Mutsa Kajese is the founder of UbuntuLab, an organisation that focuses on the holistic development of emerging market leaders. This week in his life is an epitome of work-life integration.
Mutsa’s first book “30 days of Transformation: A guide to your authentic self” is coming soon. It is the perfect compendium of nuggets on personal development, told from a real and unfiltered perspective. It will quench the thirst bound to arise from reading this blog post and wanting more!
Monday, 3rd December 2018 heralded the final week of “LevelUp”, a six-week development programme run by Ubuntu Lab. As their fourth cohort of budding entrepreneurs prepared for their Final Pitch Day on Wednesday, and Closing Ceremony on Saturday, Mutsa stayed on top of the overall management and review of the week’s line-up.
“This week is all about assessing where we are and how far we have come. I’m reviewing the the growth this cohort has gone through since the start of the programme, and in this space, reflecting on the transformations that have come with LevelUp,” says Mutsa.
Indirectly paying homage to contemporary culture, Mutsa spent Tuesday, 4th December as an ideal – although mildly arguable – #TravelTuesday. He primarily prepared for a trip to Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, next week, in relation to his role as a mentor for Seedstars Initiative. In addition, he caught up with some work at his office, as well as his MBA work. Specifically, his evening comprised a two-hour long meeting with his Home Learning Teammates, prime peer-collaborators in his ALUSB MBA journey.
Settling into the mid-week, Mutsa embodied more aspects of his life as an entrepreneur, founder, and creative director. Beside supervising the LevelUp pitch session and checking in with the LevelUp Programme Director, Thabani Mlilo on Wednesday, 5th December, Mutsa devoted Thursday, 6th December to his directorial responsibility at IbuHub, a pan-African incubation hub based in Zimbabwe. He had a client meeting geared towards setting up businesses for the year ahead.
Having highlighted Mutsa’s weekday rhythm in a symbolically singular list-view mode, the more consistent grid-view looks more like a 4:35 a.m regular waking time, followed by an hour of administrative work, typically consisting of email checks and calendar updates. Thereafter, Mutsa meditates for about 20 minutes and proceeds to exercise, comprising either of martial arts, a gym workout or swimming, depending on the day of the week.
Mutsa’s mornings also involve ensuring that his kids are ready for school – and taking them there. His official work time begins after his 8 yr old, 6 yr old and 1-and-a-half year old are at school. Typically, this time is devoted to managerial and directorial responsibilities at UbuntuLab and IbuHub, including the maintenance of both organizations’ strategic partnerships to drive innovation and problem-solving with Green Building Design Group and African Leadership Academy respectively. Also, his MBA coursework stays constant in his weekly priorities.
[On Roadblocks], Mutsa says, “I move towards them. I believe obstacles are a signal for growth.” As an entrepreneur, Mutsa is inclined towards problem solving, hence he looks forward to challenges. At the same time, he recognises that he is human, hence when his emotions dwindle, he allows himself to feel it, but endeavours to move on if the feelings are not beneficial to his personal well being.
[On motivation], Mutsa believes it is always about remembering the bigger picture – having a big why. In response to his immediate whys – why he is doing the work he does, and why he is pursuing this MBA – he attests that whilst there are personal desires to learn something new and gain more qualifications, those are not enough to keep him up at night when he really doesn’t want to.
On that note, Mutsa’s bigger picture is that there’s a continent which needs everybody to be at their double best and that includes himself. He says, “We all have our part to play, I am equipping myself so I can play my role. I am doing this not just for myself or my family but for a generation that needs me at my best.” This selflessness and sense of purpose alludes to the nucleus of “Ubuntu” that Mutsa holds as a core belief.
[On work-life balance] Mutsa posits that there’s no such thing as work-life balance, rather there is work-life integration. According to him, “Balance implies that something else is imbalanced, and it doesn’t work.” What works for Mutsa is the alignment and integration of all aspects of his life into one life, not separating his work, family or spirituality (exercise and meditation) because each of them defines him.
