Oyin OduyaBack to Blog

Growing up my parents always emphasised the value of education. They’d say: "If you’re educated, nobody can take it from you. It’s yours."

The process of getting into Cambridge University was quite long and daunting. I felt intimidated walking into such a grand setting to be interviewed and struggled to answer questions beyond my level of expertise, only afterwards did I realise that was the point of the process. I was applying to study economics which I really enjoyed at school but had only studied for two years at A-level.

I didn’t get into the college I applied to, Clare College, and so I was put into a pool. I eventually accepted an offer from Newnham College, one of the few remaining all-female colleges. I’d been at an all-girls’ school for the entirety of my education and, for obvious reasons, wanted a change! At the time, I reluctantly accepted their offer, but looking back, I think it was the best thing for me. Finance, particularly investment banking where I started my career, is very male-dominated and coming from a college that’s proudly feminist pushed me to be as good as I could be, without apology. Newnham College was a place that encouraged women to be themselves and to thrive in their chosen endeavours.

Originally from Nigeria, I’ve always been passionate about economic development in Africa – I grew up wanting to either work for the United Nations Development Programme or the World Bank. After Cambridge, I went on to study economics with reference to Africa at SOAS. I’ve always admired the determination of entrepreneurs in developing countries who, due to poor public service provision and a lack of infrastructure, often have to do more than can be considered reasonable to make their businesses successful. While working as a research economist covering Sub-Saharan Africa, I travelled extensively across the region and had the opportunity to meet many innovative and resilient people finding a way to thrive despite challenging circumstances. When such entrepreneurs succeed, without the provisions that people in London or Silicon Valley often take for granted, it can often have a positive impact that goes way beyond the boundaries of their own companies. These experiences definitely shaped my current worldview, and are part of the reason I ended up working in impact investing. I find it incredibly exciting to interact with companies trying to make a positive change in the world.