Gary Izunwa attended the Powerlist Foundation/Deloitte Leadership Programme in 2013 mainly out of curiosity and it turned out to be one of the shrewdest decisions he’s made in his short life. He was already quite career focused but wasn’t sure what direction he was going. Attending the Leadership Programme was invaluable exposure to an environment of meeting people who could help him, he says. He spotted the Leadership Programme on Facebook, was inspired and pleased that he met the criteria to be selected.
“It was a chance to expand on my network, to learn and meet other influential people,” Izunwa says. His mentors were Edwin Broni-Mensah, Ro Paddon and Susan Taylor-Martin. Claud Williams was his ‘buddy’.
The most significant aspect of the programme for Izunwa was meeting “people my age who were doing amazing things at amazing companies” and “senior leaders in a range of different industries”.
He feels it “had one of the biggest impacts on my life”. He credits attending the programme with getting his latest job, at LinkedIn offices in Dublin, Ireland, through Paddon.
Through attending the programme, Izunwa got an internship at Barclays in Canary Wharf. He enjoyed that stint but realised that banking and high finance wasn’t for him. Then he interned in a technology company which confirmed his interest in the internet and technology industry, which ultimately led to him pursuing and getting the LinkedIn job, which starts in September.
Izunwa has maintained his involvement with the Powerlist Foundation, including writing in Deloitte’s Impact Report, attending numerous events and working with Veronica Martin, the Powerlist Foundation CEO, on initiatives.
His advice to students considering going on the Leadership Programme is not just to focus on people they meet in the industry they want to go into but keep an open mind. “Speak to everyone and anyone. Try to make as many relationships as possible. Don’t be afraid to approach people and ask them to expand on what they may have just said (publicly).”
Izunwa graduated from University of Leicester last summer in management studies and politics. Knowing that he didn’t want to start working life straight away, he took a breather. First it was a trip to India for a couple of weeks through the British Council. The Study India trip took him to Delhi and Mumbai where he saw many aspects of the country’s lifestyle and culture. “It was all about immersing yourself in Indian culture.” They went to the Taj Mahal, visited a school, rural areas and the Bombay Stock Exchange.
Through another British Council programme, he is at Suzhou University in China at present, until July, learning Mandarin and about Chinese culture. It is roughly 60 miles north-west of Shanghai. The thought process is that learning basic Mandarin and making contacts there will put him in good stead in the future as China continues to emerge as an economic force.
Izunwa, 21, is from Hayes, west London, one of five siblings and learnt the importance of education from his Nigerian mother. It has paid off handsomely and he is really excited about his LinkedIn job.
“Working at LinkedIn is an exciting prospect and will expose me to how business works.” He will be on the business leadership programme there and feels that having attended the Powerlist Leadership Programme “almost gives me an upper hand” and will give him “a chance to advance quicker”.
He seems destined for a stellar career. No small feat for someone who says that “where I’m from very few people do the things that I’m doing now, it’s almost not attainable”.
He adds: “I feel lucky that I’ve been able to get out of that little bubble I was in and realize that the world is a big place and you can achieve things if you work hard.”
Ro Paddon is Head of Business and Enabling Skills for Deloitte and was Izunwa’s key mentor. “Gary was the reason our relationship started because he took the initiative during the Leadership Programme to contact me,” she said. “Our first conversation was over lunch.”
Since then they have kept in touch by phone or face to face and Paddon is pleased that again Izunwa showed initiative by seeing that she had contacts at LinkedIn and he tapped into that connection to get his job. “I’ve always found Gary very receptive to my suggestions,” she added. She also admires the way he gives back to the Leadership Programme.
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