“I’m a person who does not conform; I don’t follow rules, I recreate them.”
Three years ago, Yves Iradukunda ’19 started at MASS Design Group in Kigali, Rwanda as the East-African operations manager. Now, he’s the senior director of operations and mainly works on bringing in new talent, kickstarting new projects and managing relationships with MASS’s different partners.
With responsibilities that are constantly evolving and expanding, Yves still managed to complete his MBA journey at ALUSB without jeopardising his responsibilities at work.
We talked to Yves about his time at ALUSB and the 4 elements that determined his academic and professional success throughout the MBA programme.
1. Knowing your “why”
Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or an established leader, identifying the meaning behind your decisions is essential for a purpose-driven and significant journey.
Yves’ reasoning for pursuing an MBA was twofold. Not only did he want to take advantage of the general management training that a Business School provides, but he specifically wanted to expand his knowledge on entrepreneurship and leadership.
“Ideally an MBA was going to allow me to understand my previous experiences through different lenses. I really wanted to know what it meant to inspire; not just the people that I work with, but also the broader society, through the work that we do.”
Knowing his “why” and identifying his goals kept Yves focused and intentional during the ALUSB programme.
2. Choosing the right fit
Even though it is an essential building block, knowing your “why” is not the only thing that will keep you motivated. It is equally important to find an institution that suits you academically and personally. Yves found his match in the Pan-African centred programme at ALUSB.
“There are so many untapped opportunities on the continent and ALUSB’s focus on the African context made the school really attractive and unique. I am now able to tap into a vast network of professionals that are operating in different markets and expand my understanding beyond my own experience. If you’re really interested in increasing your knowledge and expertise on the continent, this MBA is the right programme for you.”
3. Being intentional
In the course of the last 15 months, Yves’ responsibilities at MASS Design Group have both changed and increased in terms of expectations. But despite the added pressure, Yves found a way to stay on top of his schoolwork.
“You have to be very intentional. There have been many weeks where it was a struggle to dedicate the needed time to my course material, but that means that the weekends are for catching up. So if the week has been hectic, be intentional in the weekend and really make time to study.”
4. Having a strong support system.
Having a support system is imperative when embarking on any journey, especially a challenging one like this. Yves was lucky to have many morale boosters around him.
“My wife and newly born daughter are really the main sources for my motivation; it’s rewarding knowing that they have my back. That aspect of family support is very important.”
Yves colleagues at MASS Design Group were also a source of motivation during his MBA journey: “Seeing the impact of the work that we do, is very inspiring. My colleagues are dedicated, passionate and never compromise on quality. A work environment like that is encouraging and motivates me to contribute to them as they contribute to me.”
Finally, Yves states that his MBA journey would have been impossible without his classmates. “Even though the ALUSB MBA is a remote programme, we remained connected throughout the year, not just at the intensives. We WhatsApp on a daily basis, call each other, offer support in difficult times and celebrate the exciting ones. Without those people, what you’re learning loses meaning.”
And even though Yves graduation from ALUSB is quickly approaching, he’s not planning to stop learning anytime soon.
“I think learning itself is a lifelong journey. The MBA programme opened my eyes and kickstarted a lifelong learning journey. It helped me realise how much more opportunities are across the continent. So the upcoming graduation is not a final destination, it’s the start of a new journey of learning and collaborating with other people.”
Patience Mapeza ’19 is a Senior Retail Banking Manager for NMB Bank in Zimbabwe. She joined NMB in 2002 a few years after the former merchant bank registered as a commercial bank. She has risen steadily through the ranks ever since. Patience now manages over 14 bank branches across the country, working hard to drive a more financially inclusive society. This week we followed Patience for a week and observed her as a senior professional, guardian and team leader.
Patience’s Monday begins early. She wakes up at 4:00am to catch up with her MBA assignments. As legal guardian to her nieces, aged 17 and 19 years respectively, she then checks in on the girls to make sure that they are ready for school, then drops them off and then heads to work.
Patience usually arrives at work by 8:00am, where she will first respond to emails that are pending from the weekend. She checks in on the status of her 14 branches, ensuring that any issues are addressed immediately. Patience closely monitors how each branch is operating, ensuring that customer satisfaction levels are optimised and that her branches are staying ahead of their competitors in offering financially inclusive customer solutions. If issues occur that require her presence in a branch, Patience will leave her office and head out to that branch.
Other priorities in Patience’s weekly schedule comprise business development meetings with her Executive Directors. “People know I have an opinion, but I have to work extra hard as one of the few women in senior positions at the bank, to ensure that no balls are dropped”.
On weekends, Patience catches up with her friends and family. She is blessed with an amazing network of professional women, peers with whom she can share, who advise and encourage each other with a view to promoting more women in leadership across their respective industries.
Golf is also a favourite past time, and Patience will play a round with friends when she can find the time.
After church on Sundays, Patience hosts her family for a meal. “My family has been so supportive. They always motivate me to work and give me the space I need to work on my MBA assignments. I send the girls to my parents over the weekend, freeing up time for study”.
A perfect week for Patience is when she is able to accomplish her set objectives at work and satisfy her customers. The ALUSB Intensive weeks have always been a highlight of her MBA journey. “ALUSB brings together diverse, amazing professionals from across the continent. We share, engage and network. And I am ever impressed by the high quality of our guest lecturers.”
On Motivation: Patience believes in the power of prayer. She adds, “My home is my sanctuary. I reflect on how I can grow as a guardian, leader, and business woman. My country, Zimbabwe, has gone through a series of challenges. It can depress you, so I always try to stay positive, because I do not know what tomorrow may hold”.
