By Kate Beach
Natalie (Ngozi) Ofoche’s enthusiasm and passion for global engagement is catching. As an undergraduate, she spent a year studying abroad in London and knew that “coming to business school, I wanted to have that experience again. And I knew that tying it to a particular project would enhance my education. You can’t create new things unless you step out of your box. Global experiences allow you to step outside of your box and it makes you more innovative and entrepreneurial.”
After completing her joint JD/MBA degree in 2017, Ngozi eventually looks forward to doing consulting work in Africa, specifically in Nigeria, from which her family originates. She is particularly interested in working with technology start-ups in the social enterprise space. Ngozi has used three global academic programs at Darden- the Brazil Global Business Experience, Israel Global Business Experience, and a Global Consulting Project working with a client in Kenya- to prepare for her future career.
“Project management work is a big deal in terms of infrastructure and policy work when looking at Africa. I wanted to get a taste of that and the Global Business Experience to Brazil, which focused on large scale projects such as the 2014 World Cup and upcoming 2016 Olympics, was a great opportunity to get that perspective” shared Ngozi. “In Israel, the topic was technology start-ups, which I’m interested in. I was a little apprehensive about Israel, but was really impressed with the culture when I got on the ground. Getting to see and understand the eco-system for tech start-ups in Israel was useful and definitely applicable to the kind of work I want to do in Nigeria.”
In addition to participating in Darden’s Global Business Experiences, Ngozi also worked on a Global Consulting Project (GCP). Global consulting projects provide Darden students with the opportunity to work directly with an organization in order to address some kind of pressing, global challenge that the organization is currently facing. Ngozi worked on a small team with two other Darden students on a project for Distance Education for Africa (DeAfrica), an educational organization based in Nairobi working to deliver training and education courses through remote learning opportunities.
“The GCPs allow for more independence and are basically self-led. We really had to take our own initiative and were given a lot of room for innovation in how we solved the problem. Before we got on the ground, we thought we had solved the problem. When we got there, we began to understand that we needed to understand the culture, history, current infrastructure challenges, etc. in order to provide a workable recommendation and solution” Ngozi elaborated.
On the ground, the team spent time interviewing stakeholders for the new DeAfrica courses and the interviews also changed the students’ perspectives on the challenge at hand. One of Ngozi’s main takeaways was that every country has different characteristics that affect the way the people make buying decisions. Being on the ground allows students to really experience those differences and students have to really experience it in order to really understand the challenges they are working to solve.
Ngozi shared that the diverse community at Darden is also really valuable because students come from all kinds of different backgrounds and fields and bring that into the work that they do. The diverse experience and perspectives better prepares students to lead around the world. “Working on the GCP team was great. I am Nigerian, but was raised in America. Another student was Chinese and grew up in China and had prior work experience in consulting and the third was American and formerly worked for the FBI, which was great for the cyber security part of the project. We all came at it from not only different perspectives and with a different skill set, but also from different cultural perspectives. Even though we were all new to Kenya, the diverse team made our deliverables stronger” stated Ngozi.
“If you are coming to a school like Darden, you are obviously looking for a thriving business career and to get that you have to have a global perspective, not just in the classroom, but experientially. The top companies will be global because business is global. You have to be able to solve challenging problems in a global context.”