The Sounds of GU Podcast
with Young Alumni Johnny Milabu
What do Connections, Enneagram 3s, and Servant Leadership Have in Common?
Q: Hello, Johnny. Welcome to the podcast. How are you today?
A: You know, I'm doing alright. It’s kind of raining outside. I wasn't really prepared for that or expecting that, but you know what can you do about that?
Q: It just started raining buckets, so that's weird
A: Yes, raining buckets, I've never heard that one before.
Q: Really? Raining cats and dogs maybe?
A: Okay, I know that one. Buckets maybe cause you are a basketball player!
Q: I know you pretty well, but for our listeners out there you want to introduce yourself?
A: My name is John Milabu. Better known as Johnny Milabu to everyone around this area. I graduated from Greenville University in 2019, started in 2015. I came in as a biology major and ended up as a CIS major. The last class with the official major on there. That’s computer information systems. Currently I'm enrolled in the MBA program for the university, so hopefully, if all things go as planned I'll graduate next may so 2021. As for my enneagram, I’m a 3 wing 2 and not going to lie, I did a little research before, so I can be prepared. So I guess that's the charmer or the enchanter or something like that. I don't know what that means for my life beyond this, but someone once told me, “You don't know your enneagram? You got to know that.” I know it now. I have it ready, so if my boss asked my one day, I’ll be like, this is it.
Q: It's more of a Greenville thing, but it's also very wide spread too. But I love it. I think it helps me understand people better. Knowing all the different types I'm able to say oh you're this. Also, you're not in a category. You're not only a 3. Every person has aspects of all types, so I like how it does not put people in boxes.
A: So I told you I'm a 3 wing 2, so tell me a little about myself without putting myself in a box.
Q: So a 3’s name is the achiever, so a lot of your worth is found (generally) a type 3’s worth is found in what they achieve and what they do. And they look for external affirmations of that, so a lot of athletes are 3’s and then the 2 is the helper. That's what I am. They do a lot for other people; they are always willing to help. But it can be toxic sometimes to their mental health. If you are constantly pouring out of your glass and your glass is never getting filled then that can be tricky.
A: I feel like that's why I have the wing 2, because I have a hard time saying no. My schedule can be so full, “Hey, can you help me out with that?” “Yeah, I got some space right there, I'll slide you in!”
Q: Why did you change from bio to CIS?
A: That is a long, long story where there’s multiple reasons. For short, I didn’t want to take chemistry. For long, my father’s a doctor. I thought if I went to college and did this, I was going in for pre-dental, I could follow in the footsteps of the medical route, to please him. I’m the third born. Then I realized that even though I was doing fine, doing well, it’s not what I liked and loved. From a young age, I had a really strong interest in computers, so I took an intro to programming class with Deloy [Cole], and after that I was hooked and switched my major.
Q: That makes sense, because that’s totally a 3 thing to do. If my parents want me to do this, then I am going to do this.
A: Well, my parents at a young age put pressure on us. “What do you guys want to do?” So my parents are Congolese. They are from the Democratic Republic of Congo. For them, in Congolese culture, you have to know what you want to do at a young age. My sister went the pre-med route, she’s doing that, because she wanted to be a doctor. My brother who’s a year older than me, when I was a kid I would always learn from his mistakes. He would be like, “I don’t know.” Then, my dad would be like, “What do you mean you don’t know? You should know what you want to do!” And I would say, “Ah, I want to be a doctor, too, Dad!” So that way I wouldn’t have to deal with any of that.
Q: Any interesting facts? What do you do in your free time? Any hobbies?
A: Like I mentioned, my parents are from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over there, one of the national languages is French, so my parents wanted us to be able to connect with our cousins and family back home. There’s obviously going to be a language barrier and a culture barrier, just me growing up in the United States. From kindergarten to 8th grade, my parents put my brother, sister, and I in a bilingual French school, so I am fluent in French. I don’t get to use it as often as I’d like to around here, but if you were ever in a situation and you needed someone to speak French, I’m there. I’m your guy. I also play volleyball, but not as much as I used to. I was a part of the first official men’s volleyball team here at Greenville University that started my freshman year. It was one of the main reasons I came to Greenville University. From time to time, I do like to partake in volleyball.
