“Knowing how to integrate a team is more important than knowing how to run a financial model.”

Even in the earliest stages of his progress, Olujimi Williams’ career has been distinguished by his ability to find and make connections within skills, among people, and across ideas. As an undergraduate at the University of Manchester in England, for example, Olujimi united his interests in science with a growing interest in business through a joint degree that combined mechanical engineering with business and finance. “To really understand how business works,” Olujimi explains, “I wouldn’t get that in an exclusively engineering environment. I wanted to see how leaders formulate and implement strategy.”

A rotational plan with a global twist

To extend his combined engineering/business education, Olujimi joined General Electric’s Energy business where he participated in an advanced rotational program. Through a combination of work assignments while living in six different cities on three different continents, in addition to classes and seminars, “I got financial training plus managerial experience,” Olujimi says. “The global experience gave me a chance to explore many international settings in a short space of time. I learned how to work with people from different cultures and how to assimilate into different environments.

After five years with G.E., Olujimi wanted to expand his skill set even further by acquiring an MBA. He chose HBS because “I feel that the Harvard case study method helps you think like a leader. It asks you to make tough decisions, to question your assumptions, and to formulate strategies – all while under intense scrutiny from your colleagues.” Olujimi especially appreciates HBS’s cultivation of “softer” management skills necessary for effective leadership. “Real leaders don’t have all the answers,” says Olujimi. “But they do know how to draw answers from people working together. Knowing how to integrate a team ismore important than knowing how to run a financial model.”

Extending the African connection

Ultimately, Olujimi would like to return to Africa in a high-level managerial role that addresses the continent’s urgent energy challenges. He recognizes, however, that he cannot fulfill his ambition alone. His education at HBS, for example, is supported by a full scholarship from 7Up Bottling Company in Nigeria. “Throughout the application process,” notes Olujimi, “I also got help from people who reviewed my essays and helped me practice for interviews. By virtue of the scholarship and all the great help I got, I’m inclined to help other African students get in and succeed at HBS.” As part of his ambition to give back, Olujimi was recently elected as the Admissions Representative for the Africa Business Club. “We aim to be the first port of call for African students,” he says. “For students who don’t arrive with a ready network, we reach out to offer advice and support.”