The past couple of months have brought on rapid changes that have pushed the world to adapt – and our students were not exempt. Due to the blended nature of the ALUSB MBA programme, the institution was able to quickly adjust to this ‘new normal’ and continue to deliver a great academic experience. But how are MBA students experiencing this uncertain period when it comes to their personal and professional lives? We were pleased to talk to Bob Mugisha ‘21, Safety Manager at Rwanda’s national carrier, RwandAir, about his ALUSB MBA journey and how he’s currently managing work and life during this global pandemic.
“My choice for the ALUSB MBA programme was a no-brainer!”
As Bob was getting more leadership opportunities and experiencing different managerial challenges, he saw it fit to seek out an MBA to take his career to the next level. He was specifically looking for a programme that would give him the expertise to respond to his managerial responsibilities effectively while also providing him with a chance to interact with other professionals and expand his network.
Other criteria included a focus on leadership, business and Africa. Additionally, he wanted to enrol into a programme that would allow him to keep working and immediately transfer learnt skills. Finally, a learning environment with a small group with room to form meaningful connections with classmates was also really important to Bob. “Based on these criteria, my choice for the ALUSB MBA programme was a no-brainer!”
“My classmates are remarkable.”
“My classmates are remarkable, and the support they offer through our learning teams is incomparable.”
Even though he’s is still in the earlier stages of his ALUSB journey, Bob highlights his interaction with his classmates as a noteworthy experience. The class of 2021 ‘Ubuntu’ has developed a culture of looking out for each other and providing support to ensure that each of them is fairing well. “This culture has not only improved our business intuition but has also led to tremendous personal growth!” The diversity in class has also enriched his learning experience as he has gotten exposed to a variety of perspectives from different parts of the continent.
Nonetheless, there have been some challenges that he experienced during this journey. At the start of the programme, Bob found it difficult to combine the programme with his work and family life. With time, he learned how to manage tasks better through prioritization and delegation. “I decided to merge my personal, school and work calendars so I don’t miss anything important and avoid procrastinating.”
“…I’m able to make more informed decisions.”
The ALUSB MBA learning model allows students to apply new skills, tools, and frameworks directly to their organisations! Bob mentions the Leadership Lab course as particularly impactful. “Leadership Lab helped me rediscover myself, my core values and my drive! Although it is difficult to do business in Africa due to the different challenges, it is possible for ethical leaders to flourish and create solutions and opportunities.”
Every second at ALUSB has been truly rewarding. I transformed from a function-oriented person to a strategy-oriented person.
Learning how to assess a problem and coming up with a viable solution through the case study method has also made him a better manager and leader. With this in mind, he is gotten better at delegating tasks and using empathy as the drive for his decisions. “Now that I have a broader understanding of things, I’m able to make more informed decisions.”
“I applaud the organising team for creating an online intensive that was interactive and enjoyable”
Following the growing number of Covid-19 cases on the continent, ALUSB quickly decided to conduct our signature in-person intensives online. The introduction of the first-ever online ALUSB intensive raised some concerns with Bob, especially when it came to class participation. “I did not think the sessions would be as interactive given that everything was happening online. But I applaud the organising team for creating an online intensive that was interactive and enjoyable, especially during the breaks!”
“…always reserve some time to exercise.”
As a Safety Manager at Rwandair, Bob has faced a lot of challenges due to the current pandemic. “These are difficult times for the aviation industry since passenger services have shut as most countries are on lockdown.But I’m still working from home and managing the aspects that are still operational.”
It hasn’t been easy but Bob has found a way to effectively work from home during the lockdown. Here are some of his recommendations:
- Create a morning routine (this helps to get through the day).
- Stick to your schedule!
- If possible, create a dedicated office space.
- Try to control your screen time. Only use your phone when necessary and try to limit the time you spend on social media.
- In your plan, always reserve some time to exercise – I always plan in 30 minutes to 1 hour daily.
Finally, Bob shares a message for anyone who’s interested in joining the ALUSB MBA programme: “If you are someone who wants to challenge the status quo, ALUSB is the right place for you.”
Following the growing number of Covid-19 cases on the continent and in other countries of origin for ALUSB faculty and students, the resulting travel embargoes, as well as the World Health Organisation upgrading the global risk to high alert, ALUSB has taken the decision to postpone the March graduation.
ALUSB views this decision as a difficult, but necessary, step to ensure the health and well-being of a community of professional leaders, corporate executives and academic experts who are responsible for businesses across Africa and the world.
