In Nigeria, she was the supervisor of a successful bank. In the U.S., she was a part-time bank teller making minimum wage.
It was Linda Ihesiaba’s sense of will that kept her from becoming discouraged in a new country.
Ihesiaba, her husband and son immigrated from Nigeria to the U.S. in 1993. As a trailing spouse, Ihesiaba had to find her own way in the world of banking.
Finding her calling
Ihesiaba’s first degree was in education, but she never taught a day in her life.
Just before she graduated in Nigeria, a former classmate of her husband was looking for employees for the bank he planned to open. Her husband saw her aptitude for customer service and leadership, so he recommended her for a position.
“My boss told me he was looking for people with the will to succeed and that he could help the right person build the necessary skills,” Ihesiaba said. “That’s what I had, the will but not the skill. So, he hired me and gave me the training I needed.”
There she discovered her true calling and rose as one of the youngest and few female supervisors in her bank at the time.
When Ihesiaba first moved to the U.S., she found it tough to find employers who believed in her. That’s when she learned a crucial skill in business: self-advocacy.
After gaining experience in her first position as a part-time teller, she began looking for new opportunities. She was then hired as assistant manager at a competitor bank.
“My accent at that time was so thick, but I still got the job,” Ihesiaba said. “My old coworkers would come to my new office to see me for themselves because they were so surprised.”
Commitment to lifelong learning
Ihesiaba took every learning opportunity available to her and when she felt ready, she’d share with her higher ups that it was time for the next step. She also went back to school to get her Bachelor of Science in management.
Over her 30 years working in the U.S., her perseverance has guided her from positions as a teller to a branch manager to a vice president in the banking world.
COVID-19 served as a time for Ihesiaba to reflect on her career. She felt she had reached her glass ceiling and was ready for a new challenge—getting her MBA.
Ihesiaba’s son helped her research universities that offered strong online MBA programs. After some deliberation, Missouri State University became her top choice and she enrolled in fall 2020.
Ihesiaba credits the program for challenging her perceptions and building out her general business knowledge.
She noticed a change in how she communicated with her employees before she even graduated.
“Each class teaches you something different,” Ihesiaba said. “It’s changed the way I talk to my people and reach out to customers.”
Despite the distance, Ihesiaba was able to form close connections with her professors, including Dr. Dana Haggard, Dr. Stephen Haggard and Dr. Raju Mainali.
While she felt the knowledge she gained in their courses was invaluable, it was the level of care these professors showed for her that stood out.
During the program, Ihesiaba says she noticed a change in her vision. At the time, she was enrolled in Mainali’s statistics course for managers. She had trouble keeping track of the numbers and equations on her small computer screen.
Dr. Mainali assisted her with accommodations and spent every Saturday tutoring her over Zoom.
“I couldn’t have done it without him, and I passed with an A that semester,” Ihesiaba said. “Dr. Dana Haggard was also so down to earth and provided me with the best guidance.”
The course diversity in the program filled gaps in her banking knowledge.
“Dr. Stephen Haggard’s advanced finance course was incredibly challenging, but he was always available to answer questions,” Ihesiaba said. “Now, I can read the financial reports when they land on my desk and explain them to other members of my team.”
In fall 2022, Ihesiaba flew from New York to Springfield for her commencement and took the opportunity to thank her professors in person.
Ihesiaba has inspired several of her colleagues and friends to pursue continuing education opportunities and has referred them all to Missouri State.