[On team work at ALUSB], Mutsa says, “The network is the strongest component of the ALUSB MBA programme, and it is also a big motivator to keep going because the understanding that one’s not alone on the journey is very strengthening.” He adds, “We call each other a tribe. This is what a tribe looks like – it’s not speaking the same language, talking the same or looking the same. My tribe is my brother from South Africa, my sister from Tanzania. What brings us together is the common cause and understanding that we have a bigger purpose for doing this MBA.”
[A perfect week] to Mutsa is multi-faceted, emblematic of the diversity in his roles and identity. In one vein, Mutsa’s perfect week is one that has an element of transformation in the lives of people. It is a week where he has a day or two of spending quality time with his family – cooking and playing with his kids and spending alone time with his wife. The perfect week is also one where he checks off all the things in his to-do list.
“I am very happy and satisfied when I see people having a turn in their life, when they understand their purpose….when that light bulb turns on.”
As we approach the final deadline for ALUSB MBA applications, Mutsa has a message to current applicants as well as aspirants. He says, “Go for it. If you can identify an area which you are not happy with, either in your home country or the continent, keep that in mind as you head towards the ALUSB MBA, because with the networks and quality of coursework at ALUSB, that problem is on the right path to getting solved.”
To recently admitted students from the first round of the MBA applications, Mutsa has a word of advice. He says, “The sooner you get to know your classmates, the better, so break the barriers sooner rather than later. Moreso, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.”
Likeleli recently re-launched Inspire Innovation in her home-country, Lesotho. In the past month, she has been working on getting the business off the ground. This week in her life is a reflection of the grit and spirit of a startup founder, mother, mentee, teammate, and ALUSB student.
“My reason for doing an MBA was to come out of it with a business. With the support of my Capstone advisor, coach, classmates and my ALU network in general, my Capstone project is coming to life as a business consultancy firm, “Inspire Innovation”.”
The novelty of Monday 19 November at Inspire Innovation was amped up with a new, permanent addition to the existing team of four interns who are collectively students/ alumni of the African Leadership Group (ALG). Thus, Inspire Innovation is a symbol of the powerful, pan-African network that is being built across the African Leadership Group.
Heeding a familiar Monday Meeting canon, Likeleli met with a branding expert to align on branding strategies for her company. She also conducted a Vision Connect session with her team, to retell the story of Inspire Innovation and refresh their awareness of the company’s mission and goals. In this light, she applied her learnings from ALUSB’s Leadership Lab as well as McKinsey Academy’s Communicating for Impact and Team Management courses. After the session with her team, Likeleli proceeded with what captures her typical weekday – meeting with potential clients to pitch her company.
This week has been particularly engaging for Likeleli because of her participation in the Entrepreneurship Expo and Business Summit, Maseru, organized by The Entrepreneurs Network which her husband is a part of. She is moderating a panel discussion on “Education and Entrepreneurship” and running an entrepreneurship workshop for some of the businesses that are exhibiting at the Expo.
Inspire Innovation had some milestones this week, including printing official T-shirts to boost their brand visibility and leveraging the Expo to conduct a business survey of client needs and problems. This is in line with their mission to make support services available to SMEs in Southern Africa.
“I always come home at 5:00 p.m to attend to my son, Tsepang. I focus on my family for the evening, go to sleep and wake up between 2:00 a.m and 5:00 am to do admin work – responding to emails, reviewing my team’s work and gearing up for the new day.”
According to Likeleli, Inspire Innovation has evolved so much over the course of the ALUSB MBA. In her startup journey, she has directly consolidated her MBA learnings while growing her reach through the ALUSB network. She says, “I have found myself having bolder conversations with people from whom I need help, to get things on the ground. I have gained so much confidence. I am setting up structures, and putting things in place so that by January 2019, this will be a fully fledged company. Having the support structure from my family, classmates, mentor and business partner has made the journey very exciting.”
Likeleli’s entrepreneurial path has also sparked a personal transition in her approach to innovation. Her knowledge of piloting from the Entrepreneurship and Innovation course has replaced her natural inclination to overthink, deliberate and contemplate, with the drive to “do it, at a very small scale, learn very quickly from it and try something else or change the approach.”
[On roadblocks] Likeleli has gained awareness of the trust limitations that come with being young and running a startup. She deals with it by communicating with her business partner, Makuena Kolobe, a development consultant; her mentor, Duduzile Seamatha, Director at Sheeran and Associates; and also through surrounding herself with other business personnel who inspire her to see the silver lining of her roadblocks.