The graduation ceremony will be postponed to Saturday, 7 November. The momentous occasion will take place at 10:00 am at the Kigali Convention Centre, Rwanda.
We’re looking forward to celebrating this milestone for the class of 2020 ‘Umoja’ later in the year! Stay tuned for more updates.
The class of 2020 ‘Umoja’ is graduating in less than a month! Besides their academic experience and their interactions with other students, there is another player in the ALUSB community that we want to highlight: the ALUSB staff who worked closely with the students throughout their MBA journey. We had the opportunity to have a conversation with ALUSB MBA Programme Director, Christian Muhawenimana. Christian shared his thoughts on the ALUSB MBA and his experiences with the graduating class!
In his day-to-day as the Programme Director, Christian is in charge of managing the students’ experience. He does this by providing continuous support and creating a safe space for them to be open about any challenges they may face. Because of this, Christian is known as the ‘go-to’ person for the ALUSB MBA students! “I think of myself as an academic adviser.”
On his time with ALUSB
“At ALUSB, we treat education as a service.”
Christian is excited when thinking about his time at ALUSB and the successes that he has been able to witness. How does Christian define success? When there’s a high number of graduating students and a low rate of students that have dropped out of the programme! Christian lists the ALUSB team as a key player in achieving this. “The priority of every staff member at ALUSB is to find the best ways to support students during their MBA journey. The school content makes up 60% of the learning experience, the rest comes from their interactions with the ALUSB community.” Therefore, it is essential to deliver high-quality service through support and a world-class pool of faculty. “At ALUSB, we treat education as a service.”
“Because the programme is founded on group learning, students benefit from a collective learning experience.” This type of education means that keeping students engaged in the programme is crucial. He emphasises that during an MBA journey, the students need people that can give practical support to help them balance their many responsibilities. Christian’s job? To be that person for the ALUSB MBA students!
On his experience with the graduating class of 2020 ‘Umoja’
Christian joined the ALUSB team at the same time as the class of 2020 ‘Umoja’, and this created a special connection between him and the class. “They call me Mr. forty-one because they feel very connected to me; it’s like I’m part of their cohort.” And after getting to know the cohort better, he is still mesmerised by the students’ ability to bond very quickly at the beginning of their MBA journey. “In addition to forming tight in-class connections, the students were able to support each other beyond the classroom!”
“…It’s like I’m part of their cohort.”
Thinking about the Umoja class graduating excites Christian as he sees the prospect of more than 36 new companies coming from the student within the next decade. This prediction is based on interactions he has had with students that envision themselves starting their own enterprises that will make a difference on the continent. “The class understands where we are heading as a continent, and I can’t be happier for them,” says Christian. Additionally, ten years from now, Christian hopes that ALUSB alumni will be at a place where they can create, innovate and meet Africa’s needs in an actionable way.
“Be humble, remain humble, be useful and always look for ways to grow your team.”
As they move towards graduation and the rest of their professional careers, Christian emphasises humility as a virtue that will aid the graduates in their professional lives. “While they have some information on all business aspects; they do not have all the information on those different aspects. This is why I urge them to have a growth mindset. Be humble, remain humble, be useful and always look for ways to grow your team.”
CATHERINE CHUMO ’20 IS AN INFORMATION OFFICER AT Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) in Kenya and is currently enrolled in the MBA for Conservation Leaders! We had the privilege to chat with her about her experience and work in the conservation field.
Catherine’s interest in nature and animals started at a young age. After visiting the Nairobi National Park as a child with her family, she knew she wanted to work in a space that would ensure the safety of wild animals. Today, Catherine is an Information Officer in the Communications Department of an international conservation organisation.
At ANAW, Catherine gets to experience the best of both worlds as she works both in the field and in the office!
While in the office, her responsibilities mainly revolve around planning and information management. As an Information Officer, she is tasked with ensuring that information and communication channels run smoothly and efficiently.
Similarly, her role in the field revolves around organising conservation initiatives in different parts of Kenya. This requires input from different members that make up the community, volunteers, government, partners, conservation stakeholders, donors, graduate students, and schools.
Catherine’s weekly schedule…
A typical weekday starts as early as 4 AM for Catherine. She starts her day off with a work out session after which she gets ready for work.
Her first task in the office, after a cup of coffee, is reviewing MBA work. This is to make sure she is set for the week and is up to date with assignment deadlines.
At around 8:30 AM Catherine has a team check-in where they lay out the agenda for the upcoming week. A huge bulk of the rest of the day is meeting with stakeholders and partners to work on different projects and collaboration opportunities. She often closes off her day by sending out communications and responding to emails. Her evenings are reserved for school work.
