Today we have John Bolaji, MBA, Master of Engineering candidate at UC Berkeley. Aside from being a Consortium Fellow, he is also Co-President of The Black Business Student Association here at Haas.
John comes from a Nigerian family. He is good at Math and Science, and coupled with his passion for science fiction and technology, he went to MIT and studied Mechanical Engineering. However, John wanted to explore other industries other than tech and engineering. He worked as a Consulting Analyst in Accenture and then a Project Manager at McMaster-Carr, where he got to experience real management and leadership experience.
In this episode, John shares his reasons for pursuing the new joint master’s degree in business and engineering, joining different resources inside and outside of Haas, and taking on leadership roles to promote positive changes in the world, especially for people of color.
On being exposed to management and leadership experience early in his career
“It offered me some really interesting and unique leadership opportunities that I was really happy to get and confirmed for me that the leadership and management aspect is where I want to be in terms of my career, in terms of how I’m contributing to the world. I think that’s where my natural abilities and skills lie.”
The role of MLT (Management Leadership for Tomorrow) in his business school application
“I definitely have to give a shout out here to MLT. That’s another organization that helps prepare black and brown students to transition to business school. What I did was MLT MBA Prep. It’s essentially a large group of people kind of going through the MBA application process. So, a lot of people have MBA application consultants. This is like a similar version of that but it’s a much larger community and it’s focused on uplifting black and brown students and indigenous students. And that was 100% the most impactful part of my preparation and application process. MLT was really the first intro to this world and I can’t thank them enough for how the preparation process, the coaches that they give you, access to the networking with schools that they give you, is all very impactful. And on top of all of that, it just creates such an amazing community of people who are going through the same process at the same time.”
On choosing business schools
“Every business school admissions process is different for everybody. And I think, more so than any other professional school, there is a strong emphasis on prestige, rank, business school, name brand, and all those different things, and that definitely influenced my thinking a lot. But I’d say my advice to people is that everyone’s business school application journey will be unique. The prestige and name brand definitely have some effect in certain areas, but you can think of other things like the school, culture, fits, geographic location, student size; all those different things will have a much larger impact on your experience.”
Why he joined different programs inside and outside of Haas
“I did this intentionally, but I really overloaded myself. I was trying to hone in my focus and my prioritization. I was like, I’m going to sample everything and put as much on my plate as I can. And then I’m going to see what sticks essentially. Because you only have so much time, and at the end of the day, you end up prioritizing the things that you find important, and the things that you don’t find important will fall off the wayside.”
A piece of advice from John
“It’s going to be tough, but don’t be afraid to push your boundaries and get outside your comfort zone. I feel like that’s a very cliche piece of advice, but the way I’d frame it is, it’s a lot easier to get comfortable and stay inside your comfort zone without even realizing that you’re in your comfort zone. You might think you are pushing your boundaries when in reality, you’re just slightly turning to the left or slightly turning to the right. And when I say completely change everything that you thought your boundary was, if you can go to the opposite end of the spectrum and test it out to see how far you can go and how far you think the spectrum even is, you might realize there’s way more in the middle than you thought or it’s not as far as you thought that this thing that you thought was super radical really is not that radical. And maybe you can even go further and get closer to finding something even better for you than you thought could be possible on this side of whatever spectrum you’re thinking of.”