Every year, the ALU School of Business (ALUSB) strives to find ambitious professionals for our MBA programme. And every year we are blown away by the amount of talent on the African continent. With the Chairman’s Scholarship for Excellence in Business, ALUSB seeks to honour this greatness by presenting a full-tuition award to rising business leaders with a track record of leadership at the workplace and in their communities. Our March 2019 cohort recipient has it all: leadership potential, a passion for uplifting her community and an ambitious vision for the future. ALUSB is proud to present our new Chairman’s Scholar: Mahder Zewdie Gebretsadik!
Mahder is the current Marketing Manager at EthioChicken, a poultry company that works with rural farmers to reduce malnutrition and poverty in Ethiopia. Leading the Marketing and the Customer Insights team, she works on developing the brand visibility, market activation and measuring satisfaction levels and the impact of the business on the livelihood of Ethiopian rural smallholder farmers. Mahder is now helping to establish similar teams in Rwanda, as EhtioChicken expands into East-Africa.
Although Mahder is very successful at what she does, there was a time where she didn’t even know what marketing was. Like many of us, Mahder was only aware of a limited list of career options growing up: become an engineer or become a doctor. But thanks to her parents, who instilled her with a winning mentality, she realised where her true strengths lay. So after a short stint as an engineering student, Mahder set out to get her bachelor’s degree in Marketing Management.
“My purpose in life is providing enough. When it comes to food, I want people to have enough, especially kids. And in terms of education, I want people to have enough knowledge to contribute to their society.”
A decade into her professional journey, Mahder has used technology and data-centric knowledge to solve business as well as social problems. This passion for social change is part of a bigger sense of purpose: “I grew up in Ethiopia, and I didn’t come from a rich family. We never had enough growing up. So my purpose in life is providing enough. When it comes to food, I want people to have enough, especially kids. And in terms of education, I want people to have enough knowledge to contribute to their society.”
Mahder has achieved a great amount in her professional life and has had a positive impact on countless Ethiopian livelihoods through Ethiochicken. But despite her previous achievements, Mahder still has many aspirations for the future: “If you look at the numbers in Africa; it doesn’t always look good for women. When it comes to hunger, women are more hungry. When it comes to literacy, women are more illiterate. We’re missing women, and if we’re missing women, we’re missing the next generation of leaders in Africa. So in the future, my projects are going to be particularly impactful for young people and women.”
Mahder Zewdie will join the ALUSB MBA Class of 2020 this March.
Obonye Malope ’20 is the Director of Marketing at the First National Bank of Botswana and embarked on her ALUSB journey this past July. Preparatory to starting the MBA programme she set several goals, but most of all, Obonye wanted to develop herself further as an African leader. We sat down with Obonye to talk about her objectives for pursuing an MBA and why the pan-African programme at ALUSB resonated so much with her.
Before applying to ALUSB, Obonye had been looking for an MBA programme for quite some time; 10 years to be exact. “I could never find one that went beyond just “ticking off a box”. I never really found a programme that interested me; I would look at the syllabus, the course content and it wouldn’t really grab my attention.”
But when she learned about the pan-African programme at ALUSB, she finally felt like she found an MBA that aligned with her vision. These are the three things Obonye wanted to get out of the MBA programme at ALUSB:
ALUSB is all about increasing the business acumen in Africa and encouraging Africans to come up with homegrown solutions for problems on the continent. We ensure this by offering an education that is tailored to the African context through case studies on African businesses, African research and the application of that theory to solve existing problems.
This vision of self-sufficiency greatly resonated with Obonye, “I think we always associate leadership with countries outside of Africa. When people want to study leadership, management or business, they often assume that they have to go to the US or Europe. But no, we need to invest in ourselves! We don’t always have to look for foreign investment.”
2 A DIFFERENT PERCEPTION
Secondly, Obonye turned to the ALUSB MBA programme to get an education that went beyond surface-level perceptions of Africa. “A lot of our history portrays warfare, disease and the more negative side. But, there is also a very beautiful side to Africa; the celebrations, the different cultures, our perseverance… But that side rarely gets shown.”
“I really wanted to get exposed to the richness of the many cultures that make up Africa. I wanted to learn more about Africa from Africans and people who are in that environment. And the programme gives me exactly that. There are about 20 African countries represented in my year alone. “
“Building a network across Africa was important to me because I wanted to get to the point where I could work anywhere on the African continent.”
3 AN AFRICAN-WIDE NETWORK
The third goal Obonye had when starting the MBA programme at ALUSB, was to expand her network. “Building a network across Africa was important to me because I wanted to get to the point where I could work anywhere on the African continent. The MBA programme is essentially about networking and growing these strong bonds so that you can reach across to them when you need them. For example; If I want to expand my company to Tanzania, I can just reach out to a classmate and say: “hey, help me understand the local landscape.”