Q: Anything you want to add about your major, CIS?
A: Yeah! Not only have I been interested in computers, but I’ve also been interested in business. I had a business minor, but ended up dropping it, because I was told that CIS is a sub-set of business. I currently work as a business analyst for a company called True North Partners which is run by a GU grad, Lee Camp. It was just interesting because I thought I was going to go for a job in the field of CIS. I worked for admissions right after graduation, and then I got this job in business. It’s interesting to see. I still have that degree, and it helps with the job I currently have, but it’s never a straight path. That’s not the industry I ended up being in.
Q: You mentioned being told to drop the business minor. Is there someone that had an influence on you when choosing your career path?
A: Deloy Cole is a great advisor and teacher. There’s just something about him that’s so infectious. When I first had his class, that intro class, he knew I was an athlete and was excited. He was super encouraging throughout the way. As an advisor, I would come in and talk to him, tell him the things that I’m interested in, and what I wanted to do, and he would guide me and align me with the right people. There was one class where we had assigned mentors, and he assigned me this mentor who was a Greenville grad who is high up in the technology department for Bank of America which was pretty huge. He was really good at forging a path that was unique to this major inside of myself. It was very individualized to my wants and needs.
Q: You mentioned men’s volleyball, but was there anything else you were involved in?
A: So, the story of my life on campus, like I said earlier, I have a hard time saying no. Freshman year: first men’s volleyball team (carried that through all four years), Mosaic scholar (first class of that, shoutout to Pedro), you’re a Mosaic scholar too, so that’s one of the ways we got connected. Also, I got pushed into the student Senate, and I did that for three years. Junior year, I was class president, so that was cool. I was also SAAC president my senior year, Student Athlete Advisory Committee. I feel like I’m leaving some things out, but I just like to help out. I worked in admissions too, as a student worker as one of the sales forces admins under Corey Braden, he doesn’t work here anymore. I think that’s it in a nutshell.
Q: How was it being so involved? Would you recommend it to other students?
A: I feel like being involved enhanced my student experience. It’s really hard to feel a part of something unless you have a level of involvement besides just going to class and going to events. Having your input heard and valued is very important to me. Now, in terms of balancing it there were some times in which I was not perfect and dropped the ball on some levels of expectation. One thing that helped me throughout my years is to realize that I can’t live up to the expectations of so many other people. Senior year, I told myself that I was just doing to focus on the things that I wanted to focus on which were school, my grades, volleyball, and Mosaic, the things that led me here. That really helped me senior year because I had harder classes and was trying to figure out life after college. I would say, freshman year, pack that schedule, do it all. So that way you can figure out what you want to be involved in. I don’t encourage students to not be involved. Especially at a small school like this where things are a lot more intimate in terms of smaller class sizes, you know almost every person, that’s a really great way to get connected, but just don’t do too much.
Q: What were your classes like? What was your favorite one? Any stories?
A: My classes are interesting because it was a mix of bio, business, CIS, and a few gen eds. I took a photography class and I wasn’t the best at that. Photography is hard. Not one of my strongest suit. One of my favorite classes freshman year was Western Civ taught by Richard Houston. He was one of my favorite professors here. Funny story with that class. Most of the volleyball team was in the class and we were all freshman except Sean Goff, he was a sophomore. We were in that class and we all sat in the back right corner. There were five or six of us. Richard Huston goes, “You know, statistically speaking, it’s proven that students that sit in the middle section or in the front row achieve higher grades than those in the back or in the corners. As a team, we took that as a personal challenge and showed him that statistics were wrong. We were the most involved in the class and had the highest grades. He ended up loving us. He does this thing in his class where he does a shoutout to athletes that perform well. We had that class first semester and we thought we were never going to get a shoutout. Second semester I was in a class, one of my math courses. In comes Richard Huston, “I’m sorry to interrupt your class, I just wanted to give a quick shoutout to Johnny Milabu. In this match…” and read off my stats and coordinated a clap. That was great! This guy is amazing!
