A conversation with Prince Ayinde — Journey | Anaplan Community Podcast
Join Dennis Lemoine, Sr. Program Manager of Community Events, for our first episode of Journey, an Anaplan Community podcast. If you joined us last fall for our ACE event, we premiered this episode back then, but never shared it with the broader Community — until now!
We are thrilled to share episode one, featuring Prince Ayinde. Prince is currently the Business Analytics Manager at LinkedIn and a Certified Master Anaplanner. He has worked for some impressive logos — Amazon Web Services, EY, Fannie Mae, and more! Dennis and Prince have an open conversation about Prince’s career path in the Anaplan ecosystem, where he finds his motivation, his role at LinkedIn, who has made an impact in his life, and more.
“I try to look at my role there as helping build out the Center of Excellence, but also I try to bring in as many people into this world as possible, and try to solve as many problems for LinkedIn as possible with this platform.” – Prince Ayinde
Tune in and let us know what people and topics you would like to see in future episodes. And don’t miss episode two next month! (Transcript also available below.)
Dennis: Hi, everyone. Welcome to this really fun, exciting experience that we've got together here today. My name is Dennis Lemoine; I'm the Senior Program Manager for Community events on the Anaplan Community team. I'm joined by my new friend Prince, and we're going to have a rollicking good time — a little conversation about his journey through Anaplan, where he's been outside of Anaplan, and all kinds of good stuff.
Prince, tell us a little bit about who you are, where you've been, and what you're doing these days.
Prince: I'll say the first thing I think when I hear the question ‘who I am’ — I think about my family, right? I’m the oldest of five children, raised by a single mother. I think that's important. I love my siblings, I love my family; they are most of my motivation and so when I think about that… that's who I am.
Where have I been? Well, I was born in Ghana. My father's Nigerian, so I'm Ghanian and Nigerian. I was raised in Maryland. I love Maryland. I went to University Maryland and I lived in DC for about six years. Loved it. And then I've been in New York for a little bit now for a year or two.
Dennis: Nice! What kind of work do you do these days? Tell us a little bit about your job.
Prince: I'm a Master Anaplanner at LinkedIn and we primarily support the sales organization, sales operations, and sales managers. So all sales planning use cases at the moment. I kind of try to look at my role there as helping build out the CoE but also just trying to bring in as many people into this world as possible, trying to solve as many problems for LinkedIn as possible with this platform. But also, you know, if needed outside of the platform as well. So, I play mostly a solution architect role. I think the idea over the coming years is to become a little bit more multi-tool when it comes to my role, and how to best build autonomous enterprise if you will.
Dennis: Before you were with LinkedIn, tell me, how did you get involved with Anaplan to begin with? What was the entry point? I'd love to hear that.
Prince: I was in a two-year rotation program at Fannie Mae and at the time I wanted to be on the desk, the trading desk. I was coming out of that program, I was shaking hands, you know — lunches, dinners — you know, trying to get a foot in the door and I was finding it pretty difficult, to be honest. I remember I interviewed for a role in FP&A with a lady named Samantha Kanczuker. She was pulled into a different project that she was going to lead, which was a cost allocation project. I think she liked me because she thought of me and said, “Hey, I'm moving over here. Are you interested in coming to work with me?” And I had to kind of make a decision at that point, do I want to go down this finance capital markets route or try something that would allow me to maybe learn a little bit about project management, and who knows, a little technology perhaps! I didn't know. But that was my thinking at the time. And I took the leap with her.
I really appreciate the fact that she thought of me, right? To me that mattered a lot, right? The fact that she has a new opportunity and I was the person that she reached out to. So yeah, she means a lot to me. That opportunity changed the trajectory of my career (taking that risk did). And so we were on this 18-month project at the time trying to understand the cost of running the business, and ended up buying Anaplan. Well the finance department ended up buying Anaplan. I don't think our group was necessarily thought of in that decision — I didn't know what Anaplan was at the time. I had never heard of it. So we went through the process of trying to understand if it was a tool that we could use for cost allocation. We ended up saying yes, and first time I saw it, I thought it was cool. I thought it was interesting. And so I dove right in.
Before we bought in Anaplan we were working with some tools; I think Microsoft Access or something like that. And I was always interested in technology, but in that role I fully embraced everything that came with it. If I can learn tech, a little bit of project management, some design stuff… I was getting involved in everything, right? Because that opportunity was a blessing — Samantha giving me the opportunity was a blessing because I just wanted somebody to really just give me a shot and believe in me because I was extremely motivated. And so once I got that shot, I was doing everything (nights and weekends), just learning as much as I could and taking advantage of it.
So yes, I got introduced to Anaplan. I was like, okay, I like it. I'll learn it. So I think I got certified in like a month and a half as a model builder. We had consulting partners and I tried to learn everything from them as quickly as possible. So that's how I got introduced.
Dennis: Incredible… Samantha if you're listening… Thank you! That’s one of the most amazing things I think about life in general, but certainly about what I'm learning about the Anaplan ecosystem and our community, is that it's really about helping folks along the way, giving them that shot, opening the door for individuals. It's really exciting to hear that from you because one person — one person — can change the entire trajectory of your entire life.
Prince: Yes! And I've been doing the same for anybody I've come in contact with. If you talk to anybody I've worked with or been friends with or even related to, I've told them and I've helped them come to this Anaplan space as well. What Samantha did for me, I'm trying to do for as many people as possible.
Dennis: I love to hear that. You talked about within a month, you were a Certified Model Builder. Talk to me about your pathway through that and when you became a Certified Master Anaplanner and what that felt like. I'd love to hear a little bit about that part of the journey too.
