Build As We Climb – Howard SVMP Alums

By empowering the next generation of business leaders, alumni Adam Guthrie’04, Floyd Mitchell ’05, and Whitney Jones ’06 have found a new way to give meaning to their undergraduate experiences at Howard University long after their days on campus.


Teaming up with / They [teamed up] with other Howard graduates to establish the Build as We Climb Scholars Program. BWC Scholars is a two‐year program for Howard University School of Business students in their sophomore and junior years, providing them with professional, personal and financial support. Guthrie, Jones and Mitchell are part of a leadership team who capitalize on their experience as recent graduates and newfound professionals to provide one‐on‐one mentorship, skillbuilding workshops and access to Howard’s growing base of business leaders, visionaries and trailblazers across a wide range of industries. As the organization’s name aptly sums up, this team is building the foundation for the next generation as they climb up the ladder of success.


“When we first developed the concept for Build as We Climb Scholars Program, we wanted an organization which made life easier for those who came after us,” shared Mitchell, who currently serves as the program’s chairman. [Allowing others to learn from] our mistakes and victories, and have that be of impact to others, is our greatest satisfaction from this program. We hope to continue to light a path to success for these young people.”


Adam Guthrie

  • SVMP Class of 2004
  • Associate at Corporate Treasury at JPMorgan
  • Lives in NYC
  • Mentor at Harlem charter school


Floyd Mitchell

  • SVMP Class of 2005
  • Consultant for MasterCard Worldwide in New York
  • Founder of Guiding L.I.G.H.T. Mentorship Program in East New York


Whitney Jones

  • SVMP Class of 2006
  • Financial Analyst at Moody’s Corporation
  • Mentor at Children’s Storefront, a charter school in Harlem


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Alumni Spotlight – Jean-Philippe Odunlami SVMP ’02

In pursuit of his own American Dream, Jean‐Philippe Odunlami moved from France at the age of 17. Now an HBS graduate and entrepreneur, he shares lessons from his time at HBS and perspectives from the international business arena.


Alumni Beat: What is your current role at Focus Partners LLP and what do you do in this capacity? Why did you choose Singapore to anchor your firm? How has your time abroad affected your perspectives on business?


Jean‐Philippe Odunlami: I set up Focus Partners in 2006 in my second year of the HBS MBA program. I was naturally drawn to Asia because being from Europe, having spent nearly a decade in the U.S., and with family roots in West Africa, I thought Asia was really the missing piece in my mental world map.


Singapore seemed like a great platform because it is business‐friendly and connected to all of Asia, not just China or India. Business‐wise, my goal was to figure out how to use my global background to fill business gaps all over the world, starting with Asia. The bulk of activities at Focus Partners, is taking companies from lowgrowth countries and developing them in growing markets in Asia. I also spend some time advising the Singapore government on policies and incentives to encourage more local companies to grow and internationalize.


The important takeaway for me from the international experience is that different models work in different places. Business and career opportunities don’t look the same everywhere. International business is a great way to learn new things and adapt to different mindsets.


AB: You were able to not only attend SVMP but also HBS for your graduate studies. How different were the two experiences, if at all?


JPO: I think most people who have been through both programs agree that SVMP is really a window into the MBA program. You get many of the same benefits: the networking, the professors, the classroom discussions and the branding.  If you’re not at one of the top tier undergraduate universities, SVMP shows you that you really have a shot at attending HBS at some point. Once I had the chance to experience SVMP, and see how supportive the system was, from staff to professors, I knew that getting an MBA there could be a wonderful experience…and importantly, possible.


AB: What advice can you share with alumni who would like to follow a similar path as yours?


JPO: First, I think each individual has to understand and chart his or her own path, step‐by‐step. You have to determine why you do what you do. Instead of seeing things like SVMP or the MBA program as an end goal, it is better to view them as tools to achieve your overall objectives. I knew I enjoyed business, had a pretty good head for finance, and an international background, so the key was to figure out how to make all the pieces fit together into a coherent life plan. Once I had a sketch of that plan, the MBA program was a way to gain the tools to refine it and implement it. However, if you don’t do that self‐analysis, even if you get into the program, you might get lost because there is tremendous pressure to follow the herd. The MBA program at HBS is a once‐in‐a‐lifetime opportunity, so the key is not to miss that big picture and not be sidetracked once you actually get there. One way to do that is to ensure you are connecting with your roots, whether it’s your university, your home or even your previous career.


AB: Now that you have benefited from SVMP, HBS, and years of work experience, what are some of the most important things you have learned about yourself, and what are your dreams for the future?