Q: Oh, that’s great! I thought you were gonna say you moved to the front row!
A: Being a team of freshmen coming in, we didn’t have that upperclassman guidance or introduction to the school, so we were shy and stuck together. We were a bright group of kids. We had a high team GPA, but were just socially awkward as a collective.
Q: Can you talk about what you’re doing now, your role, and who you work for?
A: I work for True North Partners and the best and simplest way I can put into words what we do is consulting. If my boss was listening to this he’d say we are not consultants, but I’m trying to make it simple. We focus primarily on supporting service managers and departments of business. So like the environment services team or janitorial staff, we figure out ways that we can better the team, help the organization as a whole, and just improve. With that, I’m a business analyst working on a project for this company that’s my primary responsibility. It’s been a great learning process. I’ve been doing a lot of project management right off the bat. I’m just trying to learn the industry, but also work in the industry. It’s been fun. So far, I’ve learned a lot. The business side of me has definitely been getting fed a lot.
Q: How do you feel like your education at Greenville helped prepare you for what you’re doing now?
A: My boss is a Greenville grad, so going back to the day we interviewed. One thing that’s been really influential on my life is one of the pillars of Greenville; servant leadership. When I was interviewing he asked me what I wanted to do, and I hate that question. Like I touched on earlier, I didn’t know as a kid and to this day I don’t know. But at the root of everything that I do, I just want to help people. That’s one of the biggest things for me. One of our missions and our goals is to help elevate people in those departments that I mentioned earlier so that they can be the best versions of themselves. Even if they wanted to elevate out of that role and transition to a managerial role, giving them the tools to do that. My time at Greenville really taught me a lot about servant leadership, and my boss exemplifies that, because he’s really interested in my growth. He sees me as an investment into the company, which is really huge. How that translates to me, everything that I’m doing, I’m trying to serve my teammates, well coworkers. I had the same mentality when I was an athlete too, that’s why I said teammates. When we had the interview, we just hit it off instantly like you were talking to a friend or something. We are on the same wavelength. My time at Greenville helped pave that. It’s cool to see that a Greenville grad from decades ago can speak directly to a Greenville grad now and connect on that level. I thought that was just amazing.
Q: Talking to alumni, things have changed a lot. We still have the same mission and outcomes, but campus life is different. That’s cool that even though your experience was in a completely different time period, you’re still able to understand each other on a whole new level. If you had to do anything differently, would you change anything about your experience?
A: My freshman year I really kept to myself. I would definitely reach out to more people and connect with the people around me. I’m from California originally. Freshman year was a tough transition, different cultures, being far from home. There were some weekends I would just stay in my room. My roommate was from Hawaii, shoutout to Sean Miday, so we would just hang out with each other and bond over the fact that we were so far from home. I wish that we would have taken the time to get to know a lot of the people, because my sophomore through senior year I did and had a tremendously better time.
Q: Any tips on how you did that? Saying yes and getting involved?
A: I would line yourself up with good people in your corner. As many things I did freshman year, a lot of those things were people punching me toward it. Tom Ackerman, one that recruited me and is now the athletic director, pushed me to do things. Like I said with Mosaic, Pedro Valentin was always pushing me to do things. They have friends that are professors. “Oh yeah…” Edwin Estevez, he was the vice president of the school at the time. “I know you! You’re the volleyball guy. Would you be interested in this?” I have all these people that drive into the expectations with the three. Well, this person sees this in me, so maybe I should go do this and try that. Definitely having a support system not only at home but also here on campus is very important. I feel like that’s not too hard to establish here at Greenville. There’s people that are constantly here looking out for you and caring for you. It could even be a conversation with your RA. They will help you get connected.
