Real Humans of The Wharton School’s MBA Class of 2021
Ayodele Ogunnusi, Wharton’s MBA Class of 2021
Age: 31 years
Hometown: Ogun State, Nigeria
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Babcock University, Ilisan-Remo, Ogun State
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 9.5 years – PwC Nigeria (Consulting), Structured Energy Systems (FinTech), Transport Services Limited and Kobo360 (Logistics) and epipa.ng (Consulting).
Why business school? Why now?
I was raised by parents who ran multiple ventures; thus, I developed an affinity for nurturing Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) at an early age. In Africa today, these SMEs account for ~60% of employers and a growing portion of the GDP. Consequently, SMEs are undoubtedly the lifeblood of the African economy. Sadly, infrastructure challenges, lack of access to affordable capital and business solutions, among other obstacles, continue to impede their growth.
Recent reports state that of every five incorporated SMEs in Nigeria, only one manages to make it through the fifth year of business. Armed with this knowledge, I feel there is an urgent need for continuous enterprise development through business assistance services to key stakeholders in these SMEs by individuals who understand how to do business in emerging markets.
While my previous professional and family business experiences have equipped me with deep technical skills and business operations knowledge, I recognize that I require global-focused functional and management skills to propel many of these African SMEs to greater heights. With the reforms sweeping the SME space, I strongly believe that an MBA at this time will provide the crucial platform I require to make the necessary impact.
Why Wharton? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Three key things that played into my decision making around which MBA program I wanted to attend and ultimately led me to applying to and choosing to attend Wharton. These three factors were cultural fit, flexible and rigorous academic learning and geographical location.
Culture fit: As an international applicant, I was blown away by how valued and respected I felt throughout my application to business school. From conversations with current students, alumni and members of the MBA Admissions Office, I could tell that the climate at Wharton would promote effective learning and genuine communication.
The African American MBA Association (AAMBA) and Wharton African Students Association (WASA) communities were particularly an excellent resource in providing feedback on my essays, interview, and overall application strategy. By the application deadline, I was itching to be a part of the Wharton community.
Flexible and rigorous academic learning: Besides a rigorous academic program, I consider Wharton’s flexible MBA program that allows me to tailor my learning experience to address my knowledge gaps on contemporary issues and global best practices in decision making particularly appealing. I am also excited at the prospect of choosing from a wide range of 19 majors.
Geographical location: With Philadelphia being a train ride away from my Nigerian network in Washington, D.C., and still home to several art institutions and restaurants that serve fantastic continental and local cuisines, I am convinced that spending my next two years at Wharton would be truly memorable.
What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2021?
Growing up and spending most of my professional career in the challenging business environment that is Nigeria has given me insight as to how the emerging markets are evolving. As such, I look forward to sharing some of these unique experiences in many of the classroom discussions.
My cohort will be fascinated to hear about how, with a language barrier, my team and I were able to identify and aggregate seasoned fleet owners in Northern Nigeria, who were not registered members of the trucking union and onboard these fleet owners who had gotten accustomed to “doing business their own way” on an e-logistics trucking platform.
Till today, I am amazed at how many of these fleet owners were able to grow their businesses with limited access to affordable capital, uneducated employees and completely manual processes (managing their financial records in hard copy notebooks). With unique experiences such as this, I look forward to bringing diversity of thought and skill to the Class of 2021.
Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I have visited 22 of the 36 states in Nigeria and tried several of the local cuisines. Always happy to compare recipes over coffee.
Post-MBA career interests?
Post MBA, I hope to spend time at a multi-asset class venture that specializes in principal investing and lending to middle-market sized companies. After that, I plan to return to establish Africa’s leading indigenous SME advisory firm that provides small/medium businesses with access to capital, affordable business solutions and insights tailored to the economics of Africa to maximize their potential and drive economic growth across the continent.
Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Go beyond the school’s website. Your discussions with current students and alums gives better insight into the school culture and values which would help validate fit.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
Attend more webinars, welcome receptions, coffee chats and international school events to strengthen your network ahead of preterm.
–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Is it okay to say the GMAT 😊? Having an amazing support system of friends and family led by a Class of 2019 MBAs.
What is your initial impression of Wharton’s students/culture/community?
The Admissions teams do an amazing job of selecting an accomplished, diverse and vibrant pool of students. As such, there is an infectious energy at Wharton and in the broader Penn Graduate School community (PhD program, Law School, Medical school, Executive Education programs).
One thing you have learned about Wharton that has surprised you?
The level of involvement and engagement of students in the execution, admissions and general administration of the program.
Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Finding the right balance between academics and experiencing the other amazing non-academic opportunities at Wharton.
Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Taking stretch experiences, going on memorable trips and building lifelong friendships.