EMBA Student Spotlight: Sylvester Obafunwa - Director of Digital/Web Analytics, MGM Resorts International
Sylvester Obafunwa (Cohort 16), director of digital/web analytics for MGM Resorts International, is part of a larger legacy of young Las Vegas professionals who want to make a difference beyond their nine-to-five jobs by working to ensure their social impact uplifts their communities.
Balancing work, family and volunteer commitments with the rigors of an 18-month executive MBA program can be challenging. Yet, Obafunwa is determined to carve out as much time as possible to continue his volunteer work with Alpha Men & Divas of Tomorrow (AMDOT) - an organization that works towards ensuring 100 percent graduation from high school and entry into college for students in the program.
“An EMBA program teaches you to use every single minute of your day productively,” said Obafunwa. Fortuitously, time management, leadership, and a drive to learn are skills and attributes Obafunwa easily shares with young people participating in the AMDOT program.
“I’m very proud of what AMDOT has accomplished,” Obafunwa said. “More importantly, I couldn’t be prouder of the students who graduated from high school and are now succeeding in college.” Last year, AMDOT presented $50,000 in scholarships.
Obafunwa’s love for sharing knowledge doesn’t stop at volunteering. As a student in UNLV EMBA program and hospitality industry executive, he makes a point to share classroom learnings with his co-workers in the office.
“I’ve brought back presentations and given trainings to my group. I’ve even recommended books from the UNLV EMBA faculty,” he said. “For the most part, however, I usually come into the office on Monday and announce to my team ‘wait until you see this really cool thing I learned at school.’ I’m committed to continuous learning and it permeates throughout my team and the organization.”
Obafunwa and his MGM Resorts’ team are charged with managing analytics reporting; providing insights into the “story” being told by the data, and developing business strategies across the organization impacting the ecommerce space.
Obafunwa, who will receive his EMBA in December 2018, entered the program with a goal to “soak up knowledge” and become a more well-rounded business executive. “Earning an Executive MBA is about more than just getting a piece of paper. It’s an experience that provides already accomplished professionals with the confidence to become more effective and successful leaders,” said Obafunwa.
In addition to covering the standard EMBA courses such as finance, management, economics and marketing, the UNLV EMBA program also focuses on the development of skills that emphasize team interaction and leadership. Obafunwa experienced first-hand the value of these skills when his MGM Resorts’ management team began inviting him to more and more higher-level strategy meetings.
“For executives who are already highly competent in the technical aspects of their chosen field, being more aware of how you interact with others and having a deeper understanding of what motivates them, deepens your ability to better communicate and increases effectiveness,” Obafunwa said.
Obafunwa also appreciates the advantage of an EMBA program that offers a cohort-focused learning environment. “The key to a meaningful learning experience is the caliber and diversity of the people you interact with and the opportunities to learn from them,” he said.
Obafunwa’s 21-member cohort includes professionals from such industries as hospitality, gaming, construction, environmental engineering, financial planning, real estate, energy, healthcare, marketing and sales. “Throughout the 18-month EMBA program, the opportunity to bond with fellow cohort members results in a resolve to achieve common goals and a commitment to helping each other succeed. Those experiences are invaluable,” he said.
While many professionals returning to higher education find it challenging, Obafunwa seems to have found the formula for keeping school, work, family and volunteering in balance. “I wouldn’t say working and going to school is easy, but at the end of the day, you find time for the things that are important,” Obafunwa said.
Originally from Nigeria, Obafunwa received a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He began his career as a digital analyst at the State Farm in Bloomington, IL. He relocated to Las Vegas, accepting a position as digital analytics manager for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). In 2015, Obafunwa joined MGM Resorts International.