Class of 2013
"I am an MBA candidate by day, but a musician by night, and I thoroughly enjoy music making. For me, music production is akin to solving a puzzle with an uncertain outcome. The random nature of the art sometimes results in sounds that deviate significantly from your intentions."
James Bond, the international man of mystery. I travel the globe solving some of the most pressing challenges of my day while never neglecting the opportunity to dabble in a tiny bit of fun. Okay, while I may not be James Bond, I certainly am "Thomas–Rotimi Thomas," an MBA candidate for the class of 2013, on my way to solidifying myself as an international man of mystery.
When asked where I am from, I often pause and have to think before answering—and for good reason. I was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, lived the first 7 years that I can remember in Assen, Netherlands, completed elementary and junior high school in Lagos, Nigeria, and then spent senior high school and college in Canada. The constant moving was a result of my father working for Shell as a Chemical Engineer, a truly global career. I am now completing my joint degree MBA and Master in Environmental Management at Duke University, and will soon begin a Financial Excellence Program with Siemens, starting in Germany. I remember wanting to be just like my father. Fuqua made this dream a reality.
Although my father and mother now call Nigeria home, the most important lesson they tried to impart to my siblings and me is that we have the opportunity as international citizens to bridge the gap between the developed countries of the West and the developing countries of Africa. I have always embraced this message and have led a purpose-driven life to accumulate skills that I will utilize to help catalyze development in my home country of Nigeria. My aspiration is to deliver reliable energy to Nigeria and surrounding countries so those countries can truly experience modern economic development. Embracing my parents' message has served as a guiding compass toward this goal.
When I am not busy being an international man of mystery, I enjoy music production, dancing, martial arts, basketball, and traveling. Duke has embraced who I am, balanced me, and better positioned me to achieve my goals.
Why I Chose Fuqua
My long-term goal is to build a reliable energy infrastructure in the developing countries of Africa, starting in Nigeria. In seeking an MBA program I searched for an institution that could strengthen my business skills, and expose me to cutting edge energy material, while enhancing my international network and perspective. No other school was able to offer this combination but Fuqua.
Fuqua offered me the opportunity to complete my MBA and Master in Environmental Management (MEM) focusing on energy, a 3-year joint degree that makes me stand out as a candidate in the job market. Fuqua's course offerings, in addition to those of the policy, law, engineering, and environmental schools, made Duke very attractive and have not disappointed. The finance, strategy, and energy knowledge I have accumulated enabled me to lead a Fuqua team to third place at the University of Michigan Renewable Energy Case Competition in 2012. For a person with little knowledge of the energy industry prior to starting school, that was a great accomplishment and learning opportunity.
After graduation, I will start an international energy finance career with Siemens in Germany, with the opportunity to possibly rotate for 3 years through various locations and eventually settle in Nigeria. During the recruiting process, the interviewers consistently remarked about how internationally aware, collaborative, smart, and polished Fuqua's students are. These were all qualities that I considered when applying, and made Fuqua a great fit for me. It was exciting to see these qualities differentiate Fuqua students. Needless to say, a good number of us made it to the final interview rounds. The opportunity with Siemens encompasses why I choose Fuqua. Through Fuqua, I have developed the skills, network, and collaborative nature to achieve my long-term goal of energy infrastructure development in Africa with one of the world's largest companies, Siemens. Fuqua promised me the opportunity, I simply seized it.
Leadership Attribute: Passion
During a visit to Nigeria in December 2011, the government decided to remove fuel subsidies in the wee hours of January 1, 2012. The removal of these subsidies made energy related products, such as petrol, more expensive for all consumers in many parts of Nigeria, especially lower income consumers. Riots ensued, and the country shut down for about a week and a half. It broke my heart to see my country in such disarray, but pain soon ignited one of my passions—economic development in Nigeria.
I sprang into action, drafting a template for a documentary I intended to film on the incidence of subsidy removals, hoping to communicate a message of honesty and transparency. In collaboration with an old friend, I filmed the documentary, titled Subsidise This, and racked up more than 5,000 views in less than 2 days of releasing it on vimeo. My co-director and I developed the premise for the documentary the evening before riots broke out, filmed it over the course of 10 hours the following day, and edited it over the course of one week, during a time when almost all economic activity had come to a standstill.
Through the documentary, I was able to show that the people of Nigeria are not as concerned about the removal of subsidies as they are about honest and transparent government. No one trusted that the subsidy removal was for the benefit of the people; instead it was seen as another government ploy.
I have since shown the film to my eager classmates at Fuqua who congratulated me and commended my bravery. Though I appreciated the applause, I always knew it wasn't that tough to film it in the midst of the chaos that gripped Nigeria—it was easy because it was something I was passionate about.
Five Random Things About Me
- I have been in love—true love. No, not with a woman (although I have), but instead to a thing—music production. I am an MBA candidate by day, but a musician by night, and I thoroughly enjoy music making. For me, music production is akin to solving a puzzle with an uncertain outcome. The random nature of the art sometimes results in sounds that deviate significantly from your intentions. This mysterious aspect of music making will forever captivate me, and as such, I will always love music production. Listen to my music here.
- I am a first degree black belt in Karate. I obtained the belt at age 12, and broke a kid's nose with my signature flying kick. Okay, maybe the story didn't go like that, but I am a black belt and am still pretty talented with the kicks.
- If you look closely enough at my mustache, you find reddish, blondish, and brownish hair colors. As the story goes, my father came home to meet his newborn son (me) blessed with bronze tanned hair, and extremely light skin—he then proceeded to tell my mother "that's not my son." Though he was shocked at how colorful my hair was and still is, I am pleased to report my father is fully aware of how much I resemble him and those in his lineage.
- I eat ketchup with many things, including rice, chicken, beef, spaghetti, fried plantains, eggs, steak, and so on. I know many people think it's disgusting, but I argue it reflects how adventurous I am.
- I am an avid traveler. Between January 2012 and January 2013, I visited Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Colombia. Fuqua has certainly made the process easier—I now have friends all over the world. For example, on a solo trip to Europe in 2012, I stopped over in Holland and put an email out to my classmates to see if anyone had activities for me to attend. One of my classmates introduced me to his parents and I spent the day with the family. This could happen in any of the cities where my classmates come from. My world is now truly global.
The Impact of Team Fuqua
I arrived in Bogota, Colombia, on January 1, 2013, to a brand new Colombian airport—El Dorado. As I exited the baggage claim area, I heard a voice say, "RRRotimi." The voice got louder, and of course, it was none other than my classmate, Diana Sanchez. I joined Diana, Maria Rodriguez, and German Orozco, who had organized a casual trip for 12 Fuquans to visit their homeland of Colombia, and I mean it when I say this was Team Fuqua at its best.
We started the trip by spending a couple days touring almost every inch of Bogota, while picking up bits and pieces of Spanish from our hosts to help us better take in our surroundings. After 2 days in Bogota, our Colombian classmates took us on a tour of Armenia, Cartegena, and Santa Marta, and then safely returned us to Bogota. In Armenia we visited the coffee district, in Santa Marta we hiked for a couple of days in a national reserve, and in Cartegena we explored "the fifth ring" (a city used as a major defense hub by the Spanish). This was all made possible by a few Fuquans who badly wanted to share their beautiful country with us.
To make it happen, they worked for about 3 months to plan our trip and executed it perfectly in true Team Fuqua fashion. I'm not sure if they had the team spirit in them prior to Fuqua, but these Colombians certainly do now, and they have put it to good use.