“I’m a person who does not conform; I don’t follow rules, I recreate them.”
Three years ago, Yves Iradukunda ’19 started at MASS Design Group in Kigali, Rwanda as the East-African operations manager. Now, he’s the senior director of operations and mainly works on bringing in new talent, kickstarting new projects and managing relationships with MASS’s different partners.
With responsibilities that are constantly evolving and expanding, Yves still managed to complete his MBA journey at ALUSB without jeopardising his responsibilities at work.
We talked to Yves about his time at ALUSB and the 4 elements that determined his academic and professional success throughout the MBA programme.
1. Knowing your “why”
Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or an established leader, identifying the meaning behind your decisions is essential for a purpose-driven and significant journey.
Yves’ reasoning for pursuing an MBA was twofold. Not only did he want to take advantage of the general management training that a Business School provides, but he specifically wanted to expand his knowledge on entrepreneurship and leadership.
“Ideally an MBA was going to allow me to understand my previous experiences through different lenses. I really wanted to know what it meant to inspire; not just the people that I work with, but also the broader society, through the work that we do.”
Knowing his “why” and identifying his goals kept Yves focused and intentional during the ALUSB programme.
2. Choosing the right fit
Even though it is an essential building block, knowing your “why” is not the only thing that will keep you motivated. It is equally important to find an institution that suits you academically and personally. Yves found his match in the Pan-African centred programme at ALUSB.
“There are so many untapped opportunities on the continent and ALUSB’s focus on the African context made the school really attractive and unique. I am now able to tap into a vast network of professionals that are operating in different markets and expand my understanding beyond my own experience. If you’re really interested in increasing your knowledge and expertise on the continent, this MBA is the right programme for you.”
3. Being intentional
In the course of the last 15 months, Yves’ responsibilities at MASS Design Group have both changed and increased in terms of expectations. But despite the added pressure, Yves found a way to stay on top of his schoolwork.
“You have to be very intentional. There have been many weeks where it was a struggle to dedicate the needed time to my course material, but that means that the weekends are for catching up. So if the week has been hectic, be intentional in the weekend and really make time to study.”
4. Having a strong support system.
Having a support system is imperative when embarking on any journey, especially a challenging one like this. Yves was lucky to have many morale boosters around him.
“My wife and newly born daughter are really the main sources for my motivation; it’s rewarding knowing that they have my back. That aspect of family support is very important.”
Yves colleagues at MASS Design Group were also a source of motivation during his MBA journey: “Seeing the impact of the work that we do, is very inspiring. My colleagues are dedicated, passionate and never compromise on quality. A work environment like that is encouraging and motivates me to contribute to them as they contribute to me.”
Finally, Yves states that his MBA journey would have been impossible without his classmates. “Even though the ALUSB MBA is a remote programme, we remained connected throughout the year, not just at the intensives. We WhatsApp on a daily basis, call each other, offer support in difficult times and celebrate the exciting ones. Without those people, what you’re learning loses meaning.”
And even though Yves graduation from ALUSB is quickly approaching, he’s not planning to stop learning anytime soon.
“I think learning itself is a lifelong journey. The MBA programme opened my eyes and kickstarted a lifelong learning journey. It helped me realise how much more opportunities are across the continent. So the upcoming graduation is not a final destination, it’s the start of a new journey of learning and collaborating with other people.”
Patience Mapeza ’19 is a Senior Retail Banking Manager for NMB Bank in Zimbabwe. She joined NMB in 2002 a few years after the former merchant bank registered as a commercial bank. She has risen steadily through the ranks ever since. Patience now manages over 14 bank branches across the country, working hard to drive a more financially inclusive society. This week we followed Patience for a week and observed her as a senior professional, guardian and team leader.
Patience’s Monday begins early. She wakes up at 4:00am to catch up with her MBA assignments. As legal guardian to her nieces, aged 17 and 19 years respectively, she then checks in on the girls to make sure that they are ready for school, then drops them off and then heads to work.
Patience usually arrives at work by 8:00am, where she will first respond to emails that are pending from the weekend. She checks in on the status of her 14 branches, ensuring that any issues are addressed immediately. Patience closely monitors how each branch is operating, ensuring that customer satisfaction levels are optimised and that her branches are staying ahead of their competitors in offering financially inclusive customer solutions. If issues occur that require her presence in a branch, Patience will leave her office and head out to that branch.
Other priorities in Patience’s weekly schedule comprise business development meetings with her Executive Directors. “People know I have an opinion, but I have to work extra hard as one of the few women in senior positions at the bank, to ensure that no balls are dropped”.
