Celebrating Black History Month | Perspectives on leadership, mentorship, and career trajectories

Posted 2023-02-07

February is Black History Month and we’re celebrating Black students and alumni who have played integral roles in shaping the UBC Sauder community. In their own words, they share updates on where they are in their careers, lessons in leadership, and insights on the importance of mentorship.

We’re also delving into the archives to revisit and re-share stories that highlight their experiences as students, their professional achievements, and their invaluable contributions to the school.

Adolphus Bassey


Where are you now in your work and what are you most excited about? 

I work as a technical program manager in the cybersecurity and cloud computing space. I am blessed to work in a field I am deeply passionate about, and get to learn every single day for both professional and personal development. I am a lifelong learner and am always excited when I am in a space that supports me in that area. 

What leadership advice do you have for others to succeed in business as you have?

Over the years, I have learned that there is no single formula to success. It's really a combination of factors:

  • Learning from past mistakes and other people's experiences. There is always a lesson! It is okay to take it easy on yourself
  • Taking calculated risks. Calculated risks push us out of our comfort zones and remind us to explore untapped opportunities 
  • Mentorship is very important. For Black folks, having a mentor who is also Black is key, especially as there are shared experiences


Who has been a mentor or inspiration to you and why?

My immediate family has been my biggest inspiration. My father constantly reminds me not to live for myself alone but to impact other people's lives. My mother and late grandparents taught me that there is no easy way to success: with hard work and God, the sky is just a starting point. Growing up in a family where equality was actively practiced inspired me to speak up and act for social justice.

Cyber security leader Bolaji Vincent, a previous manager of mine, is one of my biggest influences. He believes in me and constantly pushes me to achieve more. Overall, my mentors have taught me to be a better human being, and to choose kindness every day. I hope I pass these lessons to others.  

Read more of Adolphus’s story: Building a future in cyber security with a UBC MBA


Blooming Soyinka


Where are you now in your work and what are you most excited about?

As the founder of Africa Blooms, I am thrilled to be at the forefront of promoting and supporting the talent and creativity of African artisans. Our online marketplace offers a diverse selection of high-quality, made in Africa products that showcase the continent's rich cultural heritage.

What I am most excited about is the potential for growth and impact. The demand for ethically-sourced, authentic African products is on the rise and we are well-positioned to meet that demand. I am passionate about supporting local communities and creating sustainable economic opportunities for African artisans.

Through Africa Blooms, I am fulfilling my mission of helping to promote Africa's rich cultural heritage to the world and I am confident that we will continue to grow and succeed in the years to come.

What leadership advice do you have for others to succeed in business as you have?

I have learned that leadership is about having the courage to take risks, being resilient in the face of challenges, and having a clear vision for the future. To succeed in business, I would advise others to never give up on their dreams, surround themselves with a supportive network of friends, family, and mentors, and to always be willing to learn and grow. 

During Black History Month, it is important to celebrate and recognize the contributions of Black leaders and entrepreneurs, who have paved the way for future generations. By drawing inspiration from their resilience and determination, we can continue to make a positive impact on the world. 

For example, figures like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Maya Angelou have inspired people around the world with their leadership, perseverance, and commitment to justice and equality. They have shown us the power of resilience, courage, and determination in the face of adversity. Their stories and messages continue to serve as a source of inspiration and guidance, reminding us of the potential within each of us to effect positive change in the world.

Who has been a mentor or inspiration to you? Why?

I stand inspired by the vision of Dr. D.K. Olukoya, who has been a mentor and inspiration to me. His unwavering commitment to uplifting African communities and passion for mentorship and development of the next generation of leaders has been truly awe-inspiring. His mentorship has taught me the power of integrity, perseverance, and hard work. I am forever grateful for his mentorship and for showing me what it means to be a true leader in both personal and professional life.

Read more of Blooming’s story: How a business education can help you be a better entrepreneur (Maclean’s)


Kevonnie Whyte

Kevonnie Whyte


Where are you now in your work and what are you most excited about? 

This year I finally wrap up my Professional MBA journey at UBC Sauder. It has been a hectic ride juggling part-time studies with full-time work as a clinical systems analyst on a digital transformation project at the Provincial Health Services Authority. Nonetheless, it has been a rewarding journey and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

What leadership advice do you have for others to succeed in business as you have?

What has been instrumental in helping me on my journey so far is the safe spaces I find which are curated for Black people and by Black people both in the community and professional settings. These spaces have been a saving grace when I need someone to validate an experience, give a listening ear, or give encouragement and advice.

I would encourage every Black student or young professional to find a space like this. I also encourage organizations to continue to fund and support the creation of these spaces as they are critical for us to survive and thrive.

Read more of Kevonnie’s story: Three ways I’ve made the most of my Professional MBA experience | By Kevonnie Whyte


Matthew Colphon

Image of Matthew Colphon explaining something sitting in an office


Where are you now in your work and what are you most excited about?

I've had an exciting few years as I've transitioned from strategy consulting into product management. Right now, I'm working as a product manager at Wealthsimple, a Toronto-based fintech that's taken off over the last few years. I'm really excited for the chance to develop new products from scratch and take on a very broad range of work with great engineers, data scientists, and designers.

What leadership advice do you have for others to succeed in business as you have?

I'd say two things: Clear obstacles for those around you and know what you'd like to learn from every situation.

For clearing obstacles, that doesn't mean doing someone's job for them, but instead figuring out what is holding them up and doing your best to clear it out of their way. Often that could be a lack of clarity around a goal, or a missing piece of information that would be difficult for them to get. It's amazing how much you can empower someone else by doing something that is relatively low effort for you, but truly enabling for them.

As for knowing what you want to learn, all the periods I'd consider particularly productive or successful have been when I've known exactly why I am where I am, and what I hope to know by the end of that role, project, or even meeting. Sometimes it’s as simple as clearly wanting to know a piece of information, or as complex as learning whole new departments or systems of work. But either way, having that clarity has given me much better focus and allowed me to develop as both a leader and a team contributor.

Read more of Matthew’s story: Rerouting a career path via UBC Sauder School of Business


Abigail Okyere


What leadership advice do you have for others to succeed in business as you have?

Find yourself a mentor, an ally and/or a sponsor. My role as a chief of staff was because I had a mentor and an ally who pushed me and believed in me. They coached me into being a leader and being a fit for the role. I had it in me, but it took them to let me see.

Black people work so hard but I have realized without the support of a mentor, support from your manager or someone at the top willing to see you succeed, you can be stifled. It is a blessing to have the career support, someone celebrating, and pushing you all the way to the top.

Oh, and when you get there, remember to pay it forward. We need so many of us in leadership because we embody so much resilience.

Read more of Abigail’s story: Mentoring entrepreneurs in Ghana: How one UBC MBA student sparked the expansion of UBC Sauder LIFT