2023 MBA To Watch: Debby Olagunju, Notre Dame (Mendoza)

Debby Olagunju

University of Notre Dame, Mendoza School of Business

“I am a fun-loving and all-around achiever who stays committed to improving myself and others.”

Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria

Fun fact about yourself:  When I was a kid, I wanted to be a police officer arresting people who stole money

Undergraduate School and Degree: Undergraduate Degree: Bachelors of Science in Accounting Undergraduate School: Covenant University, Nigeria

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

Role: Liquidity Management Officer.

Company: Sterling Bank, Nigeria

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022?)

Company:  Microsoft.

Location: Redmond, Washington

Where will you be working after graduation?

Company: Google

Role: Strategic Finance Analyst

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Awards: Forte Fellow; Tender Leader Award.

Leadership Roles: VP of Finance, Black Graduates in Management Club.

Community Work: Creator, Mendoza Immigration Gateway for International Students; Interviewer, Student Admissions Committee; Lead, Graduating Class Volunteer Activities; Member, Ways of Rebuilding Community (South Bend); Volunteer, Grow the Good Gala Committee; Volunteer, Hope for Hungry

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The Brogan Award is given to the top 5 female performers. I believe in succeeding at everything you do. I preach this to my mentees and my colleagues. Getting this award and my full-time job offer was a way to put some value on hard work. This award brought renewed focus in my mentees’ and friends’ academic endeavors. I am confident that I will see them win similar academic merits in the future.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my first year at Sterling Bank, Nigeria, I worked as a Balance Sheet Management Officer. I was tasked to post trades on the Bank’s security portfolio. This was a manual process that could take up to 4 hours daily to complete. I spearheaded the project to automate my team’s (treasury) trading system and dealing processes, and this led to about a 60% increase in my team’s productive time.

This was impactful because it birthed a more innovative spirit within the treasury team; team members were inspired to automate processes on their respective desks. The automation I led then has also been enhanced, increasing treasury staff’s productive time and trading activities.

Why did you choose this business school? I wanted to have a sense of belonging to the business school I attended. Throughout my admissions process and my interactions with the faculty at Notre Dame, I could tell that the team wanted me as they felt that I would be a tremendous addition to the program –and that they had the resources I would need to make my dreams come true. And indeed, I have made a meaningful impact, and my dreams have come true.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Brad Badertscher. Brad is a fantastic accounting professor that makes his students feel comfortable. He has the most relatable teaching methods, which applied real-world accounting concepts practically. His class boosted my confidence in analyzing financial statements expertly. He charges us to influence our community for good and offers himself as a resource personally, professionally, and academically. He treats his students like family, and I will always feel at ease reaching out to him.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Advanced Speaking for Business. The typical classes in the MBA program promote learning either by reading or by doing. In Advanced Speaking for Business, I learned by seeing my professor give good presentations every time he stood in front of the class. What I saw him do, is what I have practiced to become better at speaking.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Grow the Good Gala. Every year, the MBA program has a formal event. For December 2022, the event was “Grow the Good Gala” to raise funds for “Cultivate Food Rescue.” Grow the Good Gala was my favorite event because I was on the planning committee. I got to direct faculty and students to come together and honor the motto of Mendoza College of Business: to grow the good in business. As a result, we raised about $11K in a donation to feed hundreds of families in South Bend.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Recreational events. Before coming to the United States, I had watched recreational activities on television. In my second year here, I explored activities like ice sledding, ice skating, bowling, and swimming. Looking back, I would love to have started “activity hunting” earlier to enjoy as much fun activities with my classmates as I possibly can.

What is the biggest myth about your school? While researching Notre Dame, I kept reading about the non-existent community of international students. Coming into the MBA program, I had around 40 other international classmates in a class of 120 people. In my short time on campus, I have seen the number of international students grow significantly. With the hundreds of other African students at Notre Dame, it has felt like home.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? South Bend is peaceful, and the people are friendly. It is a place where you can have many social activities but still have a relaxing environment to revert to when they are done. The people here are caring and always willing to have meaningful conversations with me.

What surprised you the most about business school? It was how much I learned from my peers. Coming to business school, I knew I would learn from my professors and classmates, but I did not know precisely what. My peers taught me how to hold conversations in different social settings, plan parties, ice skate, be more involved in the classroom, explore South Bend, be sensitive to those around me, taste wine, tailgate, enjoy American football, and many more.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Honesty. I was sincere about my shortfalls and knowing my future plans. In my application, I stated my past failings and how that has equipped me for any challenge I may face in the future. Another thing I did was highlight my international exposure and how my unique experience working with persons from over 70 countries would greatly benefit my classmates.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Linh Tang. Linh is the most resilient person I have met. During the MBA program, I witnessed Linh overcome stumbling blocks to achieve her career goal. Despite her battles, she was generous with her time, helping her colleagues where they needed help. Linh taught my colleagues and me to prioritize our mental and physical health while pursuing our dreams. Linh is fun; she makes the funniest jokes and has a hearty laugh.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Public speaking – I want to become a great public speaker who inspires my audience while representing my company at various events.

Professorship – I have a lot to learn and a lot to give. Long term, I want to venture into academia to teach and mentor the upcoming leaders in finance.

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

“Debby Olagunja excels in leadership, her drive and fulfilling the mission of Notre Dame. She is a standout amongst her peers in her numerous leadership positions, endless energy and outstanding contributions to the MBA Corporate Finance Club, Black Graduates in Management Club, and volunteering her time both on and off campus.  Notably, Debby balances all of these roles while still being an exemplary student and sets a high bar for other students to follow. It should come as no surprise that Debby was the recipient of the Brogan Award, which recognizes the top female students in the Notre Dame MBA program. Debby’s time at Mendoza is a shining example of what it means to “Grow the Good in Business.” We need more leaders like Debby in the field of business and we are extremely thankful for the lasting impact she leaves on the Notre Dame MBA program, the Mendoza College of Business and the University of Notre Dame. Her potential is limitless and I am very excited to see where her professional journey goes next.”

Brad A. Badertscher
Deloitte Foundation Chair of Accountancy
Deloitte Professor of Accountancy
Mendoza College of Business


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