Mentor Much?

Regardless of how old you are, you need a mentor. Mentors are not godfathers or people you use to get favors. They are people to simply look up to and who are meant to add perspective in your life and work. They should best double up as friends for full value. But just how do you get one? Here is how I have been able to get myself valuable mentors who have continued to play vital roles in my life:

  • Seek family: I believe no one knows you better or loves you more than your family. So make the most of their experiences and engage them as you try to make your own way in life.
  • Use social media groups: Get mentors through Linkedin by simply starting genuine and relevant conversations in groups. Be sure to flaunt your strengths in a subtle way for full effect.
  • Ask friends: Fear not of asking your friends whom they can directly connect you to for guidance and networking.
  • Offer to mentor: Reach out to someone you feel may be in need of your time and advice. As you remain present in this person’s life, you will discover a lot about yourself and learn from them as well.

What else can be a way to get a mentor in your life? Do share them here with us.

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Optimism: A Realist’s Middle Name!

It is said that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice to achieve excellence in something. I have been attending career talks for way lesser a time than that but I can tell you this, after the first two, I started thinking that I could predict the message of the every session. It’s always a treat when I am proven wrong! No Career Talk is really ever the same!

On Friday evening, 20th April, the University of Nairobi School of Business Catholic Community famously known as LK3C (Lower Kabete Campus Catholic Community), invited Daniel Njoroge, Retail Manager Safaricom Ltd for one such Talk held at the campus’ famous Biashara Hall.

This gentleman is one I can describe without hesitation as ‘fired up!’ From the onset he had such energy! As he was sharing his life’s journey with us, his humility and spirituality shone through; his smile grew wider and his gestures more animated! We who had attended the Talk were about 19 to 26 years old and this 30 year-old put as all to shame! Some of us were slouching and periodically yawning and secretly wondering how we were going to get back to our rooms amidst the rain! But I assure you, 10 minutes into the session; Mr. Njoroge had effortlessly ensured that we were all in stitches whilst eagerly jotting down notes!

The absolute highlight of the evening was when he shared with us his 7 principles of a successful life:

  1. Be proactive:Are you the one who prevents a fire or the one who waits for one to start then struggles to put it out?

    Develop Synergies Like Fire Ants Do On Water.

  2. Begin with the end in mind: Drop the mentality that ‘the graph has already been drawn’ and start drawing one for yourself!
  3. Put first things first! Priorities have to be set whilst keeping in mind that as much as you are an optimist, you should be a realist as well.
  4. Have a win-win attitude: Add as much value as you take away!
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Humility plays a key role here.
  6. Develop synergies: Like the way fire ants adjoin to form a ‘blanket’ that floats above water so should you form relationships that strive to overcome life’s challenges!
  7. Sharpen your soul: Do whatever needs to be done to improve your life. Take up that additional course, Network in a non-discriminatory way and seek to mentor as well as being mentored.

In addition, he emphasized the importance of every one venturing into entrepreneurship regardless of how small the start may be; progress in life is never instant. He also warned against postponing happiness in anticipation of a ‘better time’ that has not been guaranteed.

With Backing From Such Individuals, No Wonder The Company is No.1!

The evening ended with him sharing a cup of coffee with all the students. By this time, the rain had subsided and so I seized the chance and dashed back to my room but not before I had thanked him for his inspiring words.

Thank you LK3C for granting us an opportunity to meet and learn from such a successful and unique individual.

Meet The Future Of Finance! From London, With Love!

The Kenyan Team. From the left: Edgar Jean Ojiambo, Industrial Mentor Francis Maina Mwangi CFA, Anthony Kimani, Laurancia Barasa, Ruskin Onyambu and Justus Wambua.

Ever been in a room where the rest of the people are swapping private jokes? Where you can’t help but be filled with admiration and long to be part of the fold? Well, I had one such experience this Monday 16th of April. Finally after weeks of tracking, cancelled appointments and email swaps, I caught up with the first ever University of Nairobi, School of Business CFA Institute Research Challenge Kenya winners; a team of five outstanding Bachelor of Commerce final year students made up of Laurancia Barasa, Anthony Kimani, Justus Wambua, Edgar Jean Ojiambo and Ruskin Onyambu.

