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.
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.”
Akua Nyame-Mensah ’19 has worked in e-commerce for the past four years. She was the Managing Director at Jumia Classifieds, Nigeria and Ghana. For the past few months, she served as the leader at a design and build company. She currently aspires to take an entrepreneurial route starting with career advisory services.
Wake up. Stretch. Start off with a to-do list: Akua has built an early morning habit that is allusive of her fitness enthusiasm and her orderliness. This week in Akua’s life has had a smooth live-work-study rhythm owing to its commencement with a public holiday in Nigeria where Akua resides. Coincidentally, Nigeria’s Independence Day celebration on Monday, 1st October, heralded Akua’s transitional journey to becoming a self-employed coach and consultant.
Monday was more than a public holiday to Akua, it was also her boyfriend’s birthday hence the celebratory mode was very much activated. She picked up a cake for him, and they hung out together. She also watched TV shows and movies, as deserving of an extended weekend.
Akua’s Tuesday was for finalising, consolidating and planning. Her last day at her former job was on Friday, the 28th of September, hence she set Tuesday aside for communication with partners and clients to inform them of her transition and to direct them to the appropriate succeeding personnel. She also officially commenced her design thinking cycle for her MBA Capstone project idea which doubles as her next career path.
Akua is driven to provide support to youth who need career guidance before and after they get formally employed. She has personally experienced the tenacity of the job market and the fast-pace of the corporate world, hence her passion to assist others to navigate the professional world/ life-phase. Armed with guidance from her Capstone supervisor and feedback from the accessible target audience, Akua is resolved to translate her Capstone project into a fully-fledged profitable advisory firm after graduation.
“I want to develop products and services based on what people around me are interested in. A lot of people tell me that I need to have my niche, but to me, that is synonymous with imposing my products or services on people. I feel like there’s no need to impose a solution even though such niche markets tend to provide more security.”
On Wednesday, Akua took significant-steps ahead in ideation and project design despite the threat of a cold. She obtained guidance from her Capstone supervisor for defining her target market. Later in the day, she had enlightening conversations with two ladies, one of whom was a fitting representation of her target audience and the other, an experienced coach who has had an inspiring career trajectory from coaching to facilitation and customer engagement. Before the day ended, Akua ensured to engage with some of her Leadership Lab readings.
On Thursday, Akua cross-examined the type of brand she hopes to build with her advisory firm. She reflected on her values and considered how to translate them into the services she aspires to provide. She also did some business development based on the networks she built from her time at Jumia. Furthermore, she conducted research on legal considerations for registering her business in Nigeria and the United States. Today being #TGIF, Akua is super excited as she plans to attend a Major Lazer Concert happening in Hard Rock Beach, Lagos, Nigeria from 7 p.m.
[On roadblocks], Akua is very persistent and adherent to communication and follow-ups when other people are involved. She says, “I’m not afraid to be persistent but I will wait.” When solely responsible, she leverages people around her who help her stay on track.
[Motivation] to Akua stems from the fact that when she makes an investment into something, it’s essential to get something out of it. She expresses her curious nature and its correlation to her interest and engagement with her MBA coursework. In her words, “I’m constantly trying to be innovative, constantly trying to be creative, and finding new ways to be more organised, better, faster, quicker. My self-motivation partially stems from my desire to be comfortable and secure enough to take chances and challenge myself to be better.”
[Work-life balance] to Akua is about prioritising and not compromising habits such as stretching, running and sports. She believes her initial work opportunities helped set up her to be flexible and pursue her interests.
“[A perfect week] is one where I wake up every single morning, write in my gratitude journal, stretch and do some exercises. Getting these two things done sets me up for a really good day. Also, getting through as many of my to-dos as possible and sleeping well and early makes my week perfect.”
To ALUSB aspirants, Akua says, “leadership is really what you make of it. It depends on the resources you want to pull, and how you execute it.” Having previously obtained a Masters in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, Akua’s road to ALU was paved by the desire to partake in building a great institution. She attests that so far, she has obtained real value and built genuine relationships through the ALUSB MBA programme. In her words, “I have learnt a lot about myself and I have been able to apply a lot of what I learned into my daily work.”
Conclusively, Akua advises people to keep in mind that “asking questions when unsure is key for balance.” She chips in the practical need to leverage technology – Google Calendars, Evernote, and possibly, an iPad for reading – to be able to succeed smoothly in a blended learning programme such as the ALUSB MBA.
