No matter how many detours, u-turns, side roads and fast-tracks on the road to the career of your dreams, the journey is almost always transformative.
Three entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds tell us about their experience and how going back to school brought about the most impactful change.
South African entrepreneur Yashin Abed’s defining moment came when he hit the glass ceiling as an IT Executive at Africa’s largest bank. “The only way up was out and, because I wanted to be globally employable I chose the Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) at INSEAD. There, through discussions with my lecturers and coaches, it was clear that I had to go on my own. I wrapped every subject, assignment and all the marketing and strategy content around the concept of my own company, so I could position myself when entering the market”.
"Interaction with high-level executives on the course was brutally honest. They became my network, so I left not only with a certificate from a globally recognised institution, but also the skills, ammunition and network to open doors. It’s important to ask yourself what you want from the course, to shape the content and insights to your goals, and then do it! The GEMBA programme moved me to change career directions and to found Digisights, a digital transformation consultancy."
For Sharon Acheampong, who completed her MBA at INSEAD a decade before founding her company Eya Naturals in Ghana, it all started with her wanting natural products for her hair. “I always felt the brands I used were missing something. So I started making my own products.”
“I was drawn by INSEAD’s unmatched diversity profile and I was surrounded by people who were equally as passionate about what mattered to them, who wanted to grow as individuals while impacting the world as a whole. And because I was planning on moving back to Africa, INSEAD was a good bridge in making that change, as I was equipped with the skills set and the kind of resilience needed to thrive on the African continent and, if needed, other international markets. It also made it easier for me to switch from the corporate world to being an entrepreneur.”
Sharon was also one of INSEAD’s Limitless laureates. “It was a great honour to be a part of INSEAD’s Limitless Campaign. It’s always inspirational to see women pushing boundaries in life and society, being celebrated for it and positively impacting their society. This is why I made a point of including the training of young women, that I employ directly, in my plan. Now, training other women to make cosmetics is part of our CSR.”
Tokini Peterside was preparing to become a solicitor at London’s College of Law when her true calling was revealed.
"Passionate about culture and creativity, I started helping friends with businesses based on African culture, heritage and identity. It brought me so much joy I knew I wanted a career supporting Africa’s multifaceted creative generation.
Having worked in high profile organisations, including Moet Hennessy Nigeria as Head of Marketing, and as a strategy consultant and advisor to African design entrepreneurs, Tokini started an MBA at INSEAD in January 2015. “I focused on entrepreneurship, with a view to working in the Nigerian and African creative and visual arts sphere. I was constantly encouraged, pushed and challenged to think bigger.” In November 2016, Tokini launched ART X Lagos – West Africa’s first international art fair showcasing the breadth of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora.
Tokini believes that ‘diversity’ is more than just a buzzword at INSEAD.
“It’s ingrained authentically in every aspect of the school experience and students from all backgrounds can contribute equally to shaping the school’s culture and experience for the greater good.” Her advice to other African women wanting to start their own businesses is to build a close-knit supportive network of experienced advisors, with an array of perspectives, so that they’re supported and upheld, but also challenged to think bigger and bolder.
Whether you’re doing what you love or loving what you’re doing, an education experience that offers diversity, challenges and support along with a global network, can be a key compass on the road to realising your vision.
Article originally published on The Africa Report.