Author: Tumiso Kevin Mokakangwe
“I grew up at a time where it wasn’t so cool to be African, I think things have changed now, and thank God for that,” said Manji Cheto ’19 as she shares more about her journey into the MBA programme, her life after the programme and coming back to the intensives as a judge for The Arena.
“I am uncomfortable with just being good at something and staying good at something. I always like to push the boundaries of my knowledge, whether it is work or education, so I’m fiercely ambitious. And I truly believe that it is by always walking towards progress that things change. Transformation does not happen by a stroke of luck. It happens by the deliberate efforts of people who collectively come together to say that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Whether it is personal decisions or work decisions that I make; I always think about the impact it has on the things that I care about, which are African progression, African Development, and African empowerment as well.
When I was growing up, the only headlines that you saw about the continent were negative headlines. At some point in time, as a child, you look at yourself in the mirror and you feel despair because you come from a community that is associated with negativity. As you develop, you also recognise you can’t change who you are, so you basically have to be the best version of you. I had to ask myself what the best version of myself was and then it clicked in my head that I had to find other Africans who felt the same way as me. Africans who felt frustrated with this negative stereotype of where we’re from. Working with those people, to build our collective self-esteem and to work towards progress, is how you can change the way that the world actually perceives you. And you can only do that with the collective effort of people who share a common vision with you.”
“Pan-Africanism is Africans coming together to recognise and celebrate our diversity, but also what makes us united. We’re united in history, we have cultural similarities. Our social evolution, our economic evolution, our political evolution, and actually seeing all of this is what makes us unique, and that we can leverage on the past mistakes and past progress and actually push towards a future that looks much better than the past that we’re coming from. Because we’re starting to recognise that something that happens within the national boundaries of one country also impacts us we can relate to it. And actually, we can stand in solidarity with those people.”
Africa in the next 10 years
“I think I will be guided by trends, let’s start with the demographic trend. The continent is young, and I think will remain young for the next 10 years. So what we will see is actually a rapid adoption of technology much faster and driven by young people. We are going to be moving towards progress technologically and economically. Inevitably, with economic progress, we’ll also more likely have commerce slowed down, in birth rates, because the more economically advanced people get, birth rates generally tend to drop because more people are kind of in the workforce. And so I think the demographic trend right now will take us to a future where technology adoption is much faster and with that, huge headwinds in the political and social space.”
“Transformation does not happen by a stroke of luck. It happens by the deliberate efforts of people who collectively come together to say that the status quo is no longer acceptable.”
Moving back to Nigeria & ULesson
“Before my time at ALUSB, I was travelling on the continent and felt the need to come back to Africa in my spirit. I’ve been in management consulting up until then, and I was thinking about a career change. And so I thought to myself, okay, fine, I’ll do an MBA. I came across ALUSB and got accepted. When I got to Kigali, it was the first time I was surrounded by a group of inspirational and influential Africans within my own generation. How powerful would it be? Each of us with the knowledge that we learn here, we take it back to our respective countries, and then we create a network and that network creates a network. So as I was going through the MBA, I knew I was going to move back to Nigeria. I was living in the UK at the time of working for the London Stock Exchange. I thought I was going to come back and start my own business and then the ULesson opportunity came up. I spoke to the founder about Africa’s greatest resource and we both obviously agree that the continent’s greatest resource was human capital. And then we asked ourselves; ‘If there was something that we could do to dramatically change the continent, what would it be?’ And the answer was simple: education.
When it comes to education in Africa, there are some really staggering statistics. The reality is that even if governments were pouring more money into the continent, our young population is growing so fast that the only way you can bridge that gap is with technology. I started to look at things like internet penetration, and year on year on year and it’s getting deeper. We needed something that could increase or improve the quality and delivery of education. I wanted to be part of something that had the ability to really transform lives on the continent. That was the reason why I moved back home and I could not be happier, really.”
Being part of the ALUSB MBA class of 2019
“I had no real expectations, I had an open heart and an open mind. But I came out with a complete shift of thinking. You become very people-centred, you know, every decision that you make, you start to think about how this affects this person? How does this affect my unit? How is my team going to perceive my leadership? How do my leadership decisions make other people feel? It gave me a lot of confidence; when you start this programme, you tap into this amazing network of people that can help you get things done. Where before that I probably would have been more hesitant. For the aspiring leader who wants to join ALUSB, I would say that you should be in the moment, be present, and persevere as well. Your decisions are having an impact on your business and on the lives of people. But also be patient with yourself, it is doable for anybody if you have the right attitude.”
