Adebusola Adegbuyi, a Laidlaw Scholar at Saïd Business School, on facing challenges with optimism and empowering young women to begin careers in technology.
Prior to starting my MBA at Said Business School, I worked as a software engineer for about 7 years across the fin-tech, logistics, renewable energy, health and telecommunications industries. In all those years, I worked predominantly at startups, sometimes being the first employee, helping recruit other employees and defining the culture. My background is in Computer Science, and I have also got a masters degree in Software Systems Engineering from the University College London.
What drew me to apply to the Laidlaw scholarship was the Foundation's unwavering commitment to reducing poverty and inequality and promoting diversity. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity granted me and the seven other women on my programme to pursue our MBA at the University of Oxford, it would have been impossible otherwise.
What is the biggest life challenge you overcame, and what did you learn from it?
The biggest challenge I have consistently faced over the years has been finding ways to fund my education. A moment that stands out for me was applying for and receiving the MTN Foundation Scholarship in the first year of my undergraduate studies. This scholarship was awarded to only 300 students from thousands of applicants after a rigorous selection and examination process. There was also an incentive to keep my grades up as there was a review annually, and students who did not maintain their grades were dropped. The MTN Foundation went on to support me till I graduated.
This particular award stands out in my memory because of the point where I stood in my life. I was a 16-year-old student with parents struggling to make ends meet. The scholarship afforded me the freedom to focus on my studies; the money covered my tuition, living expenses and there was enough left to support my family.
This experience really impressed upon me the importance of hard work and resilience, and I would go on to be the best graduating student of both the Computer Science department and my college as a whole.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
I attended a talk a while back where the speaker quoted Shimon Peres:
"Optimists and pessimists die the same way. They just live differently."
As humans, we are ultimately responsible for how we react to any situation we might encounter. This advice showed me the power of choice, whether to see challenges or see opportunities. I have had several moments in my life where I had to stop myself from spiralling into despair despite how bleak the situation seemed at the time. I know, it is easier said than done, and it takes practise, but what experience has taught me is that things are never that bad. Everything will pass.
What is the worst piece of advice you have been given?
Everyone told me, “I was too young to be independent." I had returned home to my parents after my undergraduate degree, aged 20. However, nothing prepared me for the harsh reality I faced: I would spend six hours commuting daily as my parents lived on the outskirts of town. The commute left me drained, and I spent weekends sleeping only to start over again the following week, I became a shell of myself. Plans I had made to take professional exams and apply to schools abroad for a master's degree had to be put on hold. This would go on for almost a year.
The obvious solution was securing accommodation closer to work but God forbid a young woman leaves her parents’ home to go live alone. Against all odds, I paid for and moved into a tiny apartment, and within a few months I got a better paying job and wrote my certification exams. Looking back now, it was the best decision I ever made, as it exposed me to even greater challenges and opportunities and ultimately led me to where I am today.
Top 3 tips that will help someone become a better leader
⚡ Empathy: Learn to appreciate other people’s points of view.
⚡ Listening: Cultivate the habit of listening, you will discover you learn more by listening than speaking.
⚡ Authenticity: Bring your authentic self to every situation
Which leaders in the world inspire you the most and why?
Sheryl Sandberg: She is one of the most admired and successful women in Silicon Valley, famed for her roles at Apple, Google, Yahoo and Facebook. She champions feminist values in business and advocates for women taking up space in whatever position they find themselves in.
Elon Musk: He is always going against the grain, tackling one seemingly impossible problem after another without losing enthusiasm.
Ibukun Awosika: She is a trailblazer in many regards, setting a standard for girls in Nigeria and the world over by taking on and excelling in spaces that were designed to accommodate only men.
What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?
It means having a tribe of women with similar ambitions and struggles. In a patriarchal society as ours, the higher one climbs in the corporate ladder, it becomes increasingly difficult to find female confidantes and accountability partners. In addition to relieving the financial burden of my MBA, the Laidlaw scholarship brings together a cohort of fine women and provides access to a larger network of business leaders. Being a Laidlaw scholar means I am one of many, I do not stand alone.
Briefly describe a scene from the future you are striving to create.
My dream is to set up a Programming Bootcamp for girls in Nigeria to help more women enter technology roles. This dream stems from my experience as a young girl who studied Computer Science in a class with a highly skewed gender ratio. Growing up in Nigeria, I observed that the girl child is discouraged by society from going into male-dominated Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Herein lies an opportunity to empower young girls to support themselves and their families through programming and simultaneously contribute highly skilled IT professionals to the economy. I envision a future where the percentage of women in technology is at least 50% instead of the current level of 19%.
📺 Currently binging: The Office :)
🎵 My current anthem: Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton
📚 My top book recommendation: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
🎧 Podcast obsession: The Twenty Minute VC by Harry Stebbings
🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently: My friends bringing me flowers for my matriculation, staying back to have lunch at the Ashmolean museum and a taking tour of the museum afterwards.
Adebusola is a Laidlaw Scholar at Saïd Business School. The Laidlaw Women's Business Education Scholarship aims to help build a pipeline of future women leaders through access to best-in-class education, resources and global networks by providing full and half scholarships to women who would not otherwise be in a position to reap the benefits of attending an outstanding school.
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