This Sagamu Boy is Off to Stanford! 2015 Stanford Africa MBA Fellow, Michael Adesanya Shares His Inspiring Story.
Born and raised in Sagamu, Ogun State, Michael Adesanya has been nothing but an extraordinary example to follow. Graduating from Mayflower school, Ikene with nine distinctions and a First Class degree in Chemical Engineering in 2010, Michael has gone on to add being the winner of the 2015 Stanford African Fellowship [worth $145,000] to his list of achievements. In addition to his academic strides, MLK Adesanya is also the co-founder of Taylor-Loran – a men’s fashion label in Lagos.
In this interview with Gbenga Awomodu, Michael Adesanya shares an intriguing story of doggedness and passion for excellence. He also dishes candid, valuable tips for potential applicants!
Meet Michael Adesanya
I prefer the name “MLK Adesanya” and I work for Procter & Gamble. I joined as an intern in 2011 and became a Key Account Manager in charge of the company’s distributor business in Abuja and North Central Nigeria within two months. I currently serve as Corporate Market Strategy & Planning Manager of P&G Nigeria responsible for leading go-to-market innovations and designing market strategies to deliver leadership sales and help our brands win sustainably in the market. In short, I am a salesman with P&G Nigeria.
Growing Up in the Face of Tumultuous Elementary Education
I was born and raised in Sagamu, a small town in Ogun State. It was tough growing up and education didn’t come easy. My persistence about getting good education was supported by my mother all through. I attended seven different primary schools in the space of four years. I didn’t want to go to the public schools because of the dilapidated state, so my mother enrolled myself and my brother in private schools we couldn’t afford and we were always sent away for non-payment of school fees.
A Mother’s Sacrifice Rewarded
My mother paid a critical price for our education by offering to work in Mayflower School, Ikenne as a hostel matron without salary so we could study. She worked there for the ten years it took me and my brother to complete primary and secondary education. I graduated from Mayflower School, Ikenne in 2004 with nine distinctions in addition to emerging Best Overall in Nigeria at the national JETS (Junior Engineers, Technicians & Scientists) competition. I also graduated from the University of Lagos with a First Class in Chemical Engineering in 2010. While at UNILAG, I served in various leadership positions including President, University of Lagos Engineering Society (ULES).
Discovering the Stanford Africa MBA Fellowship
My Stanford story started from Twitter after a friend retweeted an advert from an admissions agency for prospective graduate students. I contacted the agency, where I was informed about the high ratings for Stanford GSB and the Stanford African Fellowship. I had set eyes on an MBA from Harvard Business School prior to the time. This was just some days to the Africa Fellowship application deadline! After reviewing my resume, the agent advised that I give it a shot. Having reviewed the requirements and researched about the school, I was able to put my application together within 3 days with the help of the agency.
Winning the 2015 Stanford African Fellowship
I can’t fully express the feelings in words. The news came together with that of my admission. I had waited for hours, expecting the call from the Assistant Dean of Admissions. It came through as I was boarding a flight to Abuja. Super exciting! The process was very tasking and suspense-filled; a chance of getting into Stanford is the slimmest among all other top business schools in the world. Admission rate this past year was 5% and a 6.8% average in the past 5 years!
The application process involved applying for the African Fellowship before applying to the program. We wrote to the Admissions Committee about how we hope to shape the future of Africa in 250 words. My piece about my plan for Sagamu was shortlisted among the top 80 African entries. Then I applied for the MBA admissions and was among the lucky eight (8) awarded the Fellowship. The only Nigerian with the fellowship, I was filled with gratitude and excitement. It helps to shave off at least $136K from the program cost.
The Financial Reality of a Top MBA Program
An MBA degree from any top business school in the world is an expensive pursuit, especially at Stanford which is strategically located in the heart of Silicon Valley. The Fellowship will with over 50% of my total cost of attendance (about $251K) which includes tuition, accommodation, medical insurance, living expenses and cost of academic trips. The balance of about $105K (≡ N21M) is still huge, but I am working hard to get it sorted before September 2015 resumption. I have some personal savings, though relatively small, and I have also applied for other African MBA scholarships like TY Danjuma MBA scholarship. I have made it to this point from shaky beginnings in primary school; I believe this will get sorted, too. The Lord who has started this good work will bring it to completion.
Positioning For National Impact
W.E.B. Du Bois in his essay “talented tenth” described the likelihood of one in ten black men becoming leaders of their race in the world, through methods such as continuing their education, writing books, or becoming directly involved in social change. In Nigeria, we need well trained and highly skilled leaders in the next phase of development. I can see, and want to position and prepare myself to be part of our future. Enterprise and education (with a focus on Science & Technology) is the key to unlocking the potentials in Africa and I believe so much in the tenets of Afrocapitalism as being championed by the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
Dreaming Five and Ten Years From Now
Marin Luther King Jnr. said, “I don’t know what the future holds but I definitely know who holds the future.” As God permits, in the next 5 years, I see myself leading an international business organization or serving African governments, preferably Nigeria, as a senior business consultant. In ten years, I see myself working for the Nigerian government as a technocrat, leading social change, especially amongst the youths, to solve the problem of unemployment and poverty through enterprise and education. Imagine same caliber of Nigerian talents employed by most multinationals working instead for the government! Though the government needs to reposition itself to be more attractive to top talents, top talents also need to develop the love and drive to pour their energy into governance. This is the only way Nigeria will develop.
Keynotes On Getting into Stanford
Make up your mind early. You need enough time to reflect, prepare and package your application. I recommend you start at least 6 months before deadline! Read ALL available information about the program on the school’s website or other MBA blogs. If possible, attend the admissions event organized by the school. You should also choose your recommenders carefully and wisely. Inform them on time, not less than 3 months before deadline. Their title doesn’t matter. Instead of your GM or Director who might never have enough time to write a rich recommendation for you, focus on direct supervisors/managers and peers who know much about your abilities and can invest enough time writing a good recommendation.
The services of professional editors and proof readers also come in handy. Applying for an MBA program in top business schools is like submitting a business proposal, you need to be professional. Every penny you pay a good editor will is worth it. I got one the difference was obvious. Don’t wait till too late before starting application; my case was God’s grace through the help of admissions agency. I wouldn’t take that for granted if I were to do this again.