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MBA

IESE Alumni Footprint Series, An Interview with Charles Nweke (Nigeria)


Name: Charles Nweke

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Year of Graduation: 2019

Nationality: Nigerian & Australian

Post-MBA Country of Residence: Nigeria

Post-MBA Employer: McKinsey

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your current role.

I grew up in Nigeria with my big family of 5 siblings and lots of extended family. I completed my Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering, then headed to Australia for my Masters. I spent most of the last decade there, before and after moving to Barcelona for the MBA. I eventually returned home to join McKinsey as a consultant in Africa, while continuing to explore the world and finally getting the chance to visit every continent. I’m a huge football fan and love to travel and learn about different cultures. Being in consulting is a great gig that lets me work with brilliant people from all over while making a real difference in Africa.

Can you please tell us about your career path and why did you decide to pursue an MBA?

Growing up, I chose my career based on my interests in school and role models – mostly extended family. I loved science, so I pursued engineering and landed a job in the competitive oil and gas industry. After moving to Australia for my master’s degree, I landed a dream position in a graduate rotational program with an Australian energy company. This opportunity let me take on significant responsibilities and rotate every 18-24 months, giving me a chance to learn new skills. But after five years, I had to choose a specialization in areas I wasn’t sure I would enjoy long-term. So, I made it a priority to pursue an MBA. Like many African professionals, who lacked adequate career guidance back in the day, an MBA for me was a chance to realign my career towards my passion and strengths. Fun fact, is I only realised during my MBA application that there was a career in management consulting for young graduates straight out of school!

How did you choose IESE?

After becoming a chartered Engineer in 2015, I took some time to think about my next career move. Despite considering various options like pursuing a PhD, I ultimately decided that an MBA was the best path forward. I specifically wanted to study in Europe to experience its diverse culture. After researching the Financial Times’ top European MBA programs, I came across IESE and was immediately interested. I applied to IESE first and later visited both IESE and INSEAD campuses during my trip to Europe for my cousin’s wedding in spring 2017. The warmth I felt at IESE and the idea of living in Barcelona sealed the deal for me.

How did IESE MBA help you transition from your previous role into consulting?

Unlike most MBA graduates who transition directly into consulting from industry, I had some difficulty doing so during my MBA. Instead, I took my frustration as an opportunity to pursue a burning desire to contribute towards human capital development in Africa, where I grew up. I founded a social impact start-up called AlumUnite with my co-founders after IESE. We raised over $100k from investors, developed an MVP, and got the company up and running to find product-market fit. Then, I went back to work full-time in the technology sector but had to work remotely due to COVID. I realized that sales, especially in a remote setting, was not for me, and I decided to give consulting another try. This time, I drew much more practical examples from my post-MBA experiences and found interviewing for McKinsey much less hectic. This time, I made it! Working on consulting projects has been very enjoyable, it is very much like working with my diverse teammates at IESE.

How has your MBA impacted you personally and professionally?

Meeting up with classmates in Sao Paolo!

Personally, the MBA was a turning point for me. I made lifelong friendships and expanded my network across the globe. Also learned some Spanish during my time in Barcelona, which came in handy when I met my Brazilian wife who had just moved to Australia to learn English three years ago. Since then, I have travelled to every continent and tapped into IESE’s global friendships that have kept me from feeling isolated anywhere in the world.

Professionally, the MBA has humbled me by making me aware of how much I have yet to learn. This mindset keeps me grounded when working with experts in various fields.

In consulting, my global and diverse cultural awareness has proven helpful, especially when working with consumer or retail industries like banking, fintech, and telco where culture plays a vital role in how markets adopt and adapt to products and offerings.

Can you give us an example of how your MBA training has helped you at work?

I set up a Project Management Office (PMO) for a client to define, execute, and track their initiatives. This required navigating various personalities and conflicts, and understanding each person’s motivations, fears, and biases to effectively communicate with them. Classes like “Personality, Leadership & Happiness” and “Negotiations” along with leadership skills I learned during my MBA were instrumental in achieving success!

What do you miss the most about your MBA life?

I miss the extracurricular events, like dinners, sports, and various initiatives with student clubs. One memorable incident during the MBA was when I was knocked off my motorbike by a car on my way to play soccer. Despite the shock and some minor injuries, I decided to join my friends and play anyway. I brought my usual fun and energy to the game, and it helped me shake off the shock. Indeed I felt like I had gained some strange superpower that day; alas it was probably excess adrenaline at work!

At school, I was involved in the Energy Club. We hosted a Global Energy Day, and here is a photo with the winners of the Sustainability Award!

Any advice for prospective applicants?

An MBA is a life-long commitment that requires significant weighing in of your head and heart, almost like a marriage! The knowledge from an MBA is almost becoming a commodity but the experiences from within and outside the classrooms will stay with you for life. Consider your short and long-term goals carefully before choosing the program that is right for you. The experience during the MBA is just as important (if not more than) the outcome at the end of the MBA. While getting a job in your dream company may seem like the key reason to select an MBA, you will quickly find that most people change jobs soon after landing what they thought were their dream jobs. For me, I wanted an MBA that would allow me to immerse myself in a diverse community. I knew that for some business schools, you may have different nationalities in the classroom but all speaking with the same accents. This was not for me. Having already completed a master’s degree from a well-recognized global university, I simply did not want to get a degree for the sake of just the brand. That’s why I chose IESE for it’s very welcoming culture on top of its strong brand and quality of education.

In the space of month, I found myself hopping through 4 cities in 4 continents and enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with at least five IESE alumni across each city. This for me, was what I always wanted from an MBA.

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