Describe the unit for which you are responsible and relate it to the total organization in terms of size, scope, and autonomy of responsibility. What human resources, budget, and capital investment are you responsible for? Please describe your position.
As the Area of Focus manager for Economic and Community Development (ECD) at Rotary International, I am part of the Programs, Grants, and Memberships Department which has a team of more than 150 staff. The manager of this department reports directly to the Secretary General, and oversees my supervisor who is the Director of Grants of Programs. In my position, I am responsible for aligning service and grant activity with strategic partnerships, so as to achieve the organization’s objectives for the ECD Area of Focus. I regularly advise Rotary program and grants staff, including Regional Grants Officers and Regional Grants Managers on the eligibility of Global Grant applications in the ECD area of focus. I compile, analyze, and report measurement and evaluation data related to ECD, serve as a subject matter expert for Rotary staff and volunteer leadership. I am an ECD resource on training for Rotarians in order to build their capacity to address ECD issues. Part of this role is to help Rotarians to be part of the solution to the pressing unemployment problem facing the world, through the support of small and local enterprise incubation, development, and mentoring.
What are your goals and objectives and how will a Kellogg MBA help you achieve these? Please feel free to discuss both personal and professional goals
Employment has always been a central issue in development. Providing job opportunities for a growing population has become one the most pressing issues developing countries face. Rotarians understand that the world is so deeply interconnected and we simply cannot ignore this fact. We all have to work towards social – and environmental – change if we are to save ourselves and leave a better world for our children. Helping to change the situation in the most difficult parts of the globe cannot be effective without a class of engaged businessmen and women willing to invest their time and resources in sustainable development. Rotary International, one of the leading nonprofit organizations with more than 1.2 million professional volunteers, sees entrepreneurship as a key contributor towards improving economic growth in less developed countries. They also perceive entrepreneurship as a key in dealing with issues relating to community poverty, lack of education, and how to solve social exclusion.
As a subject matter expert in Economic and Community Development for Rotary International, my immediate goal is to better understand how to support Rotarians to assist entrepreneurs around the world. For that reason, I wish to receive a top-notch business education, taught by exceptional faculty, and with that opportunity leverage one of the largest entrepreneur networks in the world.
Further, my recent work experience in Liberia and Haiti has reinforced my conviction to create a consulting firm in the future to help change the situation in post-conflict countries. I believe that high unemployment and an increased youth population have contributed to conflict in the most difficult parts of the globe. My personal goal is to create tools that help mitigate risks for businessmen and women willing to invest in development in these regions. How can we help these countries’ chambers of commerce create business risk assessments and mitigation tools that can be used locally to invest in war-torn or post-disaster societies? Is it possible to use past experiences of success and innovation to attract more investments in peace building by breaking the conflict trap? These are just a few of the questions I seek to answer
Business generates employment opportunities, providing revenues for states and can create hope and future perspectives for war-torn communities. I became aware at a very early age of how business can change a family, a community, and a country. I became a young entrepreneur and business owner in 2000, when my family’s construction business was about to collapse. I quickly changed the situation and the next year we started making money and saved more than fifty workers’ jobs. Due to my skills, energy, and willingness to take a risk, the Youth Chamber of Commerce of Benin chose me as a mentor and trainer for ten young entrepreneurs. That dynamic changed my life and helped me understand the important role a business mentor can play in the development of a country.
All of these experiences have shaped my life and my experience in developing countries has shown me that these parts of the world need more business role models and mentors, and a class of entrepreneurs who will be willing to think about post- conflict and development differently. A business education from Kellogg will further strengthen my abilities and enhance my network, leading to a greater impact in post-conflict and developing countries. I look forward to leading this new group of entrepreneurs, who will invest not only in the for-profit sector, but also for a world where each human being will be a true global citizen.
Discuss a professional situation that turned out to be unsuccessful. Why did you or your peers consider your situation to have negative results? How did you resolve the situation? Did it change your management style? If so, how?
