Name: Kenneth Nsofor
Hometown: New Haven, CT
Current Title: Associate
Industry: Investment Banking
Prior Professional Experience: General Electric and Navigant
Education: University of Connecticut (Bachelors), University of Michigan (MBA)
What is the most important professional lesson you've learned to date?
I have learned that in order to build a successful professional career, one has to be proficient in both the quantitative and qualitative parts of the job. You need to understand the day-to-day aspects of your work, stay up-to-date with what is going on in your industry and find an advocates (mentors) within and outside your organization. Having a supporting voice inside the organization and a safe sounding board outside is something I think a lot of people fail to develop early in their career. As you advance in your career, advocates will play a major role towards your professional progression.
What has been your biggest professional failure to date and what have you learned from that experience?
I regret not voicing my opinions more forcefully during the early stages in my career. Be bold, with evidence, in meetings and don’t be afraid to express your ideas and defend your logic. No well thought out idea is bad one, even if it won’t work in your current context. Always contribute and be present in meetings
What issues have you dealt with being a woman/person of color in corporate America and how have you overcome these challenges?
Working in an industry in which people of color are a minority is a challenge. People are forced to modify how they interact with you, because of fear of “offending you”. Some colleagues have preconceived notions about you even before they see the first output of your work. I believe my industry and frankly corporate America more broadly is making strides toward improving diversity in the workplace, but more work needs to be done. I overcame some of these challenges by integrating myself within groups in the organization and sharing my ideas / beliefs more broadly. I also strive to be the best in everything you do - even if it means working 2x more than peers.
What resources, professional or personal, have you leveraged to ensure your career is progressing?
I leverage my mentors (in and outside of my organization). I also leverage my peers (same level as me within the organization), my business school community and family.
Do you have mentor? If so, how did you select this person or people?
Yes I do. I choose people I have built strong rapport with and trust as my mentors. My mentor within the organization is a few levels senior to me and someone whom I have worked with on multiple projects. I have mentors outside the organization who work in my industry and mentors who work in a different industries. These varied perspectives help me stay sharp and aware of emergent trends both in and outside of my field.
What advice would you give a young adult who is about to start their first job post college?
Be passionate about the job and be true to yourself. If the job or company doesn’t align with your goals, then find one that does. Find a mentor. I find a mentor/mentee program is more effective when you develop the relationship versus when a mentor is assigned to you. Be bold and speak up in meetings. Do not be afraid to ask questions, but don’t ask the same question to the same person multiple times. If you don’t understand the answer the first time, ask clarifying questions so you can be prepared the next time around.