Njideka Nwabueze ’20 is a Proposition Manager at Diamond Bank Plc, Nigeria. She leads BETA proposition, a digital savings strategy to increase financial inclusion for low income un-banked and underbanked market entrepreneurs – especially women.
Njideka’s weekly rhythm involves managing 1,200 mobile field agents across over 270 Diamond Bank branches in Nigeria. These field agents go out into streets and markets with the objective of “banking-the-unbanked”, an endeavour that necessitates non-traditional strategy and implementation. The scope of Njideka’s work role stretches from consumer research, strategic planning and implementation, to marketing, sales, and financial capacity building, especially for women.
In her words, “we have a proposition, BETA savings, financial services that are deployed via mobile devices and agents to the financially excluded, with a view to accelerating financial inclusion in Nigeria. I am currently prioritising agent training, that they may engage customers, understand and align their personal preferences with the right product offering and therefore provide a stronger value proposition to our customers.”
In a snapshot, one can attest that the one thing which stays consistent in Njideka’s work-week is the clause, “find out what is best for customers.” Evidently, she emphasises that customer evaluation is at the heart of what her team does. Market research and customer evaluations make room for new product propositions and existing product iterations, the nexus of Njideka’s role at Diamond Bank.
Njideka’s day-to-day focus includes streamlining data from customers, the sales team, market research and competitive intelligence, to build and pitch new business cases to the Executive Committee. The proposals are crafted with detailed attention and Njideka must liaise with stakeholders across the finance, IT, operations, legal, project management and risk management divisions to ensure that all the necessary boxes are checked.
[On roadblocks], Njideka says, “the first thing I do is stay positive.” She recognises that there is always an opportunity in every roadblock she faces. She believes one can learn from impeding situations. From her experience, she attests, “Every time I overcome an obstacle, it prepares me to handle future challenges.”
In addition, Njideka says, “when you encounter roadblocks, it is time to engage more – talk to more people, find out people who have faced the same kind of problem, and in some regards, try negotiation assuming another party is involved.”
[On motivation], Njideka is a rare gem. She is married with four sons, and currently nursing a 9-month old son while studying her ALUSB MBA. At this point in life, navigating work-school-family, the word “motivation” is synonymous to “passion-driven goal-setting” for Njideka. She had set a goal to have an MBA by the year 2020, and despite still nursing her last child, she enrolled in the ALUSB MBA programme, with the conviction that it was the right place to be. Six months and two intensives later, Njideka says “I really appreciate Leadership Lab at ALUSB. It has reinforced the importance of goal-setting, reflection, and evaluation.”
An out-going extrovert, Njideka has gotten a lot more motivation by adapting her natural instincts and limiting time spent on social media and hangouts. She strives to keep managing her time more effectively throughout the MBA programme, and she adds that by listening to good music, she stays refreshed and uplifted.
[A perfect week] to Njideka is three-dimensional. Family-wise, it is a week where she is able to make her children happy, put smiles on their faces, and see them excel in school.
My perfect school-week is definitely the Intensive week. The excitement from catching up with classmates, guest faculty, and ALUSB staff is fantastic.
At work, Njideka’s perfect week is one where her weekly sales targets are met, and when a product she has worked on for so long is finally approved and launched, with the extra spice of a press release announcing that the product is live in the market.
In conclusion, as we countdown in weeks to the final MBA Application deadline on 14 January, 2019, Njideka has a message to those considering the ALUSB MBA programme as well as those currently applying but are yet to submit.
She says, “Go for it! I have interacted with colleagues who have done their MBA programmes in various institutions, and I have come to conclude that ALUSB is totally different. ALUSB’s leadership programme is one of the best in the world. You gain real insights into who you are as a person, and you experience a transformation which significantly improves your professional and personal relationships.”
ALUSB trains you to be an authentic leader. Here, you learn, unlearn and relearn. Expect an awesome journey through it all.
Join us today!
Leadership Development is at the core of the ALUSB MBA programme. We adopt a unique V^3 leadership model which trains leaders at the nexus of Virtue, Vision, and Value. To do this, we consolidate premium content, experiential learning, self-reflection exercises, and on-the-job practice for a holistic leadership course.