JPO: The most important thing I’ve learned is that it’s ok to chart your own path. And it’s important to put the priority on doings things that are enjoyable, instead of beating yourself into a particular mold of success. I think for many of us, we tend to follow the “goal posts”, like SVMP, Fortune 500 companies, MBA programs, etc. We want to “check the box”. But it’s fine to move outside of that at some point. But importantly, if the MBA is not in the cards for you, it’s perfectly fine. I think there’s a tremendous amount of energy and creativity that is lost when we feel that we have to do what seems successful to others. In terms of dreams for the future, my aspirations are fairly simple. I’d like to continue doing exactly what I’m doing now, and become even better at it. At some point, I want to be in a position where I can also show others how to do it, and share my passion for global business. Of course, I welcome financial success, as long as I can still be a good person in the process.


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Understanding Business and Human Rights

Aligning business and social imperatives is increasingly important in the ways multinational firms do business today. Christine Bader, Advisor to the UN Secretary‐General’s Special Representative on business and human rights, shares how business and human rights intersect and the role that we as young professionals will play in this ongoing debate.


AB: What kind of responsibility do business school candidates and young professionals working in the corporate sector have in learning about how business and human rights issues intersect?

Christine Bader: You have ALL of the responsibility. None of the people who got us into the mess we’re in today ‐‐ systemic failures, extreme deregulation, little self‐regulation, lack of communication with civil society, all resulting in real harm to people and planet ‐‐ are capable of getting us out of it. Even if they were, it will take years if not generations, by which time you’ll be running the world. You must ask more questions ‐‐ of your peers, your professors, your bosses, your recruiters. How should business accurately assess risk ‐‐ not just to short‐term returns, but to society? What real‐world ethical dilemmas will you face in your careers, and what frameworks are you going to use to solve them? What will you do if you’re the only one in your organization asking difficult questions and pointing out potential problems?


AB: Our alumni base seeks to impact their communities through business leadership. How can this debate eventually affect the impact they seek to have?

CB: There will be increasing pressure from all directions on companies to know and show that they are not infringing on the human rights of others: Governments will require that companies report on their non‐financial impacts; customers will demand more and better information about where their products come from; and investors and NGOs will require evidence that companies have systems in place to protect communities and the environment.


AB: What has been the most challenging aspect of aligning business and social imperatives?

CB: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was written by states for states ‐‐ it doesn’t say anything about companies explicitly, and certainly doesn’t read like a business manual! But people increasingly use the language of human rights to frame how business has affected their lives. So we need to translate human rights into business language ‐‐ while being careful not to dilute the integrity of the original declarations and the principles that underpin them. None of us ‐‐ whether we work in a company or not ‐‐ want to be associated with human rights abuses. I don’t believe that business and social imperatives are diametrically opposed. If companies treat their workers well, they’ll be more productive and stay with the company longer; if companies pay heed to societal interests, they’ll be able to grow ‐‐ whether that’s through their customer base or making sure that a local community is supportive of their expansion. I used to work for an energy company that worked in very remote areas, where it was clear that community and government opposition could stop our work ‐‐ so business and societal interests were very much aligned. The links between business and human rights, both positive and negative, will only grow stronger, as they have in the 60 years since the UDHR was agreed.


This debate is ongoing!  Want to learn more? Follow Christine Bader on Twitter (@christinebader) and visit business‐


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Business Today International Conference 2009

This past November, SVMP ‘09 classmates Tyler Sanchez, Aiesha Davie, Jameel Merali, Joe Seydl, Alice Fadiora, and Alex Porto reunited in New York City to participate in the Business Today International Conference: Weathering the Storm. The conference comprised three action‐packed days of executive group seminars, case study competitions, and keynote speaker events, revolving around the central theme: how business leaders overcame the challenges of the 2008‐2009 financial crisis.


Notable speakers included William Clay Ford Jr., Executive Chairman at Ford Motor Company, Michael Novogratz, President and Director of Fortress Investment Group LLC, Pete Miller Jr., President and CEO of National Oilwell Varco, Inc., and Alan Blinder, Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University.


To become a successful leader in business, participants learned that one must always be forward‐looking, especially during periods of economic adversity. When asked how he was able to navigate Ford Motor Company through the peak of the crisis, Mr. Ford admitted to ascribing to Wayne Gretzky’s etiquette: “he tried to skate not to where the puck was at, but rather to where he believed the puck was going.”


More than half of the 100+ conference participants were international students hailing from Australia, China, Brazil, Greece and Russia, allowing for invaluable international exposure and a deeper understanding of the interdependence of the global economy.


