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From intern to manager in under one year: How Psychology student did it

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Elizabeth Karuru

Elizabeth Karuru

We bring you a very interesting story about someone who was connected to a three month internship through Duma Works and who then found herself in a management role just a few months later.

This extraordinary person is Elizabeth Karuru and she is the Artist Relations and Communications Manager in charge of Uganda and South Africa for Mdundo.com

Mdundo.com is an online music distribution platform aiming at making music distribution easy, transparent, and beneficial for both musicians and fans. They are one of the startups in Kenya funded and based out of the Startup Garage on Ngong Rd.

Founded in 2012, Mdundo got its start with 10 Kenyan musicians; Nazizi, Collo, P-Unit, Jua Cali, Mejja, Alpha Msanii, Juliani, Mbuvi, Alice Kamande and Octopizzo. Only 1 month later, in December, Mdundo launched the service officially after establishing its first corporate partnership with Airtel Kenya.

Let’s hear what Liz has to say about her career journey and how she had WHAT IT TAKES to go from intern to manager in such a short period of time.

Main take-aways:

  • As an intern, you need to be ready to do whatever work is given to you – and to be able to approach the challenge with a smile.
  • In a startup environment, the best approach to take with your project is to test-validate-reflect-renovate…and test again. The worst thing to do is run out of ideas
  • Being honest in your interview is so important – you don’t need to use big words and try to be impressive. Just explain what you like and why you will add value to the company.
  • Working at a company with similar personality types does help. Even when you are being interviewed, you can probably begin to understand what the company “personality” and culture are like
  • If you want to become a manager, you need to prove that you will be able to take responsibility for coordinating an entire project and being accountable
  • “If you are ready to work, everything else falls into place”

So Liz, tell me about your career path so far.

I don’t have a very long story. This is my first permanent job. It was heading towards June – and I had a long holiday.This job came about as an internship. I started for 3 months without a promise for a permanent job, but I needed something to keep me busy so that was ok.

Then, when the internship was over, to my surprise I wound up being given a permanent job on permanent contract.In terms of different experiences at Mdundo – I was in the communications team to start. Now, I am the artist relations and communications manager in charge of Uganda and South Africa.

What did you study?

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I studied Psychology in school and got a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology.

Did you have any other internship before this one?

I did front office work a way long time ago in 2012.

What were you expecting to go into when doing your course?

From a long time ago, I knew that as much as I was doing psychology, I wasn’t doing it to practice as a psychologist.

I loved what I learned but I wasn’t inclined to be a doctor. So I knew I was studying psychology for a business purpose that would be a stepping stone for a business post-graduate. I did it because it was different too – not many people were studying psychology. I thought that would give me an advantage in business as well.

How did you connect to internship at Mdundo?

When I was still in session in Feb 2014 in school, I just went to the career fair and found the Duma Works tent. Someone told us to sign up. We weren’t sure why this site was different from other job boards, but we figured we would try it – the person told us Duma Works looks at interests of job seekers and matches them to the employer. So I just signed up and forgot about it.

Then, in June, I got a text message from Duma Works that Mdundo.com is looking for an intern for 3 months and that I should reply with this code.

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So at that point, I wasn’t really looking for a job because I was on holiday but like I said, I figured I would see how it goes. I followed up, sent the code back over SMS. Then, I was told I qualified the following day and that I should expect a call from the COO of Mdundo.

I went into the interview, which went well, and I was one of 10 people who were picked.

Photo credit: Mdundo Facebook Page

Photo credit: Mdundo Facebook Page

What did you do right in interview that set you aside?

I think the thing which gave me marks was my honesty. I was not trying hard to impress. Actually, I came for the interview at 5pm. The day was already over. I was just honest. I didn’t overthink the questions or try to come up with an impressive answer. I didn’t make him think I was trying hard to impress him.

The whole time I talked about my opinions and interests and how it would add to the company.

I knew that DUMA has matched me and because DUMA matches people based on their interests. I figured I would just stay true to what I know, and went from there. Honesty and openness made the conversation good. Even when I was talking to the COO, I didn’t feel the need to over talk or over compensate. I just went all out, told him about what I do, what I’ve learned, and how I would feel about working in that position and that went well.

Why do you think you were successful intern?

I was ready to work no matter what and I came with a very open mind. I didn’t have a certain perspective – a bias. I didn’t have anything in my mind that would prevent me from working. I figured I could do anything as long as I set my mind to it.

I would just do whatever I’m told because it would make me an easier employee to work with since management knew they could depend on me to do anything.

Also because Mdundo is made up of people who are outgoing, loud, and easy going. That helped because that’s basically my personality – I’m easy going, I laugh a lot, I’m open and I tell a lot of stories. So that really helped me because I share a personality type with a lot of the people on the team.

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The fact I was ready to work in anything – that worked well for me. That’s why I got a permanent contract in the job.

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