2023 MBA To Watch: Cedrick Agorbia-Atta, Indiana University (Kelley)

Cedrick Agorbia-Atta

Kelley School of Business at Indiana University

“It was hard to describe myself, so I asked some friends, and these words were common – resourceful, adventurous, reliable, and proactive and funny.”

Hometown: Accra, Ghana

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve visited 18 states within 2 years of being in the US.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Ghana, Business Administration (Finance)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Bora Capital Advisors

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Microsoft, Redmond, Washington

Where will you be working after graduation? Microsoft, Product Marketing Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Kelley Coin Recipient for Collaboration
    – Chair of Hoosier Hosts (Student Ambassadors)
  • Vice president of Africa, Tech and Net Impact Clubs
  • Kelley Merit and Lilly Family Fellowships

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was awarded a Kelley Coin for Collaboration — an award given to students who go above-and-beyond to demonstrate the Kelley values of collaboration, integrity, excellence, professionalism, and leadership. I was recognized for my efforts in leading and helping the Kelley MBA program target and admit more students from Africa.

When I was admitted, I realized there was just a handful of Africans in my class. Together with a classmate, I started nursing the idea to help the program increase African enrolment through targeted admission and recruitment efforts. Working with my other African classmates, we birthed and launched the Kelley Africa Business Association to not only promote the MBA program in Africa, but to also expose the continent, its wealth, and business opportunities to our Kelley community.

The following year, the number of African MBA students tripled. This was a big achievement, and it came with a lot of hard work! Right from when admission emails were sent out, I reached out to each African admit and volunteered to guide them through the complex process of acquiring financial and immigration documentation to enroll. Additionally, I went beyond and above to help find accommodation on campus, navigate living in Bloomington and shared tips on how to excel academically and professionally in a new country.

Prior to beginning the fall semester, and while working as a summer intern, I collaborated with my African classmates to help enrolled students polish their resumes and prepare for Pre-MBA Diversity recruiting opportunities. These efforts put them one foot ahead of the internship recruiting season.

As Hoosier Host Chair, I have also extended guidance to all admitted students (mostly international) right from when they receive admission emails to their first few weeks in the United States.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? After five years of working in banking and deal-making at Bora Capital Advisors, I began to seek newer challenges at the intersection of technology and business transformation. Inadvertently, COVID-19 disrupted the operational and customer innovation scene, driving high demand for innovation. I identified an opportunity to make an impact and led two projects that involved digitalizing the end-to-end customer value chain of the business and designing two mutual fund products.

While leading this project, I established clarity around multiple scenarios of ambiguity while working with software engineers, designers, and research teams to bring the new products closer to customers to increase return on investment. In the beginning, this project was difficult because I was working outside of my comfort zone — leading R&D, product design and launch teams. Some of my biggest accomplishments included surveying the competitive and customer landscape to gain a strong grasp of how we could position the products to beat competition. At the same time, we would drive value through targeting and positioning, working with the design team to create a new website for the firm and to market the new mutual funds while creating concepts for the mobile app and then developing the full product prospectus.

Unfortunately, I left for business school before launch, but I made sure to stay in touch with my team — offering advice on launch implementation strategies when I can. This project significantly improved customer perception of the firm while helping us meet customer needs.

Why did you choose this business school? I was deciding between Kelley and another business school, but I was closely drawn to Kelley’s unique and integrated academic curriculum and to Bloomington as a home. However, the culture and hospitality I experienced when I was admitted exceeded my expectations. I received personalized emails from current students and an alum who were excited to answer any questions regarding my decision. The admissions team was phenomenal — always prompt and ready to respond to my concerns. Kelley’s culture was a big differentiator and getting on campus made it even a better experience for me. The level of support I received from faculty and my classmates was unmatched. Like the typical Hoosier fashion, we really look out for each other and that is something you don’t easily find.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite Kelley professor is Rockney Walters, a pricing management professor in the MBA program. Rockney is an incredible professor, and it is no surprise that nearly 90% of MBA students take his pricing class. While popularly known for his wit, he has an exciting way of making complex concepts relatable using everyday examples. I always look forward to his intriguing examples and catchphrases in class, which always gets me super engaged. Rockney is truly a master at his trade, and I have greatly enjoyed learning from his wealth of experience.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course was “Customer Relationship Management & Digital Analytics.” I took a number of marketing classes and this one stood out for me for a couple of reasons. First, the professor, Sarang Sunder, has extensive knowledge and experience in the subject area which increased his credibility. Also, I gained deep insights into understanding customer profitability and how it influences corporate marketing spend and investments.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA event was Africa Business Week. As part of our plan to promote Africa at Kelley and to expose the continent to the world, the newly-launched Africa Business Club planned a week of events and activities targeted at helping our classmates learn more about Africa. Some of the most memorable and impactful events during Africa Week included a speaker panel, where we invited successful African entrepreneurs to share their experience doing business in Africa, and the Africa Business Venture Competition, which awarded $5,000 in non-equity funding to two early-stage African ventures. Working with my team to plan and execute Africa Business Week was my best experience in business school!

