FTG 0066 – Climbing the Ladder from State College to Lagos with Business Leader Adeolu Adewumi-Zer ’00

Episode 8 May 14, 2024 00:56:45
FTG 0066 – Climbing the Ladder from State College to Lagos with Business Leader Adeolu Adewumi-Zer ’00
Following the Gong, a Podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State
FTG 0066 – Climbing the Ladder from State College to Lagos with Business Leader Adeolu Adewumi-Zer ’00

May 14 2024 | 00:56:45


Hosted By

Sean Goheen

Show Notes


Adeolu Adewumi-Zer ’00 Business and Science, a global advisor, change leader, and passionate advocate for a thriving Africa joins FTG to discuss her journey from State College to Penn State to Germany, Turkey, and now Nigeria. She shares her perspectives on majoring in math and actuarial science with an international lens. Adelou provides insight into careers in consulting and in-house corporate work both in the US and abroad and transitioning from detailed STEM work to managing and leading people in complex organizations. She also shares her experiences taking the plunge to leave corporate life and start her own firm after opening a regional office for one of the largest financial firms in the world and serving on corporate and non-profit board. This episode can be helpful for any Scholar, and is a can’t miss one for any Scholar planning to major or work in a business, consulting, and/or international setting. Adelou’s bio is available below along with chapter markers detailing the topics discussed. 

Guest Bio:

Adeolu Adewumi-Zer ’00 Bus, Sci is a global advisor, change leader, and passionate advocate for a thriving Africa. Adeolu earned her Bachelor of Science degrees in Actuarial Science and Mathematics with Honors, along with a Minor in Japanese, from Penn State in 2000 after growing up in State College. Adeolu built a stellar global financial services career spanning four continents. She most recently oversaw ca. EUR 500M investments across Africa as Regional Head of Mergers, Acquisitions and Transformation Africa for the Allianz Group, led Allianz Nigeria as CEO, and has now launched ZER Consulting Africa from Lagos, Nigeria, where she collaborates with development agencies, investment funds, startups, and social entrepreneurs, providing strategic guidance in executive leadership, business strategy, corporate governance, and value creation. Adeolu's passion for Africa extends beyond her professional pursuits, as she actively champions critical causes such as financial inclusion, gender equality, and quality education. A sought-after speaker and thought leader, Adeolu frequently graces international conferences, sharing her dynamic insights on corporate governance, executive leadership, and gender empowerment.

Connect with Adeolu: https://www.linkedin.com/in/adeoluadewumi/

Episode Topic & Chapters:

00:00       Introduction

00:47       How Adeolu came to Penn State and the Honors College

02:31       Selecting math-based majors in science and business

03:56       Using hard STEM skills in leadership roles

06:02       Being a Bunton Waller Scholar too

08:20       The Honors Thesis

10:01       Choosing industry over academia

11:54       Becoming a certified actuary

13:53       The B and C - study abroad and campus involvement

15:40       Using campus and family experiences as a manager and leader in industry

16:57       Coaches, sponsors, and mentors

19:57       Working in consulting

21:28       Going from consultant to corporate

23:22       Working in Europe and Africa

26:46       Opening a new office/branch for a company and resources for working moms internationally

30:19       What is Allianz

32:01       Going out on your own & starting your own firm

38:38       Facing challenging situations as a leader

40:39       Leadership skills to develop as a Scholar

42:09       Serving on corporate and non-profit boards

43:07       Time management strategies - saying yes and saying no

46:00       What the host didn't know to ask

47:38       Biggest success and failures

48:58       The responsibility of being sponsored

50:54       Shoutouts!

52:28       Final pieces of advice

53:52       How to get in touch with Adeolu

54:13       Which Creamery flavor Adeolu would be; Wrap up and final thoughts


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Credits & Notes:

This show is hosted, produced, and edited by Sean Goheen '11 Lib (Schreyer), '23g Bus.

The artwork was created by Tom Harrington, the College’s Web Developer. 

The sound effect is “Chinese Gong,” accessed via SoundBible used under Creative Commons License. 

