Using the skills and knowledge of an MBA to help make the world a better place
Can you, please, share with us your career development until now? What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?
After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Toronto, I started working for Suncor Energy (then Petro-Canada), Canada’s largest integrated energy company. Since that time, I have remained at Suncor Energy, progressing through increasingly senior positions in project management, engineering and operations. I’m currently transitioning into a new role leading the asset maintenance and reliability division across our midstream/distribution business unit, which is an exciting opportunity.
In parallel to my career at Suncor, I also founded a sustainable energy consulting and investment startup, Clean-Efficiency in late 2017 shortly after commencing my MBA at WU. We provide strategies for firms looking to decarbonize or accelerate their energy transition, and we provide access to investment and advisory services for small/medium-sized firms developing or executing sustainable energy projects. Our focus is on emerging markets (sub-Saharan Africa and Caribbean focus), which are traditionally underserved when it concerns climate change and energy finance.
Did you originally want to pursue a different career? If so, what made you change your plans?
When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronaut. Unfortunately, I realized I wasn’t a fan of high risk. Later, I wanted to be a doctor, but even though I excelled in biology, it did not excite me. From the time I was in my mid-teens, growing up in Nigeria, I was pretty set on becoming an engineer. My interest in energy started out primarily with a focus on oil/gas, given that it was Nigeria’s major export. Even after my parents relocated the family to Canada, I retained my interest in oil/gas (also Canada’s largest export commodity). As I started reading about climate change, I realized that the scope for energy – even traditional energy – to be a force for good was compelling. This awareness has influenced the work I’ve done, not only at Suncor, but with my startup Clean Efficiency and in my choice of WU for the MBA Energy Management.
What was your biggest professional/personal success?
My biggest professional success also happens to be personal. At the time I was completing my MBA Energy Management, I also happened to be the operations manager at an upstream oilsands facility, managing a team of 60 people directly and another 70 people indirectly on a daily basis. In addition, I was leading the implementation team for a revolutionary technology being developed to eliminate emissions from our operations. Finally, and most importantly, as a husband and father of three young children, I had to make myself available (physically and emotionally) to support my family. Balancing all of these at the same time while retaining my sanity has to be my most significant accomplishment yet!
What was your biggest challenge? What was your biggest professional mistake (from which you learned a lot)?
A few years ago, I was tasked with leading a significant business process transformation exercise, worth tens of millions of dollars in value. The activity seemed very successful and we were able to develop a process that was effective in achieving the objectives of the business unit. However, I sensed that the team was not entirely happy/motivated at the end of the project. After taking time to understand what was going on, I realized that there was some discontent at the fact that I pushed certain ideas through even though the team had reservations about them – or didn’t fully understand them. The ideas I pushed through were successful, but the fact that the team wasn’t fully happy taught me a valuable lesson about the need for engagement and the importance of a leader not “going it alone”. As successful as the initiative was, it didn’t feel as successful as it would have been if the team was fully engaged. This is a lesson I have applied to every project or team I’ve led since then.
Which 3 most important experiences in your life have led you to where you are right now?
The first experience was being asked to lead an energy management improvement team while I was a young engineer at Suncor. This opened my eyes to the realities of carbon emissions in a tangible way, but crucially also helped me realize that there are solutions to the climate problem, if we are truly interested in finding them.
The second one was in deciding to attend WU for my MBA. With the combination of world-class faculty, a diverse and motivated group of classmates and exceptional teaching facilities (not to mention spending 2 weeks in Vienna every 3-4 months), I have never regretted my decision.
The third one was meeting my spouse and convincing her to marry me! We motivate each other to be our best selves, and she truly is my number 1 fan.
When you think of the most talented high potential in your company, what 3 pieces of advice would you give him to live a successful and fulfilling life?
Identify what elements of life are most important to you and ensure that your decision-making supports those priorities (e.g. family, health, career).
Be adaptable & flexible. Recognize that there are factors outside your control and be willing to change your ideas/processes as required.
Don’t be afraid to speak up when you see something wrong or see something falling off the rails, even if others are quiet. Challenge the status quo and don’t be afraid to be different.
Using just 5 words, how would your team describe you as a leader?
What has changed in your career because of your MBA degree? How did the program support you in reaching your career goals? What concrete career opportunities have opened up for you?
The MBA Energy Management has been instrumental in exposing me to other facets of the energy industry beyond oil/gas, and sparking my interest in energy markets and investments. The skills that I obtained – and the networks/connections I developed – have allowed me to contribute knowledge in the energy space and become recognized as an emerging subject matter expert when it comes to the Canadian energy market. Without the MBA, I likely would not be the Founder and Principal of Clean Efficiency today.
As far as the workload is concerned, how did you manage an MBA next to a demanding job and your family life?
I’m blessed with a supportive spouse who despite her own professional pursuits, made things easy at home. I also had senior leaders within Suncor Energy who allowed me to use company time to attend the modules in Vienna. My work schedule at the time (Mondays to Thursdays only) helped, as it left me with Fridays off to focus on the MBA. About a month before the module, I would get into “MBA mode”, reading the pre-module material, making notes and completing any pre-assignments. While I was away in a module, I effectively delegated work to my team members, ensuring that I wasn’t contacted unless it was an emergency. Post-module, I allocated time over two months (usually) to working on assignments. I also ensured that I dedicated time to being with the family, and socializing (online or in person) with MBA colleagues – as this helped to lighten any stress and recharge my batteries!
What do you consider a “great luxury”?
This is an interesting question. I would say the ability to travel, meet people of different cultures, experience those cultures and learn from those cultures. I’m passionate about history, literature, food, geopolitics and energy. No experience ties these together better than travel, and I’m always grateful for any opportunity to step out of my normal milieu and see more of the world. It’s probably part of why I chose an MBA in Vienna!
What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?
A recent book that I really enjoyed is “Hawaii” by James Michener. The author uses historical fiction to tell the story of the islands and people of Hawaii, from prehistoric times to the late twentieth century. His use of language, colour and character development really gives life to the story. As a reader, it felt as if I was watching the events occur from behind a window looking onto a street in front of me, rather than from the black and white pages of a book.
If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
I’m generally very content, and wouldn’t change places with anyone. If I absolutely had to, I’d probably switch places with the football player, Thierry Henry. Wealthy, stylish and played the best sport in the world for two of my favourite clubs, Arsenal and Barcelona.
Read more interesting career stories of our students and graduates here.
Read more interesting career stories of our students and graduates here.