WADING THROUGH: As young children, we all have this fantasy of growing up, finishing school and getting the jobs or careers of our dreams. The truth is there are so many odds and challenges pitted against us in the pursuit of our careers that this fantasy rarely comes true. But when it does, it is truly magical as some of these people found out, writes Carolyne B. Atangaza.
Julianna Kayaga Sseremba
Julianna Kayaga Sseremba is the chief human resource officer at Engineering Solutions. She describes herself as a wife, friend, sister, and leader who is passionate about youth, leadership development, learning and poverty eradication.
“I believe my purpose is to inspire and empower youth to drive socio-economic transformation in their lives and that of their communities,” she shares. Kayaga, who is also a co-founder of Strategic Engagement (a management consulting firm), Forte Concrete Limited (a construction services company) and Enhance (a company focusing on continued development of people) notes that it has taken nonstop learning to equip herself.
“I have been training for almost a decade, having started with Barclays Bank while still a second year student at university. Now I am an internationally certified coach under the International Coach Federation,” Kayaga reveals.
She, however, says the most important things she has learned so far have been passing through informal channels of learning such as mentors and coaches.
Working closely with people, Kayaga says she faces a challenge where colleagues expect her to compromise either on quality or ethics.
“I have learnt that to develop authenticity, you have to make tough calls. Many people have told me to slow down and I have learnt to keep my eyes on the ball,” she reveals.
For one to succeed, Kayaga advises that they must learn to persevere through tough times and challenges people to keep searching for knowledge: “I have learnt that I do not have to know everything I need to excel in my tasks, I need to just know where to find the information.” She encourages people to start investing in their career advancement through learning. “It may seem wasteful spending painful amounts of money on education but it has given me a competitive advantage,” Kayaga reveals.
Youth attitude towards work
“I have never seen a generation so passionate about learning, excellence and the desire to make significant strides and have impact. Many of the youth do not have a lot of on job experience. However, they are willing to put in the work to quickly learn and give great output if led with inspiration and opportunities to learn,” she says. Among the things she has achieved is being appointed to serve on the governing council of Human Resource Manager’s Association of Uganda (HRMAU) 2016 – 2018 and being appointed to serve on the board of Nama Wellness Community Centre.
Sheilah Kemigyisha is an HR consultant, a career coach and social activist. For almost a decade, Kemigisha has worked in the human resources management field, for companies such as Alcatel-Lucen and is currently the human resource manager of Uganda Network of Young people living with HIV/Aids (UNYPA). She is an accredited human Resource practitioner with the Academy of Certified Human Resource Professionals in East Africa. Although her first degree was in Commerce, having realised that she is a people person, Kemigyisha pursued a diploma in Human Resource Management from Uganda Management Institute and also has a certificate in project planning and management. With time, her interests have diversified into mentoring others as a motivational speaker and social activist. She possesses an innate wisdom that makes her self-confident and street smart; she has the ability to assess what people need and figure out a way of providing it. For instance, in addition to her HR duties, Kemigyisha works as a consultant for individuals and companies looking for employees, helps write resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and helps job seekers prepare for job interviews.
Kemigyisha believes nothing good ever comes out of taking shortcuts, so she has led her life doing the right thing even if there was a tempting shorter way to do it.
“Taking time to do things the right way does not only help the person master whatever they are doing but also gives satisfaction,” she relates.
As an HR practitioner, she urges parents to help their children discover their abilities early enough and offer them the necessary moral and financial support: “There are many geniuses being forced to perform below their expectations because society is impatient with people who are different. Very few families are prepared to see their children spend years developing an app or chasing a dream that does not translate into tangible cash.”
She urges employees not to take up jobs just because it is what they studied at university.
Damon Wamara is the country director of Dwelling Places, a non-government organisation dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of street children in Uganda. Wamara says his passion has always been mentoring people.
“I have always tried to live a life that is worth emulating, and this inspired me to study Development Studies at university,” he shares. Wamara’s aim is to add value to every community he finds himself in and to achieve this, he surrounds himself with the right people, adding that the key to success is passion and confidence.
He has narrowed his passion to working with children and young people. “Seeing a rehabilited child gives you a fulfillment that nothing else can. I love working with children and young people, because they are easier to impart and impact. The extra benefit is that in most cases mature people are influenced by the young ones.”
In his long and winding career as a manager, communication expert and strategist, Wamara has learned that there are some skills that cannot be taught in formal settings. Skills such as advocacy and lobbying, he notes, come from passion and are developed over time through practice.
“I never thought I would ever find myself sitting with ministers and government officials trying to push them to formulate policies that make our nation better. The most exciting part of my career was being part of the amendment of the children’s Act and the implementation of the anti-trafficking law,” he reveals excitedly.
Wamara is grateful for having been exposed to big budgets and high level management which have been vital in shaping him as a manager and have humbled him as an individual.
One of the biggest challenges of his career has been inadequate resources to meet the needs in the community. He also reveals that as a manager he has lost many good people he has mentored: “The only upside is knowing that you have added value and growth to that person’s life and changed them for the better.”
Youth and employment
“Our education system does not prepare us well enough for employment. I was fortunate to go to Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi, which pushes students to find their passion and turn it into a profitable venture. We were also taught critical thinking and ethics which enable us develop a holistic view on life. Our young people consider vocational jobs as a failure yet that is where the money is. If I could do my life over, I would learn a vocational skill. I know people who earn more than most high level managers doing blue collar jobs. Our biggest problem as youth is that we need money immediately, which makes us vulnerable to corruption.”
Frank Godfrey Odyek
Frank Godfrey Odyek is the Head of Retail Development at Total Uganda Ltd; a job he has done for the past close to three years. Prior to this, he successfully served in various positions within the company where he gained valuable knowledge undergoing great trainings, experiences and has been greatly exposed.
Odyek, who has worked with the same company for close to 10 years, is confident that he is great at what he does but humbly notes that there is always room for improvement.
“They say experience breeds improvement and, at some point, you are good at what you do maybe even the best but nobody ever stops learning new skills or approaches to doing things. We live in a continuously innovative environment where we must keep improving ourselves,” he urges.
The Bachelor of Commerce graduate and chartered marketer says he has over the years been privileged to attend several trainings both local and foreign.
“I have more than 15 years of employment experience; from hotel, pharmaceutical, business, sales and marketing, negotiations, business development, oil and gas, among others. All these have given me vast knowledge and skills to do what I do,” he shares.
Odyek describes himself as an average guy trying to become better in both work and family life.
“I will never be perfect, but it does not mean I should not try. We have all made mistakes throughout our lives that have not exactly put us in the best light but those situations help us grow. Make the most of yourself,” Odyek advises.
He urges youth to always learn from their mistakes. “Put God first in all you do, without God we are all just nothing, build valuable meaningful relationships that will steer you to greater heights, listen to others, be respectful and kind,” he says.
Youth and employment
According to Odyek, work is not only an avenue through which we can make ourselves better but contribute to our national growth and development. We are also able to exploit and develop our talents and abilities in many ways.
“Youth should embrace entrepreneurship and practical skills. The opportunities in office jobs are limited while the number of graduates increases every year,” he says.
Hosea Nkonjo is the commercial performance manager at Total Uganda. He is deeply introspective, articulate and blessed with brilliance he works so hard to keep hidden from a casual observer. Nkojo talks about his contribution to helping the organisation achieve its strategy ambitions in sales with excitement and humility. His aim is to make what he does sound like an ordinary sales role. He credits his day-to-day successes to a combination of many experiences he has encountered in his nine-year employment journey.
“My first job was bliss. At Shs300,000 a month, I was so motivated to learn and apply myself because much of what I did was what I had studied in school. An interesting twist during the blissful first role was when I was transferred and it resulted into a career move that made me realise how inflexible I was. From operations to sales, the idea of working in a sales function was not what I envisioned at the time,” Nkojo relates.
He walked out on his job and luckily, landed another one where as fate would have it, he was laid off, rendering him jobless for about a year. “It was a big blow. No time in this career journey had regret had more meaning,” he relates. Nevertheless, he picked himself up and started looking for jobs, succeeding six months later.
“It was a lesson and since then, flexibility is one key attribute I advise every youth to have.”
Nkojo says this has enabled him work in five different job postings over the last seven years.
“You must commit to learning and unlearning things that no longer serve you. Some people say it is better not to tell people your plans but rather show them.”