Alumni Spotlight: Akan Nelson (Nigeria)

Akan is …

I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. I recently graduated from the University of Rochester with a major in economics. Professionally, ​I’m looking to cultivate my expertise and experiences in strategic fundraising and finance strategy towards a career in business development and finance consulting.​ In everything I do, I believe in inspiring excellence and pan-African success. I spend my free time lightweight powerlifting, and I enjoy reading and writing fiction and non-fiction.[spacer/]

What are you currently busy with?

Right now, I’m back home in Nigeria, working for ALA remotely as a Strategic Relations Intern. Soon I’ll be back in Johannesburg working in the office with the Strategic Relations and Africa Careers Network teams to develop ALA’s alumni giving program and function as its student ambassador. My job entails setting up the framework for a longstanding alumni engagement and giving program and communicating to my peers that this does not exclusively refer to financial giving, but giving of time and skills, which are equally important. I’m also busy with some volunteer work while I’m still in Nigeria and I’m working with my partner on setting up a high fashion streetwear brand called Vaal Vasari. It’s like a cross between Givenchy and Obey Streetwear.

What were your motivations for doing what you’re doing now?

I am intrigued by the qualities of the old-school scholar, who has both a breadth and depth of knowledge, not just specialized depth. I like how you can engage old-school scholars in conversations about all kinds of things and they’ll have something valid to contribute about a lot of different things. Nowadays, we specialize. We know a lot about a particular thing and not much about other disciples. That’s why I chose to study economics at university. Economics is laced with connections to other disciplines like psychology, politics, mathematics and human rights. You can’t talk about systems of wealth without talking about history and morality, for example.

What are your expectations for your time working at ALA?

I’m excited about confronting the challenges around alumni reconnecting to ALA. I really hope to develop something that will be longstanding and serve as a framework for generations of alumni to come. I think of it as his own form of paying it forward for the transformative experience of his two years at ALA, which is what I’m asking alumni to do.

What has been your most impactful lesson learnt from this past year?

I’m actually delivering a workshop on this at a 2015 Indaba. A major lesson I’ve learnt is the importance of maintaining your state as an independent thinker. All kinds of institutions from the government to the church to the education system – even ALA – have their ideas about how the world should be organized. Many of these institutions are led by very smart people, but it is important to see oneself as an autonomous entity that can appreciate the principles of others’ thoughts but critically analyse them before interpreting and acting on what that means for them. It’s more important for professors to teach you how to think and why to think than what to think. Learning this has made me happier.

What are your plans for the upcoming year?

After my six months with ALA, I hope to go on to work with a multinational focused on energy and/or consulting as well as get his manuscript published. I’m just trying to contribute to the literature coming out of Africa. I’d say my style is minimalist with elements of magical realism that comes with African culture.

How are you working towards your long term goals, in either a broad or a specific sense?

A lot of different ways, but mainly undertaking internships, a few of which I got with the help of ACN, with companies I’m looking to work with in the future. These have been useful to learn what it’s like to work there and expand my networks. Internships have definitely made my goals feel within reach. Now eventually working for those companies doesn’t feel like just a dream.

Any advice for alums looking to follow a path similar to yours?

I’ve learnt that it’s ok to feel like you’re moving too slowly, which we all struggle with. My advice is to operate on both ends on the planning spectrum. Have long and short term vision. Understand the importance of taking things one step, day and week at a time. Also, don’t be afraid to take on opportunities that arise that might turn your 10 year plan on its head.

Author: Amukelani Muyanga

About the Author: Amukelani Muyanga is an intern at ALA’s Africa Careers Network

Akan is a member of ALA’s 2011 Graduating Class and a rising Nigerian writer, business analyst, and personal development consultant. He is passionate about African success, self-improvement, and helping people. Read full bio here

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