NOT ONLY DID TUNDE AKINYEMI DECIDE TO PROGRESS FURTHER IN HIS OWN CAREER, HE WAS ALSO DETERMINED TO ELEVATE OTHERS
This blog post profiles a Morning/Evening MBA student and successful finance professional who looked further in two ways. Holder of a CFA, he decided that an MBA would open up additional opportunities for him. At Rotman, he didn't see many colleagues who resembled him, causing him to question whether he really belonged . So, busy though he was, Tunde Akinyemi decided now was the time to also make it easier for future Black leaders.
- Name: Tunde Akinyemi
- Year of graduation: 2022
- Morning Lark or Night Owl? Morning MBA
- Current position and employer: Analyst/Portfolio Management, BentallGreenOak
- Previous position and employer: Analyst, Acquisitions & Asset Management, Redev Properties
Take us back to where you were in your career, and what your thoughts were, when you started to consider an MBA?
It has always been a goal of mine to get my MBA, so I always had it at the back of my mind. However, once I made a career switch within the investment management space to focus on alternative assets, specifically real estate I knew the time was right to finally embark on my MBA journey. I had also recently completed my CFA designation so I knew I had the technical skills to succeed but I felt there was a gap in my leadership / management development that would be closed by getting an MBA from a prestigious institution like Rotman.
What are the advantages of having both and MBA and a CFA?
I get this question a lot and while a lot of people debate getting a CFA or an MBA, I find that having both is getting the best of both worlds and helps set you up for long-term career success in finance. Having both demonstrates that you have solid technical and analytical skills across a plethora of topics, especially economics, wealth management and portfolio management in addition to a sound knowledge of ethical standards to be followed in the industry. The best way to describe the difference is that an MBA covers the width of finance while a CFA covers the depth of finance.
I had recently completed my CFA designation so I knew I had the technical skills ... but I felt there was a gap in my leadership / management development. Having both [a CFA and an MBA] ... helps set you up for long-term career success in finance ... and demonstrates that you have solid technical and analytical skills across a plethora of topics.
What were your criteria for a school, and why did you choose Rotman?
Given the financial costs associated with an MBA, one of my major criteria was a school that offered options to professionals who weren’t willing to quit their jobs and Rotman did that through the Morning/Evening MBA program.
Location was also a huge factor when I looked through the different options available. Toronto, being the second largest financial centre in North America after New York, meant attending a business school in the city would make it easier to connect with potential employers and meet with local alumni for coffee chats.
Lastly, it had to be a renowned institution with national brand equity and a broad network of alumni. This was very important to me as I believe accessing Rotman's prestigious community is aiding, and will continue to aid, my career growth in addition to the quality of the education I will be receiving from some of the best professors in the world.
These were the reasons that Rotman stood out to me.
How did you decide between Morning and Evening?
This was an easy choice for me! I work long hours, so morning classes fit my schedule better than evening classes did. I also have this belief that I learn better in the morning, but I haven’t been able to prove it to anyone yet.
When you were applying, did you experience anything as a barrier? Perhaps a psychological barrier such as uncertainty, or a more concrete barrier such as the GMAT? How did you overcome these barriers?
I did not experience any concrete barrier while applying for the MBA as I was lucky enough to be guided through the whole process by Rummy, who at the time was an Assistant Director of Recruitment and Admissions for the Professional MBA programs. The experience I had with Rummy was incredible and it made me feel like Rotman was the business school for me.
However, in terms of psychological barriers, I unfortunately had some hurdles to jump. While I knew I had what it takes to succeed at Rotman, I couldn’t help but notice that very few Black students were in the MBA program and this wasn’t just a Rotman problem, it was something I noticed in all top Canadian business schools.
I spoke to current and past Black students to ask what their experience was, and I got great feedback about the program. However, I had to fight the voice in my head that said I didn’t belong because not a lot of people who look like me were members of the Rotman community.
I overcame this barrier by changing how I thought about the issue at hand, I figured getting into the program and doing well in it could be a signal for others who look like me that they are welcome in the Rotman community and that if I can do it, they can as well.
I had to fight the voice in my head that said I didn’t belong because not a lot of people who look like me were members of the Rotman community ... getting into the program and doing well in it could be a signal for others who look like me that they are welcome in the Rotman community and that if I can do it, they can as well.
I also figured it would be easier and more effective to make change from within, which is why a couple of students and I co-founded a student club, SABR (Students against Anti-Black Racism) to ensure we help create an environment at Rotman where we can all be our authentic selves and thrive.
We are also working on the Black Advancement Scholarship which will help alleviate some of the financial costs faced by the Black community when thinking about a Rotman MBA and in turn increase the representation of Black students in the program.
A couple of students and I co-founded a student club to ensure we help create an environment at Rotman where we can all be our authentic selves and thrive. We are also working on [a scholarship] which will help alleviate some of the financial costs faced by the Black community ... and in turn increase the representation of Black students.
So far, what’s most rewarding to you in the program?
The most rewarding aspect of the program for me so far has been the incredible people I have been able to meet through classes and the different activities I have participated in. I learn from my peers just as much as I learn from my professors and most of all, I have gained a support system of both faculty and students that I can rely on for any situation.
What’s most challenging and how are you overcoming this challenge?
The most challenging aspect for me is balancing work and school. My current job takes a lot of my time and so does the MBA which makes it incredibly difficult at times but over time, I have learned to manage my time more effectively. When I started the program, I gave up a lot of my social life, but a Rotman MBA makes you an efficient time management expert, so I now have a healthy balance of both work, school, and a social life now. There are still pockets of time when my social life is still nonexistent, but life is all about priorities and trade-offs.
What has surprised you about the program so far?
I won't necessarily say this surprised me but it's one of the things that has impressed me the most so far about Rotman. Rotman challenges you to improve your strategic thinking in ways that are hard to explain. I notice that I find myself thinking more about my thought process than I did prior. This allows me to see problems differently at work and in life in general, which helps me be proactive in my critical and creative thinking.
Rotman challenges you to improve your strategic thinking ... I find myself thinking more about my thought process than I did prior. This allows me to see problems differently ... which helps me be proactive.
In your current role, what are you doing, what skills are you applying, that the MBA learnings have enabled you to do?
I currently work on the portfolio management team for a private equity real estate firm where I focus on portfolio strategy, management, and analytics of a Fund. The most used skill I apply from the MBA program is strategic thinking as I aim to pivot from a functional role to a big picture one. Being able to focus on analysis of critical factors and variables that will influence the long-term success of the Fund, team and company allows me to make a greater contribution in my role.
Any advice to prospective students?
There is no right or wrong time to get your MBA and this differs for everyone, but you cannot go wrong with investing in yourself.
It is also important to keep in mind that business school exposes you to lessons drawn from the past and present through case studies, your professors' experience, textbook readings and so on which makes some of the learnings valuable indefinitely. However, I encourage all students to bring in their own experiences and challenge the teachings if they disagree as this will help advance their learnings and those of their fellow students. Most of all, enjoy the experience and take the time to make great friendships.
Are you a CFA considering an MBA?
Did you know that Rotman's MBA programs waive the GMAT requirement for applicants with CFA Level III standing? If you're a CFA Charterholder and are considering applying to Rotman's Morning or Evening MBA, join us to hear more about how this opportunity impacts your application. We're hosting a free webinar on Monday, January 17, 2022, 12:30-1:00 pm. Find out more.