Oluwaseyi “Seyi” Oyenekan hit the ground running as a member of the Class of 2022’s “Section J”, a special one-time January-start section created last summer in response to the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic. In her First Year, she was an active member of the Finance Club, the African Business Organization, a First Year liaison for the Energy Club and was elected President of the Black Business Student Association for the 2021-22 academic year. Oyenekan knew she wanted to pursue a long-term career in energy, and with a background in accounting and quantitative economics, found that Investment Banking was a natural fit. Oyenekan recently shared more about her First Year Darden experience, advice for prospective students interested in Investment Banking, and considerations for African prospective students (Oyenekan hails from Nigeria by way of England, Minneapolis and Houston). This summer, Oyenekan plans to intern with Goldman Sachs Natural Resources Group.
Q: What did you do before Darden?
A: My pre-Darden background is in Accounting and Quantitative Economics. Most of my career before Darden has been in transfer pricing/economics consulting where I focused primarily on valuing and pricing global transactions of multinational companies.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue Investment Banking?
A: I spent the last few years advising clients on pricing and valuing internal transactions within their companies. I started my career in Minneapolis working on clients like Hallmark, General Mills, Sprint and H&R Block. However, a few years ago, I moved to Houston to be more exposed to clients in the energy sector. My prior work gave me the opportunity to learn more about companies in the industry and also gave me the chance to work directly with clients in trying to navigate the volatile nature of the industry.
While I really enjoyed some of the work in did in transfer pricing and my direct exposure to international tax, I knew I was only dealing with a small piece of some of the issues companies were dealing with in the industry. Unlike banking, I could only advice on internal transactions within the company and had little to no experience advising companies on external transactions with other companies.
I always knew that I wanted to pursue a long-term career in energy and knew that the only way to truly be exposed to the entirety of the business was by transitioning to Investment Banking. I was mostly attracted to being able to work on deals that could define the future of the industry while working with other talented and hard-working people after my MBA. I loved the idea of not just getting to work on M&A transactions but also helping companies raise capital either by raising debt or issuing stocks through IPOs/SPACs. I also knew IB was going to be the best training ground to get the skills I needed to succeed in any career path.
Q: What has been your favorite Darden experience and/or class so far?
A: With things being virtual, Darden has done an amazing job in still ensuring that the Class of 2022 has a comparable experience to prior years. One of my favorite experiences so far has been the case study method and the diversity in the classes. I have had the chance to learn from others, value their experience and also share my experience with them. Despite having a mix of hybrid and virtual classes, the professors have gone out of their way to get to know me personally and really taken a keen interest in learning more about my goals. It is amazing how the professors really care about their students. It really speaks volumes about the community here at Darden.
Q: What is your advice for prospective African students?
A: My advice to prospective African students would be to take the time to get to learn about Darden and the application process. Also, I would highly recommend reaching out to the student ambassadors in the industry you are interested in to try to figure out if Darden would be a great fit for you. They will be your first contact in navigating the Darden community and will be great in connecting you with other Darden students to learn from.
For a lot of African students, Darden will become your first community in the U.S. After living in a country where your race is the majority and most people look like you, it can take some time to adjust to an environment where race is now being factored into your identity. Darden has a lot of resources to help you navigate these, from the office of global diversity, equity and inclusion to the affinity student groups, there are people within the community to help you immerse into not just Darden but also into the United States.
My advice would be to start leveraging these resources the moment you pay your deposit. Connect with members of the Black Business Student Association and the Darden African Business Organization and see them as a huge resource as you navigate your new life in a new country. Despite having lived in the U.S. for some time, both groups were extremely instrumental in ensuring my move to Charlottesville, my recruiting experience and my immersion in the Darden community went very smoothly.
Q: What about your advice for candidates interested in pursuing Investment Banking?
A: While technical skills and prior experience can be a plus, your ability to network tends to play a larger role. My advice would be to not underestimate the networking process. Take the time to be prepared for the networking calls, ask insightful questions that focuses on not how smart you are but how great of a fit you would be. Approach the networking process like you are really getting to know the bankers and always remember details you talked about with them such as their kids, their last vacation etc. Take the time to brush up on your “Why Investment Banking’ story. You will be surprised by how many bankers might relate to your story.
As much as you are looking for a job, you are also looking for a company that would be the best cultural fit for you. The investment banking process starts earlier than other recruiting processes, so you get the chance to start connecting with bankers very early on. Embrace the process and value the relationships you are building. I would also highly advice leveraging the Darden network at these banks. A huge benefit of coming to Darden, is getting the chance to network and build relationships with Darden alumni. Focus on ensuring that you build a strong relationship with them.
Before heading into this process, make sure you have a supportive system both in and out of Darden. This is an intense process with a lot of highs and lows. Head into this process knowing that you have people to rely on even when it gets extremely hard or when you start to doubt yourself.
Most of all, be excited about the process. Whether you have a finance background or not, Darden will do a great job getting you ready for the technical. For now, focus on your networking skills and ensuring that you are bringing the best version of yourself to the table.
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