[On motivation] Likeleli keeps lists to help her see things in perspective. She has also learnt to constantly tap into her support system. Regarding her schoolwork, she speaks highly of her Home Learning Team at ALUSB for encouraging her throughout her MBA journey. In her words, “we prioritize communicating on time, planning ahead of time and being realistic about setting expectations of others.”
Likeleli looks at balance over the long term. She thinks about [work-life balance] from an interesting point of view: “If I spend all this time working, schooling and generally being busy now, I can rest later.” Looking back at a time when she dedicated all her time to looking after her son, she attests that it shaped her to be less strict about gauging work-life balance and more holistic about her outlook on it.
In conclusion, Likeleli states, “If I can get everything on my list done without any interruption, getting results in all the goals I have set for the week, and still be able to read a book and go on a drive somewhere with my husband and son, then I would have had a perfect week.”
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.”
Intensives are periodic week-long sessions where ALUSB MBA students meet in Kigali to learn directly from seasoned guest faculty. They also take the time to reconnect in person with their classmates. Here are some highlights of the recently-concluded October 2018 MBA intensive.
SUNDAY, 28 OCTOBER
Kicking off with a schedule overview and course introductions, our MBA students geared up for the week ahead. The Class of 2019 engaged in Frontiers – a field adventure at the heart of the Leadership Lab course – which stretched their courage, grit, and resilience. Walking on high ropes and jumping off an adventure tower, they took practical leadership to the field.
MONDAY, 29 OCTOBER
The Class of 2019 had an engaging session in Communicating for Impact, a Mckinsey Management Programme facilitated by Alim Ladha, founder of Instill Education. The Class of 2020 had an immersive Corporate Finance class session taught by Gonzalo Chavez, Professor of Finance at Hult International Business School.
“There is no right or wrong answer, the wealth of experience is in this room, it’s not in my head” – Alim Ladha
To wrap up the day, both classes unplugged at a combined Open Mic Event with the African Leadership University (ALU), Rwanda. Connecting with their ALU undergraduate family over dance, music, poetry, and comedy, students unwound ahead of the intensive week.
TUESDAY, 30 OCTOBER
The third day of Intensive was very stimulating, alluding to a rich, signature ALUSB case study entitled “World Duty-Free Company Limited Versus The Republic of Kenya”, taught by Francis Daniels, Director of Africa Opportunity Partners and Professor Catherine Duggan, Vice Dean of ALUSB. The day ended with an interesting panel discussion on “China in Africa: A Benevolent Force or an Ulterior Motive”, organised by ALUSB in collaboration with Kigali Shapers, an arm of the Global Shapers Community.
WEDNESDAY, 31 OCTOBER
The atmosphere was tense in the morning ahead of the Class of 2020’s Corporate Finance examination. By the afternoon, it was filled with energy and excitement prior to the Amazing Race, a component of the Leadership Lab course, which took the Class of 2020 to the streets of Kigali. In teams, they completed challenges on their journey to the final destination. Upon completion of the amazing race, students reflected on the subtle traits of leadership that were brought to light through the experience.
THURSDAY, 1 NOVEMBER
The day started with the Business of Conservation Conference, hosted by the ALU School of Wildlife Conservation, graced by President Paul Kagame, and attended by over 300 global delegates. ALUSB Conservation Leader Scholars were keynote presenters, sharing their conservation stories and inspiring a call to action for wildlife conservation on the African continent. It was a remarkable event which spurred commitment by various stakeholders to solve Africa’s conservation challenges.
FRIDAY, 2 NOVEMBER
With less than 111 days to graduation, the Class of 2019 were preoccupied with their Capstone Project sessions. These sessions comprised feedback rounds with supervisors, meetings with senior advisors and personal/group reflections. They also had Capstone Simulation sessions where they simulated real businesses with products, making decisions in different areas of the business and observing the effects of their decisions on the company. In teams, their companies competed for market share and revenue.
