Obinna Anyalebechi attended The Executive Program (TEP) in 2013. At the time, he served as a marketing manager at Diageo, a global leader in beverage alcohol. Since completing TEP, he’s held additional leadership roles in marketing, sales and commercial leadership. Today, Anyalebechi serves as a field sales and operations director in London. He recalls his time in TEP and how it transformed his career, as well as his self-awareness and outlook on life.
Why did you choose The Executive Program (TEP)?
I was looking for an advanced management program experience, but I was very particular in the type of experience and learning outcomes that I wanted. The most important thing to me was the curriculum of the program. I was also really interested in the faculty with their experience and diversity, the reputation of the school, the return on investment of the program, and the quality of the alumni network. Darden met these criteria and I felt confident TEP would help meet my leadership goals.
What were your goals coming into TEP? How did TEP help you meet them?
When I came to TEP, I was at a critical point in my career. I needed a bit of a refresh in terms of learning the new groundbreaking methods and thought leadership out there. I was looking for opportunities to expand my leadership skills, learn new management practices, and new business practices in general. I also needed an opportunity to step back and reflect and grow my self-awareness as well. All of these things were embedded in the way TEP was structured. The program was holistic. Reviewing curriculum was great, but also experiencing it in the program was phenomenal. For me, TEP didn’t only meet my expectations – it exceeded them.
Was there anything in TEP that was unexpected?
There were several things that were unexpected for me. First and foremost, the relationships with the faculty and personnel – they engaged with us as a collective, but they also personalized the engagement with each participant. It felt enriching and I was impressed with how accessible they were. Even now, I still maintain contact with quite a few of them. For instance, I’ve had to reach out to Professor Alec Horniman, and he was quite helpful and available when I needed to consult with him.
The other thing that was mind-blowing for me was how holistic TEP was. Everything was well-curated, well thought out – the structure of the program and the wellness component of it. We had fun as well outside of the classroom. I played cricket for the first time with Venkat [Professor Sankaran Venkataraman]. There was so much packed into the learning experiences as well. The use of the case study method and the group discussions were extremely valuable, and I learned a great deal from my peers.
When colleagues reach out looking for a program to attend, TEP is one of the first programs that I recommend because of the incredible experience I had at Darden.
How did the wellness component of the program impact your overall experience?
We were asked to set goals, including wellness goals, when we arrived. There was a conscious effort to create a link between wellness and output. While you attempt to achieve those goals over the course of the program, you see the little steps that you’ve made and you realize the impact it has on your health, output and outlook on life as well. It was enriching and I’ve continued to embed those goals into my daily routine today. I have also seen how focusing on wellness translates to better productivity over time.
Were there any memorable moments from the program?
There were a ton of memorable moments from TEP. Outside of the classroom, there were many social events, like enjoying a daily cocktail hour in the evening. They were always a good opportunity to engage with the faculty, and the faculty always made it a priority to attend them and dinner every single day. These events always prompted more robust conversations with the faculty.
We also had some of the weekends free and could plan things with our classmates. I recall one of my peers taking myself and few others to a lake nearby and enjoying some fishing. Our cohort also had a few others from Africa, India and Asia, and we were looking for some very spicy food. Venkat recommended a place on the Downtown Mall and it was a nice experience.
In the classroom, there were some great “a-ha” moments. There was a case that was taught by Professors Horniman and Venkat about system one and system two thinking and how it affects our decision-making. The case was insightful and brought more awareness to how I make decisions. The StrengthsFinder exercise was also helpful in rediscovering and reshaping how I lead to be more purposeful and impactful.
What did you bring back from TEP that you’ve incorporated into your career and life?
Many of the learnings and self-awareness that I took away from TEP transformed the way I lead teams. The impact I’ve been able to have at the organizations I have worked for has led to growth in my career and growth for the organizations as well. TEP also talked about impact to society, whether it’s from the people that I mentor or the groups I belong to. I have taken all of those learnings forward in the interactions that I have in the larger society. We talked about sustainability and how we need to protect the planet and environment. As leaders of organizations, it’s not just about impacting our companies, but also the world we live in to make it more sustainable into the future.
I also recall strategy conversations that I had with Venkat. He used to make the point that strategy was about choice. In the different roles that I have transitioned into and as I’ve grown in my leadership with more responsibilities, I have brought some of those frameworks we learned in strategy class with Venkat in repositioning the teams I worked on or led. The insights I gained from reframing strategy and the cases we did on macroeconomics and the impact on business have shaped my approach towards strategy and planning to create a positive impact on the organizations for which I have worked. TEP has impacted all spheres of my life.
Any final thoughts about TEP?
TEP was invaluable. It gave me time to stop and really reflect about where I was and where I needed to go. I would tell people if you’re looking for a transformational experience when it comes to leadership, managing others, and sharpening your functional skills with cutting edge thinking, TEP is uniquely curated to achieve and deliver that experience. I would recommend it in a heartbeat to anyone looking for a transformational experience.
The other thing I would touch on is the diversity of the cohort. We had people from every continent and from a wide array of industries. It’s really a melting pot of people from different professional and cultural backgrounds. It wasn’t just diverse from a functional standpoint, but also diversity of thought. I bonded and learned from my classmates. It was a phenomenal experience.
Learn more about The Executive Program: Strategic Leadership at the Top and how it may help you reach your career or organizational goals.