Featured Member: Tolu AbdulHakeem Owodunni

Interview conducted by Laila Mahran

Our featured member this week is Tolu Owodunni. Tolu grew up in  Lagos, Nigeria, and at 18 years old moved to the U.S for to college. During undergrad he made a shift and moved to finance – Sales and Trading to be exact – and secured a job after college in London at Lehman Brothers/Nomura Securities for three years. Following that, Tolu attended business school at the University of Pennsylvania.

Background

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How did you get involved in marketing and what was your biggest challenge?

I moved back to the states for business school, and I got an MBA in Philly at Wharton – majoring in finance. After that I moved to NY and worked in finance for a year. However, over time, I did some soul searching and decided to give marketing a go. Marketing had been the thing I liked, and did on the side – but I wanted to see if I could combine what I liked and my career. Alhamdulillah I have been able to. Now I work in marketing and advertising at IPG Mediabrands. My biggest challenge was figuring out how to make that move from finance to advertising. I don’t know if it was necessarily hard but when I look back I feel that I was blessed to find people who wanted to help me.

What advice do you have for someone looking to get into marketing that doesn’t have a marketing background?

It sounds cliche but first things first nothing happens without God. Guidance is important. Pray that God shows you the right opportunities and work hard. When doors open then you know you’re doing the right thing. You (also) need to leverage your network as much as you can. When you can, you should be up front and say to people, friends, at events, dinners, etc something like “hey xyz, long time no see! Yes I’m  doing well but i’m looking into moving from finance into marketing. Do you have any leads?” Basically you don’t know where something will come from – the  person you spoke to a month ago might text you today and say “hey I know you were looking for a job in marketing, I heard of xyz opportunity.”

Leveraging groups like Muppies, using LinkedIn also helps. Also, remember  It’s not only about finding someone who can help you but also fostering a supportive community – so when people need your help you also help them out. Even when you do get the job you should continue to foster those relationships.

If there was one thing you could change and do it all over what would it be?

I wouldn’t change anything – the reason being that I think that situations that are not perfect are necessary because we learn from them. So I guess whilst we all have regrets, I try to look at things differently. Everything that has happened that wasn’t perfect we shouldn’t regret – as it gives us an opportunity to learn.

Have you had mentors along the way?

Mentorship is something I think I could do a better job at. Something I’m working on now is finding more mentors. My mentors have been my family members – my older brother and older cousin. I definitely do feel that I can work on getting more mentors and if any Muppies have suggestions I’m open to them. I think it’s important to have mentors.

What would you say is your biggest success up until now?

These are hard questions by the way! What I feel to be my biggest success right now is helping start a nonprofit called Young African MBAs. I went to Wharton (University of Pennsylvania) for business school and I graduated in 2012 with a few other guys – we came up with this idea where to start a network of MBA alumni where people who are interested in business in Africa could network and communicate with each other. We cater to any and all professionals who are in business in Africa.

We’ve grown – we started with 4 people in 2012, now we have 20 people in our management team, and about 2,500 members. We have an MBA mentorship program, host events and help connect employers to prospective employees. We have had events all over the US, in the UK and also on the African continent in Lagos, Nigeria, Nairobi, Kenya, and Johannesburg, South Africa in April of this year. In these events, we have speakers come talk about their entrepreneurial stories, and how they got to where they are today.

How did you get involved in Muppies?

I’ve known about Muppies for about 4 years but I’ve only recently joined. I heard there was an application process and I thought “I’m not gonna apply to this are you kidding me?” I didn’t apply for like 3 years. When I was looking to make my career move I realized that a lot of people who were helping me were a part of Muppies. I think I realized that I may have made a mistake in not joining Muppies. It seemed that a lot of people I held in high regard were a part of Muppies so I decided to apply.

Final thoughts?

Alright – I’m gonna drop some Tupac from Ghetto Gospel:

“If I upset you, don’t stress never forget that God hasn’t finished with me yet”

I’m a work in progress, and we can all be better – There’s no one out there who’s a finished version of themselves as long as we’re alive let’s keep moving in the right direction. Peace out fam!

 

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