Change does not come easily. It also needs the right environment and team to develop and sustain it. This is a lesson I learned in my first three months as the Haiti Country Director at buildOn. I took the Country Director position at a challenging time for the organization in Haiti. The schools being built were poorly designed and the country’s program budget was in trouble. Donors were unhappy, and staff morale was low. When I took the job, I was asked by my supervisor to fire several employees who had not been performing at the expected level. I asked for some time, as I believed I could change the situation. My first month at the position went by quickly, with no major progress on projects and strategy planning. I was systematically blocked by one staff member who had been with the organization for seven years, and who also knew how to use the system to his advantage. He had created deceitful “incentives” for some employees so that change would not be initiated, developed, or sustained. All my efforts to change the procurement, the country program, the budget, and construction team reconfiguration failed. The inclusive decision-making process I had initiated could not work in that environment. After realizing my failure to lead effectively, I quickly understood the major issues:
- I underestimated the nature and depth of the challenges the organization faced;
- I did not create a change model (with an illustrative process and communication plan) known and agreed upon by all stakeholders;
- I did not put in place a team with a mindset capable of supporting my ideas;
After cleaning up the team and removing corrupt players, we worked on the processes in each department, with clear communication and strategy based on goals and objectives. Overall, I am satisfied with was achieved in that two-year period, but more importantly, I am happy with what I have learned through these challenges, and how my solutions continue to serve the organization even after my departure.
What do you consider to be your greatest skills and talents? How will you use these to contribute to an Executive MBA class as well as a study group?
The idea of business school came to me twice, both from people with whom I worked. It was a sunny day on the very difficult two-hour journey to a rural community in Haiti, that my former manager, impressed by my negotiation skills, asked if I had ever considered going into business later in life. She was impressed by how I negotiated relentlessly with the government of Haiti to convince them to provide teachers for the community schools we had built. She commended not only my perseverance during the process, but also the creativity used to get the deal done.
I was also praised for how fast I learned the job, and for creating an enabling environment for my team to be involved in the decision-making process, demonstrating my ability to learn quickly and to effectively manage.
Later that year, the recommendation of pursing an MBA came to me again from my former professor, and supervisor for Haiti Ministry of Finance trainings, who thought I should go to business school to further develop my aptitude for strategic and proactive thinking.
The above examples, in addition to my capacity to transcend language, social, geographical and cultural barriers are a reflection on my skills and talents that will contribute to, and diversify discussions in an Executive MBA course.
More importantly, I offer a unique perspective as compared to many business students. With a background in the non-profit sector, particularly in developing countries, my experiences will enrich study groups and class discussion.
Describe how your relevant global experiences have influenced you professionally.
Born into a family of thirty-two children, I have been confronted with poverty since I was a child. I did not start school until the age of ten—working with my father in his small retail business and farm until that time. As one of the older children, I had the responsibility to lead my younger siblings at school and in my father’s business. That responsibility gave me a serious sense of accountability and leadership from an early age.
My eight years of non-profit experience in international development project management, including experience in Haiti and throughout West Africa, as well as an additional four years of operations management experience in the for-profit sector have made me fight for efficiency, sustainability and inclusion of all stakeholders.
From my personal background in leadership, to my five years as a World Bank Project Coordinator, my experience managing the operations of CAIB Group, to my role as Country Director, and my current position at Rotary International, I have acquired a unique skillset which will benefit my colleagues and the faculty at Kellogg School of Management.
If needed, use this section to briefly describe any extenuating circumstances (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, etc.)
My resume shows a nearly seven-year gap in employment. During this time, I left my native country of Benin for Chicago, speaking no English and with no idea about American culture and life. I left a comfortable job in Benin, where I managed a team of nearly 60 people, and took a job as a dishwasher at a Southside Chicago restaurant for less than minimum wage. At the same, I began taking English classes at a community college, and also worked at a hotel desk at night, at the Home Depot, and as a cab driver—all so that I could have the opportunity to earn an education in the U.S. Eventually, I had learned enough English to apply for college, and spent the next five years earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.