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Alumni Stories: Jonathan Kola, Stanford GSB

Alumni Stories: Jonathan Kola, Stanford GSB main image

Jonathan Kola has always been obsessed with entrepreneurship. Immediately after college, he set up his own waste collection startup in Lagos, Nigeria.

Wecyclers helps low-income communities in emerging markets capture value from waste and clean up their neighborhoods through incentive-based recycling. Jonathan built Wecyclers’ backend database. In just over two years, he watched the company grow from three to 20 personnel.

When Jonathan decided to pursue an MBA, he knew there was only really ever one business school on his target list. Tech-savvy and based in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, Stanford Graduate School of Business is ranked the best MBA program for entrepreneurship in the world by the Financial Times, and over a third of its alumni start their own companies within three months of graduation.

But the school is way more than just a breeding ground for Silicon Valley-based startups. In 2017, Stanford MBA students and graduates were hired by a record 411 organizations. 32 percent went into finance, 25 percent into technology and 20 percent into consulting.

2017 also saw Stanford MBA alumni earn record salaries—an average base salary of over $144,000—for the third consecutive year.

Jonathan interned at Spotify in New York during his MBA. He got a job as a customer engineer at Google Cloud in late 2016, a few months after graduating. He credits the school’s career service and alumni network for opening up new career opportunities for him in the US.

BusinessBecause caught up with Jonathan to find out more.

How did the job at Google come about? 

Stanford initially provided the channel for Google recruiters to reach out. Google, as well as a lot of other companies had a strong presence during career activities at the GSB. I was able to establish a touchpoint with Google through these initial activities, but even when I did start interviewing, Stanford was extremely supportive in terms of interview preparation and guidance.

Even post-graduation, the Career Management Center remained responsive and available to speak and provide feedback. To have this support even after graduation was crucial in helping me navigate interviews post-graduation.

What advice do you have for African MBA students looking to start new careers in the US?

It’s important to be clear about your goals, and to try to position yourself, from the beginning, to meet those goals. The first recruiting cycle comes very quickly, within a few months of starting the program. While this shouldn't dominate your experience, it’s something to be aware of and plan for.

If you’re not accustomed to the style of interviewing in the US (lots of behavioral questions), definitely spend time practicing, and self-evaluate after every interview. Finally, be mindful of the immigration options and requirements early on (OPT, H1-B), and the operating constraints these visas provide, and align your short-term career plans appropriately.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at Stanford? 

When considering pursuing an MBA, Stanford certainly stood out because of its entrepreneurial reputation and associated programs. In addition to this, my background and interest were in technology – being at the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford was a natural choice for me.

Would you be where you are today without it?

Having an MBA has certainly made a number of opportunities in the US job market available to me. Even before graduating, I was exposed to opportunities through Stanford's career activities. I received invitations to interview with various companies because Stanford gave my profile visibility to the recruiters.

The alumni network is similarly very helpful, and Stanford alums remain willing to assist to the extent they can. The ability to remain in contact with the school even after graduation is emblematic of one of the things I enjoyed most in my MBA experience—building relationships.

Why are websites like BusinessBecause useful for MBA applicants?

BusinessBecause presents a lot of content that is very relevant for MBA applicants. Depending on where you’re applying from, and what country or school you’re targeting, the application process can be somewhat of a lonely journey. It's definitely good to be able to access BusinessBecause and hear first-hand from those who have gone through a similar process or have a similar background.

The diversity aspect of a site like BusinessBecause is also important. There are so many different perspectives out there on the MBA journey, and it’s definitely beneficial to have visibility into these. Then, of course, there is also the practical guidance sites like these can offer. It’s sometimes difficult to know how to best prepare for your application, or how to position yourself, so hearing perspectives on these is also very valuable.

Marco De Novellis
Written by Marco De Novellis

Marco De Novellis is a business journalist and editor of BusinessBecause. BusinessBecause is a trusted source of business school news, with punchy daily editorial about the lives of MBAs and the career paths they choose, as well as practical resources for b-school applicants.

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