2016 Best EMBAs: Elochukwu Umeh, IESE

Elo Umeh IESE

Elochukwu Umeh

IESE Business School

My biggest lesson: The power and leverage of a properly trained manager can have a significant impact on a business, especially in an emerging market like Africa where the supply side of talent is limited.

Age: 34

Location: Lagos, Nigeria

Family Members: Amuche Umeh, spouse; Enyinnaya Umeh, son

Undergraduate School and Degree: Lagos State University. B.Sc Business Administration

Where are you currently working?  Founder and CEO, Terragon Group

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Engaging with undergraduates across Nigerian tertiary institutions and young professionals to develop competencies and align expectations from their learnings and when they eventually start working.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Working with the school to harness the talent pool in Nigeria of potential executives who can be part of the MBA program in the future.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? As a digital business, we recruit young, exceptional individuals who are empowered and developed to be leaders within Terragon. They drive the various initiatives in the business and others who go on to pursue other endeavors at other companies and sectors. Our obsession as a business with forming exceptional leaders adds significant value to our overall competitiveness as a firm. The opportunity to work with this exceptional team is what I am most proud of.

Favorite MBA Courses? Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital and Deals, Managerial Accounting, Global Strategy, Go Meet the Valley, Cross Cultural Management, Emerging Economics.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? In 2012, I met with a senior colleague who recommended the Advanced Management Program (AMP) in Media and Entertainment at IESE. This short course offered me a lens into the high-level faculty at IESE and the very high quality of learning experiences both in the classroom and out of it. After the AMP, I decided that sometime in the future when the business I had just founded had stabilized, I would return to IESE to participate in a Global Executive MBA.

What did you enjoy most about business school? How it has broadened my horizons in several aspects, namely:

  • The depth of business knowledge and exposure to real-world problems;
  • The global frontier and outlook it has offered me with practical experience in all continents — a truly global program.

I also enjoyed IESE’s focus on the individual. From the faculty’s attention to every person’s knowledge gaps to the courses in the curriculum that focus on making each participant not just better managers but also — and more importantly — better persons.

The lifelong friends I have been able to make during the program have been awesome. The class was super diverse, with friends from different continents and various professions. This directly builds my personal network and affords me a global reach.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? My biggest lesson: The power and leverage of a properly trained manager can have a significant impact on a business, especially in an emerging market like Africa where the supply side of talent is limited. A business can foster significant competitive advantage by having individuals that are properly trained and equipped for the business terrain.

What was the hardest part of business school? The rigor, intensity, and adjustment required for study, reading a lot of cases and participating in the team work sessions both physically and virtually.

What is your best advice for juggling work, family, and education? Get the cooperation of colleagues at work as well as family. One can’t successfully embark on this project without getting their support. Otherwise, you won’t be able to focus on the requirements and time commitment the program demands of every participant.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program? The program requires a firm decision that you are embarking on a journey/project that’s very serious and focused on rejuvenating the participant’s career. Judging by the potential output that will be achieved, it requires a significant investment of time and effort. Beyond the need for a firm personal commitment, there is a need for support from the family and from work, both managers and subordinates. Without both it will be difficult to manage the process successfully.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” The business I founded hit 50 people, became profitable and we started our international expansion.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” Struggling with making decisions. I would be a less effective manager and not understand completely the relationships between all the components of a business. Namely: strategy, finance, accounting, leadership, personal effectiveness, operations, etc.

What are your long-term professional goals? I want to continue to focus on growing the Terragon business across the African continent and globally, with a long-term goal to transition to other opportunities in capital management and financial services.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Firstly my wife for the sacrifice of having me away from home with a son who was under a year old. I truly appreciate her support. I would also like to thank my colleagues at Terragon who held the fort competently in my absence. I am proud of all of them.

Fun fact about yourself: I thoroughly enjoy football commentary on radio and TV and I still do that in my spare time.

Favorite book: The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Favorite movie: Whiplash

Favorite musical performer: Whizkid, a Nigerian hip-hop sensation

Favorite television show: I don’t have a favorite

Favorite vacation spot: Cape Town, South Africa

Hobbies? Reading biographies, watching football and traveling

What made Elochukwu Umeh such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Elochukwu Umeh is the embodiment of the new African executive with a global vision. Whilst still relatively young, he has fast-tracked his career in digital media by becoming an entrepreneur and has built one of the most significant companies in this sector in Africa.

“Elo’s vision is about creating something truly significant by helping others to become significant in their contribution to the project. Beyond this, he is highly committed to helping his people develop themselves to becoming the best that they truly can become. His life is about giving and receiving and then giving back again.

“Elo is highly intelligent, respectful, and engaging. During the program, he has shared, both with class and faculty, his viewpoints of global business from an African perspective, and thus continually enriched the debate and more importantly the learning for himself and his peers. Beyond this, he is both proud of who he is and where he is from, but what is most disarming is his humility and his contribution, at both the academic and social levels.

“I have had the immense pleasure to watch Elo transform on each module of the program. We have often spoke about the learning, the experience, and the need to help African business and society. As a school, we feel privileged to count upon Elo as one of our alumni, as he represents what we aspire for them to be. That is, to achieve a transformational impact through our program and then to go forward and deliver this for his family, his company, and society. Elo has more than started his journey and will deliver much more in the years to come.”

John Healy       

Executive Director, Global Executive MBA Program

IESE Business School


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