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Triumph Awa-Arua, a Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School, on the power of education, persistence and paying it forward.
Hello, my name is Triumph, and I'm a trained doctor. I have a veterinary medicine degree from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, where I also started a womenswear fashion company as a wide-eyed second-year medical student. In retrospect, this decision marked the beginning of my journey in business and the love that blossomed after that.
My professional experiences and interests are highly diverse and distinctive due to my vast experience in the fashion manufacturing and retailing industries, healthcare and educational sector consulting, and a development finance industry internship.
I come from a family of five, with both parents being education officers in Northern Nigeria and earning little from their jobs. As such, they sought alternative income streams as their meagre salaries barely catered for our essential needs. Knowing the value of education, my parents ensured every available financial assistance was sought to actualize their dream of giving my siblings and me a basic education. We got this by working multiple jobs, saving, and pulling together resources.
Despite being raised to be content, I was also encouraged to dream big and to be a trailblazer, regardless of my socioeconomic background, and this mindset has remained with me throughout my life. Irrespective of the fact that I would be unable to fund my studies on my own, I was determined to pursue my dream of studying at London Business School.
This is why I applied for the Laidlaw Foundation scholarship at LBS. Discovering the Laidlaw Foundation and its mission to support exceptional women like me gave me the confidence to pursue my ambition of becoming a world-class business leader.
What is the biggest life challenge you overcame, and what did you learn from it?
Resilience and adaptability are two of the most significant traits I've developed as a driven young woman from a background like mine. I quickly understood that if I wanted to succeed, I would have to put in my best effort and go the extra mile because nothing would be handed to me.
The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was doing well in medical school while also working hard to start a business and devoting time to volunteering for causes I was passionate about. All of this while having significant financial limitations. On certain days, this was exhausting physically, mentally and emotionally.
My experience taught me to let go of preconceived expectations, to fully embrace the sacrifices that going down the path I am on would involve, and—most importantly—to be prepared to fail quickly, learn from it, and move on. A persistent spirit that refuses to be constrained by my socioeconomic background emerged from the realisation that most of the time, our restrictions are genuinely in our minds.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
It's important not to get caught up in the noise around you and to remember that life is a marathon, not a sprint. Your path is unique, but don’t be afraid to take it anyway. Think impact and think long term.
What is the worst piece of advice you have been given?
The worst advice I have been given is to be complacent and less ambitious because some things would always be beyond reach and unattainable. I believed this for a short time, but I am thankful I realised that this wasn’t necessarily true.
Top 3 tips that will help someone become a better leader
⚡️ Continue to improve yourself and adopt a development mindset, which involves being open to learning from others and considering viewpoints that can be different from yours. When self-leadership, self-development, and teachability are combined, incredible magic happens.
⚡️ Lead with empathy, people-centred leadership is such a good idea.
⚡️Always keep impact in the forefront of your thoughts, a desire to leave things better than when you found them.
Which leaders in the world inspire you the most and why?
Ibukun Awosika and Indra Nooyi. They are female business leaders who have successfully led global corporations and broken down glass ceilings while also nurturing valuable relationships in their personal lives. In addition, I have benefited from their efforts in mentoring young people.
What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?
For me, being a Laidlaw scholar means serving as a shining example and representing what young women and girls in every corner of the world can achieve. The Laidlaw Foundation has given me to support to truly focus on my education and reach for the stars while at it.
It’s embodying the values of this community and working diligently to ensure that after receiving a world-class education, I leverage my knowledge, skills, and networks, as well as the opportunities provided to me by the Laidlaw Foundation and London Business School.
Briefly describe a scene from the future you are striving to create.
I'm on a plane, on my way to a work assignment as part of core leadership at a global business company focused on impactful projects and driving change. A company that has achieved or is very close to achieving gender parity in the C-suite.
While waiting for the plane to take off, I confirm my availability for a meet and greet with a couple of young women from my mentorship network in the city I’m headed to.
We celebrate their accomplishments and reflect on how they break down barriers in various industries while paying it forward.
At the end of that trip, my work project was a huge success and was excellently executed.
I also return home to a healthy relationship with my family, friends, and colleagues, allowing me to truly live and positively contribute to the world.
📺 Currently binding: This Is Us
📺 My current anthem: Overcome by Emmanuel Iren and E-Daniels
📚 My top book recommendation: Atomic Habits by James Clear
🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently: Observing an elderly couple who are still in love and supportive of one another.
Triumph is a Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School. You can find Triumph on LinkedIn. 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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