Harold Okwa

Harold Okwa

Nationality: Nigerian
Programme: Modular Executive MBA, 2017
Pre-MBA: Founder & Managing Director, Vestates, Abuja, Nigeria
Post-MBA: Founder & Managing Director, Jetseta, Abuja, Nigeria
Current industry: Aviation
Transition made: Industry

Why did you decide to do the Cass Modular Executive MBA programme?

Following five years with Oando PLC – rising to the role of Retail Area Manager in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja – I resigned to pursue my career aspirations. I left a very structured environment to become a full-time entrepreneur, establishing a real estate firm with a niche focus on the expatriate community in the city.

Attracted by the flexibility and diversity of the Cass Modular Executive MBA programme, I embarked on the next phase of my career with two main aims. The first was to acquire the fundamental skills and competencies required to build my newly founded company, Vestates, into a household name. The second was to develop a vast network of colleagues and business associates over the two-year duration of the course.

How did you find the MEMBA programme?

When I arrived at Cass, I was somewhat nervous, but after I met my fellow students, I became more relaxed. Despite a wide range of experiences and industry backgrounds, we had one thing in common: we were all poised to make a major transition in our career.

After the initial shock of taking in a lot of information very quickly over the first week, I quickly became accustomed to the short deadlines and the large volumes of information we were required to absorb.

Initially, I found studying while continuing to work quite challenging, especially as I had to take a six-and-a-half-hour flight to attend classes! I would typically fly in from Abuja on a Thursday evening, go straight into the lectures and group sessions back-to-back from Friday morning until Monday evening, and then fly back to Abuja on Tuesday evening. Once the MEMBA was in full swing and the workload increased drastically, I simply had to adjust. Key to successfully adapting to my new lifestyle would be developing an effective time-management strategy.

What were the highlights of the programme?

The experience of balancing work and study has since proven very valuable, as it has improved my work ethic and allowed me to stretch myself in ways that I never imagined possible. I have become more resilient, both mentally and physically.

When it came to choosing electives in year two, I reinforced existing strengths with modules in innovation and entrepreneurship, explored new areas such as private equity and mergers and acquisitions, and focused on important aspects of my business by discovering how to capture value from technological innovation.

The M&A elective really challenged my expectations. I had previously seen this area of finance as very confusing, and perhaps not relevant to my business, as our corporate strategy was focused on organic growth. I now have a good understanding of the workings of M&A transactions and we have begun considering potential acquisitions. We hope to complete our first transaction in the first quarter of 2019.

How has the MEMBA changed you?

As hoped, both the MEMBA programme and simply being at Cass enabled me to broaden my professional network. I would have liked to spend more time with my classmates and the wider Cass community, but the long commute made this difficult. Nevertheless, taking electives with other programmes enabled me to mix with students outside my cohort. I still keep in contact with my classmates, mostly via social media.

Today, I am focusing on growing my business. Not only have my career plans been influenced by my Cass experience, I believe the MEMBA has given me the appetite to effect change within my business. The programme challenged my approach to problem solving, enabling me to break down problems into smaller pieces, develop solutions and convince others of the benefits of strategic change.

How would you describe the overall experience?

Cass was a life-changing experience for me. I learned so much in such a short period. I would recommend it to professionals who are looking to step out of the crowd and stretch themselves.