Failure is a building block for my career

Friday March 27 2020

Isaac Mujaasi’s time keeping impressed h

Isaac Mujaasi’s time keeping impressed his first internship supervisor and opened doors for him to a career in the wildlife and conservation sector. Photo by Edgar R. Batte. 

By Edgar R. Batte

How did you end up here?
I got here by preparation, commitment and people’s goodwill. I am currently working as coordinator, Intergrated Conservation Action Project. Before my current role I worked the World Association of Zoos and Aquarium (WAZA), in Spain, although the posting was short-lived.

Leaving WAZA so abruptly, made me feel I had made a big mistake leaving Uganda Wildlife Education Conservation Centre (UWEC) to begin with. Little did I know that when God closes a door, he opens a window. When I was feeling lost, the director of Giraffe Conservation Alliance (GCA), Sheri Whilst, called me and asked if I would consider designing and developing nature connect programmes for both GCA and Oregon Zoo in East Africa.

Before she could finish the sentence, I said yes. I had worked with Whilst at UWEC as a project coordinator for Care for Karamoja, worked on the Ostrich Incubator and supported giving school going children opportunities to visit Kidepo Valley National Park. She wanted me to continue doing that now that the position in Barcelona, Spain was no longer available.
How did you handle these setbacks?
When faced with a disappointment I always take a deep breath, reflect to asses what was in my power and what was not. When I cannot find a solution, I confide in people and seek social support. This is what I did.
What lessons have you picked up along the way?
Each job position has been a life changing lesson and rewarding experience. One job has always contributed to the next appointment in one way or the other, and in a way, they have all been very similar. I used my experience from work environment at CSWCT to succeed at UWEC. I combined both experiences to capably function at WAZA.
I have learned that the key to everything in my life is learning to work with people. I continue to correct my mistakes and improve on things I feel I should have done better. Continuous learning and development of oneself is important. I make an effort to learn some ICT, people management, business relations and get abreast with wildlife issues.
But most importantly, I have learned to know bosses’ expectations and deliver results. I never give an excuse for not doing something well.

What was the turning point in your career?
The turning point in my career was my first meeting with Cherry Montgomery in 2000 who was the project Director at the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT). After university, my lecturer in tourism seconded me to go for internship at Ngamba. We were supposed to be at UWEC by 8am but I was at the centre by 7am.
Monty, as she is commonly known was not yet in office. When she arrived, the accountant told her I was at office earlier than everyone. This was a great first impression for me.
At Ngamba, I was eager and curious to learn about everything. I worked as a caregiver, surrogate mother for rescued chimps, fetched water from the lake to clean the holding facilities, slashed the compound, and made tea for the visitors. I would jump into the lake to help boats land on days when the lake was rough. The head caregivers, Gerald Muyingo and Stany Nyandui, were impressed by my commitment and love for work.

How did your attitude aid your promotion at work?
One day, Tim Cooper, a hotel owner on Bulago Island brought visitors. The lake was so rough. As usual, I jumped into the water and asked him to send me the rope so that I could pull the boat towards land. My initiative was very successful. I welcomed the visitors and served them coffee. Since I was the guide, I went and changed my clothes and was ready to give the talk. Remember I had just completed one-month internship.
What is a typical day like for you?
My days are never the same. I wake up at 5:30 am when my children start getting ready for the van which picks them for school. I go to the farm and do my keeper routines up to 6:30 am.

I never miss sports on radio and the morning news. I freshen up and have my breakfast. I can miss lunch as long as I have numerous coffees or teas during the day. If I have no appointment or field work, I will move to office. I do a lot video conference meetings, sending out work on emails and reviewing staff.

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If I have field work, I first do checks on my car to be sure it is in sound condition. I do most of the minor mechanics myself.
Due to time differences with the people I work or consult with, mostly in USA and Europe, my evenings are a little busy. I always want to start and complete work, before jumping on the next assignment.
Wha keeps you going?

Family is my biggest motivation. I always imagine if I do not do my best, I would have let them down. If I make a poor decision, I have betrayed them. This keeps me on track even when the going gets tough.
Which three people have been most influential in your career?

My parents, Mr and Mrs Bakobereki. They were teachers and discipline may have contributed to what I am today.
Then Debby Cox, who was the director CSWCT and Jane Goodall Institute Uganda. She gave me all the support. The training, exposure, taught me how to be a problem solver, get a grasp of basic mechanics, learned how to do budgeting and project proposals. She also gave me my first 4X4 at a discounted rate so that I could organise trips to the park outside official work schedule to complement my income.

My brother in-law and elder sister, Enid Bakobereki. They taught me how to manage personal finances and make investment choices. They paid some of my university fees and are always there as a fallback position.
Education background
Mujaasi obtained an MSc in Education for Sustainability from London South Bank University, a Post Graduate Diploma in Education, and a degree in Tourism and History from Makerere University in Kampala.

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