2021 MBAs To Watch: Frank Nosa Otabor, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Frank Nosa Otabor

University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

Strategist with years of experience leading operations and transformation projects; passionate about leadership and innovation.”

Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria

Fun fact about yourself: I did a three-day drive from St. Louis, MO to Edmonton, Alberta in February.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Benin, BSc. Industrial Chemistry; McKelvey School of Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, MEng. Energy, Environment and Chemical Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Alberta Health Services (AHS) in Edmonton as a Process Improvement Specialist

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Trinity Communication Services in Brampton Ontario as a Strategy Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? Still exploring

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Community Work:

Junior Fellow, Massey College, Toronto, 2019 – present

Massey College is a distinguished college for learning and innovation.

  • Key speaker for Massey Dialogues-On Anti-Black Racism event to discuss initiatives focused on creating institutional change and what change looks like if we are to address anti-black racism systemically

Co-lead for Diversity and Inclusion, UofT National Dialogue and Action, Toronto, 2020

NDA was a nation-wide event championed by U of T to discuss issues around systemic racism in education across Canada.

  • Facilitated a panel session on inclusive teaching, learning, and curriculum with a focus on addressing diversity and inclusion and developing concrete actions for change

Presenter on Personal Brand Development, Junior Achievement Central Ontario, Toronto, 2019 – 2020

Junior Achievement Central Ontario focuses on mentoring and developing youths of Ontario, expanding the talent pool

  • Led two personal development workshop session with 50 high-school students on developing their brand at UofT

Leadership roles:

VP Events, Rotman African and Caribbean Business Club (RACBC), 2020 – present

RACBC is a student club focused on creating a community for Blacks, Africans, and Caribbeans.

  • Partnered with Student Engagement to plan and execute the delivery of Future Black Business Leader Conference to promote diversity and inclusion and expand the Black talent pool
  • Orchestrated the vision for Excellence is Black event, the first UofT event championed by the Business, Law, and Medical School, integrating Black students across the University of Toronto to celebrate black achievement, build community, and inspire future black leaders
  • Joined the Imani Tri-Mentorship program to provide mentorship to undergraduate students, creating a circular network that provides access to mentors in the Black community

Co-Founder & VP Ally Engagement, Student Against anti-Black Racism at Rotman (SABR), 2020 – present

SABR is a student club that tackles challenges related to systemic racism, including anti-Black racism, impacting the BIPOC communities.

  • Planned and championed developmental goals such as the redesigning of Rotman programs to incorporate gender and racially diverse contents into the curriculum

Awards:

  • University of Toronto Student Leadership Award recipient, 2021
  • Class of 2003 Trayten Jensen Memorial Award recipient, 2020; Leadership Development Fellow, 2020
  • Entrance Scholarship recipient, 2019; Rotman FinHub Fellow, 2019; Massey College Junior Fellow, 2019

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my work with SABR and RACBC in leading transformation projects such as Excellence is Black event and championing developmental goals, including redesigning the curriculum to incorporate racially and gender diverse content. This created an empowered BIPOC community, provided access to role models and instilled the belief that they also have a chance at becoming senior executives in the future.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of leading the transformation of Jenvol Waters, a startup water bottling company with 30 employees. During my tenure, we reduced costs by 42% using process improvement methods, increased revenue by 110% through improving our distribution system, expanding our product segments, and developing relationships with wholesalers, and changed the mindset and culture of the organization to be more data-driven and systems-focused.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Rotman for one reason: the reputation of the school from its rankings and quality of the faculty.

John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I wanted to be in an environment where I could learn leadership from the best professors and gain the business acumen required to transform organizations. Rotman was the place for me.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Yongah Kim. She taught me Strategic Change and Implementation and Management Consulting Practicum. In both courses, she had a unique way of blending her rich professional experience with academic knowledge to provide an environment where students led the discussion and teaching.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Culture Eats was my favorite event. It created an opportunity to share and celebrate different cultural experiences through food, fashion shows, trivia, and music. I may be biased since I led several Culture Eats events as VP Events for RACBC. However, we got a great turnout for the events, which reflected how much the student body and the school valued diversity and inclusion.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Nothing. Everything I have done has led me to this stage in my life, and it is in alignment with my life’s purpose.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The myth was that Rotman is strictly a finance school. Fact is, Rotman is strong in finance, consulting, and other programs such as Leadership and Change Management.

What surprised you the most about business school? The high level of information processing speed, prioritization, and focus required to execute effectively.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Networking with the current students and requesting to shadow a class. It gave me a richer insight into Rotman and helped me articulate my interest in the school.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire all my classmates who are also parents. The MBA can be challenging and to include parenting is an accomplishment of its own. For that, they have my respect and admiration.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? It was medium level. The school pivoted quickly to an online platform and consistently adjusted the technology to achieve the best fit. The challenge was the mindset shift. Being an extrovert, I missed the conversations with my classmates and had to manage the “Zoom” fatigue.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Professor Ruth Chen. She is currently at Syracuse University, but was my adviser and professor at Washington University in St. Louis. As an immigrant who was new to North America, she encouraged me when I doubted myself, listened skillfully to my challenges, and provided support on multiple occasions, helping me decide to pursue business.

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

  • Lead the large-scale transformation of a top organization in North America from decline to incline (or Zero to Hero).
  • Write a leadership book that would influence the next generation of leaders and empower Blacks, Africans, and Caribbeans to be comfortable with their leadership styles.

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

“I first heard Frank bravely share his lived experience moving from Nigeria to the US where he worked in the Oil & Gas industry on a panel about a year ago. He shared the floor with several leading academics and scholars, but it was his voice that really stood out to everyone. Frank shared personal accounts of what it felt like to be the only Black executive in a meeting and/or out in the field as an engineer. He talked about having the knowledge and experience (as he also has a Masters in Engineering), yet seeing colleagues beside him be relied on for advice and the impact that this type of unconscious bias has on an individual in and outside of the workplace.

While most people might sit back and simply accept that this is “how things work”, Frank spent his time at Rotman trying to influence systemic change that will benefit MBA students in the years to come. Frank was invited to join the Executive for the National Dialogues & Action on anti-Black Racism – a committee of university Vice Presidents, Deans and faculty partnering with 65 academic institutions committed to removing barriers and addressing anti-Black racism and Black inclusion. Frank led nationally renowned faculty and shaped conversation and recommendations on developing inclusive curriculum.

Frank’s commitment to inclusion is inspiring, and he has also expanded his reach to launch Students Against Anti-Black Racism (SABR) and serves as the VP Events for the Rotman African Caribbean Business Club (RACBC – where he has helped to increase their scholarship pool from $50k to $150K). He is presently hard at work on the first Excellence is Black (EiB) celebration of Black graduate students across UofT. While he has accomplished so much (and done so during a global crisis), his leadership style is what makes him truly stand out. For example, Frank dreamed up this event that works across faculties such as Medicine, Law, Business, and 20+ other graduate programs. He took this bold idea, gathered a team of people across campus to support it, and masterfully navigated the difficult task of securing buy-in while handling all of the complex operational needs. While the event is only weeks away, Frank is already putting together a playbook to ensure the event lives on after his departure, which is symbolic of his dedication to real long-term change. He has an exceptional EQ, and the rare gift of knowing when to be front and centre, empower others and/or at times speak through others to ensure the desired goal gets actualized. It’s truly a pleasure to have him at Rotman and I look forward to welcoming him back as an alumni to continue to help us move the needle forward.”

Neel Joshi
Director, Student Life & International Experience

DON’T MISS: THE FULL LIST OF MBAS TO WATCH IN 2021

 

 

 

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