2019 Best EMBAs: Ibrahima Sory Conte, Duke University (Fuqua)

Ibrahima Sory Conte

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

I’m a people’s person, an introvert, patient, result oriented, and a curious student of life.”

Age: 40

Hometown: Born and raised in Conakry, Guinea, I grew up in Belgium and I am currently living in Apex, North Carolina. I call all those places home.

Family Members:

My partner and the love of my life Nabela Conté, Adam Conté, my first-born, and Moustapha Conté, my 6 feet 2 inches tall teenage baby brother that I am raising as my son.

Fun fact about yourself: In high school, I was one of the leaders of a rap band with my two best friends to date. We had backup dancers, a recording and dancing studio made multiple live performances in Brussels, and ended up recording an album.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Université Libre de Bruxelles (Brussels, Belgium): Master in Economics and Econometrics.

Université de Saint Louis (Brussels, Belgium): Financial Risk Management.

Where are you currently working? SAS Institute, Inc. in Cary, North Carolina. SAS is a privately held company and a leading powerhouse in the analytics space. We provide suites of analytics software to help public and private institutions in their decision-making process.

Role: Manager Advanced Analytics (R&D)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I come from an African culture where contributing to the community around you is part of your basic duties. For many years, as an individual, I supported small growth entrepreneurial projects as well helped alleviate basic medical and living challenges encountered by some families. Recently, I have joined the board of directors of Guinnovation, an NGO with a mission statement to improve the health, the education, and the civic-mindedness of the world’s critically underserved communities and ensure their free and full potential.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Becoming a father for the first time after many years of challenges in building a family.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have always been the proudest when I successfully help a member of my team grow professionally and be more successful in the work we do for the company. It is one of the most satisfying professional experience for me.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I am fortunate that I was taught by several world-class professors during my MBA. I don’t think I have a favorite because I have learned a lot from all of them.

But I can share with you the two that I found the most fun: Professor Leslie M. Marx and Professor Simon Gervais.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Managerial Effectiveness with Professor Rick Larrick. Almost all the content of this class was insightful. The course tackles many of the challenges that leaders and organizations should be aware of. It sharpened my knowledge on matters like organizational culture and motivation, effective decision-making processes, effective team management, and many more.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? The global aspect was the biggest reason for me. I have always been curious about the world, its diversity of thoughts, perspectives, and cultures. The ability not only to learn about the global economy but also to visit some of the interesting players was very attractive to me.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed the exceptional learning experience, the people that I had the privilege to meet and work with, and the “Team Fuqua” spirit.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I am now convinced that everybody is exceptional in his or her own way and has something to offer to the team and organization, short or long term. Also, the role of a leader is to help create an environment where every member can identify and grow their talents while helping with the common goal of the organization.

I also firmly believe that a good team is more effective than the sum of its individuals.

My MBA has completely transformed the way I manage my team at work. Now, I put a lot of focus on the cohesiveness of my team and also make sure that I am consistently seeking and listening to my team members for their inputs and perspectives, regardless of their seniority.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Right in the middle of the program, I was working on my exams, keeping up with the management of my team and our project, and expecting my first-born child that was set to arrive any day. During those days, I started each one of my exams not knowing if I would finish or rush to the hospital.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Whatever the level of experience and expertise that you are bringing to your cohort, be humble and curious and open your mind and your heart to learning again. I can guarantee that you will learn about yourself, from your cohort and obviously from the rigorous academic scholars with whom you will be interacting.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? That it is too late and that you don’t learn much. I believe that it’s never too late to learn and to grow either personally and or professionally. The Fuqua School of Business is, without a doubt, a place of excellence when it comes to learning and growth if you are willing to work hard for it.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I took every single term as it came, with the good times and the challenging ones. Above all, I felt grateful to have shared all those moments with my classmates. No regret at all.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are few things that impress me in life. I admire people every time they demonstrate a selfless act. Putting someone else’s interest ahead of yours is what I consider one of the pinnacles of the human experience. I was able to admire several members of our cohort who demonstrated such care toward one another during our time together.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when… it was in 2008 when I moved to the U.S. and realized the growth potential that an MBA could provide me professionally and personally. The MBA project took a back seat for a while in favor in my family project. I was extremely excited when I was admitted to The Fuqua School of Business Global Executive MBA Class 2019.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To lead a medium-size or large organization in an executive capacity.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? That I was grateful for the opportunity to get to know them, humbled and honored by their trust in electing me as their class leader, and that I deeply care about all of them.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

A world tour with my family.

Learn to play the kora—an African instrument that has the features of a harp and a lute.

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

“Ibrahima’s personal and professional background (born and raised in Guinea, spent a considerable amount of time in Belgium, where he completed his undergraduate and master degrees, and now living and working for SAS Institute, Inc. in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina) offers a unique and diverse perspective, both inside and outside of Duke’s academic setting.  Ibrahima was elected by his cohort for a Class Liaison position, where he has provided exceptional leadership and taken a more balanced approach to solving challenges with this diverse cohort, which represents 23 countries and more than 83 companies. Ibrahima is a calming presence within the class and goes out of his way to bring people of diverse backgrounds together.  Given his entrepreneurial spirit, Ibrahima and his wife, Nabela, opened Belgian Café in 2015, a European style café, in Apex, NC.”

Karen Courtney

Associate Dean, Executive MBA Programs


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