“I learn from you, you learn from me, and in a diverse world we can be better people in society.”
In his second book, Beyond the Credentials.!?, published in 2020, author Evans Kwesi Mensah draws on years of experience as he offers practical lessons and personal wisdom to help readers discover how to live a life defined by strong values and character despite the demands of educational and professional achievement.
With more than 20 years of executive experience in business strategy development and consulting, and a list of credentials that includes an MBA from Howard University, a 2019 McKinsey Fellowship, and a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification, Mensah’s own list of achievements are impressive, including pursuing a Nonprofit Leadership Certificate at University College.
Yet, the self-described “accidental writer” will be the first to tell you that degrees and certifications tell only part of his story.
“The credentials give you the opportunity to open doors,” Mensah says. “But your knowledge is what’s going to sustain you.”– Evans Kwesi Mensah
Mensah’s ideas about the ways of the world developed as a child growing up in Ghana. The son of missionaries, he and his four siblings followed their parents around the country, moving from location to location every two to three years. Transferring from school to school “was tough as a young person,” he recalls, but life became even more challenging when his parents divorced.
“I didn’t know [at the time] that I was being trained psychologically, or maybe spiritually, to be the person I am.”
After the divorce, Mensah says, “My home turned into a house, and I needed to leave. I thought if I went to the ends of the world to not just go to school and get certificates but to discover what ‘the other side’ is like, I would be blessed to learn to see the world in a unique way.”
After earning his honors bachelor’s degree in marketing communications at the University of Greenwich in London, Mensah moved to the U.S. to attend Howard. From there, his professional life took off, first with Tyco Corporate then to Tyco Fire Protection where he ultimately became Global Product Manager of the company’s Grinnell Mechanical product line.
In 2011, after being successfully headhunted, Mensah returned to his beloved Ghana to lead logistics and administration at a nonprofit organization, a position he held for nearly five years. During that time, he not only achieved a professional goal, co-founding the consulting company ValueCycle, he also began his volunteer career, becoming country chair for (Dwight D.) Eisenhower Fellowships, a global organization that seeks to build bridges across countries and cultures.
While in his home country, Mensah had a revelation of sorts. He had been working on a book, but it was turning into a “painful experience.”
“It wasn’t a book,” he admits. “It was a complaint diary, and I was just listing my frustrations.”
As an African American with a Ghanian accent working in a corporation that was 99 percent Caucasian at the time, Mensah had experienced discrimination on the job.
“I had people who loved me, supported me, but I had other people … who became a thorn in my flesh,” he recalls. “Because you don’t look like them, you don’t sound like them … you’re prejudged. I had a steep hill to always prove myself.”
Mensah came to realize that he could continue his professional work in supply chain management and organizational development—what he calls the “butter on his bread” job—and at the same time pursue his passions.
“I like to inspire, I like coaching, I like training, I like giving back knowledge, just changing the mindset of people,” Mensah says, “Most of the challenges we’re going through in the world right now have to do with a mindset, so in my company ValueCycle, I make sure that it’s not just a training company, it’s a mindset change company that educates people.”– Evans Kwesi Mensah
From a “mom and pop nonprofit” in Ghana to his alma mater Howard University to the World Bank, ValueCycle serves organizations of all sizes.
“It’s wise to be humble to everybody,” he notes. “Because why not?”
With his own new mindset and encouragement from his wife, Baake, who he affectionately refers to as “Boss,” Mensah returned to the book he began years earlier. “I changed it all,” he says, explaining that this time he wrote with the intention of motivating readers through stories of positivity, inspiration, and encouragement.
“I wanted to let people know that if I can do it, you can do it and do it better … I learn from you, you learn from me, and in a diverse world we can be better people in society.”
Finally, after eight years, the book, Synergy and Commonality: The Key to Success, was published in 2019. (Both Synergy and Credentials became Amazon bestsellers.)
Through his calling to share ideas, Mensah sometimes runs into uncomfortable situations, but he’s not one to back down from a challenge. Earlier this year, he appeared on the PBS12 show “The Devil’s Advocate,” hosted by Jon Caldara of The Independence Institute. Going in, Mensah knew their ideas were in conflict, but he went anyway.
“There are thousands of people who listen to that channel. If that interview changed one or two people’s minds, not thousands, that’s all I need, so I wanted to take the challenge. My goal was not to be confrontational; my goal was to educate.”
Over the years, Mensah has chosen to align himself with volunteer work that really matters to him and with organizations that recognize his strengths in social contribution. Among other positions, he continues to serve as the Ghana chair for Eisenhower Fellowships, and in 2018 he even had the honor of presenting a tribute award to outgoing Chairman General Colin Powell. He is an immediate past national council member for the United Nations Association of USA where he served as the first chair of SDG-17 (the Collaboration and Partnerships Committee), and he is a member of the Howard University Executive Education board.
In 2019, Mensah endured a rigorous vetting process that culminated in an invitation to the Army War College as part of its 2019 National Security Seminar. Joining military generals and corporals along with other distinguished citizens in an exchange of knowledge and wisdom, he says, was one of the best experiences of his life.
“This was [a government] who in the ‘90s would not even give me a visa to travel to the U.S. It was just amazing … I’ll hold onto that memory forever.”
Mensah has also received numerous honors, including the Made Man Foundation’s “Made Man” award in 2018 for his social impact contributions and his Howard MBA class’s Mr. Congeniality award, which he values because it came from his peers.
Recently, Mensah fulfilled another ambition—co-founding with his wife their own nonprofit organization, Diversifying Our Communities (DOC), which “supports and uplifts the marginalized, disenfranchised communities and individuals, especially of color.”
“The whole idea,” Mensah says, “is to educate the left side to understand the right side [and vice versa], so people can learn to treat others with dignity and respect.”
DOC spreads its message through school and institutional visits and collaborative projects with other nonprofits.
The new acquisition prompted Mensah to enroll in the Nonprofit Leadership certificate program at University College. “Sometimes I ask myself: ‘why am I doing this?!’” he laughs. But, he explains, although he’s worked in nonprofits for years, he had never owned one before, “so I thought I’d better go grab some knowledge.
“I’m humbled by the things that I’m learning [in the program],” Mensah says, and he gives credit to his academic advisor Brian Cicero for supporting him along the way.
In return, Cicero offers only praise for Mensah:
“Evans is a person [who] really has the goal to change the world through education. He’s selfless and has a true passion for helping others. He lives and breathes his mission of helping others. Just spending a few minutes with him, you walk away with a better sense of self, and positive feelings toward the future.”– Brian Cicero
Indeed, Mensah’s mission to help others—to go “beyond the credentials”—is not only important to him personally, but it allows him to set an example for his three sons, ages 7, 9, and 10.
“I want to make sure they are proud of their daddy, they’re proud of their mommy, and they are proud of the fact that we are not on the receiving end,” Mensah says. “We give back. That’s one of the joys I have in my life.”
He also doesn’t forget where he came from, returning to Ghana frequently for both his consulting and volunteer work, and to visit relatives who still live there.
“I always go back to give back, either by knowledge or by whatever means I can for people who are looking up to me over there,” Mensah says, “
While he acknowledges the hardships that he’s had in life, Mensah stopped fretting about them long ago. “There are more blessings than disappointments,” he says. “I don’t take things for granted. I want to make sure that every opportunity that comes to my hand, I use in a positive way.
“I come from humble beginnings, and I’m privileged to leave a voice.”