'In the Future I Want to Open a Business School in Nigeria'
Graduate of HSE University and UniLu Dual Degree Master programs Tobi Oladiran from Nigeria reflects on his experience and takeaway from the HSE University Master program Strategic Corporate Finance with Aigerim Omarbekova from Kazakhstan, also a first-year international student of the Strategic Corporate Finance program.
Earlier Tobi’s Ph.D. project The Sustainability Challenge of Mutual Funds was selected for funding by the Luxembourg National Research Fund.
The text was transcribed from video, shortened, and edited for clarity.
I enjoyed a lot of support from HSE University
Before applying to HSE University I worked at one of the biggest automobile companies in my country. One day I was searching for different master’s programs and I saw Strategic Corporate Finance. I was like “Maybe I should apply, this can take me to the top!” Because, you know, I’m fascinated with all these strategic decisions so it sounds very good. Then I tried to understand the structure of the program and I noticed that you can do a double degree program. Two years, two degrees, two countries - it sounds pretty much interesting and I think that not a lot of universities offer this kind of structure, especially two robust programs being combined into a two-year period.
My motivation for the research work came after I did some research work at the Corporate Finance Lab at HSE University and I realized that you can contribute a lot to the world if you're trying to bring theory and practice together, that's the number one reason.
The second reason is that in the future I plan to go back to my country to create a business school. The third reason is that I’m currently doing research work in areas that I love; one is sustainable finance and two it's mutual funds so I’m looking at sustainable challenges in mutual funds. This means that it is a very practical application to reality and I’m working with real-life data so it's not like I’m just doing theoretical work. Also, attention is being paid more to sustainable finance now and so it's really the new trend and also very much applicable reality.
My current program now it's almost if not entirely dependent on what HSE University has really done for me. I would like to thank Oxana because she helped me a lot. I was always disturbing Oxana, what about the double degree program, and she is always there trying to help. Then she told me that I’ve been nominated to do my second-year program at the University of Luxembourg! So, when I got in here and started my program in economics and finance I realized that the new trend is sustainable finance and I find it quite interesting. Тhat's why I move in this direction. So, it's from HSE University that launched me into this particular field.
As for HSE University courses, the most interesting and the most valuable were Business valuation plus Financial modeling. Theory of finance I also find very interesting and that's why I chose Victoria Rodina to be my supervisor for the master thesis. I enjoyed a lot of support from HSE University even while here at the University of Luxembourg. I would add I pretty much enjoyed advanced microeconomics from Andrey Dementiev. Lastly, Corporate finance from professor Irina Ivashkovskaya. She's always very busy, but she always answers all the questions immediately. I want to mention that the majority of professors at HSE University are very okay with students’ opinions. The most challenging course for me was microeconomics by Alla Friedman. And it was challenging for everybody, not just me.
I think there are so many advantages to working in a team. I was really fortunate to work with a very good team. Anastasia and Olga were in my team and they were like very strong ladies Always willing to contribute at great length so I learned a lot from them even when we asked to change to another team, I wanted to stay with my team and to be able to work with them. So I think for the program to be able to be successful it really depends on your team. Also, you have to get a very strong team that you guys can work together. If you're looking for grades you can get a good grade. If you're looking for good knowledge then you can get that because your team is willing to contribute! Most times I learn a lot from your team rather than from your lecturer, the lecturer just comes to give you the skeleton. Then you go back home and you develop the body.
Work in teams advantages
Luxembourg is a very nice country; here you can make a lot of money. I have some Russian friends here but not many because a lot of them went back to Russia. Also, I know some first-year students from Russia too, that came in for the same program I did.
Russia is a very big country and everything just happens very fast. In Moscow, everything is always moving, bubbling. etc. As compared to Luxembourg, it is a very small country and you don't have a lot going on. I’m currently doing my Ph.D. in sustainable finance with funding - they pay me every month about three thousand euros in gross amount and this would be for three years but extendable for an additional one year. I have some publications already but not in this area because I just started, and we are planning to publish. I’m working with one of the top professors in Luxembourg. A lot of support when trying to package the application for the grant from the government from the professor, and he wrote a letter of support for me.
If you are an HSE University student and you're trying to study in Luxembourg. The first step, one needs to be willing to take risks. Coming to Luxembourg was a big risk on my part. When I applied, they told me that I got a place at the University of Luxembourg and there was no scholarship, so I will need to have at least 1 000 euros per month. My second step is willing to be your best at everything you do and so I try to strive to become the best version of myself. Later I was awarded a scholarship for the master's program and so that would be the second thing.
The third thing is to be willing to work with people because most times you learn from them than any other. I learned a lot from my current supervisor for the Ph.D. work because he was willing to and I was also willing to accept criticism. You know there was a time we've designed the whole project and we're meant to submit it on Monday. Then on Friday, he told me that, what we've done we need to cancel most of them and redesign it completely. I mean they tell you about consistent work, persistent everything but people are just so lazy to do the rework.
My goal in life is to create a business school that is going to train young people to be able to undertake the challenges in my country, so I’m going to either retire as a lecturer or managing a business school. However, before that, because I’m trying to create this high-quality education back home where the income of the people is kind of low. Right after my studies, I plan to stay here for two years and build my network and after that, I’m going back to my country.
Luxembourg is a developed market and Nigeria is the emerging market. There are a lot of cultural differences between the two. I started to think about this back in Moscow and I discussed it with one of my professors Rodina Victoria, my thesis supervisor. I asked her, I’m gaining a lot of knowledge but that it's really tricky because most of these things I might not be able to apply when I go back to my country. That is also where the idea of this business school is coming from that we train the next generation to be able to handle the process of moving towards being a developed country. Since I’m going into educating the next generation then it should be useful. I went back home to do an internship in strategic corporate finance at PWC in order to understand what is really going on, in my own markets. So what I’m trying to do now is to do the comparison between the two and I believe that when I go back home that might be the first lesson that I might learn - how different our own market is compared to developed. There are some things that are still pretty much applicable when you go back home.