There’s value everywhere – inside the classroom and out.
How did your career lead up to the GEMBA?
My background is in real estate finance. I qualified as a chartered surveyor before moving into banking in London. But like many others, I left the City in 2008 at the height of the European financial crisis.
I decided to set up an investment fund in Nigeria, specialising in energy, infrastructure and real estate. But I hadn’t lived in Nigeria for 15 years and had never worked there at all. Doing business in Nigeria was different from anything I’d seen before! And I didn’t have the network and contacts I needed. I may have a Nigerian name, but the truth is, I’d have been better off in any other emerging market. So I started looking at international EMBA programmes in Europe and Asia to boost my business skills and expand my network. In the end, only INSEAD ticked all the boxes and luckily, I got in.
Was the programme what you expected?
Not at all! We were initially split into Leadership Development Programme groups and sent out to perform team tasks in the Forest of Fontainebleau. The experience shone an inner torch on me. In fact, I had a good talking to from the facilitator, who told me how much I had to change. It was extremely, extremely eye-opening.
What was your favourite course?
Probably Managerial Decision-Making. It made me change the way I express myself. I learned, for example, to communicate using (positive) metaphors and that if you’re trying to communicate with someone, then you have to start with what they know – people only hear what they understand.
And what is your favourite memory?
There are so many: from the macro-economic essay I wrote about changing a country from within to giving the valedictorian speech at our graduation ceremony!
Was entrepreneurship a big factor in your decision to go to INSEAD?
Yes, it was a big draw, but not necessarily because of the curriculum. One of the things I wanted to do was meet people and expand my network. So I burned the proverbial candle at both ends. I even went to the INSEAD ball the night before my exams (and I met Peter Sage that night!).
Do you see yourself as a social entrepreneur?
The creation of wealth is only possible through entrepreneurship. I want to create wealth for myself as well as society. So strictly speaking I’m not a social entrepreneur. On the other hand, partly thanks to INSEAD, I refuse to determine my success purely by the amount of money I make. I also want to be good at what I do and to do some good for others. For example, two of the projects I’m working on are the construction of affordable housing; and (with INSEAD contacts) the creation of an oil and gas facility that’s helping to develop local communities.
You’re now involved in interviewing GEMBA candidates. What is this like?
It’s strangely empowering to have a different hat on. You feel you’re protecting all that’s good and great about INSEAD. I’m definitely looking for people who can contribute to the INSEAD community, rather than people who just know how to restructure a company.
What advice would you give new GEMBA participants?
Immerse yourself absolutely in every single minute of the journey. There’s value everywhere – inside the classroom and out.