Ifeoluwa Ogunbufunmi, a Laidlaw Scholar at Saïd Business School, on building a network of strong women and achieving with compassion.
I trained and worked as a corporate lawyer in my home country, Nigeria. At the start of my career, I had the privileged opportunity of working in the Office of Nigeria’s Vice President as a Legal & Strategy Associate. Working with a team of consultants from the World Bank, McKinsey & Co, KPMG, Deloitte and some of Nigeria’s leading law firms, we developed and implemented strategies to improve Nigeria’s business environment. These efforts saw Nigeria improve on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Rankings by 39 places and ranked as one of the world’s most improved economies, twice.
A few years later, I made a pivot to the private sector, working with one of Nigeria’s leading law firms as a Finance Associate. I was also one of the associates who pioneered the firm’s FinTech practice, with my work contributing to the firm’s ranking as one of the top three FinTech practices in Nigeria.
My diverse work experiences made me appreciate the rare opportunities I’ve had in life - developing my skills over the years in not only law, but also strategy and technology, and doing all these as a woman. As I began to explore the best postgraduate to pursue to hone my skills and interests, applying for an MBA was an easy decision to make. Being one of the most expensive postgraduate degrees, I knew I could only fund the Oxford MBA through a scholarship. The Laidlaw Scholarship was not only offering me an opportunity to be funded to study at Oxford, but also the opportunity to become part of a diverse network of exceptional Laidlaw Scholars driven by a desire to make impact in every possible way, and more recently, an opportunity to start a company backed by the Laidlaw Scholars Ventures Fund. This remains one of the best decisions of my life!
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
My mum always says, “There’s never a time you set, that won’t come”
It’s been invaluable advice in everything I’ve done; putting my best foot forward in everything I do and maximizing the time I have, as best as possible. I never want a set time to come, and I’m making excuses or wish I had done better or put in more effort.
What is the worst piece of advice you have been given?
“It’s all about the work”
This is so untrue! There will always be so much more than just work.
Top 3 tips that will help someone become a better leader
⚡ Always listen. Don’t be hasty to speak.
⚡ Strive to be the best version of yourself. You’re only in competition with yourself, and no one else
⚡ Excellence with compassion will always set you apart.
Which leaders in the world inspire you the most and why?
Ngozi-Okonjo Iweala (Director-General of the World Trade Organization); Dr. Jumoke Oduwole (my mentor and Special Adviser to Nigeria’s President on the Ease of Doing Business); Abubakar Suleiman (CEO, Sterling Bank)
Each of these leaders lead by example, experience, intellect, and compassion. I stay inspired by every one of them.
What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?
Influencing women to achieve the seemingly impossible is a big part of who I am. Being a Laidlaw Scholar means I can do this on a scale beyond my previous sphere of influence. The Scholar Network which the Foundation provides creates the best access to not only learn, but also to create impact together. I’ve always loved communities; the Laidlaw Community has become one of the most important to me, now and in future.
Briefly describe a scene from the future you are striving to create.
It is the year 2025; 1000 women from underserved countries are supported to be entrepreneurs by myself and scholars within the Laidlaw Network. Together, we’re supporting these women to develop their business ideas, through strategies, funding, training, mentorship, and driving sustainability. They’re empowering not only themselves and their families, but their communities. It creates a chain of impact that can’t be stopped. This is the future I imagine and can’t wait to create.
📺 Currently binging: Sweet Magnolias on Netflix
🎵 My current anthem: Understand - Omah Lay
📚 My top book recommendation: Leaving the Tarmac: Buying a Bank in Africa (Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede)
🎧 Podcast obsession: I Said What I Said (Jola & FK)
🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently: Making a decision to visit my family in Nigeria over my next school break…I miss them!!!
Ifeoluwa 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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