I have always been interested in learning how things work. Take, for example, my first time seeing a Commodore computer, when I was around nine years old. That set me on a trajectory from Nigeria to the U.S. for my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering. The same curiosity later spurred me to pursue an MBA: I had barely started in a new engineering job at Maker Communications — a company that had fewer than 100 employees — when it was bought for roughly $1 billion at the height of the dot-com frenzy. I decided I needed a much better understanding of what was going on in the business world. I started watching MSNBC more and reading the Wall Street Journal to learn about how deals are done. That was when I realized that as much as I loved engineering, I had both the interest and the potential to succeed in other fields.
Perhaps in line with my broader outlook on learning, I chose to focus on finance and accounting at Wharton. They were areas that, with my technology background, I knew very little about and from which I felt I could gain the most knowledge. In addition to formal business theory, Wharton taught me important negotiation skills that have been critical for closing deals in my banking career since. A summer internship at the now-defunct Lehman Brothers and my role co-chairing the annual Wharton Finance Conference helped me land a position with Houlihan Lokey following graduation. After gaining a few years of deal experience at the firm, and with the foundations I had picked up at Wharton, I decided it was time to make another leap.
I’ve now been back in Nigeria for more than a decade — a move I had been planning for quite some time, to be closer to family. In the years since, I’ve taken on a diverse range of banking opportunities in this country and, briefly, in South Africa. Three years ago, I started a new role at FCMB Group Plc, where as an executive director and a board member, I am part of the executive team that helps set direction for the group’s many financial-services subsidiaries. In this role, I am constantly challenged to harness the inherent synergies that the business offers to clients and customers. It’s a role that draws on all my experiences — from my engineering background to my previous banking jobs to my time at Wharton. As a lifelong student, I find it humbling to share my knowledge in service of leading our company forward. It’s made the many twists and turns in my path to this moment all the more rewarding.
Published as “Full Circle” in the Fall/Winter 2022 issue of Wharton Magazine.