While in the field, Catherine starts her day with one of her favorite things; work out sessions in the wild. The team then has breakfast at 8 AM. After a briefing, the team heads out to different sites where they start working on different tasks such as de-snaring, animal rescues, human-animal coexistence activities, companion animal vaccination campaigns, and working with wildlife guardians for patrols.
ANAW team members, including Helen Jerotich, Eunice Robai, and Kate Chumo, rangers and Soysambu Conservancy staff during a full day of snare-removal at the Soysambu Conservancy northwest of Nairobi. Kenya, 2016.
ANAW projects include community mobilization that is focused on women within different communities that they operate in. These initiatives are designed to inform women of the dangers of poaching and to provide them with alternative sources of income such as basketry. The organization also works with young men to turn lethal snare traps into snare art.
Pursuing an ALUSB MBA
Although her work in the conservation field was fulfilling, Catherine was looking for a bigger platform that would allow her to work with others and take up the pressing issues in wildlife conservation. This led her to the MBA for Conservation Leaders! Besides these professional needs, Catherine was intrigued by the vision, innovation, and network that ALUSB offers and this made her decision to join the School of Business a no-brainer.
On handling roadblocks: Through Leadership Lab and other courses in the MBA programme, Catherine has learned to handle roadblocks with a healthy dose of emotional intelligence and calmness. “Leadership Lab really comes in handy when handling roadblocks especially those that require conflict resolution.”
Advice on working with different communities: While working with different communities, Catherine notes the importance of recognising and acknowledging the different dynamics within a community. She puts emphasis on the need to understand the community’s needs and priorities in order to move forward. She states that this is crucial especially in dealing with human-wildlife conflict, “You have to be a people person when working with a community,” she says.
The experience as a woman in a male-dominated field
Catherine acknowledges that working in a male-dominated field comes with some challenges in the field and in the boardroom. How does she deal with these challenges? A positive mindset and an assertive attitude! She also chats with some of her classmates, especially the women, as a way to keep her motivated and inspired. Catherine emphasizes that while being a woman at work comes with its challenges, being the only female student in the conservation MBA programme has been a great experience for her because of the support she has received from fellow classmates!
Her highlight at ALUSB
“My growth as a conservation leader has been heavily influenced by my classmates’ support and inspiration.” She also points out that the intensive held in Mauritius was a significant moment in her journey as a conservation leader. She was able to learn more about structural challenges experienced in conserving marine species. She gained tools from the marine conservation toolkit which she seeks to incorporate in her work.
“My growth as a conservation leader has been heavily influenced by my classmates’ support and inspiration.”
Advice to women seeking careers in environmental conservation
“Volunteer and take part in conservation programmes while in school. This will allow you to learn and give you skills which can give you a head start in your career. At the same time, connect with other women in the field as this will become a strong support system to help you get through challenges specific to women. Finally, always remember that everyone has so much to bring into the world of conservation therefore, you should be assertive and trust your instincts.”
Edward Shila ‘20 is an East-African in every sense of the word: he was born in Tanzania to an Ugandan mother and Tanzanian father, he studied in Kenya, he works as the Managing Director of Dentsu Aegis Network in Dar es Salaam and is currently pursuing his MBA in Kigali.
Most of his time, however, is spent in Tanzania, where he oversees the day to day activities at Dentsu Aegis Network, a global advertising, and marketing agency. “We help brands come up with strategies, communication plans, media plans, digital plans, creatives, production and overall below the line activities.”
As a Managing Director, Edward naturally has a lot on his plate: “A big part of my role is about tracking the financial performance of the business. It’s thinking about how we are performing against the revenue targets that we’ve set for ourselves and offering the team reports on how we will be able to achieve the numbers. Apart from that, it’s also about managing relationships between the business and our clients; whether it’s beer brands or telco’s, we have to make sure that we’re really delivering and the clients are happy.”
Even with all these responsibilities on his plate, Edward still decided to go for his MBA. His reasons were twofold: leadership and growth. “I’ve always been interested in leadership and I wanted something that was going to help me grow in my career. I wanted to move into the C-suite level and most of the places I’ve been interested in require you to have an MBA or at least a Master’s degree. I thought it was the right time for me to go and do that.”
His search for the right MBA, however, took some time: “I finished my undergrad in 2010 and in these 9 years, it was a struggle to find a school or an MBA programme that was different… until I found ALUSB. I chose ALUSB because it’s a different type of degree or rather, a different type of MBA; from what you’re being taught to how it all weaves together in everyday business operations or leadership and management.
