Purdue University's
School of Management
Spring 2022:
Issue 23, Vol. 1

Making a Change - Alum’s post-MBA career takes him in new directions

Kofo Adafin didn’t earn his Purdue undergraduate degree from the School of Management, but an alumna of Krannert’s Dr. Cornell A. Bell Business Opportunity Program (BOP), Dr. Sonia Winslett, connected him with the diversity program’s namesake as he was making his college decision. 

“Even though I ended up majoring in computer engineering, Dr. Bell was a mentor and cemented my choice of Purdue,” Adafin says. After a few years working in industry and as a consultant, Adafin became interested in pursuing a graduate degree in business and contacted current BOP managing director Darren Henry. 

“Darren sold me on the Krannert MBA program and introduced me to Management Leaders for Tomorrow, which allowed me to meet underrepresented students from other top schools like Harvard and MIT,” Adafin says. “It was great to build a network with like-minded individuals who wanted to continue to better themselves and become future business leaders.”

Returning to Purdue also made him appreciate all the extracurricular opportunities available to students. “As an undergrad, I spent most of my time in labs or doing homework, but coming back was like a whole new experience,” Adafin says. “I got to see it not only from the academic side, but also what it offered from a social perspective.” 

He particularly enjoyed the cohort structure of the MBA program. “Coming in and already having a team to work with was a great experience,” Adafin says. “We built a very tight-knit group and worked together through those first couple of months to make sure we all made it through. The Krannert Graduate Society of Black Managers became like a second family to me. We were able to study together and helped hold each other accountable to being successful in the MBA program. 

Adafin’s areas of concentration were operations and management information systems. “Coming from an engineering background, I initially wanted to focus more on information systems, but professor Masha Shunko did a great job of showing how interesting operations could be.”

Both concentrations introduced him to data analytics. “The data makes the rules,” he says. “If you have the information and can manipulate it to tell the story to your peers and the rest of the business, you can dictate how decisions are made and what direction the company goes.”

Adafin also took some important lessons from his accounting courses. “Being able to evaluate profit and loss and find opportunities for cost reduction has served me very well,” he says. “I've had counterparts who struggled with reading a P&L, so I’m grateful that Krannert prepared me for it.”

Between his first and second years in the MBA program, Adafin took part in a quality information engineering co-op with GE.  “I was able to mesh my engineering background with operations in an applicable way that was useful to the company,” he says. “It opened my eyes on how to partner and work with team members who come from different backgrounds but are still aligned on growing the business and improving.”

“The data makes the rules. If you have the information and can manipulate it to tell the story to your peers and the rest of the business, you can dictate how decisions are made and what direction the company goes.”

After completing his MBA in 2013, Adafin began his post-graduate career with Amazon Pathways, a five-year operations leadership development program designed to rapidly develop talented MBA or master's-level graduates with the skills they need to be Amazon general managers and directors. In nearly seven years with the company, he served in roles including senior operations manager and multi-site leader. 

He caught the entrepreneurial bug with Amazon Fresh, a grocery delivery service available to Amazon Prime members in major cities throughout the United States. “It was essentially treated as a startup within the company,” Adafin says. “We had limited resources, so there weren’t a lot of layers of leadership. That allowed me to make an immediate impact and influence the direction of the business in my everyday work.”

Amazon Fresh moved away from the startup model when it acquired Whole Foods, leading Adafin to move to another company. 

“I ended up taking on the role of regional manager for Clutter, which is utilizing its tech to differentiate itself in the moving and storage marketplace,” he says. “After hearing the pitch on how the industry has been fragmented and learning there weren’t many key nationwide players, I felt Clutter was positioned to grow into a multinational business that could really change the game when it comes to moving.”

In the same spirit, Adafin encourages current students to be prepared to make an immediate impact in their respective industries, whether it’s with a startup or an established company. “In my two years as a graduate student at Krannert, I benefited from being around people who were focused and motivated to be successful,” he says. “I would not trade that time for anything.” 

Written by Eric Nelson

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