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5 Things I've Learned: Akinyi Williams

Friday, April 21, 2023

Akinyi Williams

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Akinyi Williams, '09 MBA

A passion for real estate and finance has been with Akinyi Williams, ’09 MBA, for a long time. In 2018, with her husband, Travis, she co-founded Western Capital, to provide alternative real estate funding to the traditional credit market. Williams is also an adjunct instructor at the Carlson School and a board member for the Carlson Global Institute.

1. Strive to get top pay by bringing your best.

I did not understand the impact of money and power until I became a loan officer. Seeing the variance in incomes among loan applicants inspired me to push myself so that I, too, could earn top pay to support my dreams. This immediately presented new challenges as a Black woman and an immigrant with a heavy accent, but I was persistent. I learned to push past many disenchantments and endless “no’s.” I got hungry, then mad. Ultimately, I learned cookies are for closers and indeed the rewards were amazing.

2. Negotiate and ask for your worth.

As I approached my MBA graduation, I had a full-time job offer from a large company. This was a big, much-needed move to stability, but something inside me told me the offer was paltry. However, I had just concluded Negotiation Strategies, a class taught by the no-nonsense maestro, Lori Abrams. I was clear on my BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) and asked for nearly double. I got it! I learned to silence the insecurity in my head and to advocate for myself as the strong candidate I believed I was.

I learned that for a Black woman like me to succeed in Minnesota, I had to go the extra mile to be recognized for my work.
– Akinyi Williams, ’09 MBA
illustration of person climbing upwards arror in shape of stairs
Illustration by Jing Jing Tsong

3. Take accountability for your growth.

After landing the job, I needed to expand my skills to be more effective. I threw myself into after-hours self-study to understand business requirements and solutions engineering, and got certified in project and program management. I had to be persistent and not settle. I learned that for a Black woman like me to succeed in Minnesota, I had to go the extra mile to be recognized for my work in order to earn a seat at the table and then, in time, confidently demand for what I deserved.

4. Adversity can push us to betterment.

As creatures of habit, we don’t like quick changes, sometimes even at the expense of reaching our true purpose. But when change is due, some clairvoyant power greater than us seemingly stirs trouble to motivate movement. Going back for my MBA was unnerving, but the lending market outlook was scarier, so I learned to fight fear, embrace change, pay the price to chart a new course, then focus on the finish line to achieve my purpose.

5. Make an impact.

As a young girl growing up in Kenya, I always wanted to help change lives through access to education. I revisited this mission in 2007 by starting Hope for the Child, a Minnesota-based nonprofit. Since then, our team has opened three schools and provided education to more than 5,000 poor and disadvantaged children in Kenya. Leveraging business as a force for good is not a cliché. Giving back my time, my earnings, and following my passion to make a difference in other people’s lives has been the greatest privilege and most fulfilling endeavor of all.

Spring 2023 alumni magazine cover

This article appeared in the Spring 2023 alumni magazine

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Spring 2023 table of contents