Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Faces of MIT: Abisola Okuk

Senior staff accountant Abisola Okuk’s role has changed a lot since she first came to MIT back in 2014. She started in the Media Lab as an administrative assistant, then moved to the MIT Sloan School of Management’s external relations team, and is now senior staff accountant in the Office of the Vice President for Finance (VPF). Over that time, she’s discovered an interest in finance and developed new skills to advance her career.

“After six years at the Media Lab, I found the flame of my interest in finance and realized I wanted to pursue a career in that space,” says Okuk, who works in accounts receivable with VPF. “My growth came from working hard, gaining new skills, and looking out for opportunities. I like that I’m able to work collaboratively with an amazing team and contribute to the Institute’s mission. It gives me a sense of fulfillment.”

Outside of MIT, Okuk jokes that she also listens to music for a living.

“I’m Nigerian, so that’s my heritage,” Okuk says. “I listen to a lot of Nigerian music. I’ll just window shop at the mall and listen to music all day.”

Okuk also enjoys cooking. If it were up to her, she’d cook primarily Nigerian food, but her 10-year-old daughter is lobbying for American dishes more these days.

“Now I’m finding myself cooking all kinds of things I wouldn’t normally cook,” she says. “But I like to cook when I’m in the mood. It calms me down.”

Outside of the food, Okuk says Boston reminds her a lot of Lagos, the Nigerian city where she grew up.

“It’s similar because of the fusion of cultures,” Okuk says. “There’s also the lively and vibrant nightlife, and there’s a huge Nigerian community in Boston that I feel really connected to. The one problem is I’ve been here for 15 years and I still don’t like the cold!”

Weather permitting, the thing Okuk looks forward to most when she’s on MIT’s campus is grabbing lunch with colleagues. That gets to one of the main reasons Okuk says she’s stayed at MIT for so long: the people.

“At the Media Lab, the people in the research group I was working with, the Lifelong Kindergarten Group, were really kind,” Okuk says. “Three or four years later, I’m still touched by how supportive they were, how they listened, how they cared. In general, I find the culture at MIT very supportive. Everyone wants to help you understand and contribute. I’ve stayed at MIT because it gives me a sense of belonging and a sense of community.”


Q: If someone was about to start working at MIT, what advice would you give them?

Okuk: Be focused. There’s a lot of opportunity at MIT. Also build and nurture relationships. Don’t lose touch with people when you move departments. I’d also say do your job and more. It’s one thing to fulfill your job description; it’s another thing to go the extra mile. Don’t just do things because you’re told to. Do things because you identify a need and address it. And finally, ensure you have a life outside of work! Work is great, but it’s good to have balance.

Q: What’s your favorite time of year at MIT and why?

Okuk: Holiday season, for many reasons. It’s an opportunity to share gifts, share food and laughter, and to reflect. I like to look back on what worked, what didn’t work, and just take a step back during that time of year.

Q: What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?

Okuk: Weekends are my down time. I catch up on chores. I also use the weekend to spend quality time with my daughter. We’ll do an activity together, like cooking together or just watching a show. It’s a time to bond. We also go to church on Sundays. And I spend time with my Nigerian community and other friends — Nigerians can really party, you know!

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