If a picture speaks a thousand words, then the video below will speak thousands more. Featuring Ryan Findley, the architect of the V^3 leadership model, and Tolulope Owokade, MBA Class of 2019 student, the video interview sheds light on the set-up, delivery, and impact of leadership training at ALUSB. Find its highlights below:
[Ryan] What was your vision for Leadership Lab?
We wanted to have an MBA that really encompassed leadership, and that leadership would underpin all the other things students are learning. When we reimagined the model and put leadership at the core, that became our specialization and with that, we are able to bring in guest speakers, readings and a leadership model that supports the leadership direction of ALUSB.
If you ask our students, what really gets hammered home in two years, is really who they are as leaders, and how they grow as leaders throughout not just the programme but the rest of their lives.
[Ryan] What sets ALUSB Leadership development apart from programmes at other business schools?
It cuts across the whole programme. It’s not something you do just as an elective. Due to our blended learning programme, you’re not just doing deep team building exercises that you can walk away from, rather you are actually getting engaged day to day, week to week in your work context, family context, community context, because we want you to be applying the things you are learning to whatever is going on, on a random Monday or Thursday afternoon.
[Tolu] How has ALUSB’s Leadership Lab impacted you so far in your MBA journey?
You come into ALUSB and build a really solid foundation for the type of leader you want to be. From my personal experience, there was first, a recognition of who I am today, what I want to be in a few years and where I am trying to get to over the long period of time.
I was pushed to move from a place of just being a visionary leader to being one that delivers value.
I had always wanted to do something for the causes I am interested in: gender, particularly as regards women in the STEM industry. I decided to run a project – 30 for 30 – bringing together different stakeholders to raise money to have 30 girls attend a STEM camp for two weeks. By running that programme, I became a visionary leader who delivers value, and that is the biggest takeaway I have had from Leadership Lab.
[Tolu] Which African leaders have best resonated with you, of all those you’ve studied in Leadership Lab?
Dr. Deko Mohammed, because she redefined the term, courage to me, in a very personal way. Beyond being courageous in all she does in her country and for the rest of the world, Dr. Deko is visionary and brings real value in a way that is sustainable to her people.
I am drawn to technology, innovation, and ingenuity, and Ibrahim Abouleish epitomized all these on a level I have never seen. You find people who are technically sound and people who possess great virtue. When you see both in one person, you have to recognize it and that is what Ibrahim Abouleish had.
Part 1: On Africa
Mzamo Masito, Chief Marketing Officer of Google Africa, graced the last ALUSB MBA Intensive with his esteemed presence. ALUSB Director of Admissions, Vani Nadarajah, had the pleasure of sitting down to an interview with Mzamo and tapping his vast wisdom on African-related and leadership topics. A fireball of artistic depth, Afro-optimism, and confidence in the African identity, Mzamo exuded the essence of leadership for the African Century.
Find his full video interview below. Here are some of the highlights:
“[Coming to the African Leadership Group], I had met Fred a while back when he was only then, thinking about ALA. All I could hear from his vision was “African Renaissance”. There is nothing wrong with our minerals, water, air….people. At the core of our biggest challenge is leadership.
[I am] super confident about waking up Black and sleeping Black. I am in love with the African continent but I am not blind to its lows. I am conscious of its potential because I know how things were, pre-colonisation; I know we have a reference point that doesn’t need us to look towards the West or the East for reference. It’s here.
[Google’s mission] is to organise the world’s information, make it universally accessible and make it useful. The word, ‘universally accessible’ includes Africans. At Google, the mission is our lighthouse and that mission is incomplete without Africa.
[To do business in Africa], you need to tailor your product to meet the African country’s conditions. There is no ‘African’ solution because Africa is not a country. Not everything that works in South Africa is going to work in Nigeria or Congo; some might but not everything. Make sure you have a product that is at least, versatile and flexible enough to adapt, which is why you have to glocalise.”
“Everyone who wants to come to the African continent must first, have a long-term mindset; secondly, have patient capital; and thirdly, tailor-make the product to respect the user in that country.”
Mutsa Kajese is the founder of UbuntuLab, an organisation that focuses on the holistic development of emerging market leaders. This week in his life is an epitome of work-life integration.
Mutsa’s first book “30 days of Transformation: A guide to your authentic self” is coming soon. It is the perfect compendium of nuggets on personal development, told from a real and unfiltered perspective. It will quench the thirst bound to arise from reading this blog post and wanting more!
