In our continuing series on ’10 questions for the young manager’, we talk to Nuru Mugambi, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Kenya Bankers Association.
1. What did you study in Campus? Undergraduate and/or postgraduate? Which uni did you attend?
I studied marketing communications with a concentration on public relations (pr) for undergraduate. I later completed an executive MBA. Undergrad was at Kennesaw State and Masters at Georgia State, both in Atlanta.
2. Do you find the relevance of what you studied in your current position?
Completely, especially the MBA….as a communicator in the private sector, you need to have a broad based understanding of various industries. MBA degrees help expose you to this at a high level with a focus on management and strategy.
3. What was your first job and what did it involve?
I started working in December 1995…it was an internship with Africa Online literally weeks after completing form 4…this was the first time that the “world wide web” was being introduced in the country, and I got to learn HTML coding and all about the Internet…it was a fascinating experience.
As an intern you should be prepared to do anything and everything…I developed web pages, I helped with sales and marketing, I got lunch and newspapers for the bosses…all this was part and parcel of the job.
In return a got exposed to a once in a lifetime opportunity…the most exciting was the launch of Africa Online…this was the first professional event I worked on, and I knew it was an area I wanted to be in (ie media relations, pr, event management).
4. How did you rise to be a manager?
I think it’s a number of things….education (Masters degree) and experience certainly helped…but you also have to dig in and work hard…prove yourself to not only others but as well as yourself.
We all have the ability to be great at whatever it is we set out to achieve.
5. What personal traits and characteristics did you have to develop in your career path?
To be in communications and PR you have to have a number of things going for you…flexibility, creativity, hunger for information and to learn, tenacity, passion for the job, perfectionist, curiosity as well….the list goes on…for me most of these are in my DNA (fortunately and sometimes unfortunately!)…
I am not perfect though, a personal trait I am working on that can affect my work is patience. I can be impatient sometimes which isn’t a good thing. But I’m working on it.
6. What do you do to ensure a healthy work-life balance?
To ensure I have a balance I keep reminding myself about what is important, what should I focus on when I’m at work, and what should I focus on when I’m not.
7. What are some of the challenges you have faced in the corporate world?
Challenges are many, it’s all about having the right attitude. Sometimes I get challenged by subject matter…I’m currently working in the banking sector and the content you deal with can get technical, sometimes it’s sensitive with wide-ranging impact so there is pressure to perform to the best of your ability…if not better…to deal with this I do a lot of reading, research and I consult widely.
Other challenges I face are on the work life balance front. I have a young daughter and it can be difficult coming home late, having to travel for a day or so but I try to find that balance every day. If I get home late on Monday, I will try and spend a little extra quality time at home on Tuesday.
8. Any peeves and obsessions?
I have a short fuse for mediocrity. I have a type A personality so I can obsess about getting things right.
9. A word of advice to guys in Campo?
I know it’s not easy being in campus…you’re trying make it or at least get your foot in the door. and I know it’s harder being in university here in Kenya because of the high rate of unemployment. I was fortunate to have a work permit while in school in Atlanta which allowed me to get professional experience much sooner than others. but remember I started my career here in Kenya, as an intern for a “no name” ISP which was only paying me enough for bus fare and lunch. if I stayed in Kenya I probably would be much farther than I am now.
So my advise is get in where you can fit in…even if the pay is low or if you are not paid at all (but will get that professional experience that will set you apart.)
I think looking for professional experience after campus is 4 years too late.
10. Craziest or best decision you have made in campus or after campus?
wow…best decision I made was when i got pregnant one month after enrolling in MBA school…and i decided to keep going…it was a crazy thing to do because i was about to be promoted to manager, and the MBA program was an executive course, very intense and for two years…which meant the first year I would be on management track and pregnant, and the second year (if i was promoted) I would be a new manager and a young mother nursing a child while getting a degree.
i thank God that he led me to the right decision…and He blessed me with amazing support from my sisters, my mother,and good friends at home, work and on campus…
It all worked out, I got the promotion to manager when I was about 6 months pregnant, I delivered my baby one semester before completing the program, and my three month old accompanied me to pick up my MBA certificate.
it is the same MBA degree that made Barclays in the UK refer me to their Dubai office and then Barclays Kenya. They offered me a job, and enabled me to come back home. I later moved from Barclays to work for the Kenya Bankers Association.
I guess my experience shows that well calculated “crazy” decisions can be the best you ever make. Good luck with yours!
Nuru on Twitter @nurumugambi