Focus on your journey, don’t look at others

Friday July 24 2020

Cynthia Mpanga, a communication specialist, has

Cynthia Mpanga, a communication specialist, has worked her way up the career ladder. PHOTO/EDGAR R. BATTE 


How have you got to where you are today?
It has been a very long journey. At six years, my parents took me boarding school so I started fending for myself at a tender age. It allowed me become independent, create and keep relationships. At the completion Senior Six (S.6), my parents passed on so I was orphaned just when I was getting ready to enjoy my freedom. Life drastically changed. My dream was to do Mass Communication at Makerere University but was unable to get the required grades.

I was given placement in another institution but my ambition was not there. I was disappointed and that made me go into a depression. I couldn’t get out of bed, shower or eat.

I am the first born and I was supposed to be the bigger one. I had to pick myself up because I was expected to be focussed, patient and persevere. We went from riches from rags and it is a common story. My life was thrown off balance.
How did you pick yourself up to find and reconnect onto your education journey and later on finding a bearing in employment?
My guardian mother, Harriet Jackson gave my first working stint at her boutique. I saved every penny I got and decided to apply and enrol at Makerere University Business School (MUBS). I couldn’t raise the tuition to finish the course. My aunt sponsored me to enrol for a journalism course at UMCAT.

Standard Chartered Bank advertised a teller job and I applied. Before that, part of my survival gigs was working with a lady who did customer service training for different corporate companies. I used to prepare all the material. When the bank invited me for an interview, I went in and was asked hypothetical questions on how to take care of customers and I was ready.

Instead of the teller job, I was placed in customer service given my age, passion and energy. They sat me on different desks and training.
My first salary was Shs500, 000 but I did my job joyfully. I enrolled and completed a degree as I supported my siblings.

In your 16 years, and the experience you’ve galvanised, who has held your hand and become influential in your career?
The person that has kept pushing me on is my guardian mother. She is like my guardian angel. She was my mother’s best friend and she has stood by be and my siblings. The other person is my best friend, Bonny Lule. He has been there for me. I cannot underscore the value of friendship. We studied together from Ndejje Secondary School and been through it all. There are times I have wanted to give up when things didn’t make sense and he has been dependable. Many people have been part of my journey. The one things I have learnt is tat people will come into our lives for a period, a season or a lifetime for a purpose.
If you met the girl you were at 18, and at crossroads, what message would you have for her?
If I met the desperate, confused, broken girl today, I would tell her, you better woman up, dust off, hold your head high and move forward because every step counts. Welcome to real life, unprotected with no school boundaries and you have to make it on your own. Nobody promised you a bed of roses. It is what it is. You journey is yours. Don’t look sideways. Don’t look at other people.


Don’t listen to their story. Live your life the best way you can. I would help and encourage that girl get on their feet and find strength to carry on because that is all everybody needs when there is nothing else to look up to and the world is cruel, brutal and ruthless.

The covid-19 pandemic comes at a time when we are unsure whether it is an opportunity or a crisis, what is your take?
It has been very brutal and disengaging for most of us. It is unprecedented and confusing. It is a time when our lives have been shaken up to wake up and see the other side; see the potential and possibilities. It has been such opportunity but again, I would like to see the glass as half full. I am positive person.

Covid-19 has let me spend time with my children. Right now, there is a new normal. I want growth aligned to what I do and love; communication, community work and sustainability. There are many days I wake to thank God for what I do. At times, I think it is God’s way of cutting me some slack after what I have gone through. I have been told by some people that I lack ambition for doing a job for 16 years. They don’t know my story and don’t know where the bank has brought me from. All that I have gotten,
I have been working for Standard Chartered bank. Some people have different experiences with their employers but I started out at a low rank, went back to school, done my MBA and I am generally a loyal person.

There are those who say they wouldn’t work for an organisation for more than four years but that’s their journey. I am generally not a follower. I like to see things for what they are and contextualise them around my priorities and make decisions. Someone asked me if I don’t get bored writing press releases and all. I didn’t have a comment.

How would you demystify PR and communication to people who perceive it that way?
People perceive us to be girls who wear high heels and go to parties to have a good time but those are stereotypes that belittle the profession. The truth is communication has values, for example today, digital communication is important. We hold zoom meetings. You have to communicate effectively for people to understand. Stakeholder management is what we do, community engagements…you need people to buy your products and services to remain in business with support from communication.
Have you mentored some people?
Yes, I have done public speaking at universities. Young people have walked to me and told me they have heard my story so they choose me as their mentor and I am happy to.
When and how do you let your hair down?
You better believe I let my hair down more often than I care to remember because I believe life should be in moderation and everybody should find their balance, happiness and mojo. I love adventure, travel during my leave.

I believe in continuous education, and exposure opens your mind and teaches you things that you can never learn from anyone or school. I love nature. I have been to many parts of my country. I try to see as much as I can. I love to dance, I am blogger, active on social media and have a duo personality. When I am stressed, I raffle feathers on social media and then I am a serious person.

What is on your wish list?
I would like to raise my children with proper values, attitude towards life for them to appreciate that money is not everything. That you can have money and not find an iota of happiness.

I would like them to understand what makes us human, by building good relationships. Money is important but not the most important. I would like to support community, lift someone up. I would to volunteer more, travel the world and experience more.