Monday, 3rd December 2018 heralded the final week of “LevelUp”, a six-week development programme run by Ubuntu Lab. As their fourth cohort of budding entrepreneurs prepared for their Final Pitch Day on Wednesday, and Closing Ceremony on Saturday, Mutsa stayed on top of the overall management and review of the week’s line-up.
“This week is all about assessing where we are and how far we have come. I’m reviewing the the growth this cohort has gone through since the start of the programme, and in this space, reflecting on the transformations that have come with LevelUp,” says Mutsa.
Indirectly paying homage to contemporary culture, Mutsa spent Tuesday, 4th December as an ideal – although mildly arguable – #TravelTuesday. He primarily prepared for a trip to Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, next week, in relation to his role as a mentor for Seedstars Initiative. In addition, he caught up with some work at his office, as well as his MBA work. Specifically, his evening comprised a two-hour long meeting with his Home Learning Teammates, prime peer-collaborators in his ALUSB MBA journey.
Settling into the mid-week, Mutsa embodied more aspects of his life as an entrepreneur, founder, and creative director. Beside supervising the LevelUp pitch session and checking in with the LevelUp Programme Director, Thabani Mlilo on Wednesday, 5th December, Mutsa devoted Thursday, 6th December to his directorial responsibility at IbuHub, a pan-African incubation hub based in Zimbabwe. He had a client meeting geared towards setting up businesses for the year ahead.
Having highlighted Mutsa’s weekday rhythm in a symbolically singular list-view mode, the more consistent grid-view looks more like a 4:35 a.m regular waking time, followed by an hour of administrative work, typically consisting of email checks and calendar updates. Thereafter, Mutsa meditates for about 20 minutes and proceeds to exercise, comprising either of martial arts, a gym workout or swimming, depending on the day of the week.
Mutsa’s mornings also involve ensuring that his kids are ready for school – and taking them there. His official work time begins after his 8 yr old, 6 yr old and 1-and-a-half year old are at school. Typically, this time is devoted to managerial and directorial responsibilities at UbuntuLab and IbuHub, including the maintenance of both organizations’ strategic partnerships to drive innovation and problem-solving with Green Building Design Group and African Leadership Academy respectively. Also, his MBA coursework stays constant in his weekly priorities.
[On Roadblocks], Mutsa says, “I move towards them. I believe obstacles are a signal for growth.” As an entrepreneur, Mutsa is inclined towards problem solving, hence he looks forward to challenges. At the same time, he recognises that he is human, hence when his emotions dwindle, he allows himself to feel it, but endeavours to move on if the feelings are not beneficial to his personal well being.
[On motivation], Mutsa believes it is always about remembering the bigger picture – having a big why. In response to his immediate whys – why he is doing the work he does, and why he is pursuing this MBA – he attests that whilst there are personal desires to learn something new and gain more qualifications, those are not enough to keep him up at night when he really doesn’t want to.
On that note, Mutsa’s bigger picture is that there’s a continent which needs everybody to be at their double best and that includes himself. He says, “We all have our part to play, I am equipping myself so I can play my role. I am doing this not just for myself or my family but for a generation that needs me at my best.” This selflessness and sense of purpose alludes to the nucleus of “Ubuntu” that Mutsa holds as a core belief.
[On work-life balance] Mutsa posits that there’s no such thing as work-life balance, rather there is work-life integration. According to him, “Balance implies that something else is imbalanced, and it doesn’t work.” What works for Mutsa is the alignment and integration of all aspects of his life into one life, not separating his work, family or spirituality (exercise and meditation) because each of them defines him.
[On team work at ALUSB], Mutsa says, “The network is the strongest component of the ALUSB MBA programme, and it is also a big motivator to keep going because the understanding that one’s not alone on the journey is very strengthening.” He adds, “We call each other a tribe. This is what a tribe looks like – it’s not speaking the same language, talking the same or looking the same. My tribe is my brother from South Africa, my sister from Tanzania. What brings us together is the common cause and understanding that we have a bigger purpose for doing this MBA.”
