BLACK TALENT SPOTLIGHT
MEET CHRIS MBANGALA
Founder of ADMA
African Diaspora Mentoring Association
A bright mind and an even kinder soul, Chris Mbangala sat down for an interview with Black By Us, and shared about his journey, his projects, and his aspirations for the next generation of Black talent.
Black By Us: In your opinion, what are some of the key challenges and opportunities for young Black professionals in the business world today?
CHRIS: The most prominent challenge I see for Black professionals in the business world (particularly in Western society) is the lack of network ties and informal support. Throughout my studies and professional careers, I have witnessed that some opportunities to get ahead in life come through information sharing and the network that you have. Sadly, oftentimes, Black talents are excluded from these information networks simply because our background does not necessarily allow us to connect with the relevant people.
Another significant challenge is the fact that many Black talents today live with an “imposter syndrome” that you believe you are less than or that a certain level of success would not apply to you. This is probably the remaining impact of the oppression that Black communities have lived by throughout our history, but also from the education systems which sometimes tend to play in our disfavor by disqualifying young Black students from the get-go due to our socio-economics differences.
Luckily, I see multiple opportunities ahead. Today Western society is very conscious of the bias that they do have when it comes to hiring profiles from diverse ethnicities. This has led to specific pathways to remedy the past injustice for Black talents. Nevertheless, those initiatives still need to go a long way.
I also see that many Black talents who managed to reach certain high-level positions are willing to coach and guide youngsters coming up and share important information with them to help on their journey. I personally believe that great change will come in this manner where we are able to empower future generations and connect them with people that have similar backgrounds and managed to go through a successful journey. I believe this kind of inspiration and support is what the next generations will need. Initiatives like Black By Us understood the assignment!
The Power of Mentorship
Black By Us: We often learn valuable lessons from those who have come before us; mentorship and support are essential for growth. You are the founder of ADMA, the African Diaspora Mentoring Association, which aims to provide African descent students with the necessary tools to make their future projects a reality by connecting them with peers that have gone through a similar path. Can you tell us a little bit more about what ADMA’s vision is about?
CHRIS: The vision for ADMA is to increase the representation of successful members of African descent in society through education. I decided to create this association, looking back at my upbringing in Belgium, where my parents, immigrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo, overcame multiple challenges to achieve success in academia. Inspired by their determination, I founded ADMA in 2019 to support African descent students facing obstacles and discrimination by providing mentoring and connections.
Black By Us: Can you tell us about any individuals who have been influential in shaping your own journey and how their guidance has impacted you? Specifically, what Black personalities or leaders have inspired you, and what aspects of their journeys resonate with you?
CHRIS: There are so many influences that have shaped my journey, including my parents as main source of guidance, but I will name 3 Black talents that have profoundly influenced me: Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and Kobe Bryant.
Barack Obama: Obama's journey from a community organizer to becoming the 44th President of the United States demonstrates the potential for determination, intelligence, and a commitment to change to lead to historic achievements. His presidency shattered racial barriers, embodying hope and inclusivity. His initiatives, like "My Brother's Keeper," align with ADMA vision, showcasing the power of mentorship and empowerment. Obama's resilience against opposition and focus on positive change inspire navigating challenges. His global impact and diplomacy underscore the potential for leadership on a worldwide stage.
Nelson Mandela: Mandela's evolution from prisoner to South Africa's first Black president illustrates the transformative strength of resilience, forgiveness, and justice. His anti-apartheid struggle showcases his unwavering dedication. Emphasizing forgiveness after his release highlighted unity and healing. Leadership during his presidency made immeasurable strides towards dismantling apartheid's legacy. Globally, he symbolized freedom, inspiring countless others. Mandela's legacy resonates with me, embodying resilience, leadership, and positive impact.
Kobe Bryant: As a legendary basketball player, Kobe Bryant's journey from a young athlete to a global icon showcases the power of dedication, hard work, and perseverance. Known for his "Mamba Mentality," Kobe's relentless pursuit of excellence and his ability to overcome challenges resonate with my determination to achieve my goals. Beyond his athletic achievements, Kobe's efforts in storytelling and advocating for women's sports highlight the importance of using influence to create positive change. His untimely passing also emphasizes the importance of making the most of every opportunity and leaving a lasting legacy.
"We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark." - Whoopi Goldberg
Picture: Chris with a group of ADMA mentees
Black Excellence Centering the Community
Black By Us: You’ve recently been admitted into Saïd School of Business, the prestigious Oxford MBA, one of the top MBA programs in the world. Can you tell us a bit about your journey and what inspired you to pursue a business education there?
