15 months into her MBA journey at ALUSB, Lilian Kuria ‘20 has made tremendous career moves, gained a family in her MBA classmates and broadened her perspective on doing business in Africa! Read on to learn more about her MBA experience, how she leveraged her ALUSB network and became the Country Manager at Chancen International and her thoughts about the future post-COVID-19.
Pursuing an MBA at ALUSB
Lillian’s motivation to pursue an MBA at ALUSB was twofold. Firstly, she wanted to strengthen her skills in areas she felt she lacked as she moved up to more leadership roles. Secondly, she sought an environment where she could interact and learn from a network of people motivated to make a difference on the continent.
Lilian was also intrigued by the pan-African focus throughout the ALUSB MBA programme. “It’s not just an MBA programme that equips you with business skills – the skills are also steeped in the African context. This knowledge is essential for anyone who wants to have a successful career in Africa.”
What stands out as a highlight during her MBA journey so far? The power of the ALUSB network! “My current role at Chancen International is a product of the ALUSB network.” During her first couple of intensives in Kigali, Lilian got to build a bond with her classmate Batya Blankers, the Co-founder and CEO of Chancen International. Through continuous interaction during the MBA programme, they both realised that Lilian was exactly what the organisation needed! Soon afterwards, she took up the role of Country Manager and relocated from Nairobi to Kigali, an experience she is very enthusiastic about. “This tells a very strong story of what is possible with the kinds of networks you end up building at ALUSB.”
Her transition to working in Rwanda wasn’t a smooth journey, as she had many different responsibilities and activities she needed to accommodate. But she credits her success during this period to the support received from the ALUSB community which allowed her to thrive through the transition. “Being able to rely on my classmates, the ALUSB faculty and administration made everything a lot easier.”
Additionally, credits the diversity in the ALSUB MBA community for broadening her perspective. “I have learned new skills and gained a lot of knowledge from the different fields, cultures and perspectives that are represented in the MBA classrooms.” This has given her a better understanding of the different issues on the continent.
“I have been able to build a strong network in a very short time which would not be possible in any other environment.”
On the future post-COVID-19
As someone working in the education sector, the past couple of months have raised some concerns with Lilian. She worries about the ability of new graduates securing a place on the job market since the strain that the pandemic has caused on global economies. Nonetheless, she sees an opportunity amidst this crisis for young people to harness their creativity to create new job opportunities and industries. “This is a time for all of us to use our creativity to find solutions for Africa.”
Lilian concludes with some advice for the people working from home:
- Develop a routine
- Be kind to yourself
- For people in leadership positions: you have a role to play in ensuring people working under you are well informed and taken care of. As a manager, you need to create a support system around the people you work with.
Advice for prospective students
“If you have a dream to work across different countries in Africa or to be able to influence things on the continent, then ALUSB is the place to be. Beyond the exceptional course content, you’ll also gain a strong community of students, alumni, faculty and other staff members who are motivated to make a difference on the continent.”
Do you feel called upon? Start your application today at: http://bit.ly/APPLYO20 to join #AfricasMBA!
In these times of great uncertainty, you might be wondering how business school admissions processes might have been affected. We sat down with Jacob Dodoo, Associate Director of Admissions and Marketing at ALU School of Business (ALUSB), to update you on any changes that the MBA programme has gone through as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How was ALUSB able to adapt its MBA programme when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out?
“We’re proud of what faculty and staff have been able to accomplish amidst unprecedented uncertainty …”
The ALUSB MBA comprises a blended learning model, which means that we combine interactive, online education with in-class sessions in Kigali, Rwanda, which are week-long experiences that we call “intensives”. Given lockdown restrictions this year, ALUSB decided to continue running its online components uninterrupted and review the timing and delivery of in-person sessions. We’re proud of what faculty and staff have been able to accomplish amidst unprecedented uncertainty and the feedback from students has been really positive.
As countries locked down across the continent and travel restrictions were put into place, we took the decision to postpone the matriculation date for the March 2020 MBA entrants to October 2020. As they prepare to start their programme in October, our incoming students will commence their learning with a brand new MBA prep programme, launching in July 2020.
In what way has COVID-19 affected the overall MBA programme?
The ALUSB MBA is a pan-African programme, drawing students from across the continent. As long as the global health risk remains high, we will seek to leverage our online capability and conduct as much learning as possible online. To make sure that the students can still benefit from the networking advantages of this pan-African MBA, we’ve incorporated more student activities to the intensive schedules as possible, to accommodate cohort bonding while providing additional networking opportunities with other MBAs from Africa and around the world!
How is the ALUSB Admissions team assisting students through their MBA application in the midst of the pandemic?