The first thing that really stood out to me was the focus on leadership and building future African leaders. The other thing that stood out to me was the fact that it’s a pan-African MBA. ALUSB gives you the chance to learn and experience other pan-African leaders, expand your network and increase your opportunities.”
How does Edward juggle his roles as father, Managing Director and MBA student? Read on to discover his day-to-day and how he approaches work-life balance!
1. Maintain a routine
This new addition in his life required a little adjusting. To keep everything structured, Edward maintains a strict routine: “Every morning for me starts with trying to get to the office at 6.30 or 7 AM. I start the day by reading the bible, listening to music and I meditate for about half an hour. And that is followed up by me catching up on my studies up until 9 AM. At 9, I start working and checking my emails. By 11 I have a weekly status meeting. The commonality here is that up until 9, it’s routine.”
This routine continues throughout the week. It’s at the beginning of the weekend that Edward gets to change it up a bit: “What my Saturdays look like, all depends on the workload; sometimes I come into work or catch up on assignments. And on lighter days, I spend time with the kids, take them out for dinner, swimming or something else. Sunday is church day. After church, I go back home and I spoil the family.”
2. Handle your challenges
“I’ve always been an optimistic person and I’m very solution-centric. I’m always keen to find a solution to a roadblock and maintain a positive attitude. So whenever there’s a roadblock, I always believe that that is where solutions are supposed to come out of. Being able to do that really helps me to focus on the issue at hand and think about how to move forward.”
3. Find your motivation
“There is more that needs to be done and that keeps me going.”
“Two particular things motivate me to keep going. One is my ambition. Seeing where I come from and where I am today… It is a journey that I’m really proud of. So I keep increasing the bandwidth because I know that I’m not there yet. There is more that needs to be done and that keeps me going.
Apart from that, my daughters really inspire me. Even though they’re small, they seem to be very wise. After a long day, they are really able to lift my spirits and make me feel motivated and really give me the energy I need for the next day.”
4. Make sacrifices
Work-life balance simply means being able to regulate the amount of time and energy that you spend on your work, yourself and things that are personal to you. How do you split your time between your work, school, your health, and your family and friends, while also doing things that are good for you? For me, I always make it a point to not work during the weekend and I make an effort to go home early and not stay up late.
It is a challenge, it is hard and it’s quite a lot of work and a lot of effort to try to maintain that. In my case; I’m doing an MBA, I have work, I have a life and this means that the life part has to suffer a little bit for a time for me to be able to complete this. But whenever time permits, I compensate for the times that I wasn’t able to be there.
We had the privilege to have a chat with Christopher Williams, African Leadership University President, as he shared his insights on the future of business on the continent, African leadership and the difference between managers and leaders.
On the future of Africa: All the elements are there.
“All the elements are there. A young population, a growing middle class, a strong interest in development after long periods of economic challenge. It also satisfies a bigger need that the global community has, like I said, to reach new markets. So I think the two coming together promises a lot for Africa.
(…) we now have to be aware that this is an opportunity and this is a moment and this is a window we have to take advantage of. I’m very excited about the role of a school like ALU because it plays exactly in that sweet spot of the expectations, the opportunities, and the demand for Africa’s role in a growing world. So it’s all about the question of how fast we can prepare and how we will embrace technology as part of the solution.”
“… this is an opportunity and this is a moment and this is a window we have to take advantage of.”
On his leadership heroes
“(…) But if we bring things closer to home, as we look day by day at people we can relate to more directly, I think the school and the students and faculty should draw inspiration from Fred himself. What Fred has decided to do is not easy. I don’t think too many people growing up aspire… Well, they might aspire to do different things. I think they might aspire to even create companies but not many people aspire to found universities. That is a very complex endeavour and so he chose the difficult one of at least those two choices. And the fact that the faculty and the staff and the students, so early in the life of this institution, have come along on this journey shows that everyone has a little bit more focus and comfort doing something extraordinary.”
“… they should be able to look at the environment and look at their companies and look at their countries and look at the world and say: ‘what next?’ or ‘what if?’.”
On the difference between leaders and managers.
“Managers live in a functional space and they can manage operationally what needs to be done. Leaders think about a potential or vision or future that doesn’t exist today and they capture it as eloquently as they can and then they make people get excited about it and go after it. So they should be visionaries, they should be able to look at the environment and look at their companies and look at their countries and look at the world and say: ‘what next?’ or ‘what if?’.”
Watch Christopher’s video below: