2019 Best EMBAs: Oumar Diagne, University of Michigan (Ross)

Oumar Diagne

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

Coach, Lifelong learner, Teacher, Mentor, Avid Reader, Music Student, Fitness Enthusiast.”

Age: 40

Hometown: Mercer Island, WA

Family Members: Wife (Rosine), Kids (Moussa and Mounia)

Fun fact about yourself: I am a true global citizen as I hold three citizenships: US, Senegal, and Belgium. I lived in Senegal until age 16; then I moved to Belgium with my parents and siblings. In 2011, I moved to the U.S. and I have been living here since then.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Master of Management Sciences (Quantitative Methods), Louvain School of Management, Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, 2007

Where are you currently working? I am Senior Manager at Amazon.com in charge of Delivery Speed expansion programs. My team helps improve the delivery benefits for Amazon’s Prime customers around the world.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: I mentor and coach regularly a few minority employees or friends to help them maximize their chances of success at work and develop them into corporate leaders.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  Over the 21 months of the program, I worked with a few MBA classmates to provide them with tips, insights, and coaching on how to successfully interview for roles in top companies such as Amazon or Apple. I am very proud I was in a position to share my knowledge and at the same time, learn from these remarkable individuals.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? When I joined Apple Inc. as a Senior Financial Analyst in 2013, my first assignment was to create a new mathematical model for modeling logistics costs and explaining variances in a semi-automated way. The goal of this project was to standardize our financial models across global teams, improve the quality of our business analytics reporting, and run a more efficient FP&A process. This project required us to build from scratch a new platform for analytics and leading the change management process for three different groups located in Asia, Europe, and in the U.S. I used my technical skills and my experience in financial reporting to build a solution, earn the trust from my peers into adopting that model, and lead the end-to-end implementation effort. This project allowed me to gain valuable change management skills and helped solidify my professional reputation as a result-driven leader at the company.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor MP Naranayan was my favorite professor for the passion he has put into teaching us critical concepts of financial management. Professor Naranayan’s energy and engaging teaching style kept us engaged all the time and made the learning experience more compelling and entertaining. The quality of his teaching is exceptional and the concepts he helped us understand and practice through cases transformed us into more effective decision-makers.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA class was Legal Environment of Business taught by Professor Dana Muir. As a foreign-born people manager in a major public US company, I think it was essential for me to understand how litigious the U.S. culture is and to be aware of all the potential legal consequences of my decisions as a leader. In my opinion, these learnings are necessary for a manager to maintain high standards of leadership and minimize litigation exposure for their company.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Knowing my busy schedule, I needed to find a high-quality program I could balance with my work and family life. The Michigan Ross Executive MBA program based in Los Angeles, with a once-a-month residency, was a great fit and was my preferred program after I visited the LA campus and met the EMBA staff during a residency.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed meeting and working with such a diverse pool of talented individuals from whom I learned a great deal. The Michigan Ross EMBA staff did a fantastic job at building a cohort that stood out in richness, talent, and diversity. I also enjoyed discovering new business problems and solving them with my team through advanced quantitative techniques and detailed qualitative analysis.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it to work? The MBA program at Ross gave us the opportunity to learn about the Michigan Model of Leadership (MMoL) and understand how we could use this framework in our work environment to become better leaders. I was able to quickly leverage this model to know how I could improve my leadership style and enhance my team. The MMOL model helped me gain more self-awareness and gave me the tools I needed to unlock the full potential of people I am responsible for.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? In November 2017, during my second MBA term, I transferred into a new position at work. It was in a different function and required me to manage a larger group of people. I also had a few important MBA assignments to deliver and I also had a personal trip to Africa planned just before Thanksgiving’s week. It was a very challenging period as I juggled more important work responsibilities, school deliverables, and family obligations. The most memorable moment is when I decided to start and complete a Business Statistics assignment during my flight from Seattle to Dakar (Senegal); I was not able to start it earlier because of my busy schedule at work. That assignment ended up being submitted while we were flying somewhere over the Atlantic ocean en-route to Dakar.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? The most important learning opportunity you need to focus on will be the ability to A) collaborate with people from different backgrounds and with different opinions and B) drive high-quality results while maintaining excellent group dynamics.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My only regret is not having the chance to collaborate with all the members of our cohort without exception and get to know everyone. However, as we are now a network, opportunities to cross paths, connect again, and work together may arise in the future.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Paul Epstein is the classmate I admire the most for his passion in helping organizations develop and coach new leaders. I am such a fan of Paul’s work that I asked him to develop a showcase on leadership specifically for my team. Paul graciously accepted and delivered an inspirational presentation that had a transformational impact on the people who attended it.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…my career took me from Luxembourg to the U.S. in 2011 and that is when I realized how getting an advanced business administration degree could enrich my background and boost my career. Additionally, as I continued to grow and developed into a people leader, I felt the need to acquire or enhance the hard skills and soft skills required to be a great executive.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…still exploring new areas of knowledge through voracious reading and I would be trying to be in places where I can meet new people and expand my network.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? With my experience gathered in top U.S. tech companies over the last decade, I would like to be involved in a structure that helps Africa young tech companies grow and succeed as I believe that tech entrepreneurship will be an essential lever for the economic development of the African continent.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want my peers to remember me as someone who made the room better with my presence and with my contributions.

Favorite book: The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed On Your Own Terms by Vishen Lakhiani

Favorite movie or television show:

  • Mad Men
  • Suits

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 

  • Develop solutions to accelerate e-commerce adoption in developing Africa countries
  • Take classes to improve my guitar skills

What made Ourmar such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?

“Oumar is an exceptional human being. He always comes prepared to learn, and he listens deeply and viscerally with an open mind. Oumar is driven by a sense of duty, service, and humility that is characterized by his performance on the Ross teams that he is a part of and the way he treats others.

Oumar has demonstrated his leadership abilities by holding two full-time positions at Amazon for a six-month period just after starting the Ross EMBA program.  Since 2016, Oumar has been selected for three significant leadership roles at Amazon, which involved leading teams with diverse responsibilities, demonstrating his capacity to achieve excellence.

While accomplishing significant gains at work, Oumar maintained a commitment and focus to doing the best work in his classes and on his teams.  For example, one peer said, “What impresses me most about Oumar is that he is a lifelong learner. He applies a growth mindset to all that he does and delivers value and insight at every step of the journey as a result.  It’s been an honor to have him as a team member, and as a peer in our cohort, which inspires me to have him as a lifelong friend.”

Oumar is a person of high integrity and personal mastery who brings value wherever he goes.  He has earned the deepest respect from Ross staff, professors, and students.”


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