2019
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Seven Pieces of Career Advice That Changed Booth Grads’ Lives

You’ve got the job—now what? Boothies share the early lessons that have guided them as they’ve advanced throughout their careers.

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We asked seven Booth alumni to share the best pieces of advice that inspired them as they began their careers. Read on to learn the philosophies that have motivated them to succeed in industries as diverse as banking, entrepreneurship, private equity, technology, and more.

Hard Work and Persistence Pay Off

Funso Akere“My mother’s favourite inspirational quote to me while growing up was: ‘The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.’ It’s from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. She would write it on a piece of paper and stick this on the door of my room every so often. You’ll find that it’s relevant in everything you do.”

Funso Akere, ’15 (EXP-20)
Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Capital Ltd.
Industry: Investment Banking

Establish and Reestablish Trust

 Mariam Elsamny“When I moved from Egypt to UAE, my boss gave me a piece of advice that still resonates today. I had always been a very successful person in my career. But before I went, my boss told me, ‘You’re not going to be queen bee. You have to accept that. You have to regain people’s trust again.’ It made so much sense afterwards. Life is all about regaining trust all the time, reestablishing yourself in your career.”

Mariam Elsamny, ’08 (EXP-13)
Head of Personal Banking, First Abu Dhabi Bank
Industry: Banking

Build Relationships at All Levels

Samantha Pokroy“Some of my biggest supporters have been at a very senior level in my organizations, oftentimes the CEO or head of the division. I think the reason I developed a good relationship with them is that despite their stature, I didn’t find them as frightening or intimidating as many others did, which opened up a different type of engagement. A lot of times in your career, you can put someone on a pedestal and think they’re not approachable, and you don’t have the courage to start a conversation. Now that I’m at a more senior level in my career, I really enjoy that engagement with junior people. My point is: engage and build relationships at all levels. Sometimes taking that step can be enormously rewarding for you, and for the other person as well.”

Samantha Pokroy, ’04
Founder and CEO, Sanari Capital
Industry: Private Equity

Make Room for Constructive Accidents

Anthony Siwawa“Success is rarely a straight line. Therefore, in chasing growth you have to understand that it is not a given that working conventionally hard and doing all the ‘right’ things will bring success. This is closely aligned with professor Ron Burt’s saying that one should always place themselves at risk of constructive accident. You have to constantly identify opportunities and acquire tools that will increase the prospect of an accident that will bring success over and above the norm. That process never ends, as attaining success is one thing, but retaining and growing it requires even more effort and focus.”

Anthony Siwawa, ’10 (AXP-9)
Owner, Venture Partners Botswana
Industry: Venture Capital

Demonstrate Your Passion

Adja Diakité“You have to be passionate about what you are doing. And you have to demonstrate to people that you are someone trustworthy. I’m trying to live my passion for my work, my friends, and my network, as well as trying to make sure that people can rely on me.”

Adja Diakité, ’18 (EXP-23)
Inspection Générale–Global Markets, BNP Paribas
Industry: Banking

Do Your Research

Costa Economou“What is it that you love? In this day and age, because of access to information, you can do anything you want. I think you can be taught anything, and if you apply your mind to something, you’ll get it done. But if you want to make this thing a career, you’ve got to love it. If you’re contemplating getting into a career, do the research. Make sure you understand what that entails. If you’re taking on something that’s going to be your job for the next 30 or 40 years, make sure you’ve researched properly.”

Costa Economou, ’10 (EXP-15)
Cofounder and CEO, Colourfield Liability Solutions
Industry: Investment Management

Jump at Opportunities

LaVandez (Van) T. Jones“When I was an undergraduate, I was at an investment management company in the Netherlands, and they advised that you take a risk early in your career. Jump at opportunities, and build skills that way. For me, that meant I started my career in China. Additionally, don’t be afraid to be an expert in something. A family member of mine, in the 1970s, became one of the leading experts on ERISA, employee compensation, and benefits. That was a good model.”

LaVandez (Van) T. Jones, ’14
Cofounder and Advisor, Hello Tractor
Industry: Technology, Agribusiness

These alumni are just a few of the 100-plus Boothies living and working in 21 countries across Africa. Read more about their career journeys and Booth’s growing presence across the continent in our recent magazine feature, “Changing the Game in Africa.”

—By Amy Merrick
July 16, 2019