Mark Odejobi – Tackling Life After Rugby & the World of Asset Management

Mon 6th Mar 2023

Rugby 7s, a version of the traditional game but with less than half of the players and shorter game time, is one of the most intense and fastest growing sports in the world.

Mark Odejobi who competed at international level many times, knows this better than most. Excelling at life outside of sport, this elite-level rugby background gave Mark the skills to thrive in Asset Management.

From Under the Posts to the Square Mile

Whilst at school, Mark Odejobi represented England at both Under-16 and Under-18 Level, before joining professional Rugby where he was contracted to London Wasps but also made appearances for London Welsh and Esher before pivoting into the England 7s Squad. Not many people are lucky enough to get paid for their hobby, so it was a massive privilege”, Marks says. But, despite achieving something he had worked so hard for, it was not quite what he had expected. “It was very different to playing rugby at school or at the weekend because there’s a lot more riding on it. It wasn’t a case of ‘I’m here to have fun’. It was a case of this is how I feed myself, this is how I pay my rent, this is how I pay my bills”. After a combination of injuries and a desire to make the most of his analytical skillset, Mark stepped away from rugby in 2014 and, with the help of add-victor, pursued a career at BlackRock, one of the world’s largest asset managers. After over 8 years at BlackRock, Mark has risen through the ranks within the Analytics department, and recently moved to a role within BlackRock’s Fixed Income ESG Investment team.

A Keen Eye for Detail

Although always a keen mathematician, it was during his rugby career that Mark realised his passion for analysis and attention to detail. “I’ve always been good at maths but what I realised playing rugby is that I love attention to detail and analysis. I really enjoyed the parts of rugby where you break down your own game and think what yours, your teammates and your oppositions strengths and weaknesses are”. As well as focusing on your own game, the analysis of your opponents and how you can tweak your game accordingly is something else that fascinated him, especially in 7s games. “In 7s, you might only have two hours to do your analysis and that was a really interesting challenge”. As well as developing these skills in an intense sporting environment, Mark also did this whilst studying for his degree in Mathematics with Computer Science, graduating with 1st Class Honours from Brunel University London, whilst still playing professional rugby. This not only taught him practical skills imperative to his career in finance and data analysis, but also about himself; “I wouldn’t say that I was coasting before that, but I had put too much onus on my natural talent to shine through”.

A New Adventure into ESG Investment

Mark recently undertook another shift in his career as Vice-President in the Fixed Income ESG Investment team, he works to provide ESG investing solutions to clients by integrating ESG and climate risk tools and strategies into investment processes. The environmental side of ESG investment fascinated Mark; “For me, it's incredibly rewarding to be able to align my job with my purpose whilst trying to have a positive contribution.. Mark uses data and analytics to construct frameworks which help investors to align their portfolios with positive ESG practices. The social side was also a driving factor in the ex-professional rugby player’s sidestep; “it’s important to me because of the path I’ve trodden, and I believe it is important to give people a fair opportunity”.

Mark Odejobi’s Key Tips for Elite Performance 

  • Raw talent. But I wouldn’t say this is the most important thing.

  • The ability to work hard is so important. There’s no replacement for working hard, especially once you get to a certain level where everyone has a high level of talent.

  • In collaboration with hard work is coachability. There are so many people in the world who know much more than I do about things that are of interest or impactful to my life. It’s important to leave your ego at the door and understand when people are trying to help you, as well as being able to apply their advice very quickly

Appreciation, Passion & Humour as his Key Motivator

As with most athletes, Mark had a healthy obsession with perfection; “It was an obsession of trying to be the best version of myself that I can be”. But how does he keep motivated, both in sport and in financial services? He sets small targets and celebrates small victories; “I was a rugby player for eight years but never really took a step back to appreciate things. In my current life, I try to appreciate every moment even if it’s small. If I complete my to-do list, I give myself a pat on the back”. In appreciating little wins and small tasks completed, your mindset can remain fresh and positive. “Sometimes when you do something so regularly, it becomes part of your routine and you don’t appreciate the effort it takes”, he reminds us. Whilst repetition can lead to us underappreciating our everyday successes, it is important to snap out of this mindset. Additionally, being passionate is essential for Mark; “do you see your future role really furthering your passion? When it’s cold and dark, the passion really matters as that will get you out of bed”.

As well as being fiercely competitive and driven, the man nicknamed “Oddjob” by his teammates also values the importance of humour. From keeping his brother and sister entertained to taking his old work team out to Wetherspoons for breakfast in Hawaiian shirts, a sense of fun is integral to Mark’s mantra. “You don’t want to spend your whole life being serious. Having people around you who lift the room is important”.

Advice to Current Pros on Taking the Plunge into Life Outside Sport

Whilst Mark’s education and talent for data analysis left him in good stead for a career after rugby, it was not an easy journey. What would have made his transition easier? For Mark, it is a greater awareness of what skills rugby gives you; “during a meeting with my development manager I was asked what skills I could bring from the rugby pitch to the working environment. I honestly had no idea”. Yet, with great communication skills, drive for success, and agility about what it means to keep a team motivated and engaged, Mark was better equipped than most for his career. He concludes by advising: “spend more time speaking to retired pros and alumni of the sport. If I had the opportunity to speak to other athletes who had retired before me, that would have been extremely helpful”.

Tom Farmer

Photo Credits: 

Header Photo: Rugby Union - Gloucester Rugby / London Wasps EDF Energy Cup Pool Stage Matchday One Group A - Kingsholm - 08/09 - 4/10/08 Lesley Vainikolo - Gloucester Rugby (R) en action contre Mark Odejobi - London Wasps crédit obligatoire: Action Images / Paul Childs

England's Mark Odejobi (R) vies with Kenya's Humphrey Kayange during their semifinal match at the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament in Moscow on June 30, 2013. AFP PHOTO / YURI KADOBNOV (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP) (Photo by YURI KADOBNOV/AFP via Getty Images)

GLOUCESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 14: England winger Mark Odejobi runs in his try during the Under 20's Six Nations game between England and Ireland at Kingsholm on March 14, 2008 in Gloucester.England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)