How are you doing? I hope you are safe and healthy as you read this post.
Months into the COVID-19 travel restrictions and work-from-home realities that have become the new normal this 2020, we and our organisations have started to adapt and move forward. It hasn’t been easy, but we take each day as it comes, doing the best we can.
One thing that gives me hope is my LinkedIn feed! I’m particularly struck by the number of my connections who have started new jobs in this period. And of course, some of these are members of the ALUSB community!
So I got to thinking: How are people starting new jobs remotely and how are employers onboarding their new hires?
Step up Akshay Vishwanath ‘20, a newly minted MBA, proud Kenyan and rising leader in conservation. In June, Akshay joined Maliasili as Manager, East Africa Portfolio, and kindly agreed to an interview with me to talk about his experience:
Q: OK, so let’s set the stage. You completed your MBA at ALU School of Business in March 2020. You were ready for a new professional challenge. What kind of opportunity were you looking for?
A: I reflected a lot towards the end of the programme, as part of the final MBA Leadership Lab term. I identified three main objectives for my next professional move and for the kind of African leader I wanted to be:
- To play a part in supporting the growth of indigenous conservation organisations.
- To improve the financing of conservation across the continent.
- To play a bigger role in the advocacy and social justice side of conservation.
Maliasili was an excellent fit, given its mission to support the growth of local, entrepreneurial, people-centred conservation organisations in Africa.
Q: You applied to Maliasili just as COVID-19 restrictions started to impact regular business operations. How did this impact your recruitment process?
A: The Maliasili team was already working remotely across the continent and the US. They adapted quickly and were able to remain focused on the growth of the organisation and so the recruitment progressed. My start date was delayed by one month, but this was to ensure that I had a full plate of work when I started.
Q: Tell us about the onboarding experience. You were joining Maliasili’s Kenyan office, but due to COVID-19, starting remotely and working from home.
A: I started with two others. A completely remote, online onboarding was new for the organisation and also for the new hires! Maliasili had to adapt and conduct our onboarding in unprecedented times.
When you change a job and join a new organisation, you normally make a mental shift. Usually, this happens as you move into a new office space and experience a new commute. Sometimes you move home and city! You turn the page and you start a new professional chapter.
This time everything was virtual. My new employer made a great effort for us to initially understand their team culture, dynamics and organisational culture. They made sure we understood the quality and standards that were expected as part of delivery. Doses of humour and fun infused everything. Whereas other organisations usually begin by providing a lot of reading material for you to familiarise yourself with the organisation’s goals, strategy, operations, successes and on-going work, I felt that Maliasili flipped it. They put more focus on team dynamics and organisational culture first.
“My new employer made a great effort for us to initially understand their team culture, dynamics and organisational culture.“
Q: So how has your first month been?
A: I spent my first three weeks in the new job understanding the organisation and team. Maliasili eased me into the job and organisational culture.
Q: So we’ve heard a lot about what Mailiasili did. What about you? What did you do to adapt to this new way of starting a job?
A: A big part of it is to go easy and not put too much pressure on yourself. Take a day at a time. Make a conscious effort to maintain your curiosity and hunger for the new job and all the potential that comes with it.
I was also conscious that my new employer was in unchartered territory too, and that we were experiencing these unprecedented times together.
Q: Any final tips to share about how a new employee can start remotely, successfully?
A: Here’s my advice: It’s about mindset. As the global health crisis continues into the second half of 2020, we are aware that things are not going to be the same. So throw the rule book out of the window and get comfortable with the fact that the world as we know it has changed.
But it’s ok. We adapt. Adjust your expectations and roll with it. Sometimes new chapters in our lives will be super creative and innovative, but things will also go wrong. Be ready for anything.
Don’t compare what is going on now with how things were done in the past or what you’ve experienced before. Experiment and figure things out – everyone has room to make mistakes. Be bolder, feel like you can apply yourself. You are not alone, there are many of us experiencing this across the world. Feel more confident to be your best self, knowing that mistakes are more accepted in these times of adaptation.
And I can’t stress enough; place emphasis on your new organisation’s team dynamics and culture. Spend time getting to know people on a 1-2-1 basis and schedule time to have fun together. When you finally meet in person, I am confident that you will slot right in.
“… throw the rule book out of the window and get comfortable with the fact that the world as we know it has changed.”
Want to read more stories from our ALUSB community? Here are some links to get you started:
Start your application today at http://bit.ly/APPLYO20!
Author: Vani Nadarajah, ALUSB Director of Admissions
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:
Would you rather start your own MBA journey at ALUSB? Start your application today at: http://bit.ly/APPLYO20 !
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!
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.”
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.”
OLATUNDE IMMANUEL ’20 IS A REGIONAL SALES DIRECTOR FOR WEST AFRICA AT IDEMIA, AN AUGMENTED IDENTITY COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN SECURITY AND IDENTITY SOLUTIONS.
We had a chance to have a chat with Olatunde and discuss how he combines his different roles: father, regional sales director, and ALUSB MBA student.
Being the Regional Sales Director for West Africa, a lot of Olatunde’s week is spent traveling between his most established markets: Nigeria and Ghana. “Usually, I’m traveling every two weeks. When traveling, I usually leave Lagos on Wednesday morning and try to be back on Saturday morning. Last week, I was in Accra, where we have a lot of customers in the telecommunications industry like Vodafone, MTN, Airtel and Tigo. I meet with them and try to understand what their needs and strategies are in terms of what volume of sim cards they want quarterly and what other technology solutions they are planning to deploy.”
His schedule is very flexible, even when he’s working from home. But there is one thing that remains a constant: school runs. “We have two boys and a girl and when I’m not traveling, I always pick up the kids from school. When we get home, I sit with them and make sure they do their assignments while I do my office work.”
And after the family has gone to bed and it’s quiet, it’s time for Olatunde to do some ALUSB MBA work. His decision to pursue an MBA was mostly career driven. “I wanted to move up in my career and I thought having an MBA programme would provide me with the right tools to realize this.” And Olatunde was right. When he started his MBA journey at ALUSB, he got promoted from Regional Sales Manager to Senior Director. His new goal? Vice President for the whole of Africa. “For me to be able to reach that goal, it’s important for me to understand the African market. I thought an MBA program would allow me to build contacts across the entire continent, not just in West Africa. That is one of the main reasons that I chose the ALU School of Business, because of its pan-African uniqueness. We have good business schools here in Nigeria but they are kind of localized. And I didn’t want to do an MBA in Europe, for example, because the core of my job is in Africa, so I wanted an MBA that I could utilize in the future as I develop myself further on the continent.”
“It’s easier to go on a journey with a group of people than to work alone.”
When asked about the highlight of his ALUSB MBA journey so far, Olatunde is quick to bring up his classmates. “ I have phenomenal classmates. It’s easier to go on a journey with a group of people than to work alone. My job requires a lot of traveling so having awesome classmates that check up on me and let me know when an assignment is due is very nice. We understand one another and encourage each other. That’s the way we roll!” Even though Olatunde receives a lot of motivation from his classmates, he’s mostly self-motivated.
On doing business in Africa: I have traveled across Africa and I have noticed a few things. One of the things that I think is an issue on the African continent is knowledge of the market sector. I work in the telecommunications and banking sectors, that’s why I wake up to read the news first thing in the morning. I understand my sector and government policies surrounding it, do research and subscribe to journals that I read daily. It would save your life!
Secondly, I think that the networks are also key. The deals I have been able to achieve, are a result of knowing people. Our customers need to know that you’re valuable enough for them to be able to trust you.
Thirdly, when you do business in Africa; give your word, own the promise, deliver and overdeliver.”