[A perfect week] to Mutsa is multi-faceted, emblematic of the diversity in his roles and identity. In one vein, Mutsa’s perfect week is one that has an element of transformation in the lives of people. It is a week where he has a day or two of spending quality time with his family – cooking and playing with his kids and spending alone time with his wife. The perfect week is also one where he checks off all the things in his to-do list.
“I am very happy and satisfied when I see people having a turn in their life, when they understand their purpose….when that light bulb turns on.”
As we approach the final deadline for ALUSB MBA applications, Mutsa has a message to current applicants as well as aspirants. He says, “Go for it. If you can identify an area which you are not happy with, either in your home country or the continent, keep that in mind as you head towards the ALUSB MBA, because with the networks and quality of coursework at ALUSB, that problem is on the right path to getting solved.”
To recently admitted students from the first round of the MBA applications, Mutsa has a word of advice. He says, “The sooner you get to know your classmates, the better, so break the barriers sooner rather than later. Moreso, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.”
Likeleli recently re-launched Inspire Innovation in her home-country, Lesotho. In the past month, she has been working on getting the business off the ground. This week in her life is a reflection of the grit and spirit of a startup founder, mother, mentee, teammate, and ALUSB student.
“My reason for doing an MBA was to come out of it with a business. With the support of my Capstone advisor, coach, classmates and my ALU network in general, my Capstone project is coming to life as a business consultancy firm, “Inspire Innovation”.”
The novelty of Monday 19 November at Inspire Innovation was amped up with a new, permanent addition to the existing team of four interns who are collectively students/ alumni of the African Leadership Group (ALG). Thus, Inspire Innovation is a symbol of the powerful, pan-African network that is being built across the African Leadership Group.
Heeding a familiar Monday Meeting canon, Likeleli met with a branding expert to align on branding strategies for her company. She also conducted a Vision Connect session with her team, to retell the story of Inspire Innovation and refresh their awareness of the company’s mission and goals. In this light, she applied her learnings from ALUSB’s Leadership Lab as well as McKinsey Academy’s Communicating for Impact and Team Management courses. After the session with her team, Likeleli proceeded with what captures her typical weekday – meeting with potential clients to pitch her company.
This week has been particularly engaging for Likeleli because of her participation in the Entrepreneurship Expo and Business Summit, Maseru, organized by The Entrepreneurs Network which her husband is a part of. She is moderating a panel discussion on “Education and Entrepreneurship” and running an entrepreneurship workshop for some of the businesses that are exhibiting at the Expo.
Inspire Innovation had some milestones this week, including printing official T-shirts to boost their brand visibility and leveraging the Expo to conduct a business survey of client needs and problems. This is in line with their mission to make support services available to SMEs in Southern Africa.
“I always come home at 5:00 p.m to attend to my son, Tsepang. I focus on my family for the evening, go to sleep and wake up between 2:00 a.m and 5:00 am to do admin work – responding to emails, reviewing my team’s work and gearing up for the new day.”
According to Likeleli, Inspire Innovation has evolved so much over the course of the ALUSB MBA. In her startup journey, she has directly consolidated her MBA learnings while growing her reach through the ALUSB network. She says, “I have found myself having bolder conversations with people from whom I need help, to get things on the ground. I have gained so much confidence. I am setting up structures, and putting things in place so that by January 2019, this will be a fully fledged company. Having the support structure from my family, classmates, mentor and business partner has made the journey very exciting.”
Likeleli’s entrepreneurial path has also sparked a personal transition in her approach to innovation. Her knowledge of piloting from the Entrepreneurship and Innovation course has replaced her natural inclination to overthink, deliberate and contemplate, with the drive to “do it, at a very small scale, learn very quickly from it and try something else or change the approach.”
[On roadblocks] Likeleli has gained awareness of the trust limitations that come with being young and running a startup. She deals with it by communicating with her business partner, Makuena Kolobe, a development consultant; her mentor, Duduzile Seamatha, Director at Sheeran and Associates; and also through surrounding herself with other business personnel who inspire her to see the silver lining of her roadblocks.
[On motivation] Likeleli keeps lists to help her see things in perspective. She has also learnt to constantly tap into her support system. Regarding her schoolwork, she speaks highly of her Home Learning Team at ALUSB for encouraging her throughout her MBA journey. In her words, “we prioritize communicating on time, planning ahead of time and being realistic about setting expectations of others.”