Coming back in 2020 as a judge for the Intensives
“I was listening to a lot of the pitches and it made me realise that the greatness of entrepreneurs is the ability to dream big. And I think that if you’re not dreaming big, then you need to ask yourself whether you’re truly an entrepreneur and if entrepreneurship is for you. So I tried to sort of balance out, allowing people to dream big, but also help them see where the potential pitfalls are.”
Author: Tumiso Kevin Mokakangwe, ALUSB Intern
As 2020 has stretched humanity to its optimum level, even the ALUSB graduation was challenged. Truth be told, we did not know how virtual graduation would turn out, but we knew one thing: we had to celebrate the ALUSB MBA class of 2020!
As all eyes turned to our YouTube live stream for the virtual graduation ceremony on Saturday, 7 November, the graduates dressed in gowns and got ready to celebrate their amazing achievement from their respective homes, certainly not allowing the restrictions of the pandemic to steal the moment of success.
The online ceremony began with welcoming remarks from the President of the African Leadership University, Christopher Williams, highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on the MBA programme and its graduates. “COVID-19 has affected the graduates’ classes, finances and interaction. Also, COVID-19 has made us more aware that change must happen in the world, that a new breed of leadership must replace certain world practices,” said Christopher Williams, as he welcomed the attendees to the first-ever online graduation in ALU history! Furthermore, in his address, he mentioned how the success of the graduating class and their promise to the transformation of Africa is necessary to continue educating and unleashing the leaders through this programme. “There is a calling that everyone has to answer to without exceptions, it is to be authentic. You need to answer one of the following questions: what is your calling? How do you want to be known? What will you be famous for?” Christopher Williams stated as he motivated the class of 2020 to take the continent by storm and craft solutions that drive progress.
After the welcoming remarks, it was time to hand out the ALUSB Academic Awards that celebrate the students that have excelled in our flagship Leadership Lab and Entrepreneurship & Innovation courses! Chidi Afulezi and Dr Zukiswa Mthimunye commenced with the special awards for the graduates with outstanding performances in a couple of categories:
The awards were followed by the speakers from the 2 classes reflecting and purposing their future after the MBA programme.
“Let us not only move the needle but redefine the scale,” stated Mellisa Mazingi ’20, ALUSB student speaker for the class of 2020 ‘Insinzi’, as she took her time to show a lot of gratitude for the support she got during her ALUSB journey and reflected on the aims of her class when they decided to pursue their MBA. “When we committed to a pan-African MBA, we committed to leading the development of our continents, solving problems, creating jobs, leading governments, developing African organisations and building continental businesses. We are Africans with a deep and personal understanding of the things that need to be done for our continent to thrive. We as Africans have achieved so much and we have so much further to go. As it is the motto of ALU, WE DO HARD THINGS.” She ended with the pledge to commit to the vision and mission of the African Leadership Group and ALUSB of going into the continent to write stories of African leaders that paint a picture of an Africa so bright and vivid.
Joy Rucyahana ‘20 followed, representing the ALUSB class of 2020 ‘Umoja’. “Everything of value is going to come at a price. We are still going to fight even at your most prepared state and to learn that when challenges come they leave us with more experience,” Joy stated as she urged the team to go into the continent to make the necessary difference they spoke about in their sessions. She ended her speech with a powerful message to the graduating class: “Let us lead from a place of wisdom, knowledge and empathy.”
“Never be quiet when you should speak and don’t speak when you should be quiet.” – Ibukun Awosika
Before the graduates could be graced with their MBA degrees, there was one more important thing on the agenda: the keynote address. This year’s keynote speaker was none other than Mrs Ibukun Awosika, the Chairperson of the First Bank of Nigeria Limited and the CEO/Founder of The Chair Center Group, Mrs Ibukun Awosika. “Our abilities do not just depend on us, they depend on our community that we can lean on and the support we have. The knowledge you have gained here is meant to prepare you for what you are going to do. It will depend on how you apply your learnings, your relationships and your opportunities. It is important to shift from success to significance, leaving an impact in the work that you do,” Mrs Ibukun Awosika stated as she motivated the class of 2020. Her impactful words were far-reaching to the attendees from around the world.
Congratulations, class of 2020!
How are you doing? I hope you are safe and healthy as you read this post.
Months into the COVID-19 travel restrictions and work-from-home realities that have become the new normal this 2020, we and our organisations have started to adapt and move forward. It hasn’t been easy, but we take each day as it comes, doing the best we can.
