others) and so my days are often packed. Juggling all these, my core MBA curriculum and parenting two boys (aged 5 & 3) in the middle of a pandemic is definitely one thing I’m proud of. I’m glad I get to model my commitment to discipline and time management for my sons.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? None. Oxford was my first choice, and if I didn’t get in, I had a shortlist of other schools to apply to: LBS, Cambridge and HEC. Thankfully, I didn’t have to.

What has been the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you started your MBA program? Through working in teams, I’ve learned the balance between stepping up to lead and holding space for others to lead. The last piece is vital in unlocking high performance as a team and I’m glad I get to practice these modes of leadership in a relatively low-stakes environment like the MBA. It gives me confidence that with the right mental models and collaboration, I can identify leverage points in wicked problems to make a difference.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.