2023 MBA To Watch: Tobi Olatunde Sonubi, Washington University (Olin)

“I’m excited to use curiosity and integrative thinking to unlock hidden values in business and personal relationships.”

Hometown: Ketu-Alapere in Lagos, Nigeria

Fun fact about yourself: I cook the tastiest spicy goat in the Olin MBA program. 

Undergraduate School and Degree: Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife Osun state Nigeria, BSc. International Relations

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Standard Bank Group Nigeria (Stanbic IBTC Bank)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Dell Technologies, Austin

Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey & Company, Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:  

  • Olin Africa Business Club, Vice President of Technology
  • Sling Health STL (WashU’s incubator hub), Chief Financial Officer
  • Peer Case Coach,Olin Student Consulting Club
  • Olin MBA Student Ambassador,
  • Robert L. and Carolyn M. Harmon Endowment Scholar

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My team placed third at the 2021 Howard Case Competition. This was my first case competition, which focused on addressing issues of diversity, equality and access in the workplace.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of helping to design the Control and Business System at a Challenger Bank in Nigeria. This system essentially prevents losses and ensures compliance in a challenging business terrain. Our nimble and agile banking design currently supports millions of customers and helped the bank grow exponentially in the last seven years (over 400 % in the first two years). This model has since been a blueprint for new banks and financial institutions in Nigeria.

Why did you choose this business school? I was keen on learning about business in the US and abroad through immersive experiences, and I wanted a case-led approach to teaching. The WashU Olin MBA does more than help me understand theoretical businesses. The program places me at the forefront of business decisions for organization’s real-life problems. The small cohort makes learning accessible to student practicums and engagement with multi-billion-dollar ventures. By working with small businesses in the US and abroad, I can see first-hand growth. This, for me, cannot be replicated easily elsewhere.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior Ashley Hardin teaches an abstract course, Politics and Power in Organization, which can be very difficult. But Professor Hardin does a great job and brings three unique things to this course.

1. Her style of teaching keeps every student engaged over the duration of the course.

2. The cases and course content are based on power-play scenarios that are familiar to students.

3. Role-playing during classes makes it impossible to forget the class and the content.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course was Leading Change taught by  Erik Dane, associate professor of organizational behavior. The course has helped me be a better business advocate by helping me understand the many variables of the change process, my biases as a change agent, and the needs for change. It starts with the idea of an individual and culminates in a C-suite’s drive and buy-in into the change process. I am excited about restarting my post-MBA career as a consultant and will draw on my learnings from this class.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The Olin Africa Business Forum was my favorite event at Olin. It’s an annual event, usually in the spring semester, that showcases the many positives about Africa. The annual program reflects the conscious effort by the WashU Olin MBA for diversity and community. It speaks volumes of power to create and harness interest for positive influence, especially about Africa and within the African-American community.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why?  The pandemic robbed my colleagues and I of the opportunity to have many initial in-class and in-person interactions. Seeing how much I have enjoyed the current semester and in-person classes, I would have asked to be in the class earlier and show up in person more often.

What is the biggest myth about your school? “WashU is in Saint Louis, which is boring, dangerous and very unsafe.”

I have found St. Louis, especially the University City that borders the WashU campus, to be relatively safe and lively. Several sides of the city are fun places to be with friends or alone.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? I love my late summer treks in Forest Park, the wonderful French influence on Park Avenue in Tower Grove, the amazing Christmas traditions in Old Saint Charles, and the frenetic energy at Busch stadium during Cardinals baseball games.

What surprised you the most about business school? Every building within Olin and WashU was designed to tell a story. I love that the buildings’ names have stories of people and the fantastic work they have done for humanity.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Several things aided my understanding of the university, its journey and the business environment where it operates.

1. I networked with former and current students and members of the university recruitment team to learn about WashU and the Olin MBA.

2. I sought advice from non-Olin MBAs. I prepared for the GRE and tried my best to be the best version of myself

3. I am a Christian and believe in God, so I also prayed and hoped for the best.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Washington University’s Olin MBA class of 2023  class is inspiring, with many leaders and exciting talents. I have been fortunate to have been impacted by many colleagues, but I will mention two individuals I admire for their personal and individual character. Susan Luo is a very dedicated classmate who, in the last 18 months, has combined her love for education with her role as a mother. Susan stands tall in her dedication to study and interest in people, especially because she makes a conscious effort to help other students (immigrants like her) settle into the program. She has a strong interest in solving problems and would not shy away from taking on difficult conversations to unlock values in tactical implementations of businesses. She combines a passion for making the management of complex systems easy and transformative. Susan effortlessly plans her schedule each semester and turns her assignment in as soon as possible. I admire her business skills and dedication, and I have no doubts about her being successful post-MBA.

Similarly, Stephanie Goss AUD is admirable. She is co-president of the Olin Finance Club,  Consortium co-liaison and an Olin student ambassador. She is a trained communications doctor passionate about creating equal access and mentorship for the girl child. Stephanie’s quest for knowledge and willingness to exchange ideas always motivates me. She embodies grit, hard work, diversity of thought and friendliness, which is common to the WashU Olin MBA program.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? –  Over the next phase of my career and the rest of my professional life, I have two items that are tops on my aspiration list.

1. Enable systems and structures that make governance more transparent, accountable and democratic, especially for public corporations and public-private partnerships worldwide.

2. Redefine financial systems and social infrastructure to empower historically disadvantaged people around the world in payment and collections systems to create more access to credit and financial resources. This would change the narrative around wealth accumulation or transform the quality of life for people around the world.

What made Tobi such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Each year as a student affairs administrator, I welcome new graduate students to Washington University. The variety of interests, personalities, talents and programming is vast. The process of connecting with others is daunting for many and becomes a blur of new faces and challenges. It is often difficult for an administrator to engage with so many people and remember each new student. This, however, was never the instance with Tobi Sonubi!

Tobi has a smile that illuminates the room. He is curious, interested, collaborative and competitive. Early on, I learned that he enjoys gaming in the little spare time he can find. This was an ironic discovery as he exemplifies his gaming spirit in all that he does, in and out of Olin.

Tobi participates actively in student extracurricular activities and aids staff when in need. He is a generous friend and peer both in and out of the classroom. Tobi has negotiated a heavy balance of responsibilities to work, campus experiences and affinity organizations while maintaining an exemplary record in his academic program.

Like many of our international students, Tobi left family and friends to commit to a two-year program in a foreign country. This is a hardship for Tobi, yet he meets this challenge as he does everything in life with a smile and a feisty, competitive spirit. Tobi sees the glass of life as half full and never half empty. I, along with many at Olin, will dearly miss Tobi Sonubi when he graduates on May 15, 2023. I am also very excited to witness Tobi as he navigates the next chapter of his life because I know it will include the same grace and generous nature that he shared with Olin.”

Kim McCabe MBA
Student Affairs Coordinator/PMBA Advisor

“Tobi was a vibrant part of the fabric of my class. I strive to have students not only learn how financial theory meets practice but also understand how practice can be unpredictable and have unintended consequences. Tobi mastered the topics and brought a unique perspective, given his experience growing up in Africa. He not only understood financial markets, but he also knew how they impacted people and embraced the lessons he might take back home to harness the best of markets.”

Richard Ryffel
Professor of Finance Practice (Part-time)

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