Each year, large groups of students enroll in MBA programs aimed at launching their careers in banking – around 40% in 2022 according to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).
But for Ifelade Ayodele, enrolling in an MBA was a chance to move on from his role in finance at Standard Bank, Africa’s largest financial company, into an exciting new career path.
Ifelade swapped his home in Nigeria for France, where he enrolled in the top-ranked MBA program at HEC Paris. After graduating from the program in 2022, he embarked on a new career at Accenture, a leading consulting firm and Fortune 500 company.
From Standard Bank to MBA
An undergraduate physics student who spent a year teaching as part of a military program in Nigeria, Ifelade spent four years working at Standard Bank where he rose to a senior analyst position and specializes in digital risk and business.
Throughout his time at Standard Bank, Ifelade’s work focused on several countries in Africa. But eventually, he began to consider an MBA program, as he wanted to see beyond the region’s borders for the first time.
“I wanted to compare what I know with the rest of the world and see what is happening outside of Africa, because Standard Bank had already given me this African view,” he explains.
This has made studying abroad a top priority. But with the cost of an MBA program often exceeding $100,000 in the US, Europe has become Ifelade’s preferred option.
He was drawn to HEC Paris by the school’s impressive reputation, as well as its strong track record of helping students launch successful careers, and a network of renowned professors and alumni.
“For me, everything brought me back to HEC,” he adds.
As a top-tier school, studying at HEC Paris also meant that Ifelade was eligible for the TY Danjuma MBA scholarship, which helps up to eight African students each year land a place in one of the top 10 degree programs. MBA to the world.
Combined with a scholarship offered by HEC, the TY Danjuma award made studying the program affordable, he says.
Studying for the HEC Paris MBA
What is life like in a top MBA program? For Ifelade, studying at HEC Paris meant having a wealth of new experiences, while gaining exposure to a wide range of industries and functions.
“The program opened me up to a much bigger world than I had ever known,” he says.
With the majority of his experience limited to finance, the MBA core curriculum has helped Ifelade develop business acumen with modules covering key fundamentals like accounting, strategy, marketing and economics.
“It gave me exposure to all these different industries: someone in one class would have worked in a specific industry, and then in the next class we would solve a case from another industry,” he says.
During modules focusing on ethics, sustainability and innovation, Ifelade also learned the value of looking beyond profits and focusing on different stakeholders when making business decisions.
“The MBA introduces you to this deep sense of responsibility in everything you do,” he explains. “While we’re here to make money and deliver on commercial terms, we’re also looking at the impact of what you do on Earth.”
The HEC Paris MBA program emphasizes the development of key skills that can help you succeed in the workplace. For Ifelade, the skills sessions helped him think strategically while improving his communication and listening skills.
“It sounds very basic, but I’ve learned to listen to people. It’s not just about what someone says or writes, it’s about reading the piece and knowing how they’re trying to communicate. I think that’s really a key skill,” he says.
These skills proved invaluable in launching Ifelade’s new career path.
A new consulting career at Accenture
Ifelade spent the last six months of the HEC Paris MBA working part-time at a venture capital fund focused on African creatives, where he led a small team of analysts. There he was able to channel much of the learning he had done on the MBA.
“I got feedback that I was doing my job very well and it was all thanks to a corporate finance course I was studying,” he explains.
He left the fund when he graduated in early 2022, before landing a role with Accenture soon after. Having HEC Paris on his CV gave him an advantage when recruiting, he says.
“Even during the interviews one of the interviewers was really keen to know what I had studied in school, you could see the emphasis.”
Today, Ifelade spends her days working on various consulting projects for her clients, who are mainly financial institutions. The projects aim to improve their offerings, the efficiency of processes ranging from technological systems to internal structures, in alignment with the defined strategic objectives and the desired results.
“I talk to people on multiple teams who are trying to figure out why they’re doing what they’re doing, questioning the status quo is the norm,” he explains.
“We try to improve the client’s offer, its infrastructure, to support its growth and capture more value in the market.”
Reflecting on how the MBA has helped prepare him for his new career, Ifelade feels he is better at listening to client needs and now able to manage multiple interests simultaneously – skills he is further developing in the role.
“I’m also very aware of why I do everything I do,” he adds. “It’s a daily reminder to challenge yourself.”