Champion of Persistence
Victor Obetta MSBA ’22 likes hearing ‘no’ — because he believes it always has the power to become a ‘yes’ with hard work and a positive mindset. The philosophy helped him survive on the streets of Nigeria when he was experiencing homelessness and financial difficulties, and it inspired him to create opportunities that led to a master’s degree in business analytics at Bentley.
“We lived in a community where quality education was believed to be for wealthy people only; my parents were never able to attend school due to living in poverty,” Obetta recalls of growing up in Enugu State, Nigeria. “Soccer and prayers were my escape route.”
Growing up, Obetta walked 15 miles to school because there was no bus system, and his family couldn’t afford a car. He would play soccer in bare feet on a patch of dirt using a crumpled paper bag as a makeshift ball. Years later, when he was part of an organized soccer program, he often trained on an empty stomach while experiencing homelessness and struggling with food insecurity.
“I had moved in with my uncle in the capital city of Abuja and had plans to go to college and become a professional soccer player,” Obetta explains. “He wanted me to start a job with a local business, which is what most citizens do to survive. But I wanted to do more than survive.”
Though his uncle kicked him out the house because of the disagreement, Obetta remained committed to his goal to attend college in the United States on a soccer scholarship. “I wanted to prove that circumstances don’t define who we are. Approaching life with persistence and patience will take you very far.”
In 2014, Obetta connected with a soccer agent who falsely promised a fully funded college scholarship. Once he arrived in the U.S. in 2015, Obetta found himself at a community college without a scholarship. He played for the soccer team, but he also scrambled to find jobs — work study on campus, cleaning houses, running a warehouse forklift and coaching youth soccer — to help finance an associate’s degree, and then a bachelor’s degree, before tackling his next goal: a Master of Science in Business Analytics at Bentley.
It was the global economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic that first prompted Obetta to consider a career in the growing field of business analytics. When he started Bentley’s MSBA program, the world of coding and data analytics was new to him.
“I was initially overwhelmed by data sets and coding languages like SQL and Python,” says Obetta, who didn’t have access to a computer until he was 18 years old. “It was chaotic, but I believe tackling a challenge is all about process and putting in the work. If you never try, you will never get an answer.”
Obetta says he built that kind of mental strength through a strong faith in God — and by surrounding himself with “good people.”
“When I came to Bentley, I got involved outside of the classroom and built a community for myself,” he says of fostering relationships with classmates, faculty and staff. He made sure that included leadership opportunities like serving as president of the Graduate Accountancy Association (GAA). “I didn't want to miss the chance to have a seat at the table, because you have to be part of the system to weigh in on decisions about what is happening on campus.”
Then, he adds, “I made stuff happen.” On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, that included re-engaging graduate students with GAA programs like networking and mentoring events, a meet-and-greet with Bentley President E. LaBrent Chrite and social outings including Red Sox games and a Hollywood-themed gala. Obetta also co-created the first International Graduate Student Association in spring 2022. “I wanted to energize international students and help them create a support network.”
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Associate Dean of Equity and Inclusion Christine Lookner remembers seeing Obetta at the interfaith event Ramadan for Rookies — a day of fasting to show solidarity with Bentley’s Muslim community — held by Bentley’s Spiritual Life Center and the Muslim Student Association.
“Even though Victor is not Muslim, he told me that he wouldn’t have missed the chance to support his friends who helped plan the event,” she says. “He explained that so many people have supported him, and he wants to do the same for others whenever he can.”
Lookner says he also does that by sharing his personal story of resiliency. “Victor’s presence on campus was powerful, positive and supportive in a variety of different environments.”
In 2021, Obetta applied for a fellowship with Hack.Diversity, an organization with a mission to “transform the economy by breaking down barriers for Black and Latinx professionals in tech.” Hack.Diversity works with companies and schools to recruit Black and Latinx students pursuing careers in software engineering, data analytics, information technology and UX/UI design.
“When I first got accepted into Hack.Diversity, I was nervous because I was new to coding and the tech world,” Obetta says. “But the people at Hack.Diversity wanted to get to know me and give me opportunities. It changed my life.”
As a Hack.Diversity fellow, Obetta received career and interview coaching before being matched for a global collaboration internship at Bain & Company. He also completed a winning hack-a-thon team project that designed a bot to encourage teams to remotely collaborate, connect and stay motivated.
CHAMPIONING THE FUTURE
As Obetta reflects on his journey, he knows that his success is founded by a combination of personal persistence and a supportive community. He says that kind of purpose is what he wants to instill in the next generation. He is doing that through the Obetta Foundation, a nonprofit designed to help less-privileged youth, particularly in Nigeria, gain access to education — including computer and technology skills — and athletic programs.
“I am the first person in my family to get this level of education, and I can use that to help create opportunities for others,” Obetta says. He applies skills he learned at Bentley to research and analyze data to identify issues and inform solutions to eradicate poverty. “The purpose of my foundation is to bring young, talented students in Nigeria into the future, instilling long-lasting, positive values.”
In January 2022, Obetta started a full-time job as a business development representative at Nexthink, a digital experience management company. He was also elected as 2022-2023 membership chair for the National Society of Black Engineers. Through it all, he circles back to the mindset that keeps him focused.
“I’m 100% optimistic when it comes to everything that I'm doing,” Obetta says. “I don't get scared or nervous; if I hear a million ‘nos,’ it means that when I get a ‘yes,’ it will be that much more meaningful.”