Justin Akong ’21
MBA for Executives
Business Unit Controller, Bridgewater Associates
Fee pressures, growing costs, and the need for scale, among other factors, have led to growing challenges within the asset management industry. On top of this, a constantly evolving regulatory and tax landscape, in addition to shifting investor preferences, has required firms to be nimbler and adapt faster than ever before.
As a leader within a finance department, I have increasingly been asked to act as a strategic partner to senior management. I knew that if I wanted to be a more effective leader and change agent, I would need to improve my current skill set. Yale SOM’s MBA program immediately stood out to me, because it offered an asset management focus area that would allow me to learn from, and alongside, some of the most brilliant people in the industry.
One of the advantages of working while being a full-time student is that you get to practice concepts learned in the classroom. Classes such as Future of Global Finance with Professor Jeffrey Garten and Investing in Alternative Assets with Professor William Goetzmann gave me a tremendous amount of perspective on the role my firm plays in the world of asset management and encouraged me to be a more thoughtful, forward-looking leader.
When the pandemic suddenly and drastically affected all aspects of life, I was able to immediately put into practice lessons learned about managing through crisis and disruption. Recalling class discussions on the importance of deep listening and empathy, building trust among team members, and frameworks for designing teams that optimize coordination allowed me to successfully manage a cross-functional, global, and now fully remote workforce.
One of the highlights of this program is the leadership development curriculum. Students are regularly encouraged to engage in extensive self-evaluations. This required me to clearly articulate my principles and values and critically examine how the culture and values of my firm may, or may not, be aligned with them.
Students also receive executive coaching. My coach helped me recognize where I was getting in my own way and provided me with practical tools to optimize performance and unlock potential. This journey towards a deeper understanding of myself has helped me to clearly identify my strengths and value proposition in a way that I could not have otherwise. I intend to be a leader who has clearly articulated values, leads with courage, and inspires others to strive toward becoming the best version of themselves.
Interviewed on April 1, 2021