Q: It sounds like you had a lot of great mentors while you were here, so that’s very cool.
A: They still continue to be mentors to this day so I’m very thankful for that.
Q: What is your favorite GU tradition?
A: This is tough. I’m a fan of All College Hike. A lot of people don’t like it. I’m also a fan of the freshman mugging, because there’s all these new people and then people that aren't freshman find their way to come in and get their mug too. It’s just a huge mingling. All College Hike is like that too, because you’re with one group for a bit, and then you accelerate and talk to another group. I feel like it’s a really great, cool time.
Q: For anyone listening, All College Hike is us taking a day with no classes. Some people don’t go and just take the day off, but if you want to hike, it’s really fun. We go out to Durley camp and eat food and play on the lake. The bass fishing team does boat rides. Those are always a good time. And then, the freshman mugging you have to explain, because it sounds very intimidating.
A: Basically, out in front of the library they have a DJ set up and a table with these mugs. Each class has their own mug. They fill it with root beer floats. That’s why it’s called the mugging. It’s not as scary as it sounds.
Q: Any GU memories that you’ll never forget?
A: I have a ton, mainly with the men’s volleyball team just because those guys are my brothers. We really grew together here. Freshman year at the very first men’s volleyball home game it was really cool. We gave out T-shirts, HJ was packed. We were playing Lincoln college and it was just a crazy moment. We had the opportunity to expose some people to men’s volleyball since it’s not very popular out here. We ended up winning the game, which was huge. I had a great time with my friends, and it was just fun. That season, we were an all freshman team. All the starters were freshmen. We’d be going into some team’s senior nights, and we’d beat them. Sometimes they wouldn’t shake our hands just because they were so upset. We were the underdogs, but that first game seeing the support from the university students and professors, there’s this huge interest there. I can’t forget the crowd when we did our warmups. It was just an amazing moment.
Q: Any advice for current or prospective students that are looking to go to Greenville or just college in general?
A: It’s kind of hard, because I worked in admissions too, but I want to give you real advice. Not that admissions doesn’t give real advice, but this is my own, personal advice, too. Greenville was not my top consideration. I got recruited here. Ackerman was a huge piece of that. I did my first visit and it wasn’t the best experience. Not because of the school itself, but because I missed my flight and I was sick. It was really easy for me to judge it based on that. I had a high school teacher whose name was Mr. White. He told me to just put aside all those different factors. Did you enjoy the campus? Yes. How are the people? Were they nice? Did they seem genuine? Yeah, they really cared for me. The vice president Edwin Estevez, my day when I visited came running to me to welcome me. They really gave me the red carpet, personalized treatment versus other schools I visited, I was just another face in the crowd. I wouldn’t knock a small school experience compared to a bigger school experience. I know this generation, especially, is so focused on appearance and social media. My experience going to a private Christian University versus my brother’s going to a public four-year university is that I felt like I had more resources readily available to myself. I had people that really cared and focused on my development. I was able to form stronger and more lasting bonds with people. I ended up being in weddings and we’re still friends to this day. Give the smaller schools a chance, because the experiences there are truly unique. I feel like your time here will last and impact you more than your time if you went to another bigger school.
Q: What about current students? Do you have any advice for me? I have one more year, so I have to make the most of it.
A: Enjoy every moment. Don’t overload yourself, because your next chapter is going to be the most challenging chapter. This is my first year out of college, and there were so many different things like COVID-19, finding a new job, etc. Truly enjoy it, spend time with not only the people you came in with, but those younger than you. Try to make an impact in someone’s life. Especially, if you’re on a sports team, the freshman on your team, pay it forward like those before you did for you. That's my biggest advice.
Q: Thank you for being on the podcast today! I enjoyed our conversation and I think our listeners will have a lot of good things to hear.
A: I appreciate it! Thanks for having me, Sid.