A Personal Perspective From the Business Education Alliance: Lemira Diallo
Posted March 20, 2018 by Tara Jongma
- Director, Membership - AACSB International
In this blog series, AACSB reaches out to members of the Business Education Alliance to garner their personal perspectives on business education. We ask educators and practitioners about their professional journey and any insights they can share related to the future of our industry. In this interview, Lemira Diallo, manager of business intelligence and accreditations at Groupe IAM in Dakar, Senegal, shares her progressive experience as a business school student, educator, and administrator, as well as what being part of AACSB’s Business Education Alliance means to her and her institution.
What is your background and experience with AACSB?
When I was starting university, I was very attracted to the banking and finance world and was accepted to a business school that is very well known in Dakar. The school was proposing something different than other business schools—it was Groupe IAM. I started a bachelor’s in banking and finance, graduated, and began an internship and my first job in a consulting group. There I had to do strategy diagnoses as a junior consultant working with other strategic consultants. Later I received a call from IAM, as they were launching a new professional services team in the areas of career advice and internationalization. So I went back to IAM. I pursued a master’s degree while working in the professional services department. After the successful launch of that project, I was selected to join a team that would improve the results in the executive education department. My skills and experience also proved useful in helping IAM with their quality improvement processes, accreditation, and internationalization. By then, I had become an instructor in strategic marketing and in innovation, focusing on games. For the last few years, I’ve been working in international relations and accreditations.
As a member of AACSB I really like the fact that all the data and tools offered are very accessible, as well as the human relations. Groupe IAM is part of many international networks, but I’ve connected more with Middle Eastern and African partners in the last few years through AACSB. It was very interesting to experience the quality of the partners, the collaborative interest, and the nontraditional way of setting up partnerships. As a result of being a member of AACSB, partnerships are much more strategic. And we keep in touch with peers and collaborators after meetings and conferences. Those relationships are invaluable.
What was it like to work while pursuing your master’s degree?
It was very challenging, but at the same time it was the best thing that happened to me. I completed my bachelor’s in finance and banking and then started my master’s in marketing and business intelligence. Although I had an educational profile of all banking and finance, and ended up in strategic marketing and business intelligence. The experience helped me find my way; I discovered that I wanted to help manage the professional profile of students. In Africa there was a mindset that was very strong five to 10 years ago telling students that, to become valuable, students have to go abroad for their higher education. My story is that it is OK not to do your full curricula abroad, outside of Senegal. But when you do go abroad, you have to make sure you have a purpose that matters. You don’t have to go abroad because your friends do it or because of some social evaluation, or something like that. It was important for me to tell them that I did my high school and higher education in Senegal. I’m proud to tell people my degrees are Senegalese.
The most valuable part of my job is the interaction with the students, who sometimes feel lost. They don’t always know what path to choose; they don’t allow themselves to discover, to fail sometimes, and then succeed after. If I would have followed my first love in finance I would not have been able to help students the way I do now, so I’m happy with the steps I’ve taken.
What is the greatest challenge business education will face in the future?
Defining who our target is. We have been so busy asking crazy requirements of the students, of the corporations and different partners, telling them that the best candidate for business should have this specific profile, certain GPAs, etc. We are closing the market. In the next 10, 20, 30 years do you think this strict way of measuring student profiles would make sense in Africa? We have to be more open and proactive about the programs we are developing, but we also should develop programs for this continent as well as for all other developing regions. That is what should drive our innovation.
How do you see your business school impacting the region in the next years?
Our business school has done a lot since its creation. Actually the creation itself was already a very strong statement, saying that we are here for the youth of Africa. We are here not only for the country of Senegal but for the larger region, as well. We have subsidiaries in Mali, one opening soon in Côte d’Ivoire, and one in Guinea. Just a week ago, Groupe IAM’s president, Moustapha Guirassy, who is also a deputy in the national assembly, gave a powerful speech about inclusivity in the whole educational system.
By talking about higher education, we help bring international exposure to other business schools in West Africa. We are working with AACSB to help open the discussion about quality assurance and international standards. We are able to remain dedicated to quality in this process while also keeping our distinctiveness, maintaining our values, and developing in the areas of technologies and new sectors. We aim to be an exemplary business school with a strong soul and strong DNA as well as strong devotion to quality. Most important is inclusivity—we do not want to be discriminatory. Africa has a large youth population and doesn’t need elite business schools that are selective; it needs to offer inclusive education.
What skills will students need in the next 10 years, considering the challenges relevant to your region?
Our business school is creating change catalysts, so they have to be able to manage disruption. That is why, over the past 18 years, we have developed a green camp that helps students break down all the barriers (cultural and social) and influences the mindset of African citizens. There is so much pressure and focus on what is not working. Critical change requires seeing opportunities rather than challenges in the societies we work with. We want to ignite a flame in our students and show them that they are the change. It will not come from anyone else; they are the change and have to make it work.
Who is your favorite thought leader?
Nelson Mandela. We all love him for different reasons. His resilience, his faith in a better Africa, his faith that we are the change; everything is possible, but it must happen through our own efforts—through working together and through exchange of knowledge and ideas.
Lemira Diallo is manager of business intelligence and accreditations at Groupe IAM in Dakar, Senegal.