From Freshman to Future Leader: Revisiting Oju Ajose

| May 10, 2023

First interviewed by USC in 2019, Ojuolape Ajose (’23) shares how her resilience, ambition, and passion for data science shaped her USC experience

Ojuolape Ajose will join Mastercard as a product specialist after graduation. Photo/Juan Miche Rosales.

Ojuolape Ajose will join Mastercard as a product specialist after graduation. Photo/Juan Miche Rosales.

Graduating computer science senior Ojuolape “Oju” Ajose came to USC from Grand Prairie, Texas, as a Bovard Scholar and Presidential Scholarship recipient. Accepted by nine of the 12 universities she applied to, including Yale University, and chose the computer science program at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering because it allowed her to blend her interests in both business administration and computer science.

As a freshman in 2019, we interviewed Ajose about her journey to USC and her quest to honor her late mother’s spirit through her excellence. Judging by her achievements since then, it’s safe to say that her mission is accomplished. In the past four years, Ajose has studied abroad in England, discovered a passion for data science, interned at Meta and JP Morgan Chase, served in leadership roles for the National Society of Black Engineers USC chapter, and landed a full-time job as a product specialist with Mastercard after graduation. “I think it’s interesting that it’s getting to be nearly 10 years since she passed,” said Ajose. “I think she would be proud of me today.”

We caught up with Ajose, who graduates May 12th with a B.S. in Computer Science and Business Administration, to find out more about her experience at USC, her plans for the future, and the science of predicting a hit song.

Ojuolape Ajose

B.S. Computer Science and Business Administration

Hometown: Grand Prairie, Texas

Plan after graduation: Joining MasterCard in New York as a product specialist

What inspired you to computer science and business administration?

I’m really interested in entertainment and sports and I thought having a business background would allow me not only to expand the technical skills I was learning through computer science, but also learn about things like product management and to get a better understanding of the jobs that I’d eventually like to go into.

Were you always interested in tech and computer science growing up, or did it come to you later on in life?

I’d say it definitely came to later on. I took AP computer science in my junior year of high school, and that was probably the first time I really tried coding. But I think I was always definitely STEM-oriented. Especially coming from a Nigerian background, you’re expected to go into medicine or something lucrative. I knew I didn’t want to do medicine. I thought – okay, what’s the next best thing that they’ll still be cool with?

What was your favorite class at USC?

BUAD 312, Statistics and Data Science for Business. The way that the professor covered topics in the class was really oriented toward my interests. We did a project on Spotify that was really cool, and she was just a very supportive figure.

What is it about data science that you particularly enjoy?

I’d say that it feels like the right combination between computer science and business. Especially after going through the different internships, I learned that I really do like people-facing roles. I also think that data science allows me to have that technical background where I’m able to use science and math to back my recommendations.

“While I’m interested in data, I think that the human aspect is still really important.” Ojuolape Ajose

What activities or clubs did you get involved with during your time at USC?

I have been a part of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) USC chapter and I served as their membership chair for a year. I’ve also been a member of the Data Science Club, as well as recently Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, where there I’ve served as our nominating committee chair, as well as an initiative called Empower Families.

NSBE definitely helped me to orient myself in freshman year. We went to San Francisco for a regional conference and I got to meet a lot of members. it was fun, but it was also really inspiring. Just seeing how the upperclassmen were able to move about their careers and take care of business in different ways. And I think that they definitely served as role models.

I was also in a program outside of USC called Data Science for All where I was able to work on a project sponsored by Universal Music Group looking into what makes a hit song.

Interesting! So, what did you discover? 

It’s so funny, because everybody’s like, ‘is there actually a formula?’ We found that there wasn’t. It was kind of satisfying. I feel like, while I’m interested in data, I think that the human aspect is still really important. And I think that if you try to make music down to a science, then it’s not music anymore. So that was a cool conclusion.

Looking back on your USC experience, what brings you the most pride?

I’d say that I’m most proud of studying abroad last fall with the Dornsife Study Abroad Program. I went to Brighton, England for the fall semester to study at the University of Sussex.  I think that that was the most rewarding thing that I was able to do, especially because the pandemic messed up the timeline that I set for myself coming into USC. I still fought to study abroad and made sure that could be implemented into my schedule, as hard as it was.

Do you think your USC experience was unique in any way?

I think it was unique because of my background. Coming into USC, I did not have the same income background as a lot of people, and I also had a different support system compared to other students. Coming in as a Gates Scholar and a merit scholar was the main way that I supported myself until I was able to get jobs and internships. Doing that without my parents being fully involved, as well as really only being supported by my sister and brother, definitely made it harder. My mom passed away when I was 14, and while I was already kind of independent before she passed, it definitely raised the amount of independence that I needed to have.

Do you think you’ve changed since we interviewed you in 2019? If so, how?

I’m probably more secure and who I am. I don’t think I’m the most suave walking into a room just yet, but I think that at least I know who I am when I walk into that room and I’m willing to defend that. I’ve definitely just become better at expressing myself to others not only when I’m in a class, but also as a friend.

In our first interview in 2019, you said you wanted to develop software to improve athletic performance. Is that still your goal?

That’s funny, because that’s not far off from what I’d like to do. Long term, I think sports would make sense for my interests. I would like to be at the front office for some kind of sports organization in the next five years. If it’s not in data science, it could be operations work.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’ll be going to MasterCard to work as a product specialist in their cyber intelligence department in Purchase, New York.

Finally, what advice would you give to your first-year self?

Be patient and understand your span of control.

Published on May 10th, 2023

Last updated on May 16th, 2024

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