2019 Best EMBAs: Latasha Akoma, Northwestern (Kellogg)

Latasha Akoma

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

“Professional and focused person who enjoys connecting with individuals to personal enrichment. Work hard and play hard.”

Age: 47

Hometown: San Jose, CA

Family Members: 11-year-old daughter

Fun fact about yourself: Love to travel

Undergraduate School and Degree: Howard University BSME and University of Michigan-Dearborn, MSEM

Where are you currently working? GenNx360 CP, Operating Partner

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Exercising, Traveling and Mentoring.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? It was getting through Launch Week Jan 2018 because I was going through a major lawsuit, working on two portfolio companies, raising my daughter as a single mother, and starting the EMBA program after being away from school for over 20 years.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Becoming the first African American female General Manager at HDMC and successfully monetizing a portfolio while turning two others around at GenNx360.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It was Brian Uzzi because concepts in the Leadership and Organization course combined leadership and engineering, two subjects I am passionate about in a way that I had never been taught before. Professor Uzzi is a thought leader and his style of teaching was incredibly engaging and impactful.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Digital Transformation by Michael Wade. I didn’t know much about the course content, but was surprised and delighted about the transformation tools that can be applied in everyday business and Professor Wade was a great instructor who engaged the class thoroughly.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? To improve my financial acumen and develop a larger network to leverage in business and personal ventures.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Learning and connecting with people.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Be humble and vulnerable. I learned to relax in my own knowledge and be able to actively listen to others to learn as much as I could about their views and experience.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Every day, all day. I travel every week (within the US) for work and have a very demanding job. I also have a 6th-grade daughter who is Twice Exceptional (dyslexic and gifted) and has an equally busy schedule and needs quality time with her mother. Getting back into school after 20 years with a different generation of classmates was extremely difficult, but building a network of extended family members and learning to let go and delegate.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Trust the process. Study and prepare before you come to class so that you can have time to network and socialize on campus, especially in Miami where you spend the entire weekend with classmates and professors.  Take advantage of this opportunity. Before you know it, it will be over in a flash.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? You’re too old to go back and get an EMBA. I learned that you are never too old to learn and that in life you should always constantly be learning, no matter if you are the youngest and oldest in the class. As time changes, so does technology and the classroom learning environment. Getting an EMBA fills in the gaps of so much of what you thought you knew or was previously taught.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Procrastinating and waiting until the last minute to complete assignments and preparing for class.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Michael Labate is not only the class ambassador but is a great networker who can party all night and be the first fresh face in the class the next day completely alert and participating in class. He is a consummate professional, family man, and successful in his career who is very humbly willing to share notes, pitches and knowledge tidbits.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I went to get my first Master’s. Chrysler was paying the tuition and required management trainees obtain a theoretical masters and not a business degree. However, 20 years later and the third attempt, I am nearly completed.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Growth in the private equity world and advance to Managing Partner, retiring with financial independence that will allow me to do what I love…mentoring and developing young people.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A professional and focused person who shared her experience with others but could also have a good time on occasion.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Travel abroad with my daughter to every continent and to skydive out of an airplane

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

“What does a professor hope for when first meeting a class? Ideally, you encounter a group that is interested and willing to work with you. But you are also looking for a few allies, a student or two whose enthusiasm for the material is infectious, whose willingness to share their experiences helps to convey the nuances of topics, whose presence just makes the course easier to teach.

Latasha Akoma was my ally.

I had Latasha in a core operations management class. Core classes are always a little challenging as some students often have an eye on what classes come next. Not Latasha. She was engaged from the beginning and willing to share her experiences. And she has a lot of experiences. From her start in manufacturing at Chrysler through her time at Harley-Davidson to now being in private equity, she has pretty much seen it all. She could happily go out in the weeds on the technical limits of a factory’s processes but also step back and appreciate the importance of workforce culture or maintaining supplier relations. Latasha enriched the classroom, never dominating the conversation but always moving it forward.

Now when meeting a new class, I am not looking for an ally among the students; I am looking for a Latasha.”

Martin Lariviere

Professor of Operations

Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University


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