Business Today is the largest student‐run publication in America, organizing various conferences for students throughout each academic year centered around bridging the communication gap between college students and business executives all around the world. To learn more about Business Today, and the conferences that they sponsor each year, visit


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Miracle Making in the City – Bruno Ocampo SVMP ’08

Bruno Ocampo ’08 has been combatting malnutrition in his native Colombia for years. His latest efforts were on the largest scale yet, having raised over $250,000 for children’s advocacy foundations Kidsave International and Nutrir.


Bruno served on the executive committee for The 5th Annual New York Miracle Makers Golf Classic held on May 24, 2010. Hosted by Bob Woodruff of ABC News, the tournament offered an exclusive day of golf at the PGA West Course in Rye, New York famed with opportunities to golf with celebrity guests, on‐course games and luxury prizes. The evening featured networking with business leaders, celebrities, and sports figures, followed by an Awards Dinner with entertainment, auction items and an opportunity to meet the kids of Kidsave and Nutrir. Proceeds will be used to build the Nutrir Center for Integral Development in Barranquilla, Colombia, which will feed an additional 20,000 Colombian children daily.


Kidsave International is a nonprofit organization that helps older orphaned and abandoned children find families. Nutrir is a private nonprofit organization that works with the poorest and most vulnerable child population of Colombia in various programs of nutritional recovery.


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Alumni Start-Up Garners Community Recognition

Major foundations are taking notice of the positive impact that our alumni have on their communities. On May 21, 2010, the Citi Foundation and the New York Mets awarded MOVE with the “Teammates in the Community” Award for extraordinary volunteer service at a pre‐game ceremony at Citi Field in New York City.


Motivation Opportunity Viability Enterprise, Inc. (MOVE) is a leading youth organization aimed at increasing college matriculation rates in New York City public high schools.


In its initial stages three years ago, it was funded out-of‐pocket by a group of college seniors, among them SVMP alum Christofer Garner ’07, Aerin Williams ’07, Laura Welch ’07, Melanie George ’07, Darren Smith ’06, and Maritza Alarcon ’07. Now, MOVE is fully funded and continues making strides in partnering with organizations that share its vision. The Citi Foundation is the latest to [partner] with MOVE, joining the Deutsche Bank Foundation, The NYC Department of Education Mentoring Program, Cornell University, Baruch College, and the New England Counselors of Color.


“We know that a college degree is the number one way to help young people move up the economic ladder and achieve professional success, which is why we believe so strongly in MOVE‘s mission,” said Pam Flaherty, President and CEO of the Citi Foundation. “We applaud them for their tireless volunteer work towards helping more New York City students enroll and succeed in college.”


The leadership team shares many of the same attributes and backgrounds as its students, allowing them to develop a [holistic] college preparatory program tailored for low‐income students.  “Throughout my life, I have experienced many socioeconomic problems that are prevalent in blighted communities across America,” says Darren Smith. “I am passionate aboutcreating solutions to improve the lackluster conditions in our urban neighborhoods. No longer can I sit back and witness the wasted potential of our urban youth.”


When asked what has been most satisfying about this educational venture, co-founder Maritza Alarcon ’07 [aptly] said, “[For me, it’s] being able to listen to our scholars and their amazing stories as they grow before my eyes and to know exactly where we, as a team, started and what we have become. I can only be excited for the future.”


For more information about MOVE, please visit


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Alumni Spotlight – Derrick Thompson SVMP ’02

An alumnus of the Class of 2002, Derrick Thompson has been building a phenomenal reputation at IBM for a decade. He shares valuable lessons on success, continuous learning and dreaming big.


Alumni Beat: What is your current role at IBM and what do you do in this capacity?


In my current role at IBM, I lead marketing and business development for cloud computing. There is a lot of buzz around cloud computing in the marketplace and we know that it can significantly reduce IT costs and complexity. Part of the mission of our group is to help deliver that message and the capabilities therein through and with our robust portfolio of business partners.


AB: What do you remember as the highlights of SVMP?


DT: First, the opportunity to interact with peers from so many different walks of life and the relationships that were fostered during that time. Secondly, the unique access to such renowned faculty and the genuine interest shown on all occasions. This was particularly encouraging, especially given the schedule that most endured. “Time” is always being positioned as such a valuable asset and to give it willingly speaks volumes of one’s character.


AB: How have you applied the valuable lessons from your SVMP experience into your professional and personal life?


