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Funmilola Asa joined the SDM program in 2019. Since completing the master’s in engineering and management in one year, including a thesis on model-based systems engineering in oil and gas project and product management, she’s been working as a Leading Performance and Digital Advisor at Chevron Nigeria Ltd. Funmilola has also contributed a chapter to “Living Boldly: How to Transform Your Life from the Inside Out When Your NORMAL Shifts,” edited by Dr. Olubunmi Akinkugbe and Mofoluwaso Ilevbare. We asked Funmilola to share some insights about the book and her time at SDM. “Living Boldly” is available through Amazon and at Funmilola’s website, www.funmilolaasa.com.

Can you give a brief description of the book and your chapter?

“Living Boldly” is a collection of insights from ten authors on key topics like virtue, grit, grace, and courage that are critical for managing the challenges of the modern world. These skills and qualities help transform people from the inside out. It’s a book written by women with professional women in mind, but the tips are applicable to everyone. The vision of the book is to share critical life principles in relatable terms and to inspire people to transform and thrive, regardless of their unique situations or challenges. My chapter is on grit: the combination of passion and perseverance that fuels innovation through challenges. I discuss why grit is a critical ingredient for success and how to build it.

The book is subtitled “The Trailblazer Femme Playbook”. What is Trailblazer Femme? 

The authors are part of a group called Trailblazer Femme, which is an executive hub where professional women from various disciplines and works of life can share best practices and provide accountability as we improve in our respective aspirations. The subtitle also reflects the audience of the book: the woman who aspires to be a trailblazer in life. As mentioned above, the tips apply to men and women alike, especially because of the general uncertainties accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

How does the chapter tie into your work and time at SDM? 

My time at SDM is a key inspiration for my participation in the book and the content of my chapter. Completing the program at an accelerated rate in one year was a true test of grit for me and helped further define my strengths. Relocating, settling back into academic life, handling a family, a heavy course load and the impacts of the pandemic all in the same year could only have been handled through grit to excel amid all these challenges. 

Beyond that, the system thinking approach learnt in the MIT SDM program provided structure for my analytical strengths. I have always wanted to understand the “why” in situations around me, including my work and life. System thinking has provided a new lens through which I view most things to ensure optimum value delivery. My chapter in this book is no exception. Even grit, created from the interaction of passion and perseverance, takes on a new meaning when viewed with a system lens. 

Lastly, the management course 6.928 (Leading Creative Teams) was instrumental in building on my previous leadership assessments and self-exploration. In the course, we went through a number of activities that culminated in two autobiographical papers, which defined a new focus on my legacy goals as an individual. I am looking to better the world by changing one sphere at a time, sharing insights that could potentially reach a larger audience. Since contributing to “Living Boldly,” I have also completed a chapter for another book on women in engineering as mentors, started an insights blog and also started on a book project myself. Being in the SDM program has broadened my perspective and helped with more self-realization.