Matthew Olugbemi. Banker, Product Owner, and Scrum Master

Mark Talmage-Rostron
June 28, 2022 · 10 min read

Matthew Olugbemi works as a Product Owner on Nedbank’s Super App “Avo”, a mega e-commerce app that has over one million users, championed by Nedbank, one of the largest banks in South Africa. He is currently an MBA learner at Nexford University

When you look into Matthew Olugbemi’s eyes you realize that he is a man that is driven, goal oriented and keen on solving problems and adding value to people and business, whilst climbing the corporate ladder. As any person who wants to taste success, and that of the highest order, Matthew has set out a well-thought-through plan to help him get there. One of the parts, and arguably one of the most crucial, is him taking his MBA at Nexford University.

In a methodical way, Matthew states that even though you can go so far on your own in the business world with a decent work ethic, you definitely need something in your locker to help you be more productive, a standout in the workplace, and improve the value that you bring to the table.

He says, “Although as far as I am concerned it is still early days, doing my MBA with Nexford has probably also broadened my scope of knowledge and understanding, because so far, I’ve been open to a lot of new learnings around how several big companies across the globe go about their business in a successful way. That newfound knowledge is already proving especially useful to me in my current position at Avo by Nedbank. I believe this is already equipping me to do better in my role, in supporting the project I am on, my team and boss.”

Agility is key

Being able to pivot on a penny is what Matthew says is one of the most important strings to your bow these days. Things change in the world, and fast, so being agile in his Product Ownership role at Nedbank is so important to him.

With a broad smile, that crops up a lot in his recent learner testimonial video he says that he has taken the ability to be agile through to his life as well saying that he has constantly had to evolve at different phases of it. He says you can’t be blinkered; you must look for the positives everywhere, change when you need to, or you will simply not succeed.

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It's all about the science

Matthew tells us that he was never just focussed on banking. He has a political science background, and that he reckons has definitely stood him in good stead when it comes to policy formulation, people management and problem solving.

He states, “There’s a lot of things that need to be done in terms of policy formulation. It’s all about establishing the terms of delivery of basic needs because there are decisions to be made which leave no boundary to politics in the workspace, even in the family unit as well. It goes from there to the broader society and of course to the workspace as well. So that was my motivation for getting a grounding in political science.”

Not one to stand still and stagnate in a role, Matthew talks about his next business move and at that stage of his life it was to go and work for an NGO. Working for NGOs afforded him the opportunity to become engaged in community building, serve God by serving the people, something that he holds dear to his heart based on the importance of community in the African culture.

He explains, “I’ve had instances where I have had to engage with government departments in my community, even the police department, and working for an NGO I had the knowledge and resources to provide services independent of government departments which are littered with bureaucracy. That can really slow down processes and block the progress of change. Which of course can be very frustrating.”

To IT and beyond!

What industry could you have a future in and be able to see a clear cession path in than the IT industry? In the last 10 years it has seen a tremendous boom and long gone are the horror memories on the .com crash. With high-paying roles in abundance, it was no surprise that an ambitious man like Matthew decided to take the plunge and move across to the IT industry, concentrating on business analytics which came off the back of data analytics. This he maintains all came from self-study where he used YouTube as his classroom. It was hard work with him having to dedicate Monday or Tuesday nights and even pretty much all nights sometimes, which put tremendous strain on his life both at home and work.

Matthew says, “I started with web designs, UX and UI designs to be precise, providing services for smaller businesses all around me. From there I moved into business analysis, data analysis, and studied the ins and outs of data analytics tools like Power BI, Tableau, and Click View. From there, I started the costly exercise of buying courses online.”

He laments that the problem with self-study is that you study for experience, which is great, but the downside of that is when you come to the end, you have no certificate to show for all that demanding work. With his Nexford MBA, which is a certified and international degree, Matthew is certain that it will help him to go places both in South Africa and around the world should he choose to emigrate to pastures greener one day.

A project is not going to manage itself

The next step in Matthew’s upwardly mobile career was to try his hand at Project Management, which proved to be the stepping stone to becoming a Product Owner, the role that he currently occupies at Avo by Nedbank.

Matthew says, “Agile project product development gave me the opportunity of working with different organizations, private companies, and governments. There was a time I was serving as a project manager for one of the projects at the department of telecommunications in South Africa. In addition to that, I also provided support for a web project for the Department of Defence, worked as project delivery manager for some top-class Fintech companies such as Adroyte and Khonology in South Africa, and am currently serving as the lead product owner at Solution, a start-up that is based in the USA called Solution Social Network. I also did a lot of volunteer work as well to gain the knowledge and experience I recognized that I required, and I was personally rewarded for doing loads of stuff for small and local businesses across the world.”

Being a giver, not a taker, Matthew gave up his time and used his IT and scrum master knowledge to help these small businesses get online, which provided them with the visibility that they were crying out for. This helped the businesses to develop, and helped Matthew develop as a businessperson. He maintains that when you add value to other businesses, you add value to your reputation and your abilities as well.

