Tobi Kowiyat Kasali ’23 is a current MIA student with a concentration in Economic and Political Development and specialization in Gender and Public policy student from Nigeria. Prior to SIPA, she completed a BSC in Computing and lived and worked in the United Kingdom. I sat down with Tobi to learn more about her SIPA experience and how it helped shape her career change.

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?

Before coming to SIPA, I was working as a Project Manager for Digital Transformation Projects. I worked in the Energy Industry and worked on data analytics projects. In particular, while with the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), I worked on their data analytics strategy and implementing data science solutions to improve decision making and drive the transition to Net-Zero.

Why did you choose SIPA?

I chose to attend SIPA to change careers. My background is in Information Technology and Energy but I am looking to switch to a policy focus in economic & political development. I am interested in improving educational attainment for young girls and women in developing countries, International Diplomacy and Gender Equality. I was attracted to the school because the breadth of course offerings. At SIPA, you can have multiple concentrations and several specializations that allow you to either explore a wide range of topics or go in depth into a field or sector that is important to you.

Did you have any concerns regarding the course load?

Before I came to SIPA, I was really worried about the quantitative aspects of the program because I had been out of school for more than 10 years. The quant curriculum is challenging, but SIPA provides excellent resources to help you. Our professors have office hours – usually about 4 hours during the week when you can seek additional help. There are also Teacher Assistants who teach recitations – think of this as extra tutoring for the whole class – and offer personal tutoring as well.

If you have a strong quant background, great! If you don’t, you’ll still do well. I would advise that you arrive during orientation week and attend the math-camp, which reviews calculus-related material. The concepts will be useful for Microeconomics and Macroeconomics and it really, really helped me to remember concepts I had long since forgotten!

Do you have any advice for students wanting to bolster the SIPA experience?

Remember that you can take classes at other Columbia Schools! For example, I plan to take classes from Teacher’s College and Columbia Business School. Also, there are many value-add experiences at SIPA, such as working on projects with professors, participating in student organizations, and seek to make more connections with SIPA students in social and professional events.