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:05] Speaker A: Welcome to following the Gong, a podcast for Schreier scholars bringing you mentoring on demand from scholar alumni. Like my guest today, who is by far our furthest away guest joining all the way from Nigeria, Adeyolu Adewumizer is from the class of 2000 and is a global advisor, change leader and passionate advocate for a thriving Africa. Adelu, thank you for joining us here. [00:00:32] Speaker B: Thank you for having me, Sean, this is really cool. [00:00:34] Speaker A: I love that you are all tricked out in your Penn state gear. I think that's a nice touch here. I see the line shrine in the background there for those of you who are on the audio only. So nice touch there. And let's start there. How did you first come to Penn State as a student? [00:00:51] Speaker B: Well, for me, it was a bit easier than maybe a bunch of other people because I actually grew up in state college. So I'm a state high grad, graduated in 95. And so the natural thing for many state high grads was to then gravitate to the other side of the street, to Penn State. I resisted. I did apply to a couple other schools, and Penn State was meant to be sort of my plan b in case I didn't get into the other schools. However, I got a couple scholarships from Penn State, including the honors offer. And so it's rather difficult being the oldest of five kids to really argue with the savings and being almost actually paid to go to school. There's nothing better than that. [00:01:42] Speaker A: Absolutely. Definitely. One of the perks of being here in the honors college is the financial aid that's available to you no matter which point you come into the college. So be sure to check out those options if you are a current or a prospective scholar. Now, what was it that made you apply to be a scholar? It was the university scholars program at the time. What was it that drew you to apply for that on top of applying to Penn State and ultimately influenced your decision to come here? [00:02:08] Speaker B: It was probably pretty expected for me. I was a straight A student at state high. I was in all the AP classes, I took all the AP exams, did very well in the SATs. So it was really just sort of the natural thing to always aim for the top. And that's something that I've carried on, of course, post Penn State, definitely, and. [00:02:31] Speaker A: We'Re going to dive into your career in a couple of minutes. But speaking of that go getter attitude, of course you were a double major, which is pretty common for a lot of our scholars. Can you walk us through the process of how you picked those majors? Like what drew you to select the ones that you did? It was actuarially a science and mathematics, correct? [00:02:52] Speaker B: Exactly. Exactly. So I was always in a math with math was my favorite subject. But when I talked to people about, okay, what can you do with math? It came down to where you can either teach. My dad was a professor. I didn't want to do that. Or you could become an accountant. Those were somehow the two, only two options at the time. And so I actually came into Penn State as an accounting major, and it was in my first or second semester there that I even discovered actuarial science. I had never heard of this before. Statistics course. I can't recall the professor's name, but he mentioned actuarial science. I looked this up like, what is this? What is going on here? And it immediately just the idea of being able to combine math with a business degree, that's something that really appealed to me. So I actually took actuarial science. I majored in actuarial science from Sleo College of Business and then double majored with the, with the mathematics, of course, from that side. [00:03:57] Speaker A: So I do want to jump ahead a little bit here. So you talked about that. You know, you were always a numbers person. You liked math. How did you find that, you know, in your more current roles, where you're in leadership and you're dealing with people, how did the numbers skills that you got from those degrees help you later on beyond those entry level roles? [00:04:17] Speaker B: Yeah. And that's always a question that people always ask, do I really need this later on in life? Is this math all in this edition? And to some aspect, depends on what you do. Actually, you might be correct, but what loving math and majoring in math and really having started my career on the mathematics side, technical side, is that I've never been afraid of numbers. And that's what I find. A lot of people are just afraid of numbers, so they're afraid to look at the figures. They just take whatever the CFO or the finance person gives them, and they're a bit skeptical about digging deeper, saying, okay, I'm not good with numbers. I still hear that a lot. Oh, I'm not good with numbers, and I find it a shame, but because I'm good with numbers, that's never, I'm not a finance person, but I'm not afraid to dig into those numbers. [00:05:06] Speaker A: Yeah, I find that oftentimes, I think it comes down to, like, how you were taught. I fell into that trap of, like, oh, I'm not good at math. So I'm trying to avoid it. And now, you know, I think everybody can be good at math if you try. This is just how you, how you learn, right? [00:05:19] Speaker B: Yeah. I think my sister is an example. So my sister is probably basically the opposite of me. She's very much on the, she wanted to become a writer and a journalist and all that. And she was one of those people in high school who always said, oh, I'm not good at math. And then she got a nursing degree. So after college, worked a bit and then went back to school and got a nursing degree. And as part of that, she, of course, had to take mathematics again. And maybe she was just more mature. She had a different mindset. This was something she wanted to do. And she actually came to me and said, actually, math is not that bad, which I thought was, was great, a 180 from how she was in high school. [00:05:58] Speaker A: My, how the turntables have turned now, adelu, it's been a few episodes back since I've had a Bunton Waller fellow on the show. So if you're new to this, or maybe you haven't heard of that before, can you talk about that program and what that experience meant to you as a student? [00:06:18] Speaker B: Yeah. So the Baltimore scholarship, it was something I actually did, wasn't aware of applying for Penn state for admission, and so it was awarded to me. And so it's something that's awarded to people of color, minorities at the time, sort of just give them, and actually, it's a full scholarship, basically, to give them that leg up in terms of the academics. And one of the key pieces of the Buttonwaller scholarship is that the first year you actually have to live in what they call the button Waller dorm, which was Penny Packer at the time, I'm not sure it was still penny Packer. And so I think that experience, so typically, if you're coming in as an honor student, you were going to the honors dorm. I didn't do that. I actually went into the pennypacker, the buttonwaller dorm. And I think that that experience actually was probably a sort of fork in my path if I got into the honors dorm, haven't grown up to state college. I have been schooled with many of the folks who ended up in the honors program. It would have been very easy to sort of just stay in that same state college bubble, which I saw people doing, and I saw, like, my sister and my