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Class of 2016

Olatowun Candide-Johnson

Olatowun Candide-Johnson had established a successful career as a lawyer for a multinational oil company when a story of an entrepreneurial TRIUMer inspired her to consider the next steps in her career and a potential return to education. Having completed her TRIUM studies she embarked on her own entrepreneurial journey with GAIA AFRICA, a members only business and social club for the select female leader looking for a community of like-minded women who wish to connect and collaborate in business, investments and social impact projects. Here Olatowun discusses her TRIUM journey and the return on investment she received from making the decision to go ‘back to school’.

It is important to understand who you are and do not limit yourself – I am now very open to new ideas and open to learning new things without feeling intimidated.  I believe that most things can be learnt if you are determined.

Could you tell us about your background and what first attracted you to TRIUM? 

I had practised law successfully for several years and became General Counsel (combined with other roles) in the multinational oil company Total. After nearly 15 years in Total, which included a three-year international assignment to the New Business Division in the Paris HQ that I thoroughly enjoyed,  I was activated to start thinking about how my next chapter could look like – what would I want to do? I had no intention of remaining in corporate life until retirement especially since I have an entrepreneurial inclination and had always wanted to run my own business. It seemed obvious that I ought to invest in formally acquiring the knowledge and skills for managing a successful business. And so, when I read the inspiring story that I will describe a little later, I knew that this was the way forward even though the prospect of having to go back to “school” was daunting.

What were you most hoping to achieve when you joined the program? 

My one objective was to acquire the skills necessary to run a business properly and efficiently. I was also aware that I would be inserted into valuable international business networks and that I would meet some of the really incredible people in my cohort with whom I have developed great and enduring friendships.  Module 7 also allows us all to make new friends across the years and I have benefited from that too!

Why did you choose TRIUM over other similar global executive programs?

The story of my application is a little bizarre. One afternoon during a break at my desk, I was casually reading the story of an ex corporate executive turned entrepreneur who had spent several years at a multinational and had gone through the TRIUM EMBA programme after which she set up a business which at the time I read the story was already doing very well.  I thought – this is exactly me – I should just apply and see what happens. The timing for the modules in different cities were nicely spaced and the target age appealed to me and so I applied.  I actually didn’t apply anywhere else. So, when I was accepted, I had no choice but to follow through – it was a definite sign!!

What was the experience with your fellow cohort members? How did their different backgrounds and expertise shape your experience with TRIUM?

This really was a great practical example of how well diversity can enhance an idea, business, board and improve individuals. We learnt a lot even when we disagreed.  The Capstone Project team and Study Group dynamics were true examples of the way real life works.  We all benefit from the learning, disagreements, listening to others, assignments – knowing that pass or fail we’re in this together and finally, the burden on each individual to show up and do well for the team.

Do you have any specific highlights from the modules or classes?

I very much enjoyed the Digital Economy and especially learning about the “sharing economy” IoT, crypto currencies; Corporate Finance, Strategy and our Entrepreneurship class to name a few.  During the Entrepreneurship class I particularly enjoyed  going out to explore the city and creating business ideas from what we saw as gaps during our one-hour walk, followed by the ideation process.

What were you most surprised to learn?

I was actually surprised to learn that (i) I could understand statistics (ii) how difficult negotiations can be (iii) the Z score (iv) why most airlines are not profitable and the reason why South West Airlines was the exception …..

What would you say have been your key takeaways from the program and how have these shaped your career since graduation?

Well…. I took “early retirement” at the end of the year of my graduation and have since started my entrepreneurial journey with GAIA AFRICA.

GAIA AFRICA is a members only business and social club for the select female leader looking for a community of like-minded women who wish to connect over mutual issues of interest.  It exists to try to resolve some gender & economic inequality issues by allowing our demographic of top women  to come together in a safe third physical and virtual space, to connect, build trust amongst each other so that they can elevate and be sponsors for one other, collaborate in business, investments and of course social impact projects. GAIA also enables and encourages peer to peer learning and mentoring  which ultimately  generates a winning formula and improves their general mental health and lifestyle.

It is important to understand who you are and do not limit yourself – I am now very open to new ideas and open to learning new things without feeling intimidated.  I believe that most things can be learnt if you are determined.

Geopolitics – this is the world order and I am more conscious about the fact that politics affects the world order and that we are all required to participate in one way or another.

Business Skills are important unless you’re a genius – I am a more confident entrepreneur because of the essential skills I acquired during the course of my TRIUM journey

If you could qualify your return on investment in TRIUM, what would you say?

The investment returns are huge. It is empowering and enabling – the key to the door and confidence booster.

Who would you recommend the TRIUM program to and what advice would you give to those considering the program? 

I have actually had the opportunity to recommend and encourage a few women who were considering the programme and I gave the same advice – Go for it – but make sure that you have the time required so that it doesn’t overwhelm you.

How would you describe your TRIUM experience in three words?

Invaluable – Global – Connections