Omowale David-Ashiru and Yasufumi Negishi are about to complete their transformative journey within the Sloan programme, after one full year of thoughtful studies & academic preparation, intense activity to find a new purpose and career goal as well as joyful and memorable moments along with their fellow classmates and world-class faculty members. All these were brought back to life during the last official academic reunion during Capstone, which took place last month, in November.
So, let’s get to know Omowale and Yasu better and their thoughts on this last celebratory day:
1. Could you please tell us a little bit about your background, what were you professionally doing before joining the Sloan programme?
Yasu: I had two pillars of my career before joining the Sloan programme.
I served as the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer at a data analytics and AI software development start-up in Japan. I spearheaded the establishment of the company’s foundational elements, including its mission, vision, values, and organisational structure from scratch. Over five years, I played a pivotal role in transforming the company from a team of 8 to over 150 employees, which led to a successful acquisition (exit) by a major listed IT service company.
Earlier, at the largest financial conglomerate in Japan, I was engaged in private equity investments with a leverage buyout scheme. Notably, I played a key role in managing the entire investment process, from deal sourcing to exit strategies, and in post-merger integration to enhance corporate value as an independent director.
My purpose in joining the Sloan program was to reframe my leadership skills and build relationships with experienced business leaders from around the world.
Omowale: I always joke that I have lived five lives! It all started when I was four years old and my goal in life was to become the richest woman in the world. This was because my mother was a widowed thirty-year old and we didn’t have much money. So, I wrote my first business plan when I was eight and started my first business at ten – selling popcorn. I didn’t become the richest woman in the world but perhaps the richest ten-year-old in my school, from my little business. Haha! This experience taught me about people and businesses.
Since then, I have worked across four industries, in different capacities as an employee, entrepreneur, and part of the executive management of three multinational enterprises. It has been a lifetime of learning, evolving, and trying in my way to “change the world”.
Most recently, I was privileged to be the Group Managing Director (Nigeria) of NewGlobe Education, an EdTech company responsible for educating over 2 million children daily and running almost 4000 schools, in underserved communities within Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
2. In your own words, what is Capstone and what was your contribution for this big final day?
Omowale: The term “Capstone” has numerous synonyms, and my favourite is “finishing touch”! The Capstone marked the culmination of a journey that began with 54 hopeful applicants, involved three meticulous admissions officers, and engaged three indefatigable programme office personnel—representing about 28 nationalities coming together to embark on the Sloan journey. The Capstone serves as a powerful testament to a journey that not only started well but concluded successfully. It was the ultimate gathering, uniting these seemingly disparate individuals for one last time, and celebrating the unforgettable experience of the Sloan 2023 Cohort. I’d like to think that my biggest contribution was being there, as each person made the day truly complete! I also helped to organise gifts for the Programme Office.
3. You did have some great speakers invited, who were they and what did you learn from them?
Omowale: The day sparkled with inspirational speakers, Vonjay Radjakoba kicked it off, weaving his compelling tale from Madagascar to London, urging us to embrace opportunities, even when seemingly unqualified or daunting. Vice Dean Julian Birkinshaw reminded us of the significance of technology, urging a balance of paranoia and pragmatism. Faraz Khan underscored the enduring importance of ESG for leaders, responding to the demands of both this generation and our stakeholders. Professor Costas Markides infused humour into a thought-provoking presentation, emphasising the preservation of the creativity inherent in each of us.
Sir Andrew Likierman shared invaluable insights on leveraging the LBS brand and managing time effectively. Coach Peter, with practical wisdom, guided us through the nuances of endings and their impact. The Programme Office showered us with love through gifts and affirmations, while the Alumni team offered glimpses of what lies ahead, accompanied by free books for our ongoing journey. It was crowned with an insightful panel session with Sloan Alumni, moderated by Careers Lead, Pat Keener.
More than mere speeches, the day unfolded with wise words, delectable food, thoughtful gifts, and captured memories that will forever linger in our hearts.
4. The SLN2023 cohort was absolutely exceptional, and we could see some life-time friendships built throughout this one year. How did you feel the dynamics in the class on the last day of all of you being together?
