2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Tomilola Olotu, University of Rochester (Simon)

Tomilola Olotu

University of Rochester, Simon Business School

“An ambivert passionate about community building, leadership and giving the world’s best hugs.”

Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria

Fun fact about yourself: I collect shot glasses from different countries and states within the USA. At last count, I have about 55 in my collection.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Knox College, IL – Bachelor of Arts

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? FirstBank of Nigeria (Private Banking Group) – Wealth Management Specialist

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Cargill Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota

Where will you be working after graduation? Cargill Inc., Corporate Strategy Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • MBA Admissions Ambassador
  • President – Simon Graduate Business Council
  • Gold Cohort 1st Year Rep – Simon Graduate Business Council

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being the president of the Simon Graduate Business Council because it gave me the space to advocate for my classmates and allowed me to continue to build the community at Simon and strengthen the bridge between students and administration.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of being the first person to work on the newly created Wealth Management Desk in the Private Banking Group at FirstBank of Nigeria, Nigeria’s oldest and most prestigious commercial bank. In this role, I defined how the Private Banking Group would provide additional value to high- and ultra-high-net-worth individuals to assist them in achieving their long-term financial goals. Additionally, I coordinated and executed five financial planning and other client engagement sessions on wealth needs. This was a pivotal step in my career, as it helped me further develop my leadership, entrepreneurial, problem solving, and communication skills.

Why did you choose this business school? The tight-knit community at Simon Business School sealed the deal for me. Having been away from academics for 10 years, it was important that I attended an MBA program where I could fully express myself, feel safe to admit what I did not know, and find a space to explore. From the start of my interactions with the Admissions team and current students at Simon, I was encouraged to share my authentic self and aspirations, not who I thought Admissions might want to see as the “ideal student.” This made me feel comfortable and gave me a sense of peace, so it was a no-brainer to say yes to Simon.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Ravi Mantena. Ravi is passionate about his areas of expertise (Business Analytics, Business Systems Consulting, Computer and Information Systems) and he has had a successful career so far with various publications, honors, and awards—but this does not stop him from being humble, relatable, and considerate. For Ravi, teaching goes beyond delivering a lecture: he makes sure that students walk away with an understanding of the course content. He happily works with students 1:1 to address any challenges or walk them through areas of difficulty; Ravi is not just a professor but a friend to many Simon students.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Advanced Marketing Strategy was my favorite course as an MBA. The entire course is based on a simulation, in which teams worked to achieve the following goals:

  • Make strategic decisions related to pricing, production, R&D, advertising, and channels.
  • Leverage analytics, research, and intelligence to support marketing strategic decision making.
  • Persuade and negotiate with various stakeholders.

This course was my favorite because it not only built on core business knowledge (marketing, finance, accounting, communications), but also included aspects of game theory, negotiation, and crisis management. The professor told us from day one that it would be intense fun and it lived up to that.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Simon Secret Santa annual gift-wrapping party. Through the Simon Volunteers Club and Ainslie Office of Student Engagement, the Simon community has been raising money to support families and children for over 15 years.

The end of each fundraising cycle (a record-breaking amount of $18.7k was raised in 2022) culminates in our annual Fall Ball event. Here, students, staff, and faculty pick up wish lists so they can shop for the children and families, and we all gather at school in December to wrap the gifts. We have hot chocolate, coffee, and a Christmas playlist going on and it is just so special to see the entire Simon community come together to put smiles on faces for families during the Christmas holiday. This tradition reminds me of how passionate Simon is about the Rochester community and motivates me to get involved in any capacity.\

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would believe in myself more. For the first couple of months of my MBA experience, I suffered greatly from imposter syndrome, and it impacted my confidence. I questioned myself quite a bit and was nervous to go after certain opportunities. I am grateful for my friends, career advisor, and staff at the Ainslie Office of Student Engagement for constantly reminding me of my potential and encouraging me to go after whatever I wanted; their support bolstered my confidence.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Simon Business School is that it is all about the quantitative learning, and this is so not accurate! As the first MBA program to become STEM-certified for any MBA specialization, Simon has always been rooted in quantitative analysis, but the school also provides solid academic and experiential learning opportunities that help students learn about and practice other aspects of leadership, communication, and entrepreneurial skills.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? The weather!!! All the seasons are beautiful—yes, including the winter—but fall in Rochester is absolutely breathtaking.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I did extensive research on Simon and made sure I could properly articulate why they were the best partner for me to work with to achieve my professional and personal goals for the next phase of my life.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Bryan Frantz. Bryan embodies values like respect, support, and humility; he is such a good-natured and kind-hearted person that people enjoy interacting with. I have worked in different teams with Bryan through my time at Simon and have witnessed him step up in high pressure situations, communicate well, and stay flexible to any evolving needs to the team and its members. As a Benet Career Peer, Bryan does and amazing job working with first- and second-year MBA students to provide support and guidance in their recruiting efforts.

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

1. To lead an employee resource group focused on supporting women in business, mental health and wellness, or community building.

2. To develop a company initiative targeted at the educational support (all levels of education) and personal development of under-represented groups.

What made Tomilola such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023

“Tomilola is the president of the Graduate Business Council (GBC)—the highest student leadership position of the MBA program at Simon Business School—and will graduate in May 2023. I first arrived as assistant dean of students in July 2022 and Tomilola served on the hiring committee for that position—we first met during that process. From the start, she taught me what it meant to be a Simon student. She showed me a person dedicated to her studies and ambitious to perform at the top of her game, but more importantly, someone committed to making a better world for all through kindness and love. We meet regularly in our roles and her consistent expectation of me is that people are to be seen, heard, and made to feel they belong. This was not only her platform as leader, but what she expects of herself and others, and why she is a person with incredible personal power.

Tomilola uses her leadership positions as a Simon volunteer, admissions ambassador, member of the Marketing Club, and GBC president to be intentional in achieving her goal to create a spirit of belonging in our community. In the Admissions role she sets a high standard that prospective students must be ready and able to contribute to an environment that supports fellow students in all aspects of their business school experience, not just be positioned for personal gain. As GBC president she aligns the organization expectation that a community spirit will be sought. She uses her influence to create a sense of camaraderie for all students; she espouses the adage that together we are better than our individual parts.

“Yes, I want to be in the C-Suite one day, but I want to be there as a full person,” she tells me. While Tomilola possesses an abundance of ambition, drive, and intellect, she wants to use her power wisely. “I hope to always treat others with respect knowing everyone brings value to the team.” This was true in her banking career in Lagos, Nigeria, attending to clients in the office while coordinating mentoring sessions on financial literacy in the community, and volunteering with the Lagos Food Bank Initiative, an NGO providing food, medicine, and clothing to poor communities.

She says, “Simon made it easy to be my full self.” For that Simon is a better place, and so too will be the region where Tomi works, plays, and educates. I look forward to witnessing her career track, for wherever she goes that community will benefit exponentially. It is with great confidence I recommend Tomilola Olotu for Poets&Quants’ Best & Brightest MBA Award.”

Dennis P. Proulx
Assistant Dean of Students 


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