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Lessons from the Boxing Ring Prepared NETL’s Top Accountant for Success
Headshot of Sam Oyebanjo

As a young man, NETL’s Samuel “Sam” Oyebanjo competed as a boxer. Besides learning how to throw a jab and land an uppercut, Oyebanjo acquired values through boxing that prepared him for success in another endeavor — leading a team of accountants that oversees funding for projects to address climate change and other energy-related priorities. 

Oyebanjo, supervisor for accounting at NETL, said his pugilistic pursuits also taught him the importance of developing effective strategies and the understanding that every experience — even a loss in the ring — presents an opportunity to grow and improve.

“Boxing demands a high level of discipline and determination,” said Oyebanjo, who grew up in Nigeria. “It teaches you humility, but you quickly realize that a tough loss can be a learning experience and that you can only succeed with preparation and hard work, which is a valuable life lesson.”

Oyebanjo joined NETL in December 2019, just a few months before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. That challenge was followed by the adoption of the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Instructure Law (BIL), a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the nation’s energy infrastructure. Of the $62.5 billion in BIL funding to be allocated to the U.S. Department of Energy, approximately $30 billion is being executed by NETL or used to support the Lab’s programs.

“Sam came onboard at a particularly busy time. Not only did he need to develop the necessary plans to keep accounting and other operations moving forward during a pandemic, he also played a central role in expanding our staff to meet our responsibilities related to the historic BIL funding,” said NETL’s Jeffrey Steich, associate director, Finance & Acquisition Center.

Oyebanjo has been the right man for the job. “Sam takes the thoughtful approach. He thinks before he speaks, and it’s a leadership style that works. People listen when he responds,” Steich said.

Recent independent audits of NETL financial statements have shown no discrepancies. “That’s been consistent throughout Sam’s tenure at NETL as well,” Steich said.   

A certified public accountant, Oyebanjo came to the United States to explore better educational opportunities. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accountancy and finance and an MBA at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

While in Dayton, Oyebanjo worked as a tax auditor for the Ohio Department of Taxation and as a budget analyst and financial manager at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Before joining NETL, he worked as a senior and supervisory accountant for the Defense Logistics Agency, which manages the global defense supply chain — from raw materials to end-user disposition — for the five U.S. military services, 11 combatant commands, other federal, state and local agencies and partner and allied nations.

Oyebanjo’ s work in multiple government entities has been a plus for NETL. “Sam’s experience enables him to look at things through a different lens, consider best practices used by these other organizations and evaluate them for implementation at NETL,” Steich said.

Oyebanjo calls NETL “a great place to work.” The Lab recognizes the importance of positive work-life balance for its employees, which enables Oyebanjo to return twice a year to Nigeria, where he reinforces the importance of education with young people and distributes needed items such as shoes.

“It (NETL’s work-life balance commitment) is something I cherish,” Oyebanjo said.

He added his successes at NETL have been achieved with the assistance of talented co-workers. “We are fortunate to have a highly skilled and professional staff. They make my job, managing our large workload very easy,” Oyebanjo said.

NETL is a DOE national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.