Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Happy Birthday, Koye

Wishes from my last birthday. Thank you, INSEAD fam
It’s my birthday!

I was just thinking about my birthday last year. I was in the penultimate period of the academic year at business school and I was anxious about recruiting. It turned out I was worrying about the wrong thing. The real trouble in the past year turned out to be the kind that blindsided me on a Wednesday morning deep in the middle of autumn. After I got off the phone, I remember thinking stupidly it was weird that the many dead leaves of autumn looked so beautiful.

The past year has been one heck of a ride. September to December went by in a blur as I interviewed ‘furiously’ and wrapped up the academic year. I’m glad my mum was there as I finished the MBA, and although my dad could not make that one – I’m sure he’ll be beaming in the audience when I earn the next degree (Yes you read that right). I had a three month break after the rollercoaster of the INSEAD year, which was great for reflecting, spending time with friends and family, and falling in love with Lagos again. We then moved to an exciting new city not too far from home (Home-home is Ibadan, home is Lagos).

It wasn’t entirely a smooth ride as I was hit with a stark reminder of a loved one’s mortality (on a Wednesday morning deep in the middle of autumn - remember?). But we’re all still here and I’m grateful!

*****

I was home-home in Ibadan a few days ago, and I stood outside our old house reminiscing. We lived there from when I was 4 till I was 12, and I have many fond memories of growing up there. Driving through the neighborhood with my dad and running into old friends (including one who still calls me “Gbekel” in 2019 – damn bullies and this is partly why I became Koye as soon as I could!), it struck me again that many different things had to work together for us to make it out of there and start on the path to upward mobility.

Like I tend to say when I reflect on the circumstances of my childhood: my parents pulled off a miracle given their means and I have worked very hard, but I have also been privileged to be in the right place at the right time and to benefit from the kindness of others. For example, I went to OAU on the NNPC/Mobil Scholarship and went to INSEAD on the INSEAD Olam Scholarship. Having been given so much, it is only right that I continue to serve as a conduit to others.

We already help a few people to cover the costs of their education, so I decided I’d bring some of that under the umbrella of the newly-founded Edward and Taiwo Koye-Ladele Scholarship for Academic Excellence in OAU. I’ve been designing this for a few months and it’ll go live at the start of OAU’s next academic session, but I thought today was a great day to share it outside of the family for the first time. (Shame I couldn’t come up with a better acronym than ETKOL Scholarship for Academic Excellence – but that will have to do as it is important to me that it be an extension of my parents’ legacy).

We’ll start small. I’m a big believer in starting with what is available, however little, rather than waiting to start with larger sums at an unknown date in an uncertain future. We’ll start by giving 1-2 students N75,000 – N100,000 per academic session. Eligible students will be in their second year and upwards and will be required to show proof of acceptable academic performance from their first year.

OAU’s most expensive fee for returning students in the current session is N31,100, so this covers tuition and leaves something for living expenses. Students will need to maintain or improve their academic performance to remain ETKOL scholars, and can remain scholars until they graduate if they continue to meet the requirements. In addition to the money, scholars will have access to me and my network of friends, role-models, and mentors by extension. I believe this will prove more valuable than the money in the long run. Once the details are all fleshed out, there will be a separate post with the final details for the right target audience.

*****

It has become customary to add pictures from the past year and some commentary on what I’ve been reading. There are a few of those at the end of this post.

For the first time since I started working, I’ll be at work (& working) on my birthday today. Previously I would show up at work for hugs and to share cakes with my colleagues. After many years of feeling ageless, something feels different about this birthday. I actually feel older, like I broke through a loop of years where I was just turning 21 over and over again. I’ve still got a decent amount of time to go before 30 – so let’s see if I fix this feeling before then.

The commitment hasn’t changed significantly: it is to live, to execute the ambitious plans I make so well, to help others rise above their limitations and achieve their potential, and to step out in faith.

Happy birthday, Koye.

PS: It is now 18 years since the 9/11 terror attack. Thousands lost their lives in that attack, and hundreds of thousands more in the war against terrorism that ensued. May their souls rest in peace.

In the forest of Fontainebleau, where I happily spent many hours walking towards the end of the last calendar year
Joining the band to groove in Serbia. This was one of my favorite trips ever, and I'll be remembering it fondly for years to come. Thank you again, JJ
Pulling the chipmunk smile above a town in Croatia
In the mountains of Croatia. This fortress was the location for shots of Mereen in Game of Thrones

Easily my favorite recruiting gift. There's something about seeing my name on a bottle of a Consumer Goods product!
Thoroughly enjoyed being valedictorian / graduation speaker at the INSEAD Fontainebleau graduation
My mum has seen an eyeful... was only fair she got to see the Eiffel too!
60% of the Koye-Ladele clan
Moving to a new city is easier when Simi is there to welcome you with jollof
Moving, again. I'm so glad to finally have a constant address for a while (I hope!)
New position who this!
Got back to running and ... now I can't seem to stop. I feel weird whenever I haven't run in a few days
I took it in and I looked down. Above the lovely city of Chicago.
The obligatory bean picture in Chicago. This was 8kg ago.
After a love affair that has spanned 7 years, I absolutely had to visit P&G's global HQ
Pre-birthday "wanna-be Jay Z" pose with the trooper. My dad got me these new frames because "your glasses look like windshields". I love them!
Four of my favorite books over the past 12 months. You can't go wrong reading any of these

Four of my favorite books over the past 12 months. You can't go wrong reading any of these

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