siblings did, that. But because I was forced, quote unquote, to go into this other dorm with people from all over the world, all over the place. It really pushed me in a good way to open my eyes to people from many different cultures that I hadn't been exposed to before. Particularly cultures is sort of like the Caribbeans and the black Americans, which me as a Nigerian, was a very different culture as a nigerian American. [00:08:07] Speaker A: That's awesome. And yeah, I think that might still be the case that the button wallet fellows do have to live in certain housings. So if you're interested in that program, I think that's something certainly to see that there is a benefit to that. And obviously both programs, the university scholars now shrier honors college and button wall are all about the academic experience. So of course I'm going to ask you, tell us about your thesis, but particularly how the thesis influenced your career and how you drew those stills into your life after Penn State. [00:08:39] Speaker B: Yeah, so my thesis I actually did with Doctor Arnold Shapiro, who I think has since retired from Penn State, and he was the one who actually started the actuarial program at Penn State Donkey years ago. Great professor. He was a professor for many of my courses, and I was also his teaching assistant for many of the courses behind me. So I think working with him over the years helped me to want to come up with a thesis that would sort of be in that same space which was around long term care. It's not something I actually went into. I didn't go into healthcare, I didn't go into anything related unnecessarily, but it was around retirement. And what do you do after retirement? And I actually became a pension actuary. So I guess in that sense, that was the sort of push to get me into my career. I wouldn't say that I actually thought about that thesis afterwards, but it was a great experience in terms of just that rigor, because I never did go ahead to get my doctorate, something that I thought I would do with the kind of family I grew up in. But anyhow, never say never. I can still get my doctorate, but I haven't yet. But at least I still, I have gone through that experience of having to defend at least. [00:10:01] Speaker A: Well, let's talk about that. So, you know, you had in the back of your mind, you come from a lineage of faculty and you decide not to go that path. So what inspired you to take more of the internship and full time employment path? Walk us through, you know, obviously technology has changed since you were a student, but walk us through your mindset and how you approach that and maybe draw out some things that could be helpful for students who are approaching those same activities here in the present day. [00:10:30] Speaker B: So one of the things in the US at the time anyway, is that going the PhD route, it seems very academic, which is not the case in many, many countries outside of the US. If I take Germany for example, it felt like almost everyone had a PhD because that was sort of the elitist path to go into business. But in the US, if you want to go into business and you had a PhD, you're almost looked down upon as being too theoretical and having no business knowledge, the MBA you should go for. And I knew that I wanted to do business. I knew that I didn't want to teach, as I mentioned before. And so I immediately sort of discarded, even though I sort of been a childhood dream of mine, to become a PhD, a doctor like my dad. I sort of discarded that once I realized that it probably didn't just make sense in the path I was pursuing. So instead I was looking to get an international MBA. For various reasons that also didn't happen, not least because as an actuary, you anyway have to go through quite a long academic learning path to become a qualified actuary in the US. And in my dad's eyes at least, he calls that a professional PhD. I'm not sure whether the real PhDs would agree with that, but that's how he sees it. [00:11:54] Speaker A: So I can't say that I'm terribly familiar with that process. And that similar to like a CPA or, you know, counselors or other licensed roles, can you talk about that additional education that you need to be a certified actuary? [00:12:09] Speaker B: Yeah. So it's actually a much longer path than many of the other professional qualifications at the time. And regularly they update the sort of the learning path. But at the time it was ten exams that you had to take, basically two exams per year, assuming you pass each exam. And these were very demanding exams, so to pass each one at the first try was actually quite rare. I did do so for almost all of them. So I was able to get through in say, five years, which many people, it will take eight to ten years to get through the whole before becoming what they call a fellow society of actuaries nefase. [00:12:55] Speaker A: That is intense. So if you are thinking about that career path, you better, better start saving up for those extra study books, those classes, those online courses that I'm sure are available to help you prepare for the exams today. [00:13:08] Speaker B: Well, the great thing is that many employers actually do support that, and it's actually very helpful that they do this. They support it most financially because the exams are not cheap, the books were not cheap. Now everything's probably online. The courses, the training courses before you take the exams were not cheap. And then the time you needed, you really needed intense study time to get to the exams. And so the employers would actually support you in terms of making sure that you'd work maybe half time during the exam season, as it was called, so that you could get through the exam. So there was a lot of support from employers. [00:13:45] Speaker A: Well, definitely be sure to ask those questions when you're doing your internship and in your interview process. Now, before we continue on in your career path. Adelu, I do want to dip back just for a minute to finish out some parts of your time here at Penn State. We've talked a lot about academics, but something we haven't really talked a lot about is our other two mission tenants of building a global perspective and opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. So I was hoping you could share what were ways that you plugged in with those mission tenants as a student here. [00:14:20] Speaker B: Yeah. So around the global leadership, that, of course, is something that's still close to my heart, with my background, with my interests, with the kind of father I have. And so I actually did a study abroad in Japan for once. I've met semester and minored in Japanese. And the reason that I did that was because I read a book called the Rising sun, which later became a movie. And I read that one Christmas, and I said to my parents, I want to go to Japan. I looked at the requirements, and at the time, the requirements was that you have to have, I think, a year at the time of Japanese before you could actually enter the program. So that's what I did. I immediately signed up for Japanese, took that year, did that study abroad in a small town called Kansai Gaidai. And so that was a great experience, so wonderful that I actually thought that I would move to Japan after college. But life had other things for me, and then in terms of, again, around leadership. So again, as a nigerian, I want to tap into the african side of me. And so I joined the African Students