On weekends, Patience catches up with her friends and family. She is blessed with an amazing network of professional women, peers with whom she can share, who advise and encourage each other with a view to promoting more women in leadership across their respective industries.
Golf is also a favourite past time, and Patience will play a round with friends when she can find the time.
After church on Sundays, Patience hosts her family for a meal. “My family has been so supportive. They always motivate me to work and give me the space I need to work on my MBA assignments. I send the girls to my parents over the weekend, freeing up time for study”.
A perfect week for Patience is when she is able to accomplish her set objectives at work and satisfy her customers. The ALUSB Intensive weeks have always been a highlight of her MBA journey. “ALUSB brings together diverse, amazing professionals from across the continent. We share, engage and network. And I am ever impressed by the high quality of our guest lecturers.”
On Motivation: Patience believes in the power of prayer. She adds, “My home is my sanctuary. I reflect on how I can grow as a guardian, leader, and business woman. My country, Zimbabwe, has gone through a series of challenges. It can depress you, so I always try to stay positive, because I do not know what tomorrow may hold”.
On Roadblocks: ‘I am an empowered woman. I try to identify opportunities in spite of the challenges faced by women. Zimbabwe is a patriarchal society where a woman with an opinion is not always well received, especially if unmarried”. Patience embraces her values, virtues, and vision as a woman, striving to look out for fellow women. “It sometimes makes people uncomfortable, but I feel that if life brings challenges to our doorstep, it is up to us to turn them into opportunities”, she adds.
On Teamwork at ALUSB: Throughout her MBA, Patience has realised that working as part of a team and listening to her team mates makes things easier. “My ability to go through this programme is in part due to my supportive teammates. I was not sure that I would be able to keep up with the pressure, but with time, I have come to embrace it.
“The ALUSB MBA is doable, possible and I have embraced the ALU term #DOHARDTHINGS! I doubt that there is anything the programme can throw me that I won’t be able to handle.”
Patience has a message for people considering the ALUSB MBA: “This is the perfect opportunity for you to be a changemaker. ALUSB has given me the opportunity to see what I was not able to envision before”.
Patience looks ahead to life after graduation as a significant time of application, when the MBA Class of 2019 puts all the skills and knowledge that they’ve acquired along this 20-month journey, into practice. She also looks forward to creating suitable banking products in Africa to ensure that Africa is banked differently and banked better. ‘I now see normal tasks as opportunities.” she concludes.
Njideka Nwabueze ’20 is a Proposition Manager at Diamond Bank Plc, Nigeria. She leads BETA proposition, a digital savings strategy to increase financial inclusion for low income un-banked and underbanked market entrepreneurs – especially women.
Njideka’s weekly rhythm involves managing 1,200 mobile field agents across over 270 Diamond Bank branches in Nigeria. These field agents go out into streets and markets with the objective of “banking-the-unbanked”, an endeavour that necessitates non-traditional strategy and implementation. The scope of Njideka’s work role stretches from consumer research, strategic planning and implementation, to marketing, sales, and financial capacity building, especially for women.
In her words, “we have a proposition, BETA savings, financial services that are deployed via mobile devices and agents to the financially excluded, with a view to accelerating financial inclusion in Nigeria. I am currently prioritising agent training, that they may engage customers, understand and align their personal preferences with the right product offering and therefore provide a stronger value proposition to our customers.”
In a snapshot, one can attest that the one thing which stays consistent in Njideka’s work-week is the clause, “find out what is best for customers.” Evidently, she emphasises that customer evaluation is at the heart of what her team does. Market research and customer evaluations make room for new product propositions and existing product iterations, the nexus of Njideka’s role at Diamond Bank.
Njideka’s day-to-day focus includes streamlining data from customers, the sales team, market research and competitive intelligence, to build and pitch new business cases to the Executive Committee. The proposals are crafted with detailed attention and Njideka must liaise with stakeholders across the finance, IT, operations, legal, project management and risk management divisions to ensure that all the necessary boxes are checked.
[On roadblocks], Njideka says, “the first thing I do is stay positive.” She recognises that there is always an opportunity in every roadblock she faces. She believes one can learn from impeding situations. From her experience, she attests, “Every time I overcome an obstacle, it prepares me to handle future challenges.”
In addition, Njideka says, “when you encounter roadblocks, it is time to engage more – talk to more people, find out people who have faced the same kind of problem, and in some regards, try negotiation assuming another party is involved.”
