Master of Destiny: Employer Feature
They say a ‘journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. The saying best describes Michael Niyitegeka, a Consultant Course Director at the International Health Sciences University in Kampala, Uganda. Michael’s journey hasn’t been a rosy one. But all his life, he chose to define who he is and where he wants to be.
Tell us who Michael is
I am a Consultant based in Uganda and a facilitator of learning, knowledge and a mentor of start-ups in the eco-system. I am also extremely passionate about technology and business.
Who did you consider as a role model early in your life?
I have had different mentors at different stages of my life. Growing up and later in life, my dad has had lots of influence in my life. I’ve also worked with a couple of people who were ahead of me in school and they’ve had a positive impact. One of them became my boss and the other one is more like a brother. They’ve inspired me to do simple things but with lots of commitment and passion while enabling me to selectively show and expose my capability.
In most cases, students finish campus and simply want to get a job in what they studied despite how much the world has changed. In what ways did you take ownership of your career?
When starting out, I was passionate about Engineering and wanted to get into architecture or urban planning. However, at the university, I didn’t get to study either. Instead, I found myself pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Organizational Studies and French even after having studied Math, Chemistry and Physics for my A-levels. For me, that was the point of maturity. I had two options; either go back to repeat school and get the needed grades to pursue what I wanted or stick to what I had and make the best out of it.
At the time, my degree course didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Still, the deeper I went into it the more it begun making sense. After graduating, I was retained at Makerere University to teach in the faculty of Art. I later did an MBA and found myself going back into technology – my first love – and going to the faculty of IT to teach business related programs. That was the point I decided I would define who I am and not let my qualifications define me.
What is the biggest career lesson you’ve learnt so far?
That it’s up to you to define who you are and where you want to be, and you have to actively work on it.
What do you do to ensure that you are continuously growing in your career?
I purpose to expose myself by reading. Although I am on social media, I am very specific on what I follow. I have found Twitter and LinkedIn to be extremely powerful knowledge tools. I follow specific blogs that talk about things that interest me and purpose to take part in conversations that will be of value or that I’m able to contribute to. I volunteer to speak at conferences or events and in doing so, I sharpen myself and get to know who I am.
Speaking on different topics means putting time into research. This way I get to learn a lot as I never want to be seen as an ignorant speaker. I have volunteered very many times at a number of events that people think I make lots of money out of it. For me, it’s about seeing an opportunity and going for it.
What is the biggest piece of advice you can give to 25 to 35-year olds looking for job opportunities?
Any opportunity is an opportunity to learn and is an experience first and foremost. Whatever opportunity you get is an experience and you should go with the attitude of learning from it.
For those in university, they need to use their time to think of the spaces they want to occupy and empower themselves to respond to those opportunities. For first jobs, most employers are not looking for experience but for attitude. Attitude is really about your ability to demonstrate your willingness to learn, the ability to demonstrate that you have the humility to accept that you don’t know and because you don’t know, someone else can help you learn.
Have the gratitude and humility that you are just beginning your career journey and anything as an opportunity, is an opportunity. Experiences will come from different places and opportunities won’t come knocking at your door. You have to actively seek for them. If everything doesn’t work, educate yourself.
Are you at the peak of your career?
No way. I’m not at the peak of my career. I am still learning a lot and just beginning to reap from the investments I have made in life. I am half way to my peak point.
What’s the oddest job you’ve ever had to do?
I don’t think I have had an opportunity to do an odd job. This has largely been influenced by my attitude. I have done all sorts of things from being a spanner boy, a coffee trader to a consultant and business developer. All these have made me who I am, so I wouldn’t call it odd.
What’s that one quote you live by?
I am the creative force of who I am. I colour my own clouds and choose to be happy in every opportunity that I undertake.
When you feel stuck at something, what do you do?
There are quite a number of times when things just don’t work out. I live in the moment. When things aren’t working out, they are just not working out. I sleep over it and if it’s a report that I need to submit I will be honest enough to write to the client and say, “I’m having a block here and can get you the repost in one or two days.”
Also, I don’t complain. Whenever I think of complaining, I realize there are people with bigger issues than mine. I have opted to celebrate life as it is.
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