SATURDAY, 2 NOVEMBER
The last day of the intensive started with classroom sessions in Leadership Lab and Operations Management by the Class of 2020. The Class of 2019 continued their Capstone advisor insights/ peer coaching sessions. The day ended with a send-off presentation by David Wafula ’18, an alumnus from the MBA Class of 2018. David motivated the students to approach the new academic term with diligence and the pursuit of excellence. To the Class of 2020, he said, “you can’t be doing normal things and expecting extraordinary results.”
“Failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you’re in it, you never stop”- David Wafula ’18
At ALUSB, we believe that entrepreneurship and innovation are critical paths to the African Century. In the words of our founder, Fred Swaniker, “the challenges that leaders face on the continent are effectively entrepreneurial challenges.”
In this interview, Chidi Afulezi, Head Faculty of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E & I) course at ALUSB, speaks about the impact of the course on the MBA Class of 2019 students whom he proudly refers to as “squad.”
The video below will take you on an inspiring journey through Lions Den, a signature event at the culmination of the E & I course, which brings to life the pith and core of entrepreneurship in practice.
Entrepreneurship doesn’t mean that you have to leave your job. You can be entrepreneurial inside your company; that allows you to be intrapreneurial. You could start your own company. Or you can be both – entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial.” – Chidi Afulezi
What are the key success factors of the E & I course?
It was awesome to observe the transformation of the MBA students’ mindset towards entrepreneurship. I saw an evolution from ‘i do not have any entrepreneurial ambitions honestly” to a mindset of “I actually think I could tackle this” using the frameworks and toolkits that we learned and practiced in class. Also, very importantly, there were some incredible ideas that came out of the class, for solving relevant problems.
How does Lions Den fit into the E & I course?
The Lions Den experience was designed to put the MBA students through the real-life experience of justifying their idea or concept to sceptical stakeholders such as investors or senior management. It was set-up to prepare our MBA students to succinctly and concisely make a case for their entrepreneurial ideas to stakeholders who could fund them, make their project happen, or give them their big break. They had to prove that their entrepreneurial ideas were viable and suitable for funding.
“Lions Den is critical. It is a way to keep the MBA students honest, to bring excitement as well as exposure to a real-world environment where they are put through significant back and forth with people who have no involvement or investment in their business ideas.”
What were students’ key takeaways from the signature Lions Den event?
They saw that entrepreneurship has different layers, and they got to experience the accountability layer. I could see a spark in them that showed their willingness to take on the challenge of putting their ideas through an intensive questioning process.
Your chemistry with the MBA students reflects deeply on their entrepreneurial drive. What stirs this connection you have with your students?
As faculty, you build chemistry by showing your students that you know exactly what they are going through, but you’re also not letting them off the hook of accountability. I have an MBA myself. I have worked in the corporate world. I am an entrepreneur. So, I brought all of that to my class. My ability to use a combination of humor and realism to the class gave me the credibility and authority as someone who tells it like it is.
When I became part of the ALUSB faculty, my main goal was to show that African leadership and problem-solving is just as superb, powerful and effective as any other continent’s. That is where my passion comes from, and this passion drives my chemistry with students.
How does E & I impact the large-scale vision of building leaders for the African Century?
Entrepreneurship is a feature of leadership. Innovation is a feature of leadership. By emphasizing these core tenets at ALUSB, we are enabling, inspiring and activating our talented and motivated young people to become Africa’s problem solvers. Africa is the most youthful continent. We need to be able to create jobs and build leaders to accommodate this growing demand, and E & I is so critical to this.
What has been the most fulfilling moment of your entire ALUSB faculty journey?
Being in the ALUSB environment as an entrepreneur, teacher, mentor, and motivator is very invigorating. I couldn’t see myself not working with ALUSB. Essentially, my time here has validated my belief that Africa is where the next big things are coming out of.
Where do you see ALUSB MBA students and alumni in the next five to ten years?
I see political leaders. I see multi-billion dollar business owners across Africa. I see corporate leaders. As a community, I see them getting together ten years from now, to talk about their collaborations. A number of them will build businesses together, fund each other’s businesses, and work in the corporate environment with each other, if not for each other. I see a “squad” that will be the navigational point for Africa’s burgeoning young leadership and entrepreneurship.