Association, ASL, and at one point became its vice president before I left. [00:15:40] Speaker A: So I have to ask you, had the study abroad experience, you were leading a club here on campus in the African Student association. How did those experiences influence, especially maybe your early career or your first time managing others in a professional capacity? [00:15:55] Speaker B: Wow, that's an interesting question. I would actually say that it was more being the oldest of five kids that really has influenced, particularly the early years of leadership. And what has influenced the latter part has been become an apparent. And that's one thing that actually a sponsor mentor of mine had warned me or had predicted would happen when I became pregnant the first time, is that becoming a parent would really reflect on my leadership. [00:16:31] Speaker A: Yes. Can you talk more about both parts of that? You said the term sponsor mentor, which I think we need to unpack here. And then also the, I guess kind of the vibe back and forth, for lack of a better word, between parenting and leadership in the household versus leadership in the workplace. I'll let you pick which one you want to address first. [00:16:55] Speaker B: Both are great questions. Right? So there are three things, right? There are coaches, there are sponsors, there are mentors. And many times they get mixed up, but they're not the same thing. One person may be able to play multiple roles, but typically there are different people who will play those roles. So for me, a mentor, and I've mentored many and have people mentor me, is sort of a sounding board, right? So they're not meant to direct you and what you should do to tell you what to do, but basically they're using their experiences to give you their advice based on what you've told them, as opposed to a coach. And there are professional coaches typically call executive coaches who really are there to tackle a specific problem with you, whether it's personal or typically a professional. Some could argue that professional sort of leads into personal and personal and vice versa, as opposed to a sponsor. So a sponsor is someone who will speak when you're not in the room. So a sponsor is actually arguably the key piece to progress in your career because there are many places where opportunities are being discussed and you won't be there. You won't ever know about it. You won't even know that your name was mentioned, but you need someone else who is in the room to mention your name. So that's the difference for me between a mentor, a coach and a sponsor. Now, in terms of the leadership and my parenting. And this again, ties into being the oldest of five children coming from a very traditional nigerian household, where a lot of responsibility is expected from the eldest and taking that into becoming a mom, where, of course, naturally there's a lot of responsibility there. And being a leader is sort of trifecta, where, again, a lot of responsibility, accountability. And so how that sort of all feeds into each other, where I have the personality, where I still sort of the mother of my team, the mother of my company, the mother of my group. Even from college days, they used to call me mama day just because that truly sort of the vibe maybe that I gave to my friends. And so really playing that. And moms are loving, but moms are also tough. Moms always expect you to meet a certain standard, but they're also that safety net, right? That will also always give you a hug, even after they finish yelling at you. And I think that all of that I sort of bring into the workplace. [00:19:38] Speaker A: That is a really, really cool perspective there. Now I'm going to transition us back into where I originally had us scripted out. We've gone, you wouldn't know this if you didn't see my run of questions here, but we've gone off the rails, but in a very good way. So I appreciate you humoring my follow up questions. So you start off as an actuary, but the idea of working in consulting is really popular with our students across majors, across colleges here at Penn State, so much so that we actually have an entire student club for it, the Shire consulting group. So what advice do you have based on your career and experiences for aspiring and early career consultants? [00:20:17] Speaker B: I'm adamant that a consultant is there to serve their clients. I'm sure many different people have different views on that, and many consultants themselves interact with clients in different ways. But from my experience, and also my belief as a person, a consultant, an advisor is there to support serve their clients. And the best consultants, the best advice, are those who care about people. I think it's really tough to not care about people and then pretend you do for your client and then serve them and vice versa. I think that if you care about people and you see your client as a person, it's very natural to then serve them in the way they should be served. And that's going around really listening to them, really hear their problems, connecting to them on a deeper level, on a human level, and not let it just be about money. [00:21:16] Speaker A: And I think you could substitute in there if you're a teacher or in a different role in business. If you're on the corporate side, thinking about your customers or your students or other folks that you interact with, I think that's also applicable advice. Now, Adela, you shared your cv with ahead of time with me as so I could prepare for this. And something that kind of jumped out at me was like, after your early career, you got going, there were two things. First, you transitioned from working here in the states to Europe and Africa, and then you also had a pretty, like, meteoric rise up through the managerial and leadership levels, but in a corporate setting. So I want to talk about that transition in two parts. First, from the work perspective. What inspired you to go from the external consultant to the in house corporate role? [00:22:04] Speaker B: Yeah. So that was a very intentional move. I had been a consultant for 1011 years, first in the US and then in Germany, and that was en route to coming back to Africa. So that's something I need to mention is that ever since we migrated to emigrated to the US at a very young age, or I was very young, my parents were my students, I knew that I was going to go back. So this was sort of my path to grew you up to go back. And after a decade plus of consulting and always advising folks, I thought that it would make sense to see what the other side is like and actually take that advice and actually have to execute on advice. So as a consultant, many times you give your advice, you finish the project and you step off the next one. You never actually see what the results are. And I got tired of not being able to see the results to see, okay, was I just full of crap when I was in all this, or did it actually make sense? And so that's why I very intentionally thought that my next role should be in the corporate space so that I could actually see projects through to the end and actually see the results. Those. Awesome. [00:23:22] Speaker A: And so you talked about your road back to Nigeria. So how did you, did you plot that out? Like, was that always the plan? Or how did you end up in Germany first? Walk us through kind of that shift in the geography over time? [00:23:37] Speaker B: Yeah. So that was always a plan. My mom is late, but you can ask my dad. Ever since we emigrated to the US, I always insisted that I was going back to Nigeria. In my final interview at my first job, I had told the then general manager that I'd be opening up an office of theirs in Nigeria. And I knew it wouldn't be direct. So I basically raised my hand for any international opportunity that was out there. I got turned down a lot, and until the german opportunity came up, and I didn't know anything about Germany other than what we learned in history class at the time, which was very pleasant. But for me, Germany was a no brainer simply because it was in the same time zone as Nigeria. I said, okay, it will get me closer. And then I didn't know what the next step would be after that, but I would be in the same time zone. I'm getting there. And that's really. I spent a week on what they call a look see trip, where you go there, look around, look for housing, check out to see if this was really a place for you. I was there in May. I didn't know that weather in Germany is so unpredictable. May is probably the best time to be there. So they sort of fooled me. But it was a very pleasant, sunny week in Munich. And based on that, and based on the fact that those same time zone, Nigeria, I decided to take the role. [00:25:01] Speaker A: So you weren't familiar. You said you had studied abroad in Japan, born in Nigeria, raised in the US. Not familiar with the culture there, clearly not familiar with the climate there in the neurological sense. So what advice do you have for students who maybe get an international assignment in their career to be able to make the most of it, especially if it's in a country that they're just not at all familiar with up till that point? [00:25:25] Speaker B: Yeah. So I would say three things. Research. Well, the part a one is three parts. Research, research, research. So research I did, I read at the time books. So I read a lot about german history, german people, german culture. Before I got there, I felt like I knew more about Germans than they knew about themselves at times. The second thing is learn the language. Learn the language as quickly as possible. I didn't have any German when I moved to Germany. Within a year and a half, I was speaking okay. I think within two. The first, after two plus years, I could call myself fluent. At least I didn't have the care of my dictionary around, which was already progress. And then third is don't fall into trap of staying sort of in the international ghetto, if I can call it that. Make local friends, get out into the world, mix with the people who are there, eat their foods, hang out with them, and don't make the mistake of trying to stay with your own people, because you just, you might as well just stay in the US. [00:26:33] Speaker A: And honestly, I think the advice could even apply if you are moving to a different part of the United States than you are from too. You know, get to know the locals and the different cuisines and culture too. So I think that's really solid advice. Dalu, now you talked about opening an office, and spoiler warning, I guess here you succeeded in that goal. [00:26:55] Speaker B: You held increasingly longer than I thought. [00:26:59] Speaker A: Well, you, hey, a goal that is worth it takes some time, usually. So talk about that. You know, you held these increasingly senior roles at Allianz, all the way to working as the CEO of the Allianz Nigeria office, a subset subsidiary of, you know, the mothership. How did you prepare for those roles, especially, you know, your more relational tasks, more future skills, and opening up a new corporate office. Walk us through all of that, yes. [00:27:31] Speaker B: I'm one of those people who really likes to read about things before she jumps into them. I'm always eager to jump, but I will prepare for that. So I think that the first thing is that to be very eager to go on to new things, whether it's new location, whether it's a new job, whether it's a new role, whether it's just a new project, I really raised my hand at every opportunity almost to grab something and not intentionally as to, oh, I'm trying to brown nose and get on the leadership's radar screen, but because I just like to learn new things and I get bored really easily. And so I wanted to interact with other teams, other departments, other projects and just keep learning. Like, I love to learn. I'm a professor's daughter. I love to learn. So, you know, so that's the one. And then secondly, no, I did have support because at some point in that whole journey I became a mom, I got married and all that. So, and I know that in the US that's a whole tough discussion around working moms and career moms, etcetera, I had the privilege of working in some countries where I could afford external support and not rely solely on unpaid family support. So that helps a tremendous bit. When people ask me if I moved back to the US, I said no way. I did have to do all the work myself. I'm not sure how working moms there do it, actually. And so, yeah, and then it was really that eagerness and also just having a clear goal as to what I wanted to do. I didn't want to go to Asia, I didn't want to come back to the US, I didn't want to go to South America. I knew that I wanted to go to Africa, but I love myself flexibility as to how to get there. After Munich, I went to Turkey. Why did I go to Turkey? Because it was a transitional market. And I thought that after these number of years, 15 years I've had in western markets, I need to prove that I can actually deal with a more emerging market. And that really did come through because I had recruiters who would start to call me from emerging markets and seeing my cv and saying, okay, now that you're in Turkey, we sort of have that proof of concept that you can actually survive in a less stable market. [00:30:19] Speaker A: So if you're watching to this point and you're asking yourself and you haven't pulled it up, in addition to watching or listening, and you're asking, what is Allianz? And maybe you're like me. And you were only familiar with it from the sponsorship for Bayern Munich Stadium. You are based in Munich? Of course. So what kind of company is that? Walk us through. Just like, you know, the elevator pitch of how you explained what you were doing for this company and what they do to maybe families, you know, family members when you were visiting back home. [00:30:51] Speaker B: Yeah. So Allianz, and it is alliance, not alliance as an option is called, is a german multinational, a huge financial services, arguably the largest financial services company in the world, focused in two areas on insurance and then in asset management. So managing third party funds, etcetera. So, yeah, that's it in a nutshell. Financial services giant born out of Munich, Germany. [00:31:23] Speaker A: So that thesis on pensions came full circle there in its own small way, right? [00:31:31] Speaker B: It did. And the funny thing is that I never wanted to work for an insurance company. That's actually why I went consulting. So as an actor in the US, you have basically three choices. You go into insurance, you go into consulting, or you go into the government. I definitely want to go into government. I did two insurance internships and found them boring. And I loved people, so I thought consulting was the place for me. And then 1112 years later I find myself an insurance company. [00:32:01] Speaker A: Well, when you open up an office, you gave yourself some flexibility