Bame Moremong ’19 is the Executive Director of Brand Botswana, at Botswana Investment and Trade Centre and a current ALUSB MBA student. She manages marketing teams and mothers two daughters while studying her MBA. Her depiction of this week is as true to life as an executive’s existential template. She is customising this template for the strongest suit by embracing the supportive ALU network of like professionals.
Returning from a three-weeks away from the office on official business, Bame settled into her typical work week with a ‘catch-up’ to-do list slated to reconcile her old and new projects. Her Monday morning started with her “me” time at 5:30 a.m. As a habit, she devotes thirty minutes to spiritual connection before the day comes alive in her household. Then, she gets her daughters ready for school before heading to the office. In the office, Bame tries to fit her MBA coursework into the normal workday by looking at Leadership Lab (LL) during her lunch hour. She also endeavours to end her days with at least an hour of coursework after family time with her daughters.
Bame’s priority for this week is a two circle Venn diagram bearing report writing from her last trade mission to Beijing in August, and event planning for the Global Expo Botswana to be held in October. Outside these circles, she approves projects for her team members to proceed with their initiatives and responsibilities, and holds meetings with the rest of the executive for work updates, strategy and review.
[On Roadblocks], Bame shares her scare in Term 3, where she struggled with her coursework. Now, she thrives on the consciousness that there’s a whole group of about sixty people who are all rooting for her success, ever willing to encourage and remind her of her whys. She says, “one of my Pan-African Group (PAG) members became my self-designated accountability partner. It is so inspiring to have such access to the most supportive people when the going gets tough.”
[On motivation], Bame affirms that her first home-learning teammates at ALUSB have become her sisters even though they are technically no longer team members: “I run to them when I have issues, when I need encouragement and motivation.” She adds that making it through peculiar hitches from her last term taught her to reach out and utilise the support within her ALUSB community.
“[A perfect week] is one the stars align and I am able to submit my ALUSB coursework on time, spend time with my daughters and stay on top of my deliverables at the office. I’m all about simplicity, finding peace and staying on track.”
Concluding with her deepest sense of connection to the ALUSB mission, she says, “I always get a sense of the whys at the intensives and that’s why I look forward to every single intensive. It motivates me for the coming term. During the term, reaching out to faculty has assisted sometimes. Also, my kids just won’t let me fail, they always remind me that I got deadlines because they are so looking forward to graduation next year.”
Bame anticipates two main takeaways by the end of her ALUSB journey: self-awareness and personal growth. She is confident that by the time she graduates, she would have had twenty months of introspection and applied emotional intelligence, a life-long access to a great pan-African network, as well as an undaunted assurance of her ability to create an impactful, difference-making enterprise on the African continent.”
“I’ve been so hard on myself this entire journey but through the process, I have become fully alive to my zeal to make a difference in the lives of people. At ALUSB, I have been given the tools to bring these things to life, and I have the biggest network of people supporting me along the way.”
Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Arowolo ‘18, a wife, a mother of two, and a Nigerian entrepreneur, with plans to expand beyond Nigeria. As Toyin enters the home stretch of the ALUSB MBA, she shares a message for women considering this programme, and talks about the moral responsibility that lays ahead now for the founding class of 2018, as they prepare to graduate.
“The core of this programme has been leadership, but it’s also been ethical leadership – and more than anything, that’s what Africa needs.”
Here are some highlights from Toyin’s Interview:
On striving for work-life balance during the programme:
“I look back and wonder where I had the time to do this. I have two girls, I.am a wife, I work a nine-five job which is more like an eight to eight. I am active in church, started a business midway through business school.
What advice would you have for people considering this programme?
“In the midst of all this, I am happy to say that I have kept up with school work, it hasn’t been easy….it’s been a beautiful experience…in two years as pre-ALUSB and post ALUSB – there’s definitely been a change.”
On what lies ahead beyond graduation:
“As founders, we have an even bigger responsibility to go out, do good and be the kind of leaders people look up to. One of the things that leadership does is inspire us and as the first class, the founders class, I think that we have the moral responsibility (to do so), which is even greater.”
“I think that all eyes are on us, and me as an individual as a member of the class….the sky’s the limit of all of us and we have so much work to do”.
Watch Toyin’s full video interview here: