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
The ALUSB MBA is a blended, part-time programme. This means that the MBA is part in person (in Kigali, Rwanda) and part online, where students engage in interactive, online learning while remaining at work in their home countries. This part-time MBA learning structure requires students to dedicate approximately 20 hours per week to their studies during their online periods. And as the world was forced to move online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our students became full-blown online learning experts! Although learning from home has become more common, distance learning is still a unique concept for most MBA students.
As we prepare for our second online ALUSB MBA intensive, we reached out to some of our ALUSB MBAs to put together a list of tips to make the most out of your online learning experience.
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.”
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.”