Hector Chilimani is a Business Operations Project Specialist at One Acre Fund, Malawi. His passion lies in serving his community by equipping and empowering people with the tools they need to solve their problems. Through his leadership style of imparting ownership, Hector is, in his own right, building leaders and problem-solvers for the African century.
Monday, 15 October 2018 was Mother’s Day Holiday in Malawi. In total indulgence of the atypical Monday, Hector started the day at 7 a.m, later than his 4:30 a.m weekday routine, and without the succession of his early morning jog or aerobics. He checked his emails for about 30 minutes and sent well wishes to the mother figures in his life before embracing the relaxation in the air over Malawi. Having had a hectic weekend submitting a Capstone Project deliverable, he spent the rest of the day resting and catching up with friends and family in the scenic small city of Zomba where he resides.
Hector’s Tuesday, strictly termed a “no-meeting day” was spent on executive, managerial and administrative work, as he prioritises preparing for 1-on-1 check-ins with his manager and direct reports as well as ensuring his collaborators have the necessary support to execute effectively. Consistently, his work responsibilities revolve around key client data management, as well as the implementation of acceleration projects across credit repayment, collection, client protection, and customer engagement. He is also in charge of cross-departmental coordination, with the goal of developing the capacity and effectiveness of the business operations teams.
Hector’s Wednesdays are typically consolidatory. He blends work meetings, team check-ins, and committee sessions during the day with his MBA coursework at the close of work. This Thursday, he led the One Acre Fund Malawi culture crew to the warehouse where farm input delivery was underway in anticipation of the agricultural season. The culture-themed visit, organised in the midst of a two-week project to deliver inputs to 15,000 farmers in 4 districts of Malawi, was aimed at providing support and boosting the morale of the input delivery workers.
On Fridays, Hector typically plans for the week ahead, to ensure that his team is aligned with their priorities for the coming week. His week winds up with an all-staff Town-Hall meeting which occurs in form of feedback sessions, strategic reviews, internal alignment on initiatives and stretch project conversations.
[Motivation] to Hector stems from his passion to serve others, and he does so by assisting workmates, clients, and farmers as part of his daily job. With regards to his ALUSB MBA programme, the love and support from his friends, well-wishers, classmates, and activators keep him going. He says, “there is always that one voice in the midst of all the discouragement, that tells you to keep going. That is the voice I listen to.”
[On roadblocks,] Hector sees challenges as “innovation quests” or learning opportunities, hence he approaches obstacles like topics or subject matters that warrant deep understanding and deliberate unpacking. In this light, he deep-dives into the practical details of every roadblock he faces, focusing more on “who can be of help” and less on “who triggered what.”
“I am motivated by challenges, I do not want to waste any crisis in my life.”
Hector has a powerful statement to make on what drives efficient teamwork. His work position as a business operations manager, as well as his ALUSB context as a pan-African & Home Learning group member, has incited his stance that “engagement, inclusion, and respect are key to teamwork and collaboration, as altogether, the three tenets accentuate the value in the process and result of teamwork.” He adds that “it is a leader’s responsibility to cultivate spaces that allow people to derive value from team engagement.”
Overtime, as a leader, what has been helpful is being able to listen to silent voices, and being aware of how my actions can be destructive or empowering to those I lead.
To Hector, [a perfect week] is mostly aspirational, but it pushes one to be more intentional in deciding their weekly progress. In his words, “this would be a week where I have been available to my direct reports, made room for big picture time, brought closure to a number of projects in my pipeline, caught up with my MBA coursework, and spent the weekend with friends. Preferably, it would also be a week where I hiked, supported some initiative with Fellow Lions club where I am the Projects Director, checked on my siblings and got the chance to ready myself for the coming week.”
[To ALUSB aspirants,] Hector says, “challenge yourself to think through where you are and where you want to go. If you agree that Africa’s drawbacks stem from leadership, then you need to search for places where your thinking could be reinforced or challenged. In ALUSB, you will build networks across the African continent and gain more awareness/ engagement around issues that are dear to us as Africans, with real-time opportunities to learn and apply this knowledge in your work and businesses, including your personal growth.”
Hector Chilimani ‘19 has found ALUSB to fit the description of “AfricasMBA, building leaders for the African Century.” He invites you to join this growing network of budding African leaders.