2022 MBA To Watch: Iboro Ikene, Duke University (Fuqua)

Iboro Ikene

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“Care deeply about other perspectives, bring positive energy to situations, don’t take anything too seriously.”

Hometown: South Bend, Indiana

Fun fact about yourself: I used to sing classical music! I sang Caro Orf’s Carmina Burana with my high school at Carnegie Hall and it was one of the most phenomenal performances I have ever had the opportunity to partake in.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Northwestern University B.S. Biomedical Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? AArete – Senior Consultant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Boston Consulting Group- Washington D.C.

Where will you be working after graduation? Boston Consulting Group – Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

MBA Association Vice President of Student Orgs – On our student government I manage and lead the programming of 65+ clubs

Dean’s List

FCCP Fellow

Teaching Assistant and Tutor for the following courses: Healthcare Sector Management Seminar, Core Finance, Statistics Operations

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Engage Durham was a panel that Lindsey Morgan and I led for first-year students. So much of my involvement in school was focused on the internal Fuqua community. Students are so laser-focused on our community that we tend to forget our impact on the surrounding community. Lindsey and I contacted leaders in the Durham community to speak on the impact our privilege as students at Fuqua has on the larger Durham community and to provide insight about how we can be conscious citizens in a minority-majority city.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I could talk about the money I saved my global operations division by implementing high value projects in medical devices. However, I am most proud of the way I was able to impact the culture.  At my first company (Baxter Healthcare), I didn’t see very many people who looked like me—a Black, woman engineer.  I was able to work with senior leaders to develop a multi-year partnership with the National Society of Black Engineers to promote professional development and community building within the current community of Black engineers and to further recruit more engineers from NSBE into the company.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Fuqua for the people. It’s more than just being friendly: people here genuinely want you to succeed. From recruiting events, I could tell that both the environment and the energy encouraged at Fuqua were different. I felt like I could be authentically myself with the admissions staff, current students, and even other prospective students. I have found an amazing community and I feel at home here.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I had the pleasure of taking Grainne Fitzsimons’ Leadership Ethics and Organizations (LEO) and Negotiations courses. She was able to frame every lesson with both robust data/research and a reminder of doing what is right as business leaders. I think back to our final negotiations exercise where we role-played as unions and corporations: the lesson was framed as a negotiations exercise but stressed the challenge of being a union and advocating for people with seemingly no power.  Professor Fitzsimons equipped us with the tools to succeed as thoughtful business leaders.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Study less and connect with people more! The first year of business school was challenging due to the pandemic, and connecting in person with classmates was taking a risk. There are so many amazing people here, and I wish I would have made more time to connect with them.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth at Fuqua is that everyone has to be your friend. Time is a limited resource and frankly you don’t have time to make meaningful connections with everyone here. You cannot and don’t need to be friends with everyone! In such a social atmosphere, it is easy to get caught up in the “fun,” but two years goes by fast and it’s important to remember why you’re here.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I was very honest in my interview. I was upfront about my GPA, something I wasn’t proud of, but I was sure to highlight things I was proud of both personally and professionally. The interviewer and I had a conversation. I asked him how he was doing and what his spring break plans were. It almost didn’t feel like an interview. I was able to really let my personality shine while weaving in the stories from my pre-MBA career.  

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Jenna Weinberg is the most incredible person I have had the honor of interacting with. She is a thoughtful leader and a caring classmate. She doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects or from conflicts and has played an instrumental role in guiding difficult conversations with Chibunna Chimezie the MBAA VP of Diversity Equity and Inclusion. She is often behind the scenes, but her work to connect with classmates, myself included, and her thoughtful contributions to classes I have taken with her, have enriched my experience at Fuqua.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mother is a Nigerian immigrant and had many business ideas. I never considered myself an entrepreneur, but I saw her struggle many times to pursue various business opportunities. I see equipping myself with a business degree as an opportunity to help her and people like her become more self-sufficient in a society that often isn’t designed for Black women with Nigerian accents to succeed.

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

  1. I want to be able to pay it forward with a mentee and see them succeed. I have benefitted from so many mentors and leaders that have believed in me when I haven’t believed in myself. I hope to be able to pay that forward in someone else’s career.
  2. I have a personal goal of doing things that scare me, and giving a keynote speech or speaking as a subject matter expert to a room full of other experts are both things that terrify me. However, I know that I have gained enough experience where I have personal and professional lessons that are worth sharing.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has reinforced the notion that my career is only one aspect of my life. My career is not correlated to my value as a person. My parents often jokingly remind me that my “career isn’t everything.” In business school, we are taking two years away from working to focus on our careers, which is almost counterintuitive. However, the pandemic has helped me see that business school is not just about a career and life is not just about work. The pandemic has helped me put my life into perspective and reprioritize what is important to me. The most important thing is my impact—that the love, energy, and passion I have is contagious and outlasts my presence in any location.

What made Iboro such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“At a celebration to culminate her first-year experience, Iboro’s classmates awarded her the superlative of “Most Likely to Be Elected President”. Later, she would tell me that this recognition caught her by surprise, but gave her a jolt of confidence to fully embrace positions of leadership, knowing her peers saw something special in her. The myriad ways Iboro has stepped up in service to the school and her fellow students showcases exactly how accurate the assessment of her peers was the prior year.

This past year, she has excelled in the role of VP of Student Organizations, a challenging and demanding role with many different stakeholders with varying needs and expectations of her. Iboro has an innate ability to influence without authority, building strong partnerships with administrative staff members, student leaders, and the school’s senior leadership to advocate on behalf of and ensure effective support for student clubs. She always approaches her role from a place of helping, asking where and how she can best improve or amplify a club’s successes and simplify or eliminate their challenges. At times, she has had to deliver nuanced, complex, or disappointing information to clubs regarding updates in policies, sometimes bearing the brunt of frustration for decisions she has little to no control over. Where others might shirk from this responsibility, Iboro embraced the opportunity to stretch herself as a leader, recognizing the opportunity for growth in these moments. During these difficult conversations, she draws her classmates in and makes them allies in solving a collective problem together. She validates and empathizes with their concerns, while sharing critical perspectives to help them understand the context behind decisions. She passionately advocates for student needs and brings their concerns to our administration to identify potential compromises.

Personally, watching Iboro develop as leader has been immensely gratifying. She is a much-needed reminder during a difficult year still marked by COVID of the importance of leading from a place of authenticity, empathy, and perspective. Her poise, courage, thoughtfulness, and compassion are inspirational and I am honored to have played even a small part in her journey at Fuqua. I cannot wait to see where her leadership journey takes here from here and I know she would have my vote if a presidential run does end up in her future.”

Sara Wakefield
Associate Director of Student Life


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