What's your story?

Gana: I grew up in Cameroon, in a town called Douala. My grandfather made the importance of education and how it impacts your life front and center. I grew up with my parents working, my dad in the petroleum industry, my mom as an entrepreneur and owner of a community pharmacy, and my mamma a manager in tech. They never spared an opportunity to reiterate the importance of family, education, and hard work to me and my three siblings. My fondest memories are from our Christmas family gatherings with my parents, siblings, and many relatives that I'm still very close with.

I met Kevin at a nursery school in our neighborhood (PNEU Douala). We were 2 years old then and have been friends since. After PNEU, we attended Sacred Heart College, an all-boys Catholic boarding school five hours away from home. Those were some of our most formative years; learning how to live away from parents at the age of 10, waking up at 5am every day, ice cold showers, managing our time, money and food supplies over a semester with very little access to the outside world … lots of fun! For seven years we built our friendship spending nine months a year together, sometimes in the same dormitories. When we graduated, we set our sights on studying in the US and - as your typical nerds - we both went into engineering. I studied Electrical Engineering at Georgia Tech, and Kevin went into Chemical Engineering at the University of Minnesota.

Kevin: Yes, as crazy as it sounds, Gana and I both grew up in Cameroon and have known each other most of our lives. We share many of the same lived experiences, including our first business venture in high school renting out venues to organize parties over the holidays. It’s probably not a surprise to those who knew me back then that I am Social chair of my section at HBS. I grew up with two working parents. My dad is a civil servant and my mom is an entrepreneur and small business owner. One of her businesses is a vegetable oil production business that is still operating 20 years later. Seeing the hustling spirit of entrepreneurship in action through my parents showed me the value of hard work and determination. They always inspired me to have big, bold dreams and to value my education as something that no one can take away from me. I am the oldest of four siblings and family means everything to me. To me, family meant growing up very close to first, second, and third cousins. It was very common to have family gatherings of 50+. Moving to the U.S. in 2010 was tough, but because I had attended boarding school, I was ready for the new challenge.

What brought you to HBS?

Kevin: I was at an inflection point in my career. My time as a chemical engineer took me on an incredible journey from working in refineries to launching new chemical products in the U.S. and Canada. I worked in numerous functions ranging from Sales to R&D to Marketing in big companies. However, I wanted to complement my engineering experience with a solid managerial toolkit. In addition, I really wanted to take time to think about making a meaningful contribution to the African continent. HBS was the perfect place for me to grow as a leader alongside incredible classmates from all over the world. As an engineer, the case method has pushed me to think in new ways with incomplete information, which can be uncomfortable, since I was used to having all the pieces to solve for X in the equation.

What has HBS been like so far, including the Africa Business Club?

Gana: The virtual nature of the program has been interesting. I completed a graduate program while I was working and had some exposure to virtual education, but I have been really impressed by the case method. I was a little too serious at the beginning, wearing a dress shirt for the first week of class, but Kevin kept laughing at me, so I stopped. Other than that, it’s been amazing! I do appreciate the flexibility to take courses from any location in the world, but the draw to being physically on campus has been about my classmates. Meeting so many amazing and kind people from all over the globe has been the best part of the experience. The Africa Business Club has been foundational in how we experienced HBS. Through club educational and social events, we’ve gotten the chance to really expand our network of folks who are passionate about contributing to improving the continent.

What are your plans for the future?

Kevin: In the short term, I will be working as a management consultant. I’m really excited to help solve some big challenges at the highest levels of business. In the longer term, I want to work on deploying renewable energy assets across emerging economies to address energy poverty and climate change. I am also very passionate about advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in corporate America. Gana and I started an organization called Blackminds to shine a light on the stories of success from everyday black and brown people across the world. We’re looking to bring to life stories like the evolution of African music into Afrobeats and the entrepreneurial successes of Hispanic immigrants in the US.

Gana: I'll have a better short-term answer after I test out management consulting this summer. As Kevin mentioned, we launched Blackminds to help share black stories - that is something I'll be focused on. I spend a lot of my time outside of class working on an entrepreneurial venture and working with two venture capital firms, one focused on U.S. companies and the other on African startups. My longer-term plans are to use these experiences to invest in tech infrastructure and transportation startups in Africa and possibly in other emerging markets. I truly believe that the younger kids growing up in Africa today will build amazing companies, and I’d love to support them on that journey.