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.”
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Start your application today at http://bit.ly/APPLYO20!
Author: Vani Nadarajah, ALUSB Director of Admissions
Every 4 months, the ALUSB MBA students travel to Kigali for a week-long “intensive” where they get to connect with their peers and learn directly from African business leaders. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent travel restrictions, we were unable to conduct our intensive in person. Nonetheless, the ALUSB community gathered online for an exciting week of engaging sessions led by academic experts and business leaders from across the world.
Read on to discover some of last week’s highlights and takeaways!
The ALUSB MBA is a blended, part-time programme. This means that the MBA is part in person (in Kigali, Rwanda) and part online, where students engage in interactive, online learning while remaining at work in their home countries. This part-time MBA learning structure requires students to dedicate approximately 20 hours per week to their studies during their online periods. And as the world was forced to move online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our students became full-blown online learning experts! Although learning from home has become more common, distance learning is still a unique concept for most MBA students.
As we prepare for our second online ALUSB MBA intensive, we reached out to some of our ALUSB MBAs to put together a list of tips to make the most out of your online learning experience.
Sometimes, we come across a piece of advice that sticks with us and propels us forward. As part of our ‘Woman Of the Week’ campaign, ALUSB asked some of the women in our community to offer some advice to their peers in the ecosystem in the hopes of inspiring and empowering young, up-and-coming businesswomen across the continent. Whether you’re getting ready to make an important business move, take your career to the next level or just looking for some inspiration; this blog post is for you.
Khalila Mbowe‘21, Founder and CEO of Unleash Africa Social Ventures, is a multi-talented, serial social entrepreneur that has her hand in many industries including technology, gender, art and development, communications, and youth innovation. How did she end up in the MBA class of 2021 at ALUSB, you ask? Read on to discover the answer to that and more!
Khalila’s professional aspirations, interaction with ALUSB alumni and Khalila’s passion to be a catalyst for systemic change across the continent, led her to the MBA programme at ALUSB.
“I chose this MBA programme because I believed that it would give me an edge when it came to managing my businesses, as well as growing them across Africa. Additionally, I wanted to interact with a network of people who share my passion for Africa and be in a space that would provide me with tools to understand the dynamics of doing business on the continent.”
After being enrolled in the programme for only a few months, Khalila points out that her greatest highlight so far has been her classmates. “We have formed bonds which I am sure will go on beyond the programme.” She adds that the ALUSB MBA has brought together people with a passion for bringing positive change in Africa and motivation for self-development. “Our class is a diverse pool of information, perspectives, and support from all over the continent. It feels like the Admissions team didn’t just pick these people for the class but also for Africa.”
“Our class is a diverse pool of information, perspectives, and support from all over the continent.”
Besides her classmates, Khalila notes that the ALUSB MBA faculty have also played a big part in her enjoyable experience so far. “As someone who’s very passionate about the continent, it’s nice to see that same passion in the faculty that teaches us. Their dedication is almost tangible.”
“I have grown in my ability to empathise greatly with different stakeholders.”
Khalila emphasised the fact that she is now able to see opportunities and draw connections. She adds that through the 360 leadership assessment, a part of the ALUSB MBA Leadership Lab course, she has been able to spot gaps in her leadership style. This has allowed her to be in a constant state of reflection, learning and growth.
Khalila has also picked up some skills in doing business in Africa. Specifically, she has been able to connect the dots and understand different aspects and systems that come into play for professionals on the continent. “One of the key things that I have learned is to navigate different markets on a contextual level, which benefits the people involved. It has brought a whole paradigm to the work that I do.”
On the future post-COVID-19
Currently, the most pressing challenge that Khalila has faced is the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic has required quick and sudden adjustments in her routine and the drastic changes and uncertainty have affected her and others in multiple ways. Fortunately, her classmates have been supportive throughout the whole process. “You don’t go through it alone as the class is doing it together. That bond and solidarity are keeping us sane.”
Despite the current global situation, Khalila is still very optimistic about the future of Africa post-COVID-19. “I feel like this pandemic is a catalyst.” While she acknowledges that the situation has been cruel and difficult for the world, she also believes that it has shed some light on the loopholes in our institutions and systems across multiple sectors, globally. “I believe that this is an opportunity for Africa to rise but it can only do so with exemplary leadership.
“It’s time for exemplary leadership in all sectors. It’s an opportunity for Africa to really lead the world.”
Finally, Khalila shares a few tips on how to best manage to work from home and to get through these uncertain times.
- Stick to a routine.
- Practice self-care.
- Avoid procrastination; don’t wait for tomorrow!
- Reflect on your vision, goals, and dreams.
- While we are getting a lot of negative information we need to find the positive in life. Allow yourself to smile!
Want to know more about how our MBAs navigate through their ALUSB journey? Take your pick:
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As the world celebrated Father’s Day this past Sunday, Chidi Afulezi, ALUSB’s Head Faculty for Product, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, took this opportunity to flip the script and bring attention to an important issue in our communities: gender-based violence. We’re honoured to share his reflections on fatherhood with our larger community.
I would like to shout out all the ALUSB fathers. Happy Father’s Day to you. It is my privilege to play this role with you…It is not easy, but the fact is, being a father is the ultimate job in life. Yes, you have or will soon have an ALUSB MBA, and you are a captain of industry that takes no prisoners, but all of that is really beside the point…to me, the true measure is to be most successful at being a good father.
Now, of course, I had to flip this a bit. I am the dad of three incredible young women in their teens, and that has me acutely focused on the pain and raw helplessness that many fathers experience when their daughters leave home and don’t come back, or come back with wounds deeper than any external damage. I find myself focused on the angst and shame that some fathers feel to know their sons leave home and become predators and perpetrators of incredibly cruel acts towards women in our communities.
“Father’s Day is a day for me and for the rest of the fellas out there to affirm our undying and unequivocal support for our women.”
Listen, I am not here to equivocate about any of this. Gender-Based Violence is real, and anyone who wants to get into nuance or “should haves, could haves” lost me when they opened their mouth to speak. As a father of three girls, the husband of another man’s daughter, the son of another man’s daughter, and the brother to another man’s daughters…Father’s Day is a day for me and for the rest of the fellas out there to affirm our undying and unequivocal support for our women.
We can’t be leaders, or successful business people, without that affirmation. Yes, we can breathe fire in the boardroom or negotiate under extreme circumstances. But, I’m a father of three members of Africa’s most important demographic segment, and I will do what I must to support them, that’s what matters most. Nothing matters more.
I appreciate you, and again, Happy Father’s Day.