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.

Sorry, No Career Path Here!

The Human Resource Management Students Association (HURMSA) this afternoon gave me an early birthday present by granting me attendance to its inaugural  Career Talk held at the University of Nairobi, School of Business.  The speakers were none other than Christine Orono, Founder of People Insights Limited and Susan Kiama, the Managing Consultant of Three Green Apples Consulting.

These two ladies, experienced recruiters and Human Resource consultants and entrepreneurs, added unquantifiable value to my budding career and I can only be but thankful to the organizers of the event for their assertion and vision.

The first speaker, Christine Orono, was filled with infectious fire which inflamed the whole room! She had this easy laugh that though was meant to put us at ease, only made us more sensitive to what she had to say. I was strategically seated right at the front row to pick up on every little bit of information and report it back here to you, my wonderful readers!

We are, at this 21st Century, Generation Y who drive an ‘all-terrain’ vehicle through a non-existent career path, she said. Our world is globalized and unlike our parents and guardians, we do not have the privilege of job security. We leverage our skills on risk and uncertainty management, being time and results oriented, being assertive and self confident and of course packaging our creative talents in a way that creates an eclipse between our capabilities and that of the job opportunities available to us.

She highlighted that keeping in mind the dynamism of the job market, one needs to put themselves in the employer’s mind: Will you do the job? Can you do the job? Do you fit? In an interview, your fit into the culture of the organisation and its competency requirement is overtaken by your motivation! If you seem dull and lacking of optimism and positive attitude, then it’ll be, ‘Good bye, dream job!’ Attitude is everything!

At this point I was so charged, I resisted the urge to stand up and clap!

So when the calm and collected Susan Kiama came on, she did so just in time to allow me to regain composure! But alas! Her opening video left all of us perplexed! Watch it here. In addition, she had amazing facts to share: 4,000,000 job openings in South Africa went unfilled as at 2011 because no skills could match the demand. Kenyan Employers’ frequent complaint is that they can find no suitable recruits for positions (Ms Orono nodded in agreement). These facts were mauled by a question she asked: No one thought of bringing their CVs to this Talk even though you were well aware of the presence of recruiters? Jolly old me almost walked out at this point!

‘Attitude’ is a word that stood out in one of her first PowerPoint slides. That charged me right back up again! She reiterated Ms Orono’s statement by saying that only with the right attitude can we get to where we want to go, whether it is in self employment or not. She shared a story of a girl who earns 2500/- per day by making mandazi every morning for sale in local schools in her neighborhood. Informally employed, the young lady earns more than the average graduate will on their first job!

Her message was clear; as individuals, it is vital that we strive towards being well read, well researched and well versed. I think she should write a book titled, ‘From Earning to Learning’! Her presentation on that amidst constant power outages was flawless.

She kept it real by bluntly pointing out our avoidable mistakes in our thought processing, communication and networking skills and shared inspiring success stories of young entrepreneurs in Africa who have made it by simply channeling the right skills and passion in the right direction!

I must say, when I grow up, I want to be just like Susan Kiama and Christine Orono! What with their diction and easy charm bundled with experience and sense of humour? Who wouldn’t want to be!? 🙂

All in all, I bet everyone who attended the Talk walked away a tad intimidated. I know I did! I say this because that CV we thought was ‘all that’ may not be so after all! Our gut feeling that the job market could be a monster waiting to swallow us whole, suit and tie and all, may indeed be a real one. Not to worry! Thanks to HURMSA, we are pretty much sorted because from what I hear, Ms Orono and Ms Kiama will be back! This time, CVs ni lazima zibebwe!

When Uninspired, Look Down At Your Feet!

As a final year student staring right at the finish line, it’s easy to forget how far you’ve come.

From that first day on campus as a freshman or ‘fresher’ as we were popularly known to that first lecture that you may barely remember; it has been a rollercoaster!

I have a lot to be thankful for, my health for one! I have seen many dark days as a university student. The most memorable one being when I fell sick with stomach flu right as I was sitting my final  1st year, 2nd semester exams! I remember the loneliness the most. It hit me hard that I was in this alone and that I had to take care myself. Roommates and neighbors are awesome but not as reliable and constant as you are to yourself.

Enough…! This is a blog for solutions, relief and smiles! Not lamentations!

Your feet! Look down at them. Remember those flights of stairs you climbed when you were struggling to make that appointment, get that job or internship; that dirt road that you’ve had to trek to get to your future. It’s all there; toes to heel.

I have made a decision to stop the worry; jobs and other relevant money making opportunities will come when I am ready.  An article in a Marie Claire magazine issue suggests putting aside 10 minutes every day just for sitting and worrying! Should you get the urge to worry any other time, you are advised to tell your stubborn self, ‘Not now!’ 🙂 I think the purpose of this is to help you to relax albeit for 23 hours and 50 minutes.

Whatever works for you is fine as long as you leave the worrying for the less hopeful. Instead, spend your time at peace and doused in optimism. Your time will come.