Adanma Yisa | Alumni | Mountbatten Program

Adanma Yisa

Adanma Yisa

Alum Of The Month

Program:  New York

Intake:  March 2009

Current Role:  Founder & Creative Director, Black Coconut ( / Strategic Partnerships Manager, Wits School of Law, The University of the Witwatersrand


What and where did you study before your Mountbatten internship?

I studied Law with Politics at Manchester University. I was working as a communications officer at Reigate & Banstead Borough Council before I joined Mountbatten. My role at Reigate & Banstead Borough Council involved working in the Council’s press office, preparing marketing materials and event management.

What made you apply for the Mountbatten program?

I was disheartened career wise in my early 20s. I had pursued a law degree that I didn’t particularly enjoy (I had initially wanted to study sociology but my tutor advised that sociology was a ‘mickey mouse’ degree). I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do in my career, however I knew I was jealous of all my university friends who made it onto corporate graduate programmes. Mountbatten seemed like an ideal opportunity to get a taste of the corporate world.

Describe your sponsor company and your role within it.

I was recruited to work within the professional development team at Citi Private Bank. The role involved assisting in the preparation and delivery of training for private bankers. Interestingly, half way through my role the Head of Professional Development was promoted to the Head of Business development and my role took on more of a marketing support dimension. In the last four months of my role I was asked to assist the Head of HR with a large recruitment drive for new Private Bankers. I joined the Bank a week after the 2009 financial collapse and in my initial weeks I saw scores of bankers fired. In my final few months I was assisting with the recruitment of new bankers!

What was the highlight/most memorable moment of your working experience during this year?

I remember being taken aside and told that I was a valuable member of the team and that I was going to be given a Blackberry! It was 2009/10 and you will have to remember that Blackberrys were quite the accessory. I felt very important, although my new Blackberry meant that my boss could contact me at any time of the day regarding any errand, which she duly did.

What was the social highlight/most memorable moment during this year?

My boss had a beautiful loft near Soho, which she sometimes asked me to stay in so I could look after her cats whilst she was away. Two friends and I spent Christmas at the apartment preparing a wonderful (boozy) Christmas Eve feast and Christmas lunch. It was a very special experience to spend the festive period in the heart of the City.

Please share a little wisdom/philosophy that you acquired during your internship

Two sets of eyes on everything – practical but boring. Especially when working on important docs.

If you could change anything about your internship, what would it be?

I would have lived in Bed-Stuy.

What happened after completing the year – what did you do next?

Like many Mountbattens, I came back to the UK without a job lined up. However my experience meant it was quite easy for me to pick up temp work in the City. Although I had gone into Mountbatten initially excited by the idea of a corporate graduate recruitment programme, I left with a strong interest in pursuing development work. Approximately a year or so after completing Mountbatten I relocated to Johannesburg, South Africa to take up a fundraising role within education.

Where are you now in your working life and what do you do?

I am currently based in Johannesburg, the inner city to be precise.

I hold the position of Strategic Partnership Manager at the Wits School of Law within the University of the Witwatersrand. The role involves managing business development, civil society engagement, bursary programmes, international partnerships and acting as strategic advisor to the Head of School. I engage in strategy and facilitation work for the School which is great for my interests in problem solving and organisational development. I am currently leading the School of Law’s intention to develop a research project focusing on digital innovation and its impact on the South African legal sector.

I recently completed my Master’s in Critical Diversity Studies. My studies motivated me to found Black Coconut, a news and media site focusing on the intersection of Black womanhood, sex, cannabis and social justice. I like to think of Black Coconut as a place for joyful Black womanhood – where we can celebrate issues such as sex and weed, free of the judgement that tends to trail Black women. I was also partly inspired to start Black Coconut as a reaction to the gradual global legalisation of cannabis and the remarkable manner in which this legalisation has whitewashed weed’s Black, Rastafarian, spiritual and communal origins. I act as Creative Director and contributor to the site.

Do you have any future plans that you would like to realise & what are they (career & social)?

I am exploring a career in academia. I recently presented a paper linked to my Master’s dissertation entitled “Intra-racial patriarchy and the violence of emotion work” at Oxford University Human Rights Hub’s Challenging Fundamentalisms, Ideology, Public Policy, Law and Gender Equality Conference held in Jamaica in February 2019. My academic interests are gender, race, elitism and late capitalism.

I am currently in the process of setting up a strategic consultancy with a friend and colleague. Kina Insights will focus on green economy, energy futures, environmental racism and mainstreaming critical diversity in organisations.