Enhancing Career Readiness – Doctoral Student Mayowa Oladele’s Leadership Role

Mayowa Oladele holds multiple leadership roles at different organizations: President of Student Association of Graduate Engineers (SAGE) – UConn, Vice President of UConn Graduate Black in STEM, Vice President of UConn International Christian Fellowship, Secretary of Nigerian Students Association – UConn, and Chair of National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI) NextGen Leadership Council. He is also a PhD student in Chemical Engineering.  

This experience is transforming my mindset and equipping me with invaluable skills needed for the post-graduate phase of my life.Mayowa Oladele 

Why pursue leadership opportunities?  

With a strong interest in management, Mayowa seeks leadership roles for his personal development. He views each position as an internship that strengthens his skills in communications and management and fosters his emotional intelligence. “Learning how to lead people in an academic environment is a good start to improve these skills,” he notes.    

Mayowa’s journey to leadership in grad school began with reading Soapbox and Daily Digest to pinpoint student organizations he is interested in. Then, he reached out to the contact person and expressed his desire to be a part of the team. To participate in the organization of interest, he started by attending meetings. “I would think about how I can contribute to the growth of the association, how I can help generally, and how I can motivate people and all of that,” Mayowa reflects. After a year of involvement, he would take part in the leadership election, often held at the end of every spring semester.   

What does a leader do?  

At SAGE, Mayowa begins each semester by envisioning potential events, considering themes, programming, and speakers. These ideas are then refined with the Executive Board, coupling with discussions around event logistics such as the number of attendees, catering, and budgeting, etc. 

For Mayowa, important leadership qualities include respecting different opinions, keeping an open mind, and making difficult decisions. He emphasizes the importance of taking everyone’s input into consideration and making the best out of it.   

Delegating tasks and motivating team members are his leadership strategies. “You can’t take care of all the tasks alone, but let your team take charge and support them as needed.”  

Mayowa and members of UConn Graduate Black in STEM after an event  
(Photo Courtesy of Mayowa Oladele) 

Value of leadership experience for future careers 

Mayowa sees a future in management within non-profits or corporations. “Leadership roles are helping me to understand what it takes to lead, what it takes to delegate, what it takes to make those tough decisions. This experience is transforming my mindset and equipping me with invaluable skills needed for the post-graduate phase of my life.”  

Benefits of leadership experience 

Through his leadership roles, Mayowa met people he would not think he would meet, for example, the Mayor of West Hartford. “Being a leader forces me to interact with people, so that I can develop my skills in communication” said Mayowa.   

For scientists, he stresses the importance of communication skills. “Through leadership opportunities, I have improved my communication skills and my overall soft skills. I would not be shy when presenting my research to a large audience.”   

He challenges the notion that scientists should limit themselves to their labs and focus on their own research, “When you need some help and if you don’t go out to meet people, how can you get the help you need?”  

Mayowa and some of his lab mates during the 2022 AIChE Conference in Phoenix, AZ 
(Photo Courtesy of Mayowa Oladele)

Advice to doctoral students who want to consider leadership opportunities  

Mayowa cautions that leadership roles are demanding, “I’m not going to lie. Being in a leadership position is very time-consuming.” He suggests being intentional and goal-driven when considering a leadership role. “Knowing your motivation is the key. For me, I know I want to learn how to manage people better and improve my social skills. I want to work at the management level in a company. As a future director or manager, it is crucial to be able to engage with people effectively.” 

Juggling multiple leadership roles with doctoral studies is a real challenge. “It’s not easy. I have had to learn how to manage different things at the same time.” Mayowa has found his own way to wellness – intentionally dedicating one day to relaxation each week. If it does not clash with any important event or meeting, he reserves Fridays for his self-time. “It can be very overwhelming sometimes. On Fridays, I just disconnect completely,” he shares.   

Visit here to find out more about leadership opportunities for graduate students. 

By Damiao Zoe Xu
Damiao Zoe Xu Graduate Assistant, Graduate Student and Postdoc Career Programs and Services (She/Her/Hers)