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Joseph Ajao

Joseph AjaoJoseph Ajao faced a dilemma early in his first year at the Eli Broad College of Business. Which of multiple internship offers to accept?

Ajao, a native of Nigeria, said he’d been concerned that, as an international student, he would face a tough time landing an internship. But he ended up fielding several options, including offers from Gallup Consulting and McKinsey. Ultimately, he chose a position with Philadelphia-based TE Connectivity.

“I’ll be spending some time in Philadelphia and the rest in Africa, working with the corporate strategy team,” Ajao says. He’ll travel to several African countries, including South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria, where TE has newly opened offices, helping the company acquire small local firms.

Ajao will bring considerable expertise to TE even as he learns. He arrived at Broad after several years of business experience. While studying mechanical engineering in Nigeria as an undergrad, Ajao helped found the software company OAC Soft Technologies. After selling his share of the company, he worked for Google in Nigeria for several months before moving to California.

“I was very ambitious, and I’d been reading about successful entrepreneurs in California, so I decided to leave Google and move there,” he says. After arriving, he did a short-term consulting project for a venture capital firm that was working to expand e-commerce in Nigeria.

He was then accepted into the prestigious Singularity University, which provides budding entrepreneurs with funding, advice, and office space to help them launch a company. Despite Ajao’s efforts, his company in the health care sector did not succeed.

“It was a good learning experience,” he says. “One reason it didn’t work out was I didn’t know much about doing business in the United States. The way you do business in Africa is very different. So I decided to apply for an MBA.”

His decision to enroll in Broad became an easy one when he was offered the MasterCard Foundation Scholarship, which pays for his tuition. MSU is the only institution in the Midwest to participate in the program, which will fund 85 master’s-degree students from sub-Saharan Africa over the course of nine years. Ajao is one the first recipients of the scholarship at MSU.

Ajao says his past experience traveling to and working in other countries helped prepare him for the transition to life as a full-time student in a country that is not his own.

“I didn’t have any problems as an international student, but there are still a lot of things to learn,” he says. “The special orientation program for international students was extremely useful to me. They told us how to enroll in our courses, who to talk to if we have a problem, where to find resources, about grades and curriculum and professors, what to do, what not to do.”

Ajao’s focus at Broad is finance; after graduating, he’d like to start his own venture capital firm.

“I wanted to learn more about finance and leverage my previous experience and skills in technology to work in finance or start my own firm,” he says.

He looks forward to his internship because he says, “I feel like I can make an impact right away. They’re trying to do business in Africa and that’s where I have most of my contacts. The next opportunities for international companies are in Africa. The fact that I’m from there makes it a good time for me.”


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