What is the biggest myth about your school? That Kelley is a “marketing school” and best suited for students who want to get into marketing roles. This is a big myth, and our employment statistics prove so. Kelley’s MBA program offers diverse opportunities to learn about different career interests through our ACADEMIES. In recent years, we have made even more strides in consulting and capital markets. During my last year in school, Kelley MBA students participated in more than 10 national case competitions and won six. Plus, close to half of my classmates had internships and fulltime roles in consulting and finance combined. Only less than a third students are going into marketing.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? It is the fact that I can make it into whatever I want and have whatever experience I desire! Most people know Bloomington as a small, conservative town but that is only true on paper. The actual experience is significantly different – it’s like a big fun community with so many diverse opportunities to be yourself and flourish! The days are busy with students getting on their day to attain scholarship and the nights bustle with a lot of activities! Whether you’re a foodie, a nature or music lover, or an aesthete – imagine a small town that gives you all of this without the hustle and bustle of a big city! Bloomington offers the warmth to build friendships and a community. The Hoosier spirit is unique!

What surprised you the most about business school? The rigor of business school. Coming from a traditional business background, I underestimated the amount of work needed to succeed in the program. I really thought it was going to be a smooth breeze for me. But it wasn’t. There were new perspectives to everything that I had learned from business school in college and in my pre-MBA professional experience. More surprising, I found how much diversity in thoughts, opinions and approach to problem solving significantly improved creativity and decision-making. Right from the beginning, you’re assigned groups, based on the results of a temperament test we take ahead of coming to campus. The program puts effort into making sure each group is composed of the most unique set of people. This ensures that we’re leveraging each other’s unique perspectives as much as possible. That was a big part of my transformation and growth – appreciating that there would always be different perspectives to be considered while problem solving.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I connected with current students to learn about their experience with the program and shared these interactions within my application to show how keen I was to join the program. I also invested a good amount of time making sure that my essays not only answered the required questions but also expressed my authentic self through my story and goals. To be successful with MBA applications, you need to show who you truly are, tell where you are going and highlight how the school is a great fit to achieve those goals.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Each of my classmates have unique stories and awesome backgrounds, but one classmate that I admire the most is Akua Obenewaa Donkor. Akua is your typical non-traditional MBA student. She joined the program after more than a decade managing KABI Chocolate, a chocolate and confectionary business she started in Ghana. What I admire most about her is her ability to combine the rigor of the MBA with managing her business in Ghana – for most of us, going through the MBA on its own was tough. Akua is resilient, passionate about chocolate, and has a good heart. She is committed to promoting sustainable and ethical business practices in the chocolate industry. Her business works directly with cocoa farmers and rural women’s groups to source its cocoa beans That way, farmers receive fair prices for their crops and that women earn a living wage through their work in chocolate production. By prioritizing sustainability and ethical sourcing, Akua is helping to transform the chocolate industry into one that is more equitable and socially responsible. Her story and resilience are truly inspirational.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First, I want to gain an in-depth understanding of product marketing. As a career switcher, I hope to leverage all the people and resources that I will be exposed to during my full-time employment to learn and build skills that are relevant to being a successful product marketer and consequently, a product manager. Also, I am passionate about topics at the intersection of technology, business performance, and sustainability. I want to be at the forefront of work that leverages technology and innovation to not just increase corporate value but also solve some of the world’s biggest environmental issues that is caused by excess commercial activities. My goal is to help leverage innovation to scale sustainability projects in Africa and beyond.

What made Cedrick such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?  

“Cedrick Agorbia-Atta has been a modest and extraordinary leader during his time at Kelley. Both on his own time and in his capacity as a co-chair of the Hoosier Host student ambassadors, he has worked tirelessly to promote Kelley’s MBA program and to extend our personal touch to candidates, one at a time. He had a vision to grow the number of Kelley students from Africa, and he has been instrumental in making this a reality.

Cedrick and some of his classmates proposed creation of an African Business Club, and they very quickly put together and implemented a plan. They also leveraged the resources of our school and their own networks to hold an African Business Week, which included as its highlight a case competition that would support small businesses in Africa. The activities of this week showcased African business opportunities and culture, and it was a high point of this academic year. We look forward to the lasting impact of this club on our program and students.

On a more personal note, Cedrick has helped countless prospective students from Africa learn about our program, work through the admissions process, and navigate the challenges of obtaining a visa. Once they landed in Bloomington, he provided support in so many ways that students need: settling into and furnishing their new homes, adjusting to their schedules, learning difficult course material, and more. He has single-handedly made a huge difference for many of his fellow students.

We have been so grateful to Cedrick for his leadership, vision, initiative, and caring. Our school, program, and students have benefitted tremendously from his contributions at Kelley.”

Gale Gold Nichols, CPCC
Executive Director
Full-Time MBA Program

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF MBAS TO WATCH IN 2023

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