In this Poets and Quants Interview. You can learn more about Fikayomi Agbola, her MBA journey and what motivates her
Hometown: Osun State Nigeria
Fun Fact About Yourself: I am dexterous and skilled at doing things with my hands. I developed a staunch interest in fashion designing, among other things. I started a small women-only fashion enterprise as an undergrad and made some outfits for two reputable TV shows on AfricaMagic at the time.
Undergraduate School and Major: B.Sc. Economics from University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Strategy Consultant, BayRoyal International (Ghana)
Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Alliance Manchester’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school? Why was it so important to you? The major push for me is the practicality of the programme. AMBS MBA has three live consultancy projects: Not-for-Profit, Commercial Business, and International Business Projects. I had read about them, and I loved that they are not mere simulations of business cases. Rather, we get to work with real life clients with real business issues. Despite having worked in client-facing roles, I felt like I was getting too comfortable, and I love a good challenge. Happy to say that I was right! The projects so far have been challenging, yet exciting. I can see myself growing tremendously as a consultant, project manager, team member/lead, and relationship manager. I have come to see that learning these skills in a corporate world and in an educational institution differs. The latter, contrary to what you may expect, is onerous and probably more effective.
Another major push for me was the opportunity that came with the “Masood Enterprise”, which is a part of the university that focuses on stimulating entrepreneurship. I have great passion for entrepreneurship, so I was excited at the possibility of leveraging the bright minds at Masood to develop my business ideas and possibly even generate new business ideas.
What club or extracurricular activity excites you most at this school? Honestly, there have been a lot of constraints to extracurricular activities due to COVID-19. However, I am a member of the Consulting, Banking, and Finance clubs and those have been fun so far. I particularly like the social networking events with various alumni. I am looking forward to the “B-School Finance Mixer” coming up soon where we get to meet with like minds from other business schools! We have had a couple of fun picnics and have many more activities lined up!
I loved the first edition of “Manchester Matters”, an initiative by the council where any interested colleague gets to speak about anything they are passionate about. The first edition had four speakers. At the end of it, I was so close to booking my ticket to visit Saudi Arabia thanks to one of the speakers!
What makes Manchester such a great place to earn an MBA? How have you taken advantage of Manchester to further your business education? Personally, I was not initially keen about Manchester city. However, I was keen on a well-ranked international institution. After getting admitted into Manchester, I then read more about the city since I only knew it as the home for football. Manchester is thriving as a leading European business destination and the most successful UK city for attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) after London. I especially fell in love with the fashion revolution and Manchester’s roots as the centre of the UK’s cotton industry. It felt like a perfect match for me. I am looking forward to exploring more of the city!
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far? I remember leaving my first 9-5 job after university with the hope of learning more about the fashion industry so that I could start my own company. I got employed at a fashion house as a supervisor and soon became the acting CEO in less than 2 months. The key stakeholders of the business entrusted the Nigerian office to me while they embarked on an expansion plan abroad. I was able to move the business from a break-even to a profit-making position. I introduced new initiatives and was promoted twice in one year. This experience was ground-breaking for me because I thought I was going into that industry with only my zeal and little industry knowledge. I am forever grateful to have been given the opportunity to make that turnaround.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? My decision to have a master’s degree was unwavering. After working for five years, it felt like the right time to get one. I, however, needed a degree that would expose me to the nitty gritty of business as I will someday become an international business owner. Why not pursue an MBA? I have at different times tried to pivot into business, but would hold back for one reason or another. I believe that an MBA will equip me with the necessary tools and experience to be an exceptional strategic decision-maker. Most importantly, it will help me be a seasoned and confident professional who can compete in the global market.
The MBA is some sort of therapy session. While I know what my goals are, it is not clear how to get there and the MBA is helping to map out a clearer path. Also, I have easier access to superb advice from the university’s post-career services and willing mentors. Now imagine rubbing minds with about 105 classmates! It is almost impossible to have easy access to such myriad of people with incredibly diverse backgrounds and cultures, bringing different perspectives to how you think! That close network is crucial for developing great ideas.
I believe that at the end of the MBA, I will definitely move up the career ladder and grow to become a business executive solving problems with smart solutions.
What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? Wearing matching outfits was a norm in Nigerian homes. We called it “and co”. I was never satisfied with how my mom’s tailor never brought the styles I wanted to life correctly. I was 16 at the time and one morning, I decided to put my hands to use. Luckily for me, my mum had a couple of nearly abandoned sewing machines she used when we were much younger. I would cut her fabrics up and put them together until one day she encouraged me to try to learn the technique better. So, I did.
It was at this point I discovered my interest in business and my persistent nature. If something was not right, rather than complain so much, I try my best to fix it. I would fix people’s hairs, my parent’s generators (maybe I just got lucky with this because I now have no idea what I used to do but I became the engineer of the house back then). I had a drive that I believe has stayed with me through my personal and professional career. And here I am at the business school!