“Go with your gut even when you are highly uncertain.” –Emeka Oguh
Emeka Oguh (Electrical and Computer Engineering) is the founder and CEO of PeopleJoy, a financial wellness benefits provider that works with CEOs and Human Resource leaders to attract and retain millennial employees through innovative programs. Before starting PeopleJoy, he founded a mobile app publishing company that was acquired in 2015. He previously worked as a director of product at a financial technology start-up and as a Wall Street analyst. He earned his MBA from Harvard Business School in 2011.
Where did you grow up?
My parents emigrated from Nigeria in the 1970s to North Jersey, where I grew up.
Why did you choose Rutgers?
I was heavily influenced by my parents and sisters who also went to Rutgers: we’re a Rutgers family through and through. When I visited campus, I knew this was where I wanted to be.
What did you do after graduation, but before Harvard Business School?
I worked on Wall Street with Merrill Lynch. As an intern there my junior year at SoE, I’d fallen in love with the pace of Wall Street. I loved being in the city and on the Street. You can learn so much from a summer intern experience.
It was a steep learning curve as I had no financial background, but I believe that if you set your mind to do something, you can do it, so I got my Series 7 and Series 66 licenses.
I also had a great mentor and worked on some cool projects. We introduced cloud computing to Wall Street in 2005. The experience opened my mind to start-ups. Working on creative projects really got my juices going.
Why business school?
When the market collapsed in 2008, I realized no one is perfect and that everything I’d thought about financial markets no longer held true.
So, I went back to school. First, to learn more about markets since didn’t have a strong grounding in finance. Second, I wanted to help fix problems stemming from the financial crisis. I wanted to address financial literacy – there is so much that isn’t taught in school.
What was your next step?
I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I turned down a fulltime job offer– so I had no job. My parents were upset.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned since graduating from Rutgers, though, is to go with your gut even when you are highly uncertain.
In the end, I realized start-ups appealed to me. I didn’t have an idea of my own at that point, but knew I could join and learn from what someone else was doing.
What does it take to get a start-up going?
There is so much more to starting a company than the idea itself. By joining a start-up like DataMinr, I learned so much. I learned how to talk to investors, and how to build and sell product. I became a jack-of-all-trades. This experience gave me the knowledge to start a mobile app publishing company. I sold this company in 2015 after receiving an offer from another mobile app company.
What led you to start PeopleJoy?
I started PeopleJoy in late 2015. I realized that I needed money, passion, and a purpose to be fulfilled in business. With my mobile app company, the money and purpose were there, but the passion was missing. PeopleJoy has brought me into the financial wellness space I’m passionate about.
Who are your clients?
We work with companies of all sizes. They run the gamut – from engineering firms, and universities, to tech firms and start-ups.
We work with CEOs and human resource leaders, and show them ways to attract and retain millennials, the largest group in today’s workforce.
How can employers attract millennials?
We offer companies an employee value proposition that helps them stand out and helps them prioritize their incentives. Since 70 percent of millennials, have $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, employers, for example, could attract millennials by offering the benefit of helping them pay down their student loan debt. We can help them set up these custom programs. We also offer financial services advice and guidance from financial health coaches.
Did you learn any early leadership lessons at Rutgers?
At Rutgers, I learned to survive a tough, rigorous engineering program. I learned how to be resourceful. I learned the importance of teamwork and of time management.
I loved my time at Rutgers so much. I tried to take advantage of every opportunity out there. I loved being involved. I was VP of the National Society of Black Engineers and I was an RA. And I had about every on-campus job you could have. I built my experiences from clubs, coursework, and jobs into a management experience.
What other lessons did you take from SoE?
Engineering teaches technical and analytical skills. Team experiences taught me how to work.
What did you do for fun as a student?
I had a pretty full schedule, engineering, studying, and working. With my friends I’d work out or play basketball or hang out and play video games. I’d go to campus parties at Livingston and other schools. I went to football and basketball games.
What are some favorite memories?
Hanging out and talking with friends at the Busch Campus dining hall, or hopping in a car to go get sandwiches from College Avenue. It all comes down to the people I met. I met my best friend on my first day at Rutgers! And I met my wife, Sheri Oguh, at a NSBE meeting. She graduated in 2007 and is now finishing her residency in anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania.
What do you do for fun these days?
We live in Philly, which is a nice foodie town. There’s always a new restaurant to check out. Between our two schedules, we don’t have a lot of free time, but we love to travel. We went to Bermuda this year. Last year, we went to Morocco and Vietnam.
If you could go on a trip tomorrow, where would you go?
Definitely Australia. We plan to go there as soon as we have two full weeks free to travel.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Binge watching TV shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and The Wire when I can.
Do you have a favorite app?
Audible. I like to keep learning and listening to books is one way to do that.