‘What’s Next?’ for Sharon Okeke: A New Chapter in Investment Banking and a Journey of Growth at UVA Darden

By David Buie-Moltz

As the University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares to send off its Class of 2024, Sharon Okeke stands poised to transition from finance management in Nigeria to a promising future in investment banking at Evercore in Houston. Her journey through Darden has been transformative, deeply influenced by the community and the case method of learning on which the School prides itself.

Raised in Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria, Sharon arrived at Darden with her family. She had a solid foundation in finance and a clear goal: to pivot her career toward investment banking. Her previous roles at PwC, Stears and Axxela Limited provided her with experience in finance and business development, setting the stage for her MBA pursuits. Beyond her ambitions, Okeke was drawn to Darden by its community, proactive engagement in Nigeria and demonstrated commitment to diversity.

“Darden doesn’t just talk about diversity; it actively promotes it,” Okeke notes. During her business school applications, Darden’s Office of Admissions visited Nigeria and has continued to do so multiple times, enhancing its connection with prospective students. This outreach resonated with Okeke and her peers, inspiring many from her cohort to apply. “This is what makes Darden so attractive — finding a community where you can connect with people who share similar experiences,” she reflects.

Okeke’s academic journey at Darden was a testament to her resilience and growth. She initially faced challenges adapting to the case method. Okeke recalls, “I felt out of my depth, especially in courses that were not my strong suit.” However, the unwavering support from her peers and the faculty was a game-changer. She vividly remembers a pivotal moment with Professor Kim Whitler, who emphasized that class discussions were not about being right or wrong but about sharing perspectives confidently. “This boosted my confidence tremendously, fundamentally changing how I viewed my contributions at Darden.” Okeke believes that the case method has been among the most crucial elements in preparing her for success as a professional and future business leader.

Sharon Okeke, second from right sitting, with the 2023-2024 leadership team of the Darden African Business Organization. (Contributed photo)
Sharon Okeke, left, with her husband and daughter. (Contributed photo)
Sharon Okeke, third from left, at a Graduate Women in Business event. (Contributed photo)

Okeke’s role at Darden extended beyond being a student. Her work was crucial as the vice president of admissions for the Darden African Business Organization. She served as a student ambassador and a mentor to many, helping further bridge the gap for prospective and current African students. This was part of her larger commitment to making Darden an even more welcoming place for international students.

Okeke says that her success at Darden would be incomplete without the support of her family. She recalls how her husband’s constant encouragement and guidance bolstered her throughout her program. Motivated by their toddler, she says that she committed to giving her utmost to her MBA journey, setting an example for her that will be worthy of emulation in the future.

Looking ahead, Okeke is enthusiastic about her post-MBA career and upcoming role at Evercore. “Investment Banking is perhaps one of the most mentally stimulating and respectable careers, providing the opportunity to hone critical skills that are relevant in the business world.”

Furthermore, Okeke’s dedication to Darden and its community is evident in her contribution to the Second Year Class Gift. She explains, “Supporting Darden was important because I benefited from the generosity of previous donors. The MBA experience has been transformative for me and my family, and giving back is a way to show appreciation and help others have similar opportunities.”

This is part of a four-part series, “What’s Next?” Discover how Darden shapes the future of its graduates and read about other remarkable stories from the Class of 2024, including about Kate Grusky, Yonah Greenstein and Anton Dela Cruz.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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