and you recently actually left Allianz and you started your own consulting firm. So going back to the people oriented side of things. So that had to have been a very tough decision. Walk us through the backstory and your inspiration and your thought process and how you prepared to take that leap. Because starting even a lemonade stand can be scary, let alone starting an international consulting firm. So explain your thinking in a way that can maybe inspire a shrier scholar who's thinking about their own entrepreneurial venture. [00:32:42] Speaker B: Yeah, sure. So I'm someone who never thought that she would be an entrepreneur. My husband is. He's had many different businesses. From his twenties. He was a bar. In his twenties, he's owned car dealerships, he's distributed bar syrup. He's even opened a furniture business here in Nigeria. He's turkish. And maybe that explains some of it. So Turks are known for their entrepreneurial skills. I was always the opposite. I was very much, I'm corporate consulting. Corporate. The full time employee bringing in the stable paycheck, working hard, wanting to climb the ladder and succeed, but not wanting to take that risky step of not having that sort of security net behind me. And at different points in my career, I've had people talk to me about this. Oh, maybe you should do this. Oh, maybe you should do that. Oh, maybe you should become an executive recruiter, or maybe you should become a consultant, etcetera. And I always push back and say, no, that's not me. That's not what I want, etcetera. And even when I left Allianz at the end of 22, I still had that same mindset. But I knew that I wanted to make even more impact here in Africa, and so I had to figure out what that meant for me. I intentionally took a year off, and during that year, I took a very active break. So, meaning that I volunteered for different organizations, so organizations that I had been members of but never had time to really do anything as CEO. I reached out to them and said, hey, I have some free time. What do you need? So I ran strategy sessions. I was tapped for various speaking engagements. I adjudicated different entrepreneurial panels, etcetera. So that was one piece. The second piece was, I spoke with a lot of people during that time. This was last year. So I would meet you, Sean, and we would have a nice chat, 30 minutes. And then you say, oh, but you should meet. You should also meet Millie and John. And you give me the contact. And I would reach out to Millie and John. Don't know them from Adam, but I'd reach out and say, hey, Sean said, we should connect. Let's connect. And so the next week, I'm talking to Millie, John. And so each time I would speak to someone, they would give me a few other people to talk to. And so I was persistent, actually reaching out and just widening my network that way. So I already had a very strong network, and they just made it wider. And I was speaking to people from nonprofits, speaking to people from foundations, speaking to people from academia, speaking to people from the whole startup ecosystem, venture capitalists, private equity, et cetera. And at some point, I actually thought that I would go into private equity. I had done strategic m and a, and it was really about sort of helping the small companies rise up anyway, etcetera, and had a couple offers on the table. And then there were some hiccups in the process, which made me take a step back and say, well, is this really what I want? And that moment of soul seeking brought a moment of clarity as well, to say, well, actually, what I want to do is to help people. And what is the best way to help people is to advise them. That's going back to my mother hen nature. What I observed is that there are a lot of smart people with really creative ideas, really great ideas, but many of them had never worked in corporate environments, never led a team, never built a business, and just didn't know what they didn't know. And maybe they just needed a mom, so a business mom to come in and sort of help them out. And that's where the idea of the consultant business was born. [00:36:51] Speaker A: So what is like, you know, walk us through, I guess, kind of an example of like, you know, some you connect with a possible client. Like, what are the kind of projects that you, that you help get off the ground or advise, advise them on? [00:37:06] Speaker B: Yeah, so it really ranges. And that's what I've always loved about consulting, is the flexibility. Again, getting bored easily. So one project I have is there's a company that wants to sort of have a rethink on their strategy. And so I'm working with the CEO and the leadership team to really pivot, figure out what their next pivot will be. In another engagement, they had their executive director leave, and so they needed someone to come in as an interim and stabilize the ship and sort of hand it off to the next person. Another project I have is what they call an accelerator, where they want to build a training program for female fund managers. And so looking for different people to focus on different topics, governance, corporate governance is a key topic of mine. So that's one of the modules that I would be working with them to develop. So you see that the problems can be very different. Another one is just capital. Right? A lot of these startups, a lot of these scale up, just need money, and I'm not. And that's what I always tell people. I'm not a financial advisor, I'm not in the business of raising funds, but I have a network. I know a lot of people who are in that business. I can connect to you, and I am good at connecting people. So those are the different types of projects I work on. [00:38:38] Speaker A: Awesome. Now, reflecting back on your career from the time you graduate to now, can you talk about maybe a challenging decision that you faced, whether it was as a consultant, as a manager, as a CEO, and most importantly, what lessons you took from that that could be helpful for scholars, whether they're leading a thon committee, dealing with a group project, or maybe early in their career as they start to lead teams themselves? [00:39:08] Speaker B: Well, I would say that one of the toughest, if not the toughest decision I had to make was to restructure an entire company. So when I came into Nigeria to lead alias Nigeria, the company was not in the best position. And so we really had to go through a fast but thorough process of turning around the company. And part of turning around the company in many cases, unfortunately, does have an impact, a real impact on people in terms of cost savings and resizing the organization. It's not an easy decision, and it never should be. You're impacting people's lives. But one of the things that we try to do is to make sure that this decision was done as thoughtfully and as equitably and transparently as possible. And I think that's something that people can take, and I do take in many different situations, is that people won't always agree with what you're doing, but as long as they understand why you're doing it and you're transparent in how you're making the decision, it can make things easier in terms of the process. Doesn't mean that people will agree at the end, but they can leave feeling that they were understood and seen. [00:40:40] Speaker A: Absolutely. And a lot of the research, that is what it says to be transparent in those change management processes. So in addition to being, I think you