[On motivation], Njideka is a rare gem. She is married with four sons, and currently nursing a 9-month old son while studying her ALUSB MBA. At this point in life, navigating work-school-family, the word “motivation” is synonymous to “passion-driven goal-setting” for Njideka. She had set a goal to have an MBA by the year 2020, and despite still nursing her last child, she enrolled in the ALUSB MBA programme, with the conviction that it was the right place to be. Six months and two intensives later, Njideka says “I really appreciate Leadership Lab at ALUSB. It has reinforced the importance of goal-setting, reflection, and evaluation.”
An out-going extrovert, Njideka has gotten a lot more motivation by adapting her natural instincts and limiting time spent on social media and hangouts. She strives to keep managing her time more effectively throughout the MBA programme, and she adds that by listening to good music, she stays refreshed and uplifted.
[A perfect week] to Njideka is three-dimensional. Family-wise, it is a week where she is able to make her children happy, put smiles on their faces, and see them excel in school.
My perfect school-week is definitely the Intensive week. The excitement from catching up with classmates, guest faculty, and ALUSB staff is fantastic.
At work, Njideka’s perfect week is one where her weekly sales targets are met, and when a product she has worked on for so long is finally approved and launched, with the extra spice of a press release announcing that the product is live in the market.
In conclusion, as we countdown in weeks to the final MBA Application deadline on 14 January, 2019, Njideka has a message to those considering the ALUSB MBA programme as well as those currently applying but are yet to submit.
She says, “Go for it! I have interacted with colleagues who have done their MBA programmes in various institutions, and I have come to conclude that ALUSB is totally different. ALUSB’s leadership programme is one of the best in the world. You gain real insights into who you are as a person, and you experience a transformation which significantly improves your professional and personal relationships.”
ALUSB trains you to be an authentic leader. Here, you learn, unlearn and relearn. Expect an awesome journey through it all.
Join us today!
Leadership Development is at the core of the ALUSB MBA programme. We adopt a unique V^3 leadership model which trains leaders at the nexus of Virtue, Vision, and Value. To do this, we consolidate premium content, experiential learning, self-reflection exercises, and on-the-job practice for a holistic leadership course.
If a picture speaks a thousand words, then the video below will speak thousands more. Featuring Ryan Findley, the architect of the V^3 leadership model, and Tolulope Owokade, MBA Class of 2019 student, the video interview sheds light on the set-up, delivery, and impact of leadership training at ALUSB. Find its highlights below:
[Ryan] What was your vision for Leadership Lab?
We wanted to have an MBA that really encompassed leadership, and that leadership would underpin all the other things students are learning. When we reimagined the model and put leadership at the core, that became our specialization and with that, we are able to bring in guest speakers, readings and a leadership model that supports the leadership direction of ALUSB.
If you ask our students, what really gets hammered home in two years, is really who they are as leaders, and how they grow as leaders throughout not just the programme but the rest of their lives.
[Ryan] What sets ALUSB Leadership development apart from programmes at other business schools?
It cuts across the whole programme. It’s not something you do just as an elective. Due to our blended learning programme, you’re not just doing deep team building exercises that you can walk away from, rather you are actually getting engaged day to day, week to week in your work context, family context, community context, because we want you to be applying the things you are learning to whatever is going on, on a random Monday or Thursday afternoon.
[Tolu] How has ALUSB’s Leadership Lab impacted you so far in your MBA journey?
You come into ALUSB and build a really solid foundation for the type of leader you want to be. From my personal experience, there was first, a recognition of who I am today, what I want to be in a few years and where I am trying to get to over the long period of time.
I was pushed to move from a place of just being a visionary leader to being one that delivers value.
I had always wanted to do something for the causes I am interested in: gender, particularly as regards women in the STEM industry. I decided to run a project – 30 for 30 – bringing together different stakeholders to raise money to have 30 girls attend a STEM camp for two weeks. By running that programme, I became a visionary leader who delivers value, and that is the biggest takeaway I have had from Leadership Lab.
[Tolu] Which African leaders have best resonated with you, of all those you’ve studied in Leadership Lab?
Dr. Deko Mohammed, because she redefined the term, courage to me, in a very personal way. Beyond being courageous in all she does in her country and for the rest of the world, Dr. Deko is visionary and brings real value in a way that is sustainable to her people.
I am drawn to technology, innovation, and ingenuity, and Ibrahim Abouleish epitomized all these on a level I have never seen. You find people who are technically sound and people who possess great virtue. When you see both in one person, you have to recognize it and that is what Ibrahim Abouleish had.
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.”