In relation to his giving attitude and desire to pay it forward, Matthew is quite philosophical about his role in society when he talks about the fact that if you know where you’re coming from, it definitely puts everything into perspective and as such, you can’t help but help others to advance their life, their careers, and their businesses. He maintains that the secret to success is all about focussing on the positives and not the challenges. He says that if you focus on the latter, everything begins to seem impossible, and you set yourself up for failure.

“If, in spite of all of your challenges, you are still able to just focus your gaze on people that also rose up from challenging situations and made it, that's going to be a great motivation for you to do the same.”

Lots of perspiration with a generous helping of inspiration

Everyone needs inspiration in life and with Matthew that was no different. He maintains that if you have someone to uplift you in life, and you are secure in the knowledge that you are not going through it alone, it makes the journey that much smoother.

Matthew says, “If I had to pick anyone, I can without hesitation or reservation say that my number one motivation will be my family. My beautiful wife and wonderful boys. Looking at them and the love they give me puts into perspective where I have come from and reminds me of the successful man that I have become. You also become humbled by understanding that it is no longer all about you, but rather about them and building a stable future for all. I don’t and won’t need to tell my sons that one day they will need to study and further themselves because I hope that they will have seen the late hours with my laptop open and realized that with hard work, a great education, and a positive attitude, they can achieve pretty much all that they set their minds to.”

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You can’t be anything if you don’t have direction

Matthew is a great believer in the premise that in shaping yourself you also shape your direction in life, saying that it helps your focus on your career and the world at large as well.

He says, “If you look at the world, there are actually lots of things that need to be fixed. Businesses need direction and leadership as well. People will say that Africa’s biggest problem is the lack of leadership. It also comes down to decision making as well. Decision making and product ownership also bring you to that sphere of influence where you’re able to say, no, let’s look at this, let’s look at our relevance, and how valuable this is to the user. That’s also leadership. So, I really value every opportunity.”

Taking it to the next level

As we said before, Matthew is not one to accept where he is at any stage in life and then rest on his laurels. He is a go getter and is always looking at ways to improve his education and his job prospects. “Onward and upwards” he says, with a glimmer in his eye. This is why just getting his Nexford MBA will not do.

“Yes, my Nexford MBA will open doors, but I want to step through that door and the next, and the ones thereafter. The motivation for doing my MBA, amongst other important things, was because it would provide me with the opportunity of specialization. I can see how that will give me the opportunity to specialize in my area of expertise, which is digital transformation. My Nexford MBA is already giving me that opportunity, but I am just taking it one step at a time. Oh, and there is also the small matter of pursuing my PhD as well after Nexford.”

That said Matthew is under no illusion that this is going to be an easy ride. Far from it. Being one of the Product Owners for a Super App “Avo”, a mega eCommerce App at a big national bank like Nedbank he has lots on his plate every day. He says that with his key position in the company virtually everything needs his attention. He works with different people from his team, such as the UX UI designers, QAs, business analysts, data analysts and BI, solution architects, fraud and security team, and delivery lead and developers as well. At the same time, he can’t afford to take his eyes off the demands of the many stakeholders in the business.

On the “Solution” project that he supports as the lead Product Owner, Matthew collaborates with team members that are spread across 25 countries worldwide. Working across time zones is not easy as it means late nights and early mornings. That said Matthew seems to take it all in his stride. He says, “So sometimes late into the night, I’m still working on projects. Once done it would be nice to be tucked up in bed, but as a priority, I have to also fit my Nexford studies in around this. It’s challenging work, but I am managing.”

All work and no play would make Matthew a dull boy. With so much on his plate, it’s no wonder that he puts a high premium on having lots of downtime and making the most of it. In the evenings he likes to spend lots of time with his family watching movies, and on the weekends, he likes to watch football, and serve in his local church where he is also the music director.

An advocate for Nexford

Matthew has only good things to say about Nexford and his time there so far. For one he loves the flexibility of study and the quality of the MBA program. He also says that just being able to study the workings and success factors of massive blue chip global companies like Uber, Coca Cola, and McDonalds is a bonus. He has found that fascinating and says that he is sure that those learnings will stand him in good stead in his business dealings post-graduation.

Matthew goes on to say, “Being able to network with fellow learners on WhatsApp was also a massive bonus for me too. Just being able to find out that when I was online, I was never alone was such a relief and help when I got stuck with something and needed advice. Of course, I also got that help from the faculty and success advisors who were always on hand to help me online and on the phone.”

“My journey so far with Nexford has been so rewarding. I have heightened and improved my skill sets thanks to the competency-based curriculum, and just can’t wait to graduate and go conquer South Africa and then the world. Baby steps I guess, but one thing that Nexford has taught me is to dream big and back yourself. Hoping that I can do my family proud along the way.”

All of us at Nexford wish him all the best and can’t wait to see where he is in a few years’ time. We will watch the news to see if he has in fact gone and conquered the world.

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About the author
Mark Talmage-Rostron
Mark Talmage-Rostron

Mark is a college graduate with Honours in Copywriting. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Nexford, creating engaging, thought-provoking, and action-oriented content.

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