talked really about empathy and transparency there, what other skills or qualities from your own experience or from others that you've worked with do you think are essential for a successful executive? And what can scholars do now while they're here in college or early in their career, to start building and enhancing those skills? [00:41:09] Speaker B: Number one skill, listening to me, the best leaders are the best listeners, and they're the ones who talk the least. Unfortunately, many times leaders feel that it should be the opposite. But the best leaders, great leaders, are the ones who listen and listen and hear what others around them have to say. It's not an easy skill to train. It's not an easy skill to learn. But the earlier you start just training yourselves to actually listen to people across the desk from you, over coffee, over dinner, whatever, instead of being lost in your thoughts, instead of thinking about what is the next thing you want to say, but actually care and listen to what people have to say and ask questions about them. People love to talk about themselves, ask questions and let them talk and listen to what they're saying. [00:42:02] Speaker A: I've made a whole podcast out of that concept, so I definitely agree with you there. Now you've talked about, you do speaking and writing engagements, and then you're also on different boards for both for profit companies and nonprofit charitable organizations. So let's talk about that. But kind of, first of all, like, what does that mean to be on the board for one of those organizations, both the for profit and the nonprofit? [00:42:32] Speaker B: Yeah, I would say it's similar whether it's a for profit or not profit. But basically you're there for two, for two reasons. One is governance. So to make sure there's sort of oversight as to what the executive team, the CEO and executive team are doing. And then two, guidance. So you're someone that the executive team, the CEO can actually go to with experiences from different places. It doesn't mean that you know the business better than the executive team, but you have your experiences that you can bring that can give them some guidance on the topics that they have on the table. [00:43:07] Speaker A: And so second, you talked about being able to in Nigeria, the cost for help as a working parent is different than it is here in the west. And so obviously that influences this question. But how do you find time for all of these ventures as a parent, as a volunteer, as a entrepreneur and consultant? Walk us through some strategies that especially our scholars who, like you like, I tend to take on lots of different commitments so that they can use that both now as a student and as an alum like us. [00:43:45] Speaker B: Yeah. So it's two things, focus. So focus and prioritize and the ability to say no. And you need to put those together. And I think the ability to say no is probably the more difficult one, although we tend to get easily throughout the distracting world. But it can be very difficult for us as nice people, quote unquote, to say no to people because we also do want to do everything right. There's lots of interesting things to do out there. I feel that as you get older, it gets easier to say no because you understand what you're giving up every time you say yes. Because every time you say yes, you actually are saying no to. You're saying no to something else. So be very careful about what you're saying no to. And then, so a book that I have come to love and use multiple times and reread and reread every year, basically on an annual basis, is called the one Thing by Gary Keller. Have you heard of it? Okay, I thought you nodded your head. All right, so it's a book that I've recommended to many people, most recently my dad. So he's 71 now. And as he's speaking about his next chapter, even at 71, there's still a next chapter and there's things he wants to do. But how does he find time to plan for that next chapter as he still lived in the current one? And so we had that book together and talk about the one thing. And so that's the focus question, right? People talk about, oh, you should, you should make sure you focus on the top five things, the top three things. And this book says there's only one thing that's important. Focus on that one thing before moving on to the next one thing. And it's a great book. I definitely would recommend that to the audience. [00:45:40] Speaker A: Well, you can go on and see if we have that either at one of the Penn State libraries, depending on which campus you are at, or at your local library here in state college. It's the sklo library downtown. But definitely, yeah, go on and see if you can check that out. And Adelu, I'm very glad that you said yes to participating with us here on following the gone. So we've talked about a lot in our time together, but I'm no expert clearly, on actuarial science or on living internationally and all the things that you are. Are there any questions that we could have discussed today but I didn't ask or another way, what kind of questions do you get from maybe interns, junior employees, mentees or to call back earlier in our conversation, those that you're sponsoring in the different organizations that you've been a part of? [00:46:31] Speaker B: And I do get a lot of questions, but I would say the questions sort of boil down to what we've already discussed here. One around leadership and how to become a better leader. Secondly, around balance and how to balance our crazy lives with our crazy work lives and our crazy careers. And then the third around what drives me and what should drive them. So how did I find my North Star? For me, my North Star was returning back to Africa, building a new Africa for my children and a lot of people. And I knew that from a very young age, but a lot of people don't have that, even at older ages. And so a lot of people struggle with how do you find that purpose for your wife? And so those are, I would say those are the three questions I get a lot. I think we discussed those a bit already, but also helpful for others if you're thinking about what so leadership, what your purpose is, and I've already forgotten what the third one was about. [00:47:38] Speaker A: Now here is your chance to brag. Dalou, what would you say is your biggest success to date? [00:47:44] Speaker B: My biggest success, I would say, is to actually take that bold step and go out to my own because it's something that I didn't even expect of myself. I thought that if I would do it, it would be sort of in my semi retirement, maybe ten years down the line. But instead of ten years on the line, I decided to do it now and let's see where I am ten years from now. [00:48:08] Speaker A: Absolutely. Then definitely a bold step and I'm looking forward to seeing, you know, where that lands in ten years since you got an early start on it. But on the flip side, though, what would you say is the biggest transformational learning moment or mistake that you've had in your career and what you learned from that experience? [00:48:25] Speaker B: I don't believe in mistakes, actually. And I know it used to be a classic interview question back in the day. I don't know if it still is, but I always believe very fundamentally that there's a reason for everything, even for the negative things, especially for negative things. So every time something happens to me that I think might be negative, my first reaction is always, but there's a