But Obonye didn’t only gain an African-wide network at ALUSB, she also gained a family. “I have been touched and encouraged by the family that is the entire class of 2020. These people are now family, they’re not just a cohort or just classmates. The level of transparency and generosity is amazing. That is something that is going to last beyond the entire MBA programme.”
Motlatsi Mkalala ’19 is a South African, an Area Manager at Standard Bank, and a rule breaker. We had the pleasure of sitting down with this maverick to discuss his decision to pursue an MBA at ALUSB and his thoughts on taking non-conforming leadership decisions.
“I’m a person who does not conform; I don’t follow rules, I recreate them.”
Here are some interesting excerpts from Motlatsi’s interview, you can find the full video
Although Motlatsi was thinking about applying to a business school for a long time, he had become a bit anti-MBA over time: “I thought everybody was getting an MBA and that it was losing its value.”
But the Pan-African programme at ALUSB made him reconsider: “When I heard about ALUSB, I got excited because it was a Pan-African MBA and the first of its kind. I thought the MBA would give me a greater understanding of the issues and challenges the continent has and a context of where I would want to go next.”
ON LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
is at the heart of ALUSB’s vision and is a constant presence throughout the MBA programme. We adhere to a unique V^3 model
, which uses a mixture of Virtue, Value and Vision,
to develop well-rounded leaders. Not only do we craft their leadership through top-quality content and coaching, but the students also learn to lead
through on-the-job practices and experimental activities.
When asked about the leadership development programme
at ALUSB, there’s one thing that immediately comes to Motlatsi’s mind: “We learned how to be bold and take bold decisions
. And you start to reflect and think: do I take bold decisions in how I run the business? Or am I always comfortable because I’m scared to be the one that stands out? That has challenged how I influence the team or my boss to take a different stance.”
Watch Motlatsi’s full interview below:
Three years ago, Yves Iradukunda ’19 started at MASS Design Group in Kigali, Rwanda as the East-African operations manager. Now, he’s the senior director of operations and mainly works on bringing in new talent, kickstarting new projects and managing relationships with MASS’s different partners.
With responsibilities that are constantly evolving and expanding, Yves still managed to complete his MBA journey at ALUSB without jeopardising his responsibilities at work.
We talked to Yves about his time at ALUSB and the 4 elements that determined his academic and professional success throughout the MBA programme.
1. Knowing your “why”
Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or an established leader, identifying the meaning behind your decisions is essential for a purpose-driven and significant journey.
Yves’ reasoning for pursuing an MBA was twofold. Not only did he want to take advantage of the general management training that a Business School provides, but he specifically wanted to expand his knowledge on entrepreneurship and leadership.
“Ideally an MBA was going to allow me to understand my previous experiences through different lenses. I really wanted to know what it meant to inspire; not just the people that I work with, but also the broader society, through the work that we do.”
Knowing his “why” and identifying his goals kept Yves focused and intentional during the ALUSB programme.
2. Choosing the right fit
Even though it is an essential building block, knowing your “why” is not the only thing that will keep you motivated. It is equally important to find an institution that suits you academically and personally. Yves found his match in the Pan-African centred programme at ALUSB.
“There are so many untapped opportunities on the continent and ALUSB’s focus on the African context made the school really attractive and unique. I am now able to tap into a vast network of professionals that are operating in different markets and expand my understanding beyond my own experience. If you’re really interested in increasing your knowledge and expertise on the continent, this MBA is the right programme for you.”
3. Being intentional
In the course of the last 15 months, Yves’ responsibilities at MASS Design Group have both changed and increased in terms of expectations. But despite the added pressure, Yves found a way to stay on top of his schoolwork.
“You have to be very intentional. There have been many weeks where it was a struggle to dedicate the needed time to my course material, but that means that the weekends are for catching up. So if the week has been hectic, be intentional in the weekend and really make time to study.”
4. Having a strong support system.
Having a support system is imperative when embarking on any journey, especially a challenging one like this. Yves was lucky to have many morale boosters around him.
“My wife and newly born daughter are really the main sources for my motivation; it’s rewarding knowing that they have my back. That aspect of family support is very important.”
Yves colleagues at MASS Design Group were also a source of motivation during his MBA journey: “Seeing the impact of the work that we do, is very inspiring. My colleagues are dedicated, passionate and never compromise on quality. A work environment like that is encouraging and motivates me to contribute to them as they contribute to me.”
Finally, Yves states that his MBA journey would have been impossible without his classmates. “Even though the ALUSB MBA is a remote programme, we remained connected throughout the year, not just at the intensives. We WhatsApp on a daily basis, call each other, offer support in difficult times and celebrate the exciting ones. Without those people, what you’re learning loses meaning.”
And even though Yves graduation from ALUSB is quickly approaching, he’s not planning to stop learning anytime soon.
“I think learning itself is a lifelong journey. The MBA programme opened my eyes and kickstarted a lifelong learning journey. It helped me realise how much more opportunities are across the continent. So the upcoming graduation is not a final destination, it’s the start of a new journey of learning and collaborating with other people.”
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.