Likeleli looks at balance over the long term. She thinks about [work-life balance] from an interesting point of view: “If I spend all this time working, schooling and generally being busy now, I can rest later.” Looking back at a time when she dedicated all her time to looking after her son, she attests that it shaped her to be less strict about gauging work-life balance and more holistic about her outlook on it.
In conclusion, Likeleli states, “If I can get everything on my list done without any interruption, getting results in all the goals I have set for the week, and still be able to read a book and go on a drive somewhere with my husband and son, then I would have had a perfect week.”
Emmett P. Tracy combines an erudite academic portfolio comprising a BA from Williams College, MBA from INSEAD, and a Ph.D. from Trinity College, Dublin, with an executive professional portfolio including Chief Executive Officer, KaffeeHouse Digital and Dean at Hult International Business School.
At ALU School of Business (ALUSB), Dr. Tracy consolidates academic administration, risk management and global strategy to position ALUSB as a leading, pan-African Business School.
Last week, Director of Admissions, Vani Nadarajah, interviewed Dean, Emmett Tracy. Read on to glean insights into the career path, motivations, and personality of ALUSB’s Dean.
Could you give us a snapshot of your academic and professional background?
A lot of my career has been driven by measuring risk at different inflection points, and I have taken a number of significant shifts in my professional and academic trajectory.
In a sense, my background boils down to decisions driven by managing probabilities at different points in my career – in academia and business. Going into academia, I identified the risks involved in considering different areas of study, and then, within the business environment, I observed and evaluated risks in starting and running a company that traversed countries and continents, from Morocco, Ireland, France, Italy and Mauritius to Kigali.
But I have always felt confident in the risks that I have taken and a lot of that stems from the work that I did in business school, which helped me grow in a confidence to analyze situations. Also, I have been fortunate to spend time with a community of people on whom I can rely – many of whom I met during my MBA.
My business school experience now involves helping students identify and evaluate their own risks in the decisions they make at this significant stage in their careers, usually by factoring in income and opportunity.
What led you to ALUSB and why sub-Saharan Africa now?
ALUSB is full of risk-takers, not least Fred Swaniker. I have great respect for the risks Fred has taken, and how calculated they are. ALUSB started a few years ago as an idea, and the school has grown into an extremely successful community of people who are going to change the continent. They are risk takers in their own right. Being part of this community of people who are able to take risks that transcend sectors and geographies, makes me really proud.
What kind of students would you like to see admitted into the ALUSB MBA Programme?
When I take part in the admissions process, one of the biggest things I look out for is open-mindedness, inclusivity and a commitment to diversity.
The ease of changing geographies today means that the opportunities are there to engage with diversity in different markets. The mindset of openness to engage in these differences has to be there. Usually, there are indications of this mindset when prospective students are asked what they expect to see in their classmates and what their classmates expect of them. I find it a good sign when students gravitate towards thinking about other people, not just about themselves.
Where would you like to see ALUSB MBA alumni in 10 years?
I would like ALU MBAs to be running businesses that embrace diversity, employing people from Ethiopia, South Africa, Greece, the Middle East… I want them to be game-changers in the sort of way people think about businesses on the continent – not just regional or overly localised, but as economies that are major players on the global stage.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Pay greater attention to the details.” My dissertation supervisor used to warn me about moving too quickly and always encouraged me to pay greater attention to details. It was excellent advice.
3 items on your bucket list?
1. Writing at least one book per decade.
2. Deep-sea fishing.
3. Learning Swahili.
Favourite book, if so?
The ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius. “Poems” by Constantine Cavafy is another book I travel with constantly.
Favorites are tough. But the Irish love quotes. One that I use a lot – “Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” It is from one of the last works by George Bernard Shaw. People forget Shaw was one of the original founders of the London School of Economics. Incredible.
Who are your mentors in leadership – and why?
Multiple members of my family. I have been extremely fortunate to come from a long line of educators and leaders in education.
What drives you? Where do you get your motivation from?
I came to a point in life where every day was about learning something new and striving towards a sense of virtue. In Western philosophy, this could be understood as a sense of ‘Stoicism.’
“The point of everyday is to learn more. Everyday is a successful day if you’re learning something new and expanding a sense of understanding.”