The Story of One The Highest-Ranking Black Americans in the Fortune 200 – David Ojo: Director of Analytics & AI
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“I realize that I am one of the highest-ranking African Americans in a Fortune 200 company across all of North America,” David Ojo confesses. “That is a very scary proposition for me.”
As Cummins’ Director of Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, David shares his career journey, the important guidance and mentorship he’s received to rise through the ranks, and his next initiatives to improve the company’s pipeline for Black hires.
He understands his important role in not only affirming the self-beliefs of many Black employees and people of color in becoming leaders at Cummins and in the tech industry, but also furthering the company’s commitment in enabling Black and Brown employees to reach their full potential.
From consultancy to Cummins
David always had a natural inclination towards science and technology. Born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, an oil state, David lived in the United States, until briefly moving to Nigeria, where his parents are from, for his undergraduate degree.
After scoring high in the entry exams at the University of Ibadan, the Dean of Science and Head of Department for Physics encouraged him to major in Theoretical Physics. “When the Dean approaches you,” David says, “you’re essentially being scouted.”
After some time at Nigeria’s National Youth Service Corps, he returned to the US and went down the consulting route. He worked for the likes of Accenture, PwC, and IBM Global Services; David thought that his whole career would revolve around consultancy.
“When I first joined Cummins, back in 2006, I honestly did not think I was going to be there for more than two years,” David confesses. “The concept of being with a company for more than a year was new to me.” His mental model at the time was to see where he could advance in his career two years from now. However, his loyalty to the company encouraged him to stay.
Rising through the ranks
“What has really kept me is and has been the people, and that’s something that you can’t guarantee anywhere else, regardless of what they offer you,” David confesses. “Cummins is a genuinely caring company.”
Today, David manages an organization made up of project managers, program leaders, business analysts, and testers in artificial intelligence and analytics. He’s been a Director at Cummins for more than two years, in a career of almost 15 years. “I spend a huge chunk of my time focusing on strategic initiatives for the company,” he says, “and developing the strategic roadmap for our Digital Accelerator and Advanced Analytics group.”
David felt that he had great support and guidance from colleagues who recognized his talents in the company. He also emphasizes the importance of Black team members being in top positions, including having Bruce Carver as Chief Information Officer and other executives, when he was rising through the ranks. He had direct access and a personal connection with each of them.
A pivotal moment in his career was when he assumed leadership amidst organizational realignment and succeeded in stepping up to the plate. This experience allowed leaders at Cummins to see what David was capable of and helped open some doors for him.
The importance of effective guidance
Through mentorship and sponsorship, David’s superiors helped create opportunities for him to interact with senior leaders. “Even within my first two years of the company,” he says, “I was being given opportunities to share and to present to leaders all the way up to the level of the Chief Information Officer of the company.”
David also worked hard to make sure that he had the necessary skills to succeed in the company. He worked to obtain an MBA with a focus on International Finance on nights and weekends. This was a tough moment, considering that he was also taking care of his first son, which led to many sleepless nights. “It actually played out well,” David says. “I now manage the financial responsibility for an entire organization within Cummins.”
As his career progressed, many leaders took a specific interest in his abilities and took him under their wing. One of them advised him to think about his career advancement from a different perspective – instead of figuring out what his next roles should be or what skills he needed to learn, this mentor encouraged David to think about what he enjoys doing at the company.
“I started thinking about it from a perspective of the different areas I enjoyed, such as strategic mindset, financial acumen, leadership, things like conflict resolution, business savvy, and so on,” he continues. “I could potentially apply that across a vast number of other functional areas that are probably not specific to what I otherwise would have been looking at.”
David realized that he did not need to restrict himself to one career path or become a certain type of professional. He just had to focus on his interests and let them define his trajectory.
Providing support for Black employees at Cummins
David’s career at Cummins was defined by meaningful guidance and support that he also wants to provide to future employees. As a Director at the company, he realizes many Black employees see him in a senior position as an indication that they can carve a path for themselves like David has and get to senior levels.
“I’m having conversations with all of the African American and Black employees within the IT organization,” David says. He wants to develop personal connections with the Black employees and answer any questions or challenges they want to share, especially candid conversations about race and career advancement.
He also knows of the considerable influence he has in increasing the number of Black employees at Cummins. “In the developmental phase of their career,” David says. “We want to create opportunities for their aspirational growth within the organization.” As part of an executive team working alongside the CIO, he is in the process of creating initiatives to retain Black talent and ensure that they have all the necessary resources to succeed.
But as a start, David wants to facilitate these candid conversations. “Feel free to come and talk to me,” he urges.
Cummins is hiring on pocitjobs.com