The admissions process for applicants to our MBA programme remains the same. The entire application process is online and one good thing about working from home is that potential applicants have some additional time to work on their MBA applications.
“… offering hands-on service and guidance to all applicants is the number one priority for the ALUSB Admissions team.”
As always, offering hands-on service and guidance to all applicants is the number one priority for the ALUSB Admissions team. We can be reached via email, WhatsApp, and phone. We also offer various online webinars on Zoom, in order to assist applicants in submitting stellar applications, while ensuring that their questions are answered. The ALUSB MBA “Virtual Application Clinic” is a Zoom webinar where the Admissions team presents applicants with a detailed overview of the ALUSB Admissions process. Similarly, the “How to Fund your ALUSB MBA” webinar is designed to share details on the funding options we offer, as well as to help applicants think constructively about how to fund their MBA. Don’t miss our next ‘How to Fund your ALUSB MBA’ webinar, which is coming up on Wednesday, 17 June!
If travel restrictions are still in place before the new MBA class matriculates, will the start of the programme be delayed?
ALUSB is investigating the possibility of running an online matriculation and intensive in October if travel restrictions persist. If this is approved, then there will be no delay to the start of the October 2020 MBA programme.
What could be the potential setbacks and constraints as a result of the current situation for students who want to apply for ALUSB MBA scholarships?
There will be no constraints for anyone that wants to apply for any of the ALUSB MBA scholarships. In fact, we have introduced new scholarships to diversify the perspectives in our MBA classrooms. I urge applicants to check them out in the financing section of our website.
Do you have any work from home tips for current students?
The whole ALUSB team is also working from home at the moment! A few tips that have helped me in transitioning to remote work are:
- Having a designated workspace or home office in your home.
- Having clearly defined working hours and taking regular, short breaks to stretch, breathe and clear my mind.
- Listening to podcasts on a daily basis.
- Communicate, communicate, over-communicate with your team! Keep aligning on deliverables and be sure to also check in with them regularly to ask how they are doing. It is better to over-communicate than to under-communicate.
What message do you have for anyone that is interested in joining the ALUSB MBA programme?
“At ALU School of Business, we are building a community of change-makers who are leading at the frontiers of pan-African business.”
African Leadership University is transforming education on the continent. At ALU School of Business, we are building a community of change-makers who are leading at the frontiers of pan-African business. Come be a part of our community and be inspired by the amazing work that is being done across Africa to drive this continent forward while transforming yourself as a leader. If this is something that excites you, then this programme is definitely for you!
You heard the man! Start your application today at: https://bit.ly/ApplyNowO20!
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.”
Yet another graduation is at the horizon for The African Leadership University School of Business (ALUSB)! On Saturday, 21st March the third cohort of ALUSB students will be walking the graduation stage at the Kigali Convention Centre in Rwanda as Masters of Business Administration. ALUSB is pleased to announce that the keynote graduation speaker will be none other than Ibukun Awosika, a driving force in business, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy on the continent!
About Ibukun Awosika
When it comes to business, Ibukun Awosika is a known pioneer. She currently serves as the first female Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria Limited. She’s also the Founder and CEO of The Chair Centre Ltd, a market leader in the office furniture and banking security systems industries. Her entrepreneurial ventures have earned her multiple awards, including the prestigious International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) Award as a nominee of the US Department of State.
In addition to her strides in business and entrepreneurship, Ibukun is a continuous advocate for the social, economic and educational advancement of women and youth across the continent. Through her personal projects and alignment with organisations such as The African Leadership Initiative, Women in Business, Management and Public Service (WIMBIZ), Aspen Global Leadership Network, and more, Ibukun strives to empower entrepreneurs to create jobs for the large unemployed youthful population.
“I come from a place where there are opportunities staring you in the eye. But it’s looking for the people who have the heart and the courage to do it and do it right.”
Ibukun is no stranger to the academic space; she’s a Chemistry graduate from University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Nigeria; and an alumna of the Chief Executive Programme of Lagos Business School, the Global Executive MBA of IESE Business School, Barcelona-Spain and Global CEO Programme of Wharton, IESE and China European International Business School (CEIBS).
Having Ibukun as the keynote speaker continues an ALUSB tradition of welcoming a wide range of prominent, African individuals to address its graduating class. Former graduation keynote speakers have included Strive Masiyiwa, renowned businessman and philanthropist, and Donald Kaberuka, Former President of African Development Bank.
The Class of 2020, “Umoja”
The pan-African MBA Class of 2020, Umoja, of which one third is women, represents 15 African countries of residence.
ALUSB will celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of the Class of 2020 Umoja with a week full of events that will culminate with the graduation ceremony. The week’s events will include their final intensive, special guest speakers, and family events!
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.