Country of origin: Nigeria
Managing Director, Planisware (UK)
Kay Ojo graduated from Lancaster University Management School with his MBA over 11 years ago. Kay is now Managing Director for the UK Branch of Planisware. Planisware is a global provider of Project Portfolio Management software designed for product development and Research and Development (R&D) organizations.
Today, 33% of the top 100 R&D spenders worldwide utilize Planisware solutions at a corporate level to manage their projects, resources, and portfolios. A global organization, Planisware offices are located in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Japan.
Here, Kay answers some questions about the the impact his Lancaster MBA has had.
Deciding to do an MBA so early in my career was a tough decision – it was certainly seen as a big risk by a lot of my peers back then. With only 3 years of full-time employment behind me, I was now on a prestigious course alongside other students who had 3, 5 and even 8 times the years of experience I did. It was challenging – extremely challenging at times – and juggling it with a full-time job often felt like endless effort. The whole experience was eye-opening and a very steep learning curve that opened doors for me early on in my career, and still does. The successful completion of the MBA at Lancaster shone a light on me in the organisation. This is not to say I could necessarily do well on any project but that I had the potential so I got the opportunities and I did my best to capitalise on them. The MBA also equipped me with tools and techniques to be able to move round the organisation and accumulate more valuable experiences and then go on to other organisations in the IT sector. To date, I can say that the MBA has been instrumental in propelling me through my career, taking me to the role of Managing Director for the UK branch of a €50M global software organisation where I am responsible for setting up and growing the UK market for the business.
How has the experience of the Lancaster MBA influenced you?
That is a tough question to answer as there are so many aspects to the whole MBA experience which have influenced me. Probably one of the most memorable parts of the MBA was the interaction between the other cohort members. The course attracts all sorts of people with different backgrounds and experiences, from a wide variety of industry sectors, which makes the dynamics extremely rewarding. It allows for challenging the status quo and learning from other people in a way that is often not possible in everyday working environments. For instance, there was the realisation on someone’s face when they saw that just because that’s how they’d always done something did not mean it was the best way. One of the most interesting debates was about how to manage people in your business. This always fascinated me as I had not done as much people management at that time as the others, so to hear the different perspectives was overwhelming at first, but invaluable in the end. It stayed with me because I realised the importance of that aspect of running a business or team or any group of people – you must get that aspect exactly right as it underpins pretty much anything else you might want to achieve.
What made you choose to do an MBA so early in your career?
I did a degree in Computer Systems and whilst it was rewarding it was not until I spent a year in industry, as part of the engineering degree, at what was then British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) that I realised I wanted more on the side of business management than the technical side. I guess I felt I needed more grounding in general business management and operations. I also had a bit of luck on my side in that my employer was very keen to develop and support young talent. Finally, I concluded that doing an MBA once I had done 15-20 years plus of work was not really a good use of my time. I felt that by then I would have acquired so many habits (good and bad) that would limit my learning on the course. Attending the course so early in my career is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made as it set me up for a very exciting career path that has not disappointed so far.
What MBA module influenced your career most and why?
The Operations Management & Marketing module allowed for a view of the whole value chain of an organisation developing a really good understanding of the part played by each function in an organisation. It was so rewarding that the assignment for this module was one of the most memorable for me. I got the chance to put pretty much all the facets of the module into action – from supplier selection to project planning in a software development environment, event planning and product development – all under the banner of launching a revamped existing product into a new market using a different sales model. It’s worth mentioning that this was a real-life project as one of the main benefits of doing the Lancaster MBA (EMBA in my case) is that you get more out of it if your employer is really on board. All my assignments were work-based so they were designed around a real need in the business, therefore the business got a tangible result from the project.
What would you look for if you were hiring an MBA graduate?
One of the common themes on the Lancaster MBA is that you’re encouraged to really question the status quo and not take anything for granted, that is to see what others might not be able to see. I would probably put that at the top of the list. It’s possible to train yourself to do a job very well, whatever that job is. However, having the ability to adapt to multiple situations and see challenges from different perspectives is something that is not as commonplace in the work environment as I think it could be. I guess some call this a form of creativity. A strong MBA candidate would therefore be adaptable and be very good at reading any situation presented to them. They would be inquisitive in nature and not be satisfied with vague information.
If you had to do it all over again what would you do differently?
I’d ask more questions of my fellow students, without a doubt! There were people in the room in each lecture and group session with so many experiences to learn from but I don’t think we appreciated this as much as we could have at the time. I certainly did not until long after graduation when a situation at work would present itself and the name of one of my colleagues on the course would pop into my head and I’d think – “…I bet he/she would have something to add to this…”
I would thoroughly recommend anyone considering the MBA to grab the chance if they have it. The experience is tough but extremely rewarding and Lancaster have a winning formula for delivering it which has worldwide recognition so you can’t go wrong.