Prince: I got certified and I felt maybe it was arrogant at the time, but I felt confident enough after two months, two and a half months that, you know, I think I can do this Anaplan thing.
So I left a customer at the time and I went to consulting — that was the next opportunity, right? I knew Anaplan enough, to interview well enough. The next person that helped me was Nuno Fonseca. Nuno was at EY; we had a great conversation. We clicked immediately. He's pretty blunt. I'm generally pretty blunt and so I think he recognized me, he saw me. And I'll be honest, at the time it was personally, it was a difficult time. I don't know if I noticed it at the time but, dealing with family — my mother, like health issues. He gave me an opportunity. One thing is, I'm a good listener and I try to take advantage of as many opportunities as I'm given or if I can make them for myself. And so after training my first week, I knew who my client was. I knew I had to come to New York. Honestly, I didn't really have much time to do additional training, but it was on the job kind of training. I think what the expectations were for me on my first client, and what I ended up doing is probably different, right? I was probably hired as a model builder, maybe do a little solution architect work, but needs must, right? When you're working,
the problems are there, what you're hired for, what the problems are, are not always the same. And so I did what I had to do hours and hours of work and training, 13, 14 hour work days — probably not sustainable, but I was so energized. To have that opportunity and to work with the people that I work with… I was building great relationships and I liked the people I was working with. So the motivation wasn't hard.
Dennis: Was that what was energizing you? Was it the people? Was it the work? Was it a little bit of both?
Prince: It's a little bit of both. There’s a bit of — I don't know if it's like a feedback loop or something — where some people don't know how important their compliments are or just like their words are to you at the time. I would have a presentation at the client and the project sponsor would say, “hey, you did a good job.” That meant a lot to me. I had to tell her eventually (her name is Cathy), “Those little things like a compliment here. Or, I like that idea.” Just like people listening to you. It's just further validates that I'm going somewhere with this.
That's really what it was — just more and more validation, but you have to deliver. The validation means I'm going to go back and refine and push it forward and keep going. I think that's what continued to push me to move through that journey.
Once you deliver and the feedback is, “We like what you've delivered!” What do you do with that? [You think,] all right, I've done the work. Let's back it up with the certification. Once we got to the tail end of that project I thought, “Okay. I have a little bit of reading time.” Go straight into the certification. That's when I went to the solution architect and then immediately the Master Anaplanner as well.
Dennis: Incredible. How long have you been a Certified Master Anaplanner?
Prince: Two years.
Dennis: What do you think has been the most impactful part of being CMA? And what do you think has stood out to you about being a part of that program? Our top one percent, if you will!
Prince: First the opportunities, right? Like the rooms that it gets you in; the type of respect that you get when you're talking to people that have problems first and foremost. It's invaluable.
It's one thing to not have the requisite certifications, but you have the proof of the work. But you have to work a little bit harder to push through that, whereas once I became a [Certified] Master Anaplanner… One, the opportunity started coming in a lot more. The approach changed a little bit. Like people were just generally more interested in listening to what I had to say off the bat. Versus, we have to go through certain barriers. So, it's honestly changed my life professionally. I would even say personally, too, to be able to be in a space where your work is appreciated, listened to and validated — that'll feed into your personal life as well a little bit. It's done a lot for me.
Dennis: I love to hear that. There's so many ways that I've seen and been a part of Certified Master Anaplanners contributing in terms of contribution points and recertifying each year. What would you say has been the most impactful or maybe even the most fun part of that recertification each time?
Prince: Most impactful, most fun… it's another thing that keeps you on top of your game, right? I feel like when you're younger, kind of navigating through your career, you're constantly looking for the next thing. I try not to look at it in the serious levels, but what's the next thing? What did I develop this year? And how can I leverage that next?
To be in a community like that — you want to call it in an elite community. If you're an elite community, you want not only to stay within that community, but you want to be able to make a name for yourself in that space somehow, some way, through impact and relationships, etcetera. So be part of a community is very important. But to be able to leverage those relationships is more important. That's what excites me is building out those relationships and maintaining them as well as I can.
Dennis: And that is what is fun to me too. I mean, today we're here in the New York City office. I got to see you talking with some other folks like that. That, to me, is the baseline for community — that connection between each other and that ability to learn from one another — to teach one another. What other aspects of the Anaplan Community have been beneficial to you? Obviously, the Certified Master Anaplanner program is so great, but I'd love to hear what else you could share with our audience that has been really helpful for you via Community.
Prince: The ability to exchange ideas has been massive because as a platform, it's like a blank slate generally, right? Anybody can think of anything as a solution and it's not necessarily a bad solution. But the access to that information and how readily or willing people are to share information has been really important because the use case has changed or maybe they're the same, but the requirements might be slightly different.
So to be able to call someone that I've met once or twice and say, “hey, I'm thinking through this idea, what do you think? Does it make sense to you?” Back to the validation thing… “Ok. Yeah, that makes sense to me.” Like, keep going or have you thought about it this way? It's been crucial because at the end of the day we're all making sure we're delivering the best work for our customers and our partners.
Dennis: Incredible. Prince, I can't thank you enough for joining us. I know I kind of grabbed you out of the air and thank you so much for sharing your story. I think folks listening are going to really relate to that and, what I love most about getting an opportunity to talk to people from the Anaplan Community is exactly what you just said, the ability to connect and to learn from each other. So can't thank you enough. Really appreciate it. Awesome. Thanks so much for tuning in folks. We'll see you soon.