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A journey from language to leadership

For Michael Ojetunde (BA French and Economics, 2022), opting to study a language was always part of a grander plan.

He says, “Much of my family work within Western African and Middle Eastern Asia for international organisations like NATO and the World Bank. After doing my own research into geopolitics, I decided I wanted to work for organisations that are tackling inequality. To do that you need dual language.”

"A career in linguistics or translation never crossed my mind; I viewed French as a tool to facilitate business. Embracing another language opens doors to thinking on a global scale."

Part of Michael’s undergraduate degree involved spending a year abroad, which is very often the highlight in many students' university experience.

Michael says, “I grew up in Southeast London and went to school in Croydon. My year in Paris was my first experience being surrounded by a diverse group of individuals who were different from me. This enriched my life for the better.

“I remember one evening, a group of us sat in the Champ de Mars, a big green space right in front of the Eiffel Tower. It was in the middle of Covid, at 8 o’clock at night, and almost deserted, bar a few locals. A police car drove past to send everyone home and - being tourists - we jumped up to leave. The groups of locals stayed put and waved for us to sit back down. It was very indicative of the way the French live.”

Michael secured a summer placement at Baringa in summer 2021, and he’s been working there ever since. But what does an analyst at an award-winning management consultancy do?

He says, “Each day is busy! A typical week involves meetings, consultations, and a lot of presentations. I won’t say how many hours I spend on Excel. My job is to facilitate pulling together information in the best possible way for the client to receive.

“I feel like I’m more than my 9-6. I’m working on a side hustle developing an airline business in Guinea. It does mean there is a fine line between balance and burnout.”

Juggling competing priorities isn’t new for Michael. As well as playing semi-professional football during his final year, he was involved in several of the 300+ societies at Warwick.

Michael remarks, "During my time at Warwick, I actively participated in the Warwick African Society, Warwick Incubator, and Economics Society. Looking back, I could have possibly managed my work-life balance more effectively. However, I made sure to make the most of my years at Warwick. I wholeheartedly pursued my interests and satisfied my curiosity, and I truly believe this is what led me to secure an internship with a company that aligned with my values."

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Do what you love, with people you admire, to acquire a skill that you need, at a price you want to be paid. When you’re weighing up opportunities, and thinking about what to choose as your next steps, there’s a four-part matrix I like to use. At different points in life and as you occupy different headspaces, each criteria will hold different values. They are:
  • What are you doing? Is the work interesting? Does it align with your natural curiosities and does it excite you?
  • Who are you doing it with? The people around you can either enable your success or your failure, depending on how close in proximity you have to work so think about if they are the kind of people that will inspire you and you want to be around for 10hours or more each day.
  • How much are you being paid to do it? We live in a capitalist world, so ask yourself if you are being paid what you deserve. Are you benchmarking against other professionals? I also remind myself that time is the only commodity you have that you can't get back so are you getting compensated in just measure for this.
  • What tool is it going to add to your toolbox? Will it teach you how to prioritise, synthesise and distil information, or build relationships? Will it contribute to a long-term aspiration or a short-term quick win? What skills will the role give you / allow you to develop?
Deeply consider which one/number of these mean the most to you and it will help to guide you. And if you happen to find something that satisfies all four then hold onto it for dear life.

Michael in formal suit

"A career in linguistics or translation never crossed my mind; I viewed French as a tool to facilitate business. Embracing another language opens doors to thinking on a global scale."