Yasu: The final day of the SLN2023 cohort was bittersweet, marked by a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie. The dynamics within the class were exceptional, reflecting a year of intense learning, shared experiences, and collaboration. As we bid farewell, there was a palpable sense of gratitude for the friendships forged and the diverse perspectives. The atmosphere was both reflective and celebratory, encapsulating the bonds that transcended age, cultural, and professional backgrounds. Witnessing the growth of my peers and the collective achievements of the cohort underscored the transformative power of Sloan in fostering enduring connections.
Omowale: I think the energy on the last day buzzed with highs, yet it carried the weight of an ending, and people deal with farewells in diverse ways. Some basked in nostalgia, quietly absorbing the moment while reflecting on the journey. For others, it was obvious that it marked a triumph—a realisation of something embarked upon in faith or even confusion, and now one year on, they could proudly say that they had done it!
Reflecting the tapestry of life, people had formed their “tribes” throughout the year. On that final day, BFFs, study mates, potential business partners, those who had faced challenges, and others still hopeful for more, were all there; but one thing that was evident to me was the undeniable growth that shone through each person, a testament to the transformative power of a shared experience.
5. How would you sum up your experience within the program in only three words? What were the three top highlights if you can expand on that?
Yasu: My Sloan experience is epitomised by self-awareness, transformation, and friendship. The programme delivered an intense yet enriching learning journey, where interactions with seasoned classmates and world-class professors catalysed profound self-awareness and transformative growth in my leadership mindset. Serving as a Community rep and organising events was a highlight, allowing me to actively contribute to the vibrant community. Additionally, the experience with my family in London, a diverse city, was invaluable. It not only enriched my cultural perspective but also underscored the importance of diversity in fostering a collaborative and inclusive learning environment. Together, these highlights encapsulate a holistic and impactful Sloan experience that extends beyond academic enrichment to personal growth and lasting connections.
Omowale: Three words to sum up my experience are:
These three words also describe my highlights in the Programme. I learned so much about myself, others, the world, and the future. I grew emotionally and intellectually. I also developed relationships I could never have imagined and for me, knowing and understanding people from all over the world is a priceless gift that is useful not just for work – but for life itself.
6. Do you have any advice/tips for upcoming Sloan students?
Yasu: My advice to upcoming Sloan students is to embrace a proactive approach, recognising the limited timeframe of the programme. Take action as much as possible, engaging wholeheartedly in the myriad opportunities presented – lectures, clubs, networking, coaching etc. The programme’s intensity demands a proactive stance to extract the maximum value, so seize every chance to learn, collaborate, and contribute.
Additionally, express profound gratitude to those supporting you – your family and partner. Their support is invaluable, providing the emotional and logistical foundation that allows you to focus on your studies and engagements. Maintain open communication with them, sharing your experiences and challenges, as their understanding will strengthen your resilience.
Omowale: Be open, be vulnerable, but above all, be yourself! The world eagerly anticipates the authenticity you bring to a programme as diverse and unique as this. You will discover that no one has it all figured out, and that revelation is liberating. Collaborating, connecting, and embracing a spirit of openness and learning will pave the way for clarity, comfort, and the boldness needed for your next adventure.
7. What are your plans now while you are very close to graduation?
Yasu: As I approach graduation, my focus is on leveraging the skills, networks, and insights gained from Sloan in the start-up sphere. I am enthusiastic about contributing to innovative ventures and am actively exploring opportunities to either join dynamic tech startups or embark on my entrepreneurial journey. My goal is to apply the strategic leadership principles acquired during the programme to drive growth, foster innovation, and make a meaningful impact in the rapidly evolving business ecosystem both in the UK and Japan.
However, the first thing I would like to do is to give back to my family for their dedicated support in helping me focus on the Sloan programme.
Omowale: I’m embracing the present, appreciating the journey that led me here, and relishing the final moments of this chapter; while also eagerly anticipating, praying about, and preparing for, my next meaningful venture and contribution to the world.
For more information regarding our Sloan Programme, please visit our website here.