Ayomikun Ayodeji ’22 announced Rhodes Scholar
Ayodeji: ‘All the experiences I was able to get at MIT and beyond set me up for this’
Ayomikun “Ayo” Ayodeji ’22 was recently announced as a Rhodes Scholar. Ayodeji sat down with The Tech to share his journey and passions regarding energy systems and management in Africa. Ayodeji graduated from MIT with degrees in chemical engineering and management, and is currently an associate at Boston Consulting Group.
This interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.
TT: How are you feeling after the announcement? Could you share with us what you intend to do as a Rhodes Scholar?
Ayodeji: In one word, I would say blessed. This is an incredible opportunity, and I feel very fortunate to have had everyone from my recommenders believing in me. All the experiences I was able to get at MIT and beyond set me up for this.
Another word would be inspired. In the final part of the selection process for the Rhodes Scholarship, I met a lot of incredible young minds from the West African region. I came out of that feeling extremely, extremely inspired about the future of the continent and what I should expect to see in this new stage of life.
In terms of plans as a Rhodes Scholar, in the first year, I am planning to use it for a master's in energy systems to get a more robust technical grounding on energy production. I want to unpack what pathways are needed to bridge the gaps we have in energy access on the African continent.
In the second year, I'm planning on doing an MSc in global governance and diplomacy. That will be more towards understanding what it's like to be at the intersection of implementing policy changes, while attracting investments into key infrastructural development builds that need to happen specifically within the energy sector.
TT: Tell us a bit about your journey as an international student, and your time at MIT and now at Boston Consulting Group.
Ayodeji: I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, one of the most populous cities in Africa. There's a lot of hustle and bustle: the city is alive at all times of the day, and everyone is super passionate about what they do.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that hold us back as a country. Some are connected to the infrastructure that is needed for the basic life of a human and the standard of living, one of which is energy and electricity access. My childhood experience was like it was pretty much certain that at some point electricity was going to cut off. Everybody was prepared with their generators and fuel or with their candles and kerosene lamps for the event in which you lost power. This got me thinking a lot about energy at a very early age.
I graduated from high school in Nigeria, and then studied at United World College of the Adriatic in Italy for two years. It was phenomenal, and it was the first time I had left the shores of Nigeria. I think that was the experience that set me on the path of the change that I want to see in the world and the change that I want to pursue.
For some reason, I managed to convince MIT to give me admission. I studied chemical engineering and management. I wanted to have that fluency of energy innovation and understanding of the processes in which you're taking theoretical concepts of how you produce energy and bringing them into the field.
After interning with Pioneer Natural Resources [now a part of ExxonMobil], I was looking for something that was more management-related and ended up landing an internship with BCG. There I’ve taken the lens of solving problems and supporting many clients across a variety of different industries and topics. You're really creating value by putting your best foot forward to come up with innovative creative solutions that help them with the problems that they're facing. I've actually been able to do both private equity work, but a lot of my work has also been in energy, which is what I'm interested in. I’m excited to take this to the next stage with the Rhodes program.
TT: What do you feel are some of your most notable achievements from your time at MIT? How did your time at MIT shape your projects?
Ayodeji: Very early on at MIT, I realized that we were extremely privileged to have access to resources and mentors and programs that can enable us to start implementing change and positively impact the lives of society outside of MIT and within. One of which was the MIT PKG office, which I frequented quite a bit. In my freshman year, I assembled a team of four friends from both MIT and Harvard and we built a classroom server working with a community organization called NECT, North East Children's Trust. They cater to children who have been orphaned by the Boko Haram Conflict in northeastern Nigeria and are thinking about how to expand their educational programs and how to prepare these kids for the future stage.
For me, the fact that I was able to contribute was mind-blowing. We got the Davis Projects for Peace Fellowship, which was a $10,000 grant. We also got a $2,500 grant from EASE (Expediting Access to Standard Education). You're seeing a lot of freshmen lads and one sophomore just going at it. That perspective really shaped the rest of my time at MIT.
TT: What communities from MIT do you feel most proud to represent?
Ayodeji: One of the things I'm most proud of is the communities that I was blessed with during my time at MIT. The first was the African Student Association (ASA). I tell people that the first person who picked me up from the airport when I landed in Cambridge, took me back to MIT, and fed me lunch was a member of ASA. He helped me feel at home literally from landing at the airport. It became clear that the amount of love and care that this community had already shown me without even knowing me personally was a very natural reaction.
Later on, I chaired an initiative called African Learning Circle. We invite a lot of entrepreneurs and people who are doing incredible stuff connected to the African space. It's a way for us to be inspired by our predecessors. You feel that shared connection of having the African experience and sometimes just a shoulder to lean on because MIT gets tough, so finding your people really matters.
The second organization would be CRU, one of the Christian groups on campus. I felt a lot of love, especially as I was walking along the faith journey and trying to figure out what it meant to be a Christian as well as be at MIT, a super intellectual place – how faith empowers us to do a lot of things.
Wrapping up senior year, I could feel a lot of encouragement coming from everything that I had been involved with. I ended up getting the Robert T. Haslam Award for chemical engineering. It's one award that's given to a chemical engineering senior every year to indicate the highest promise in chemical engineering. I also got the Pierini Senior Academic Award from Sloan. It's another award that's given to someone who shows very strong academic potential and diligence within the management field. Those awards I carry with pride. I'm trying to do my best to put my best foot forward and learn from a lot of people around me.