Nelly Okafor (EMBA '22) on the AUBG Executive MBA program and the Skills It Helped Her Acquire
Nelly Okafor is the Acting Manager Operations at Whitepage International Concept Ltd. (WPIC), a company that provides a wide range of sustainability-based services to clients in the oil and gas industry. Coming from Nigeria, she was looking for MBA programs in Europe as the degree would help her step up her career. She eventually chose AUBG's EMBA. At the end of her educational journey, Nelly spoke to us about its highlights.
“I graduated [with a bachelor's degree in business administration] in 2007 and I have been working since then,” she said. “I always wanted to work in the gas and oil industry. But before i got into the industry, I worked in different spheres, from the banking sector to the insurance and construction sectors [until 2013 when I finally joined WPIC].”
The on-ground experience
Nelly applied for the EMBA program with the plan to take a study leave from work for a year as she had not taken any vacation from work for a very long time. However, the COVID pandemic measures changed her plans – she stayed in Nigeria to work and study remotely. She was happy to still have the chance to experience the on-ground classes during her last semester – Spring ‘22. Even though the classes were still demanding and required time and efforts, Nelly realized that she had enough time so she continued to work remotely even from Bulgaria.
“The initial plan was to be on holiday,” Nelly said. “But then I couldn’t bear staying home and doing nothing for hours, that was driving me crazy. So I made a call and said 'OK, let's pretend I never applied for the work leave.' On-ground has been different, of course much better. Initially my intention was not to do the program online at all but unfortunately COVID forced everyone to be online. Now I am able to connect with my colleagues and my professors. Obviously, I am also able to contribute better in class because online can be tricky: 'Oh can you hear me? Did you hear what I said?' Apart from that, the social aspect – going for lunch with my classmates and professors, meeting officials, I would say it is a much better experience. It is nice to talk to people face-to-face. Especially during our presentations, it is better doing it on-ground than hybrid.”
The practical side of the EMBA
"There are many benefits when it comes to studying in this EMBA program. It improved my skills as an all-round manager, helped improve my approach to professional situations, critical thinking, people and resource management, etc. It improved my toolbox of quantitative and soft skills in business and management, and also broadened my knowledge as a manager and entrepreneur, especially in this global industry.
In addition to having the opportunity for career advancement, one of the reasons many take up this program is to become more entrepreneurial - to acquire skills which will help build their own businesses. This aspect applies a lot to me as I have plans to build another business in the near future."
In the end of the day, you are still a student.
Nelly makes sure to get the best out of every class and initiates discussions with the professors. She says that they are always there to guide the students. In addition to that, the diverse mix of experts in the classroom serves as a benefit to everyone.
“It is actually a student life! Assignments, presentations, readings ... Apart from the knowledge that we are acquiring, I think it is necessary to also go through that challenge. Because at the end of the day, if tomorrow I decide to have a business, time management will be very important. So, it is an important tool to learn. The same applies to the personal life.
This program is different from a bachelor where you want to get A's, learn the course materials, and pass your exams. We are there to learn from our colleagues’ experiences. To me, this is much more important. Being an entrepreneur, connections matter. And, also, the kind of people you know, the kind of lessons you learn not only from your [own experience]. For me, personally, it's been very much worth it because we have people in the program from the hospitality sector, people from construction and other spheres. And they are all in a high position in their careers. We come together, share experiences, make connections and who knows -- maybe do business together eventually?”
The most challenging part...
Nelly says that the beginning of the EMBA was extremely challenging, especially the first semester before everyone got used to having the classes and assignments as part of their daily schedule.
“Apart from the work schedule, I think just generally being thrown into [the classroom] is challenging. I haven't been to school for a long time. It was a bit overwhelming at the start and in the first semester we had like a million assignments. Everyone had a tight working schedule, which sometimes clashed with our group meetings; It got better with time as we got used to each other, and we got more accommodating with one-another's needs as time passed. I wouldn't say it got easier but maybe my planning and time management improved."
The most rewarding part…
"The foundation of business knowledge, experience and skills learned, the new friends and the professors. I don’t know how to stress it enough. The professors are actually really good. There's a number of them that inspire me so much. And the fact that they are not all from the same country is really nice. The professors come from all over the world- the UK, the U.S., Austria, Portugal, etc. It was a collection of various experiences, intellects and cultures from both the students and professors which makes the program even richer than it already is; so that really excites me, that part I really love."
Graduation is coming up soon...
Nelly will first make sure to enjoy a good rest before immersing again in the professional life.
“First of all, I am going to travel to Greece and Istanbul, but after that come back to real life, my job and hopefully get to the position I want and work toward my personal business: grow in my professional life, grow in my personal life.”