Professional background: Finance specialist
For the past 13 years, I’ve been in Finance and I’ve worked my way from an Analyst to a Vice President role in investment banking. I started my career at the Nigerian Stock Exchange but joined a startup investment bank after two years as I wanted to go into the industry.
For the past 10 years, I’ve been with that same company, Iroko Capital, and through my career, I’ve worked for four different startups on the financial advisory side. I am responsible for the structuring and execution of the company’s portfolio asset in the healthcare sector. My role involves business evaluation, balance sheet structuring, identifying and liaising with potential investors and financiers, performance monitoring and reporting.
Choosing an Executive MBA at Imperial
My firm had gradually morphed into an asset management firm and as we started taking more active roles in our principal investments, I was assigned the healthcare asset which was the Company’s first principal investment, I wanted to take a more active strategic and leadership role in the company, hence the decision to go for an MBA.
The Full-Time MBA was not an option for me because I needed to be with a group of students with a lot of experience. I knew that a full-time programme wasn’t going to work for me because I wasn’t going to leave my job. So, I needed a programme that is part-time with lots of flexibility. Imperial appealed to me for the innovation and entrepreneurship offerings. The blended nature of the Imperial Executive MBA was ideal. I spoke to a lot of people that had studied the MBA and the feedback was very interesting. My employers were also very supportive of the idea and that sealed the deal.
Funding my MBA: the 30% Club scholarship
I was lucky to be selected for the 30% Club scholarship and I am also being partly sponsored by my employer. The most interesting part of the scholarship, apart from the financial aid, is the mentorship programme. Before now I had never really been on a mentorship scheme. While I had people who I considered mentors, I never utilised the relationship fully. Meeting my 30% Club mentor has been amazing. It’s really changed my perspective on leadership, especially being a woman and learning how to approach things in a male-dominated field. She has been my go-to person – any time and day that I call, we bounce off ideas, figure out issues and she points me in the right direction. It’s been helpful to have someone to look up to.
Blending learning on the Executive MBA
Our programme is a mix of online learning and campus visits. Even though it’s a part-time programme, having to prepare for classes and then come to School and spending time with my cohort has been rewarding because it consolidated what was studied online. Different people will read case studies and have different interpretations. It was interesting to get a different perspective to mine, especially coming from different backgrounds.
My Executive Leadership Journey
As leaders, it’s always good to take a step back and reflect on how far you’ve come, things you can do differently and how you can add value. This is one thing that Imperial helped me do during the Executive Leadership Journey. There was a lot of reflection and emotional intelligence tests. It was interesting hearing from my subordinates, managers and some clients what they thought about my leadership skills. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on who I am, where I’m going and what I can do differently.
Another interesting part of the Executive Leadership Journey was a trip to an equestrian centre working with horses – called Equine Affinity. It was my first time being around horses, and one thing it taught me is that you can’t really force people to follow you. People have to get comfortable in your ability, buy into your vision and then they will willingly follow you. For women, it is especially more difficult when you are working in a male-dominated industry. It gave me a different perspective on leadership.
International learning opportunities
I went to New York City for the Smart City Glocal elective. This was entirely different from what I’m used to – it wasn’t related to finance! It was very interesting because it’s looking at the future and every economy should be looking ahead in terms of sustainability. I live in Lagos where the population is overwhelming, and it lacks the basic infrastructure to support its growing population. Listening to what people have done made me aware of the things that I have taken for granted and the impact of our actions on our environment. We have to think of how we can sustain this environment, especially as it’s growing and we don’t have the right infrastructure. It was an eye-opener for me and an opportunity to learn about something different.
My diverse syndicate group and cohort
Our syndicate group calls ourselves the United Colours of Benetton because we are very diverse. I am Nigerian, we have British, Italian, Israeli American and Lebanese British members. We meet every week on Zoom and work through our assignments and coursework together. We also make time to meet every time we are on campus to bond. It is very interesting working with them, even where there were different tensions everyone was very considerate.
Overall, my cohort is very diverse, and I look forward to seeing them at every campus session We are a small group of people, we are very close and supportive. Despite our different backgrounds and age brackets, we found a way to come together, especially in our syndicate groups. It’s an amazing cohort.
The challenges of commuting
The most challenging part of the programme has been commuting from Nigeria. I love to travel, I travel a lot for work, but I didn’t appreciate how stressful it was going to be. I always leave Nigeria on a Thursday after work for a six-hour flight to London. I get into London on Friday morning and go straight to class. I think what worked for me is that I have a very supportive network. I didn’t take study leave so I was doing this on my company time. I had to try as much as possible to juggle my work with my MBA studies. It wasn’t easy, but having a supportive employer and family made a difference – they gave me a lot of hall passes! I had my boss sometimes taking some workload off my desk so I could go to School.
During the weekdays and on Saturdays I tried to juggle work and School, and I had to take a breather on Sundays to recover and spend time with family. Sundays are no work, no School, just family and ‘me’ time. This conscious effort to take a day out of the week to destress kept me sane throughout the MBA.
Applying my Executive MBA learnings to my role
My work has been like a laboratory to test what I am learning. Because I am a portfolio manager and I am involved in strategy, it was easy for me to apply directly what I was learning in class to what I do. As we were going through the strategy models and from some of the electives I’ve done, it has helped me offer more in my meetings with the board and management on the strategies. So, I’m coming to work from class and saying – this is what I’ve learnt, do you think we can do it this way. It’s a direct application of what I’ve been learning.
Realising my career goals
I decided to study an Executive MBA because I wanted to be more involved in the strategy of the asset that I am managing. So far, I have already taken on more responsibilities. So, the MBA has helped me achieve that goal of taking on more responsibilities and going through the ranks. I didn’t get into this programme because I wanted a change of career, so my employer has been interested in what I was doing and receptive to the changes and ideas.
Advice for prospective students
There is never the right time and you will never have enough time to study an Executive MBA – you just have to go for it. It is an enriching programme and if you are going to commute as I did, it is difficult juggling work and travels. You need to get the support of your employer firstly, and that of your family as well. It is a stressful programme, so you need a good support network. Finally, you only get back what you put into the MBA. Even though it can be hard, you need to make time during the programme to utilise the MBA network and engage with other people.