One thing that gives me hope is my LinkedIn feed! I’m particularly struck by the number of my connections who have started new jobs in this period. And of course, some of these are members of the ALUSB community!
So I got to thinking: How are people starting new jobs remotely and how are employers onboarding their new hires?
Step up Akshay Vishwanath ‘20, a newly minted MBA, proud Kenyan and rising leader in conservation. In June, Akshay joined Maliasili as Manager, East Africa Portfolio, and kindly agreed to an interview with me to talk about his experience:
Q: OK, so let’s set the stage. You completed your MBA at ALU School of Business in March 2020. You were ready for a new professional challenge. What kind of opportunity were you looking for?
A: I reflected a lot towards the end of the programme, as part of the final MBA Leadership Lab term. I identified three main objectives for my next professional move and for the kind of African leader I wanted to be:
- To play a part in supporting the growth of indigenous conservation organisations.
- To improve the financing of conservation across the continent.
- To play a bigger role in the advocacy and social justice side of conservation.
Maliasili was an excellent fit, given its mission to support the growth of local, entrepreneurial, people-centred conservation organisations in Africa.
Q: You applied to Maliasili just as COVID-19 restrictions started to impact regular business operations. How did this impact your recruitment process?
A: The Maliasili team was already working remotely across the continent and the US. They adapted quickly and were able to remain focused on the growth of the organisation and so the recruitment progressed. My start date was delayed by one month, but this was to ensure that I had a full plate of work when I started.
Q: Tell us about the onboarding experience. You were joining Maliasili’s Kenyan office, but due to COVID-19, starting remotely and working from home.
A: I started with two others. A completely remote, online onboarding was new for the organisation and also for the new hires! Maliasili had to adapt and conduct our onboarding in unprecedented times.
When you change a job and join a new organisation, you normally make a mental shift. Usually, this happens as you move into a new office space and experience a new commute. Sometimes you move home and city! You turn the page and you start a new professional chapter.
This time everything was virtual. My new employer made a great effort for us to initially understand their team culture, dynamics and organisational culture. They made sure we understood the quality and standards that were expected as part of delivery. Doses of humour and fun infused everything. Whereas other organisations usually begin by providing a lot of reading material for you to familiarise yourself with the organisation’s goals, strategy, operations, successes and on-going work, I felt that Maliasili flipped it. They put more focus on team dynamics and organisational culture first.
“My new employer made a great effort for us to initially understand their team culture, dynamics and organisational culture.“
Q: So how has your first month been?
A: I spent my first three weeks in the new job understanding the organisation and team. Maliasili eased me into the job and organisational culture.
Q: So we’ve heard a lot about what Mailiasili did. What about you? What did you do to adapt to this new way of starting a job?
A: A big part of it is to go easy and not put too much pressure on yourself. Take a day at a time. Make a conscious effort to maintain your curiosity and hunger for the new job and all the potential that comes with it.
I was also conscious that my new employer was in unchartered territory too, and that we were experiencing these unprecedented times together.
Q: Any final tips to share about how a new employee can start remotely, successfully?
A: Here’s my advice: It’s about mindset. As the global health crisis continues into the second half of 2020, we are aware that things are not going to be the same. So throw the rule book out of the window and get comfortable with the fact that the world as we know it has changed.
But it’s ok. We adapt. Adjust your expectations and roll with it. Sometimes new chapters in our lives will be super creative and innovative, but things will also go wrong. Be ready for anything.
Don’t compare what is going on now with how things were done in the past or what you’ve experienced before. Experiment and figure things out – everyone has room to make mistakes. Be bolder, feel like you can apply yourself. You are not alone, there are many of us experiencing this across the world. Feel more confident to be your best self, knowing that mistakes are more accepted in these times of adaptation.
And I can’t stress enough; place emphasis on your new organisation’s team dynamics and culture. Spend time getting to know people on a 1-2-1 basis and schedule time to have fun together. When you finally meet in person, I am confident that you will slot right in.
“… throw the rule book out of the window and get comfortable with the fact that the world as we know it has changed.”
Want to read more stories from our ALUSB community? Here are some links to get you started:
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Author: Vani Nadarajah, ALUSB Director of Admissions
Emmett P. Tracy combines an erudite academic portfolio comprising a BA from Williams College, MBA from INSEAD, and a Ph.D. from Trinity College, Dublin, with an executive professional portfolio including Chief Executive Officer, KaffeeHouse Digital and Dean at Hult International Business School.