The Country Champions at the Hilton, Nairobi.

When I arrived to interview them, they were hanging out in Edgar’s room sharing their weekend musings. It was clear from their laughter and familiarity that they had grown to become great friends.

The five explained that they registered to participate in the CFA Institute Research Challenge, Kenya with the aim of building their proficiency in Business. Laurancia, Ruskin and Anthony wish to become the best in Financial and Equity Analysis, Justus’ passion lies in Corporate Finance and Edgar is inclined towards becoming a Forensic Accounting expert.

The CFA Institute Research Challenge is centered around university students carrying out detailed financial research and analysis on identified companies. Mentored by a senior professional, Francis Maina Mwangi, CFA, the team researched and prepared an investment recommendation based on the analysis of a public traded company which was Athi River Mining Ltd. They emerged the best amongst all the Kenyan universities that had participated at the competition held at the Hilton, Nairobi on 8th February 2012. They would represent the University, the country and the East African region at the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) Finals in London, where they would be joined by teams from the American University in Cairo and the University of Pretoria to represent Africa.

So on the night of the 12th March, 2012, the team set out to this European land for an experience of a lifetime!

From the left: Ruskin Onyambu, Industrial Mentor Francis Maina Mwangi, CFA and Edgar Ojiambo enjoying lunch after the team's presentation at The Barbican Centre, London.

“It was very cold!” Laurancia shared. “Getting around was a bit of a challenge given that London’s transport system is so different from Nairobi’s”

Upon their arrival on the 13th, they checked in at the Thistle™ City Barbican and then proceeded to The Barbican Centre for a briefing of the competition’s rules and guidelines. The next day was the main event so after a bit of a tour of the venue, they proceeded to rest.

“We rehearsed and presented at 10 am” Edgar explains. “We were grouped into 4 groups and a winner was picked from each one. We didn’t manage to proceed to the finals in New York but being there in London was such an achievement!”

Indeed, they did not get to compete in the global finals but as ambassadors of the region, they had done us proud. In our books, they had returned as victors.

I was curious of what their favorite moments were in their tour of London.

“Old Trafford!” Justus exclaimed. “As a football fan, visiting the home of Manchester United was more than awesome!”

Edgar clicking away at his laptop turned it around and showed me footage of the opening of the London Bridge. “That was such a sight!” He said with a smile.

Ruskin Onyambu and Anthony Kimani in full view of the London Bridge over the River Thames.

“Come here and see.” Anthony beckoned. On his laptop screen was the picture of him and Ruskin standing before the Swiss Re Building. “That was one of my best moments!”

Laura, with her glistening smile, told me she was fascinated at how Nairobi’s plan was a direct photocopy of London’s blueprint, complete with Uhuru Park as Hyde Park, Kenyatta avenue as Oxford Street and Victoria Station as Kencom Bus Terminus!

I turned to Ruskin in inquisition and he told me that the whole trip was fabulous to him and that he couldn’t isolate just one favorite moment.

Upon their return on the 17th March, they quickly went back to their normal schedules and unless one tracked them down and ask them of

their experience as participants in the Challenge, one wouldn’t really know what they have been up to.

I wrapped up the interview as I awaited Edgar to finish transferring some of their photos into my flash disk.

Justus Wambua and Laurancia Barasa, Live at Old Trafford!

“What are your plans for the future as far as the CFA Institute is concerned?” I asked.

“To share our insight with the next participating teams from the University of Nairobi” Ruskin said. This was echoed by the rest of the team. “We would like to mentor them and give them a standing chance because now, many more schools are preparing as they await for the next Challenge to commence.”

To the students of the University of Nairobi, get in line and watch out for the announcement of the next CFA Institute Research Challenge by the School of Business Finance Students Association (FISA), which is the contact association of the CFA Institute. Rest assured that you will have a solid backing from these state champions.

The Team on tour in front of St.Paul's Cathedral, London.

Your Future, Their Eyes.

