The pressure was on Lawrence Osai.
In a family that boasted MBAs from Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and Duke Fuqua School of Business, the electrical engineer-turned-consultant knew all eyes were on him to make it four-for-four.
Challenge accepted — and met. Osai set his sights on the top tier of U.S. B-schools and gained admission to most of them, including the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, NYU’s Stern School of Business, Columbia Business School, Duke Fuqua, and Northwestern Kellogg. Most offered him full-ride scholarships. A long-time New York resident, Osai chose Columbia, joining the Class of 2024 this fall.
“I think the pressure really came when not only did they get into the top schools, but when they graduated, the jobs that they all got,” he says. “For me, that was a testament to the risk they took and the reward they all got for taking that risk.”
A WIDE NET
After earning his bachelor’s in electrical engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Osai pivoted to consulting, working in the cybersecurity space for Deloitte. After about six years he accepted a senior consulting position with EY-Parthenon in late 2021 — but by then the lure of B-school had become too great to ignore.
“I finally was like, ‘Okay, well, I have this technical background, I’m also familiar with problem solving,’ but I wanted to take it to the next level, and for me that was more product management,” he tells Poets&Quants.
Naturally, Osai looked to his siblings for guidance. Lawrence’s sister Osi Momoh graduated from Duke Fuqua in 2020; a year earlier, his sister Aile and brother David graduated from Wharton and Kellogg, respectively. With their advice and working through the Management Leadership for Tomorrow program, he cast a wide net.
“I actually applied to, naturally, all my siblings’ schools, Kellogg, Duke, Wharton, and also Columbia, Ross, Darden, Stern,” he says. “MLT kind of puts that framework around the application process — you kind of shoot for more than you expect to get.”
The strategy worked. After interviews at Columbia, Wharton, Ross, Darden, Stern, and Fuqua, Osai was waitlisted at Wharton but offered admission to the rest. Most offered significant scholarships, as well.
“Wharton didn’t pan out, but I’d say Columbia was also, in my mind, a good choice because it meant I stay in New York,” he says.
BIG RISK, BIG REWARD
Having so many family members to consult during the application process was a huge help, Osai says. But the benefits began even before that, when he visited his siblings during their MBAs.
“Until I visited them in school, I probably was not fully sold on business school,” he says. “The pressure really started when I visited and I started liking what I saw. I was like, ‘Career-wise, I’ll give it a couple years so I can develop an expertise, say that there’s something I’ve done for X amount of time, I’m decently good at it, I’ve gotten promoted within it, build that kind of core expertise, and then business school next.'”
He says the biggest pressure he felt was not in living up to his siblings’ accomplishments, as impressive as they are, but in pausing a career that already had significant momentum.
“I said, ‘You know what? Career is going well, but you have this ambition to become a product manager, maybe entrepreneurship down the line,'” he says. “For me and my siblings, the common theme was you need to take some sort of risk in order to realize that potential. I think that’s why I started feeling the pressure, it was in the risk, in leaving everything. I had just started a new job, a really good job. It was everything I really liked about business and everything else — but there was still that unknown of, ‘Will I be able to climb the ladder?'”