At ALU School of Business (ALUSB), Dr. Tracy consolidates academic administration, risk management and global strategy to position ALUSB as a leading, pan-African Business School.
Last week, Director of Admissions, Vani Nadarajah, interviewed Dean, Emmett Tracy. Read on to glean insights into the career path, motivations, and personality of ALUSB’s Dean.
Could you give us a snapshot of your academic and professional background?
A lot of my career has been driven by measuring risk at different inflection points, and I have taken a number of significant shifts in my professional and academic trajectory.
In a sense, my background boils down to decisions driven by managing probabilities at different points in my career – in academia and business. Going into academia, I identified the risks involved in considering different areas of study, and then, within the business environment, I observed and evaluated risks in starting and running a company that traversed countries and continents, from Morocco, Ireland, France, Italy and Mauritius to Kigali.
But I have always felt confident in the risks that I have taken and a lot of that stems from the work that I did in business school, which helped me grow in a confidence to analyze situations. Also, I have been fortunate to spend time with a community of people on whom I can rely – many of whom I met during my MBA.
My business school experience now involves helping students identify and evaluate their own risks in the decisions they make at this significant stage in their careers, usually by factoring in income and opportunity.
What led you to ALUSB and why sub-Saharan Africa now?
ALUSB is full of risk-takers, not least Fred Swaniker. I have great respect for the risks Fred has taken, and how calculated they are. ALUSB started a few years ago as an idea, and the school has grown into an extremely successful community of people who are going to change the continent. They are risk takers in their own right. Being part of this community of people who are able to take risks that transcend sectors and geographies, makes me really proud.
What kind of students would you like to see admitted into the ALUSB MBA Programme?
When I take part in the admissions process, one of the biggest things I look out for is open-mindedness, inclusivity and a commitment to diversity.
The ease of changing geographies today means that the opportunities are there to engage with diversity in different markets. The mindset of openness to engage in these differences has to be there. Usually, there are indications of this mindset when prospective students are asked what they expect to see in their classmates and what their classmates expect of them. I find it a good sign when students gravitate towards thinking about other people, not just about themselves.
Where would you like to see ALUSB MBA alumni in 10 years?
I would like ALU MBAs to be running businesses that embrace diversity, employing people from Ethiopia, South Africa, Greece, the Middle East… I want them to be game-changers in the sort of way people think about businesses on the continent – not just regional or overly localised, but as economies that are major players on the global stage.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Pay greater attention to the details.” My dissertation supervisor used to warn me about moving too quickly and always encouraged me to pay greater attention to details. It was excellent advice.
3 items on your bucket list?
1. Writing at least one book per decade.
2. Deep-sea fishing.
3. Learning Swahili.
Favourite book, if so?
The ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius. “Poems” by Constantine Cavafy is another book I travel with constantly.
Favorites are tough. But the Irish love quotes. One that I use a lot – “Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” It is from one of the last works by George Bernard Shaw. People forget Shaw was one of the original founders of the London School of Economics. Incredible.
Who are your mentors in leadership – and why?
Multiple members of my family. I have been extremely fortunate to come from a long line of educators and leaders in education.
What drives you? Where do you get your motivation from?
I came to a point in life where every day was about learning something new and striving towards a sense of virtue. In Western philosophy, this could be understood as a sense of ‘Stoicism.’
“The point of everyday is to learn more. Everyday is a successful day if you’re learning something new and expanding a sense of understanding.”
Words cannot express how proud I am of you, that you have made it successfully to the end of this grueling program of business leadership transformation and earned the right to be called the FOUNDING GRADUATES of ALUSB. You caught the vision, married it with your passion, you were selected among thousands, you have persevered, you have grown as leaders, you are equipped, and you shall continue to soar. Every one of you has been transformed from the competent managers that you were two years ago into competent Pan-African business leaders. I am honored to have played a part in your future success, of which I am confident.
To those whom much is given, much is expected. The journey that you started with ALUSB is not coming to an end; it is changing in its nature. You are now no longer students who are being transformed by our program; you are now graduates whose accomplishments and leadership will shape the brand and design of the program. Most importantly, your leadership will shape Africa. As you celebrate this milestone, I urge you to remember why you chose this program, and why this program chose you. We chose each other because we are passionate about changing Africa. Africa needs you desperately to make Africa great. Make Africa great by creating thousands of new jobs. Make Africa great by inspiring others to become better leaders. Make Africa great by consistently demonstrating V3 leadership.
I am so proud of you.
Make me prouder.