On Roadblocks: ‘I am an empowered woman. I try to identify opportunities in spite of the challenges faced by women. Zimbabwe is a patriarchal society where a woman with an opinion is not always well received, especially if unmarried”. Patience embraces her values, virtues, and vision as a woman, striving to look out for fellow women. “It sometimes makes people uncomfortable, but I feel that if life brings challenges to our doorstep, it is up to us to turn them into opportunities”, she adds.
On Teamwork at ALUSB: Throughout her MBA, Patience has realised that working as part of a team and listening to her team mates makes things easier. “My ability to go through this programme is in part due to my supportive teammates. I was not sure that I would be able to keep up with the pressure, but with time, I have come to embrace it.
“The ALUSB MBA is doable, possible and I have embraced the ALU term #DOHARDTHINGS! I doubt that there is anything the programme can throw me that I won’t be able to handle.”
Patience has a message for people considering the ALUSB MBA: “This is the perfect opportunity for you to be a changemaker. ALUSB has given me the opportunity to see what I was not able to envision before”.
Patience looks ahead to life after graduation as a significant time of application, when the MBA Class of 2019 puts all the skills and knowledge that they’ve acquired along this 20-month journey, into practice. She also looks forward to creating suitable banking products in Africa to ensure that Africa is banked differently and banked better. ‘I now see normal tasks as opportunities.” she concludes.
Arnaud Niyongabo ’19 has been with Village Health Works in Burundi for the past seven years. As he embarks upon the final weeks of his ALUSB MBA experience, the winds of change are blowing in a new direction.
Arnaud just accepted a job with Kaz’O’zah in Bujumbura, an organisation that works to “encourage artisans to become skilled craftsmen, reach their full potential through skills development, hard work and determination, and then thrive as self-sufficient income-earners”. As Arnaud embarks upon his new horizon, enjoy this week-in-his-life as a husband, father, leader and ALUSB MBA student.
Monday, 21 January starts early in the morning. Arnaud grabs a cup of his favorite Arabic coffee and then takes his two sons, aged 3 and 4, to school. As he navigates the traffic on his way to work, he reflects on the challenges faced by the people of Burundi. Arnaud fully intends to play his part in improving the lives of many.
At work Arnaud meets with his team, where they discuss the events of the previous week, analyse their objectives and reflect on how they can improve. Arnaud creates a space for his colleagues to voice their challenges, leading brainstorming and problem solving sessions, ending with a clear way forward for the week.
“The MBA’s DBIA [Doing Business in Africa] course has taught me how to be resilient. Sometimes you just have to be ready for what’s coming your way. Expect the unexpected and adjust it to your goals, then keep moving forward”, he says.
Tuesday to Thursday sees Arnaud in the field with his clients, comprised of artisans, women, NGOs, restaurants, farmers and young people. Arnaud and his team are responsible for equipping their clients with the skills they need to become financially sustainable.
On Friday, Arnaud returns from the field, full of new information and progress reports to share with his team.
On motivation: Arnaud has a clear source of motivation for both work and school: “My wife is my greatest source of motivation. She ensures that I keep track of my studies and work”, he explains. This is turn drives him to be a better leader and husband.
On teamwork: Arnaud attests to the learnings from his ALUSB teammates. He is impressed by the diversity and commitment among his MBA classmates. He describes them as “a group of change agents with the passion and zeal for making their communities better places”.
A perfect week for Arnaud is one where he is able to spend quality time with his wife, keep his two little boys happy and healthy, go to church, visit family and friends, meet his professional objectives of the week without roadblocks and submit all his ALUSB assignments on time.
Arnaud has a clear message for the newly admitted MBA candidates who will be joining ALUSB:
“Do not look at the MBA as just a tool to learn about business concepts or to help you move forward in your careers. It is also about human connections, about creating a strong network with your classmates, and about how you want to grow as a business leader”.
As he looks ahead to graduation, Arnaud is committed to continuing the projects that he started with his team mates, and to working to maintain the precious ALUSB relationships that he built over the past 18 months.
On Leadership and Personal Branding: Part 2 of our interview with Mzamo Masito, CMO of Google Africa
On Leadership and Personal Branding
ALUSB Director of Admissions, Vani Nadarajah, had the pleasure of sitting down to an interview with Mzamo Masito, Chief Marketing Officer of Google Sub-Saharan Africa. In part 2 of this wisdom-packed interview, we asked Mzamo about his leadership heroes, got his advice on entering senior leadership positions for the first time and tapped his vast experience on building a great personal brand.
Find his full video interview below. Some great soundbites follow below.
On great leadership:
“The great leaders that I have experienced happen to be great human beings. What we are actually trying to develop is a great human being, who happens to become a great leader”.
What advice would you have for someone entering the C-Suite for the first time?
“You have to know yourself. You have to have such a high sense of self-awareness, self-conviction and you need to know what your values are.
Learn to be vulnerable with the people you lead. They must see the human being, not the title”.
On personal branding:
A great reputation = winning + strong values.
“A great reputation = winning + strong values. All you have is a reputation and all you are selling is a reputation.
The winning talks to ability and talent. Sharpen your skills, get on the job training, coaching, mentoring, an MBA…you need hard skills as much as you need soft skills.
The strong values are your moral compass.
And when the what (winning) and the how (moral compass) are balanced, you have a great reputation and a great personal brand.”