reason for this. And so let me just be patient and find out what the reason is. [00:48:58] Speaker A: That is very wise wisdom. There's now, we've talked about mentorship, and it's the whole point of this podcast, but we've also talked about sponsorship. So for scholars, either current or young alumni, how do you suggest that they approach mentorship as both a mentor and a mentee and seek out sponsorship to help get them on the right path in, you know, run the right footsteps in their journey? [00:49:25] Speaker B: Yeah. So I think mentorship is something you can seek and something you can give as well, of course. And let's always remember, it should be a two way street. You're always ahead of somebody. So let's pay it forward and make sure that just as we are trying to get mentors for ourselves, make sure that we are mentors to other people, a sponsor is something that you cannot get yourself. It's something that you get because of what you do and who you are. And many times you don't even know that that person is a sponsor because as I mentioned, it's a person who speaks in a room when you're not there and you don't know what's been spoken. So in order to attract sponsors, make sure you deliver excellence. And because sponsors want people who will make them look good. If I recommend you, Sean, and then you just blow things up, that falls back on me. Nobody will ever trust anyone I recommend ever again. So if they know that you're a sure thing, like you always consistently deliver excellence, then you will attract people because people want to, they're eager to be that person that people go to and say, oh, they always know the best people. So that's what I would say. [00:50:45] Speaker A: Well, hopefully I've delivered excellence for you watching or listening here today. I know, Adelu, you have definitely with our conversation. So we're in the very tail end of our chat here. Are there any, and I think I might guess some folks here, you might say, but are there any professors or friends or perhaps family members from your day as a scholar or as a Penn stater that you want to give a shout out to here, you're cheating a bit. [00:51:13] Speaker B: So the first person I'll give a shout out to is my own dad, Doctor Micah de Wumi, who was the vice provost of international programs before he retired from Penn State to then go on to run Ies abroad as a provost and executive vice president there out of Chicago. Then Doctor Arnold Shapiro, he'll probably never hear this, we haven't spoken in a very long time, but I still respect him and think of him fondly. And then I have a number of uncles and aunties, and these are nigerian uncles and aunties, so no blood relations, but there's still my uncles and aunties. And I won't name all of them, but they know who they are. You are my family. While I was in state college, I didn't have family or we didn't have family in the US, but you are a family to us. And I really appreciate that. And I appreciate all the love and support that you've given me, even while I moved to Nigeria and proved all your dreams true. [00:52:14] Speaker A: Well, I mean, there's many a Hollywood movie, blockbuster or smaller about the family that you make. So, you know, definitely plug in. Make sure you find a community here, no matter what your identity is, find that community here at Penn State, no matter which campus you're at. Now, as we're wrapping up our time, is there a final piece of advice that you wanted to leave with scholars and young alumni to make sure that they're making the most of their time here and early in their career when they have, the world is their oyster ahead of them. [00:52:42] Speaker B: Life is long, guys. And I say this because I've met so many of my colleagues or of my folks around me who at 30 are frantically worried that they haven't progressed this far in their career or they haven't, they don't have kids or they're not married or whatever it is that they see as success. And I asked them, particularly when it's around career like, how long do you plan to work? Like up to when do you plan to work? And they usually say 60 something, 60 and 70. And so then I remind them, how old are you? Today you're 30. So how much longer do you have to figure things out? You have a really long time. Even me at I'll be 47 this year. I still feel that I still have half my career in front of me. And so just remember that life, God willing, is very long. [00:53:42] Speaker A: Absolutely. There's a fine balance between the long term and making the most of everyday carpeting. The diem, as they say. Right? [00:53:51] Speaker B: Exactly. [00:53:52] Speaker A: So if a scholar was moved by our conversation here today, and they want to talk with you further, what's the best way that they can reach out to you and keep this conversation going further? [00:54:02] Speaker B: LinkedIn for sure, that's the best place to reach me. I love LinkedIn. I'm a big fan. I do reply to anyone who reaches out, and if you have any questions, please feel free. [00:54:13] Speaker A: And finally, Adelu, the hardest question that I ask every guest here, and hopefully you can guess that that is a bit of a joke. If you are a flavor of Berkey creamery ice cream, which would you be? And most importantly, as a scholar alumna, why would you be that flavor hand style? [00:54:33] Speaker B: The grilled sticky. And the reason for that, I don't think it was around when I was there, but I had it last year. I was at Penn State and I had the great fortune to get some premier ice cream. Is that Neal Diner and the grill streaky is just so imprinted in my college experience. Every time I would go to state college, and I was very sad to find out that it's clothes now, but every time I'd go to State college, I would make sure that I would have one meal at the old diner and I'd still make sure I buy some grilled stickies, which I did because the creamy still sells. Grilled stickies. Actual, not just ice cream. [00:55:10] Speaker A: So yes, the grilled sticky, that is a great choice. Combining two desserts in one, I think that is pretty effective use of your resources to go back to your actuarial roots. And yes, the diner is long gone, but the grilled stickies live on. And you can get them at the creamery as well as many local grocery establishments, all sell them around the state college area. And I think you can probably order them online if you're an alum who's watching this from further away outside of Happy Valley. So thank you, Adeolu, for joining us and sharing your insights. Before I let you have the last word for scholars who are either watching the video version, be sure to subscribe like the video and leave us a comment. And if you're listening to the audio version, be sure to follow us on the podcast app that you're using and leave a rating. And with that, I will let you have the final word here. Adeolu, the floor is yours. [00:56:04] Speaker B: Enjoy your college life while you're there. I enjoyed every single minute, every single person I met, every single experience I had during college. I would probably say it's one of the best times and the best highlights of my life. So, yes, studying is important. Getting those grades is important. The major, the career, that's all important. But make sure you take advantage of every minute of those two, three, four, whatever year, number of years at your college. It might turn out to be the best years of your life.

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