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Lionel Mufor, MBA '23, and Lisa Caldwell, MBA '90: From Missed Call to Mentorship

A collage of Lionel and Lisa together. Image 1: the two are smiling holding up Michigan branded plates and napkins in a kitchen. Image 2: The two are standing at the gate to Walt Disney World. Image 3: The two are enjoying a meal with family in a kitchen

As he walked out of a midterm exam during his first year at the Ross School of Business, Lionel Mufor, MBA ’23, noticed that he had missed a phone call from Lisa Caldwell, MBA ’90, a senior leader at Ernst and Young. He didn’t know it then, but that missed call would change both of their lives.

From engineer to MBA

Before he came to Michigan Ross, Mufor earned a master’s degree in industrial engineering and worked in the beverage industry at a company in Douala, Cameroon. His role involved crafting the formulas for new alcoholic beverage products. Mufor enjoyed his job but grew frustrated with the fact that when the products he worked on became very successful, he got little credit for his hard work. Hoping to change that, Mufor decided to go back to school.

“Sometime around 2018, I realized that I wanted to be able to get into the boardroom and have more of a say in what happens with a product,” Mufor said. “I did some research online to try to see what program an engineer could complete to be able to have a voice in the process, and I landed on the MBA.”

From there, Mufor eventually found Michigan Ross and prepared to apply with the help of the Africa Business Club, who helped him review his essays and conduct mock interviews. He was accepted and began his MBA studies in Ann Arbor in the fall of 2021.

At the beginning of his first year, Mufor explored many different industries. Though he had set out to get an MBA to learn how to have a voice in the boardroom in his current industry, his eyes were opened to new possibilities when he arrived at Ross and started the recruiting process. Through networking and interview opportunities facilitated by the Michigan Ross Career Development Office, Mufor discovered multiple companies that he was interested in, particularly in the consulting field.

After seeking a consulting internship role, Mufor received an offer from EY. Since he had until November to accept or deny the opportunity, he put it aside for now, considering all of his options before deciding which internship he wanted to pursue. That is, until he got the call from Caldwell.

“I was listening to my missed calls, and one of them was from Lisa. She said she worked at EY and that she had also gone to U-M, and she wanted to connect and just get to know me since she did the same program,” Mufor said. “At the time, I didn't think much of it. When you're recruiting, companies often reach out to you to see if you have any questions or need some convincing. So I just texted her, hey Lisa, I got your voicemail. We should schedule some time to speak.”

A Michigan Ross connection

Caldwell didn’t just call Mufor to convince him to come to EY. She called him because she’d already heard him speak, and he reminded her of some of her U-M colleagues who had impacted her life and career when she was a student at Ross.

“I was hosting one of our virtual sessions with MBA students from around the country, talking a little bit about consulting. There were quite a few students on the line who were interested in a potential internship with EY, including Lionel,” Caldwell said. “What I loved about Lionel was that he was brave and the first one to speak up and actually ask questions about my own career transition from industry to consulting. He really turned his questions into a dialogue that all the students on the line could benefit from, and his leadership reminded me of my time at Michigan Ross and what makes Ross students great.”

Her interest in the fellow Ross MBA compelled Caldwell to contact Mufor. When he returned her call after his midterm, she immediately offered to mentor him.

“I didn't have time to check LinkedIn and see who Lisa was, so I didn't realize at first that it hadn’t just been a recruiter call; she was the one who had hosted that EY session. When I joined the call, I didn't know what to expect,” Mufor recalled. “When she reintroduced herself as a senior leader at EY, I was kind of amazed that she reached out to me. She suggested that she could mentor me through my MBA and an EY internship, and I was so overwhelmed and grateful.”

After that, the two began meeting virtually on a regular basis, speaking about Mufor's goals for his MBA, how the experience was going, and, of course, the football games.

As a fellow former engineer who had gone from working at General Motors Co. to earning her MBA in order to pivot careers, Caldwell had experience from a similar perspective that she was happy to share with Mufor. Their mentorship helped Mufor through the MBA experience and slowly morphed into a genuine friendship.

“We just had a lot in common. I loved that he truly wanted to learn from me, and he would ping me about class assignments or something he read in the news or ask me what I thought about it. It was just great to get to know him as a person and see his development,” Caldwell said.

Friends, family, and giving back

Mufor ultimately decided to try the EY internship and loved the experience. While on-site in Chicago, he also met Caldwell in person for the first time.

“Lisa came to Chicago to meet me and took me out for dinner,” Mufor said. We had a great conversation and became very close after that. Then, we then saw each other in person again during my second year of the MBA. My wife and two kids had moved from Cameroon to be with me during that year, and so Lisa got to meet them all, too, which was great.”

Mufor also got the chance to meet Caldwell’s family, and soon, they all became family friends.

“It became so clear to me that while we had this sort of professional mentoring relationship, we also had developed this really lovely friendship,” Caldwell said.

When Mufor eventually graduated from Michigan Ross, he accepted a full-time offer from EY, where he works today as a senior consultant.

To be honest, what I wanted out of my MBA was really small until I got here and discovered how many doors could be opened with a Ross degree. I never knew I wanted to be a consultant, and now I’m so grateful I could find that path because I went to Ross and was able to meet people like Lisa, who helped me understand all my options

 Lionel Mufor, MBA '23

He and Caldwell have kept in touch, often chatting about life, football, family, Michigan Ross, and more. They have also gone on a few family trips together, including one to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, to celebrate Mufor’s graduation.

“Having these kinds of relationships helps you continue to learn, see things differently, and make a difference. It has made a difference for me as a leader in how I think about the consultants that we're bringing on board and the kinds of opportunities we provide them with,” Caldwell said. “Also, just as a person, it's been great to get to know Lionel and his family. It's a relationship that I really cherish, and I think the mentorship aspect is my way of giving back a little bit to Michigan Ross and what it did for me.”

Inspired by the mentorship relationship he was lucky enough to have, Mufor says he, too, hopes to give back to Michigan Ross as much as possible to pay it forward the way Caldwell did for him.

“The great relationship I have with Lisa and the connections I made with the Africa Business Club pushed me to register to be an alumni ambassador,” Mufor said. “I think it’s so helpful to connect with a mentor who has been through the same program as you. There are so many things you can do at Ross that you can't accomplish everything in two years. So having somebody who's been through it before and knows what resources at Ross could really help you in the specific career that you want to do is so valuable.”

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