It could be a friend, a sibling or an industry professional. A mentor is an individual who adds insurmountable value to another’s life through their presence, guidance and support. A mentor inspires and nurtures; he or she is a tailwind.

I had the privilege yesterday, 14th of April, 2012 of accompanying the Greenhorn Mentorship Program team to a retreat at Brackenhurst, Limuru that brought together students and alumni of the University of Nairobi, School of Business to share in the program’s activities and growth. The trip was one I wish no one had missed because given how busy our lives are; getting opportunities to unwind whilst enjoying great company in a serene environment are few.

I have tremendous respect for the Greenhorn Mentorship Program 2012 executive team made up of Isaac Maina (President), Meli Solloh (Vice-President), Brigit Zesiro (Institutional Mentorship Director), Ian Kirubi (Finance Director), Claire Munene (Alumni Director), James Chomba (Information Systems Director), Samuel Calvin Ochieng (Mentor Affairs Director), Persila Owila (Mentee Affairs Director) and Patricia Mutindi (Editorial and Publicity Director). This team has shaped the program to become one that not only spearheads mentorship within the University of Nairobi, but one that redefines it.

Its Aspire Leadership Forum held on 26th March, 2012 at the University of Nairobi School of Business brought together speakers from all over African: Author and columnist Sunny Bindra, CEO and founder of Edge Consult Phyllis Mwangi, CEO East Africa Leadership Institute Pete Ondeng, Brand Building Director Unilever Central Africa Juliet Ziswa, Marketing Director (Africa Based) at Procter & Gamble Nuno Bernardo, Personal Branding Guru Derek Bbanga, Student Mentor Mercy Njoroge Advisor, ACCA Kenya to name but a few. The forum was one of the most impactive forums I have ever attended! The message throughout was clear; we all have leadership potential. All we have to do is understand it and tap into it!

During the group sit-down at the retreat in a gazebo amidst the greenery, the president of the program, Isaac Maina shared what I thought was brilliant, “When I sit across from my mentor, I see what I want to be at his age. At 35, I want to have gained his level of success, if not more”. He may have realized this or not but from where he sat, he had portrayed foresight, humility and most important of all the spirit of mentorship.

I have many mentors in my life. I also mentor many. This is because I choose to see my friends, younger and older, that way. Do the same, won’t you?

Have a blessed Sunday. 🙂

Thinking Like A Visionary With A Strategy

‘In what past situations have you shown most

evidence of visionary/strategic thinking?’

Vision is foresight. It’s looking at the horizon as opposed to the bottom line. Strategy on the other hand is positioning for the good of your objectives; being proactive. These two words are so different yet so meshed, they are like ones parents! Mum and Dad; Vision and Strategy!

When I first heard this question, I laughed! I tend to do that whenever I come across mind boggling statements. My first thought of an answer came inform of a song ; Morgan Heritage’s Nothing To Smile About! The dramatic route is always attractive to the mind! Anyway, I was puzzled. I asked one of my friends and they humorously said that the only time they thought they had shown visionary thinking was when they woke up at 4am to cram their notes before an exam! Their vision is that they didn’t want to fail!

As job hunters and/or young entrepreneurs, putting our spectacular thoughts into words can be a challenge at times. Here are a few suggestions that I think could help as possible forms of responses (in no particular order):

  • Your decision to do that particular course. By choosing to pursue Business, Engineering, Architecture e.t.c., you had a reason/plan. If you don’t already have one, research and write them up. Be sure to include words like, Vision and Strategy! 🙂
  • Taking up that leadership role in your community. Surely you had a plan for that move, right?
  • Social Media Initiatives. Those charitable events or a causes you have helped hype through Facebook or Twitter.
  • Mentorship. If you never thought of that friendship you have as mentorship, start doing so! If your friend is older, you are the mentee. If you are the older one, you are the mentor. It may not be as decorated as the mainstream mentorship but that advice you give or receive should never be in vain.

I’m sure there are more! Do share them with me here.

What’s awaiting us out in the world are situations that will test us and more often than not, what determines whether we emerge victorious is our power of being accurate discerners of our own capabilities. That’s our reality.