DT: SVMP reinforced two very simple yet important lessons that I continue to draw upon today. They are to dream big, but execute bigger and work hard, but work smart. In my opinion, dreaming big is less about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and more about maximizing the unique experiences along the way. Every big dream can be systemically broken down into small, incremental but important achievements that shape and mold you for the next step. It’s probably fair to say that everyone has been encouraged to work hard and work smart but very few people are able to put it to practice when it’s needed the most.


AB: What advice can you share with alumni who would like to follow a similar path as yours?


DT: From a professional standpoint, I would suggest to continuously understand not only one’s role and how it fits into the larger scope of an organization, but how the organization fits in the world economy. At my company, I have been able to witness and participate in perhaps one of the most phenomenal shifts in the industry, certainly the economy and its subsequent impact on the world. Staying current and understanding the major trends in business, even if at a high level, can help you maintain your credibility and ensure you are aligned with initiatives that make an impact.


Overall I would say to know your definition of success. There are several books, political leaders and business giants who will try to define this for you but it is critical to develop this definition for yourself and work toward it with unmatched passion. The ability to impress others has always been an attractive lure. Master the ability to constantly astonish yourself and others will notice.


AB: Now that you have benefited from SVMP, graduate school and years of work experience, what are some of the most important things you have learned about yourself, and what are your dreams for the future?


DT: A lot of what I’ve shared is certainly a reflection of all the things that I have learned but I will expand upon two items in particular as they relate directly to me. One is how I allot my time. I’ve learned that it is very important to make time for those that you care about the most and to do the things that you care the most about. As much as we try to quantify time and place tangible values to it, the true value and impact in the long run is immeasurable.


I’ve also learned how important it is to listen and appreciate that you can learn something from everyone. My experiences have taught me that it is important to listen to understand, rather than listening to respond. People don’t realize how often they can cheat themselves out of extraordinary learning opportunities by failing to listen to and humbly acknowledge resources that seem insignificant.


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Alumni Voices – Summer 2010

Jason Hershey ’05

I started the Seattle Rum Cake Company last December selling baked‐to‐order rum cakes over the Internet. If you would like to order a rum cake, please enter “SVMP” in the comments field [of your purchase] and we will donate $5 for each item purchased to support scholarships for minority business students. Visit us at www.seattlerumcakecom.


Emem Adjah ’08

I am English Teaching Assistant to undergraduate and postgraduate students at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. I collaborate with professors within and outside of the classroom to provide help for students regarding their English proficiency. Most of the courses that I am affiliated with focus on diversity and inclusion in Hong Kong schools. I teach French for Beginners through the Center of Language Education at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. I also volunteer for the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong under their Cultural Outreach Program where I tour schools around Hong Kong providing lectures relating to global affairs, U.S. anthropology, and any other current events. Hope to pursue job opportunities in consulting while pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors.


Gaston Blanchet ’08

I am a part of a national team enlisted to lead and grow Language World USA, a language school in San Diego, CA. He serves as Business Development Manager (contract acquisition and management, development of international agent partnerships, and oversee sales). In the first months, the new team expanded services and revamped the pedagogical system, expanding instruction from French, German, and Italian to all languages and developing a diverse set of programs. Recently, Gaston and his team gained significant momentum when they obtained a large federal subcontract to teach critical languages to the U.S. Special Forces at military facilities throughout the world.  Language World USA is quickly becoming known, both on the local and international language education stages, for its quality of service, industry experience, and exceptional value. “We’re very fortunate it’s been going well, and it’s been a huge learning experience for me,” said Gaston. “As a recent graduate of Entrepreneurship and International Business, I’ve had incredible opportunities to apply concepts I’ve learned to a project that significantly affects my family, our team, and me.”

Kati Karottki ’08

Kati is an Account Executive at Octagon Worldwide, where she consults for AB InBev Global Sports and Entertainment with current work focused on the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Prior to that, she served on the Chicago 2016 Bid Committee until Rio de Janeiro, Brazil won the bid for the 2016 Olympics.


Ogechi Ajaegbu ’09

My SVMP experience really changed the trajectory of my life. It exposed me to a wealth of knowledge and built my interpersonal skills. Following SVMP 2009, I interviewed with firms such as Deloitte, Ernst and Young and Goldman Sachs after which I received a full time job offer with Deloitte as an Audit Associate. During the interviews, my SVMP experience stirred up a good conversation. I’m so grateful to have been a part of the SVMP class of 2009!


India Clark ’09

India Clark graduated from Howard University with a degree in Accounting. Starting in July 2010, she will be working for Deloitte Consulting LLP in Arlington, VA. India was recently honored by the National Minority AIDS Council as a “Future Leader in HIV/AID Advocacy” for her tireless efforts in promoting HIV awareness on campus.


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