CHRIS: The Saïd School of Business boasts an unparalleled reputation as one of the most prestigious institutions worldwide, standing firmly as part of Oxford University, one of the oldest and most esteemed universities in the world. Choosing Oxford means immersing myself in a rich history of academic excellence, surrounded by brilliant minds and a diverse student body from all corners of the globe. Most importantly, my desire to make a significant impact on the world aligns perfectly with the ethos of Saïd School of Business. The MBA program at Saïd is renowned for its focus on nurturing leaders who are not only business-savvy but also deeply committed to creating a positive and sustainable social impact. The curriculum is designed to equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills to address complex global issues and inspire change. One of the most compelling aspects that drew me to apply at Saïd School of Business was its emphasis on Africa and the continent’s development. The school recognizes the immense potential and untapped opportunities in Africa, making it a strategic priority to invest in the region’s growth. The MBA program at Saïd offers specialized courses and projects that focus on African business landscapes, social challenges, and entrepreneurial endeavors.
Black By Us: How does the MBA connect with the ADMA mentorship initiative?
CHRIS: With the vision to increase representation of successful individuals of African descent through education, I believe that undertaking the Oxford MBA will enhance my leadership skills to amplify ADMA’s mentorship efforts and create a more significant impact for the African descent community. While uplifting others to believe in achieving their aspirations, regardless of their background, simultaneously increasing access to a diverse network of professionals also serves as a valuable resource for the young African descent talent I work with, by connecting mentees with role models, potential mentors and other resources that can contribute to their personal and professional growth. My aspiration is for these young talents to succeed and in turn become influential leaders and advocates for positive change, creating opportunities and empowering the next generation of African descent talent.
Driving Social Impact Through Financial Inclusion
"I want to lead initiatives that will aim at broadening access to financial services to those that have been traditionally excluded."
"Progress is the attraction that moves humanity" (Marcus Garvey)
Black By Us: The business world is constantly evolving, how do you envision using your education and your unique perspective to make a positive impact on society and the business landscape?
CHRIS: In a world where opportunities are often determined by socio-economic circumstances, financial inclusion can be a powerful catalyst for positive change. Through my MBA, I want to drive social impact in the world of financial services to increase financial inclusion through M&A and fintech partnership. As a person of African descent, with parents that migrated from Democratic Republic of Congo to Belgium, I have noticed firsthand the damages that being excluded from the financial system can have on the livelihood of the most disadvantaged individuals. I want to lead initiatives that will aim at broadening access to financial services to those that have been traditionally excluded. In the long term, I would like to join global institutions that can help me drive this change at regional level in across sub-Saharan Africa. My ambition would be to use the knowledge gained during the MBA and my professional experience in Europe to benefit the development of the African continent through financial inclusion to foster a climate of economic growth, especially in the democratic republic of Congo where I find my heritage.
"A tree's beauty lies in its branches, but its strength lies in its roots."
"Our creativity is a source of strength and resilience, shining a light on our unique stories and experiences." - Yaa Gyasi
Black By Us: Your journey reflects your dedication and hard work, as well as a strong commitment to your purpose. What message would you like to share with other young Black talents aspiring to pursue higher education and business careers? Can you share any habits or routines that have contributed to your success and could be helpful to others pursuing similar paths?
CHRIS: The advice I would share with someone who would want to pursue a similar path or any other things in life really, is to be consistent with your goals. Once you know what you are trying to accomplish and have defined the clear steps you need to take to get there, don’t negotiate with yourself, just do it!
It takes a lot of effort and sacrifices but it is all worth it at the end of the journey. For me being consistent meant having a clear schedule to study for the admission test ( 2 hours on weekdays and 5 hours on weekends). I would also encourage you to get the right support system around you with people who know about your goal and will want to push you toward it. This has been tremendously important for me, I can not thank my family and friends enough for their mental support.
Lastly, I would say, do not give up! The road is not easy when it comes to MBA application and you will definitely face challenges along the way. Be ready to face those challenges head-on. I am really a believer that whoever you are, you can do anything you put your mind to. Determination is key!
My determination did not only come from the desire to succeed but also to show to others with a similar background as me that if I managed to embark on this journey successfully, then you can do it too!
TELL US MORE ABOUT YOURSELF
What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?
CHRIS: Drive, ambition, community
What strengths do you draw from your biculturality, being a person of African descent in Europe? How have your roots shaped the person that you are today?
CHRIS: Resilience, determination, stewardship
If you could have dinner with three famous people from history, who would they be?
CHRIS: Patrice Lumumba, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela