Ms Rachel Ainomugisha, a human centered design facilitator, during a skilling session. PHOTO/Joan Salmon


From formal job to consultancy 

What you need to know:

The transition from formal employment to the consultancy industry requires investing time, resources, and patience. 

Working in the informal sector does not guarantee the usual monthly pay. For retirees, one will live off their pension and any other retirement packages. 

It could also be an investment. However, veering off the common perception, retiring does not mean laying down tools to watch days go by or spending time with your grandchildren. Even in the incidence of losing work, you can switch from formal to informal employment rather than sit without earning any money. One of the probable opportunities is to venture into skilling or consultancy to pass on the information you have garnered along your employment journey.

Ms Teresa Nannozi, a consultant at Utility Strategies Ltd started her employment journey out of journalism school at the Monitor (now the Daily Monitor). After nine years, she joined GIZ, the German-Ugandan development cooperation as a communications specialist and then Plan International as a project manager. She later moved to the Independent for a year and eight months. “However, it was not that satisfying,” she says.

Rather than lament, Ms Nannozi had a conversation with a friend (Mr Sam Watasa) about starting a consultancy firm. The firm’s general focus area is management consulting, helping businesses or organisations that support businesses to craft solutions that can assist business owners to run their businesses better. That ranges from basic business information management, record analysis, making and following plans, to employee management. 

“We also help those whose businesses have grown to catch up on growth to deliver appropriately using various tools,” she says. Except for Mr Watasa’s business expertise in business management, Ms Nannozi had no training in running a consultancy.

On the other hand, after trying her hand at social work, Rachel Ainembabazi started losing sense of purpose for employment. She quit her job to start a self-discovery journey. 

After figuring out her purpose, she joined the digital technology and innovation arena because social entrepreneurship and digital design spoke to her. 
The transition required investing time, resources, and patience to trust the process. “It took me time because I lacked a mentor to guide me hence had to figure it out by taking online short courses, reading books, and attending workshops. It was not a well-planned journey, but I had to keep learning new skills in the digital technology and innovation arenas,” she says.

In today’s rapidly changing world, for one to stay on top of the game, they need to be skilled. Ms Ainomugisha emphasises that in the work space, you must first be valuable to make it to a high position and gain influence. 

“Your experience makes you an influencer, just as your abilities get you to the table. Therefore, after discovering my purpose, I knew I had to acquire and master certain skills in the digital technology and innovation arena,” she says. 

Ms Ainomugisha is currently a human centered design facilitator and a social entrepreneur.  She is also a co-founder of Qraft Academy, an edutech startup that addresses youth structural unemployment by helping young professionals and entrepreneurs in the digital and innovation space to discover their purpose and become experts in their field through a six months simulated work environment programme. 

Making a mark
Ms Nannozi says one will do much better in consultancy if they have a certain skillset in the preferred area. Nonetheless, she says her years in the newsroom and the organisations she worked at also impacted her consultancy work. 

“In my previous work, I gained a broad understanding of how big institutions assist small businesses to grow. Combining that with what Sam knew is helpful in running the consultancy because most of the work we did in earlier years was supporting organisations,” she says. 

Leveraging on those basic skills, their first contract was from a USAID project supporting small-scale traders of maize, beans and coffee to adopt more formal ways of business operation.

Ms Ainomugisha learned product design and opted to specialise in human-centered design. After undertaking that lengthy path of self-discovery, she understood there were many like her as finding one’s purpose is a challenge for many young people. But she needed to support  other youth in a similar place. 

 “I create innovative solutions that promote social change in this innovation space. I also teach business owners and software developers how to create products that resonate with the needs of their users/target market,” the social entrepreneur says.

Entrepreneurship requires flexibility, an aspect that fails many businesses to go beyond five years. That is why it is imperative to venture into a business after finding out if it works, payment frequency and when one can break even. Additionally, along the way, you will see what works and what does not, so you can pivot until you find your footing. 

“Put in place the right systems, tracking records, marketing and forming partnerships to get money from the business,” Ms Nannozi says.

Consultancy is uncertain and has daily challenges, with the possibility of the client’s priorities changing midway through the assignment especially with government projects. 
“There is uncertainty about when or if you will get paid for the assignment,” she says.

So, there are  ‘drought’ times, when there are no contracts, yet there are overheads and staff salaries to pay. In such times, Ms Nannozi doubled down on writing proposals, reaching out to networks, and taking on individual assignments.

Mr Godfrey Bwanika, the principal consultant at GB consulting associates says consultancy earnings are best quatified on a daily earning basis. In the NGO world, the rate is Shs500,000 irrespective of one’s qualifications. 
“Multilateral organisations such as UNDP, WFP, USAID, and World Bank look at qualifications and years of experience. For UN, a PhD holder will get Shs1m per day, while USAID could pay Shs2m per day but that is also depending on your earning history,” he says.

Ainomugisha joined the digital technology and innovation after quitting formal employment. PHOTO/FILE 

Ms Ainomugisha says the earnings depend on several factors such as time spent on the job for freelance work. It also depends on availability of consultancy work which started coming in after some years of etching her name in the industry. 
“I work with Refactory Academy, where I teach human-centered design at the consultant level. I earn Shs100,000 per hour, and each session is two hours,” she says.

For Ms Ainomugisha, the start of 2021 was tough and a defining moment because despite investing resources and conducting several activities, they were unable to quantify the impacts due to relying on one-off activities. 

“We covered several areas in our trainings, including technology, health, spiritual counseling, and art and design. It was a tough time because of the different goals and opinions yet we had to figure out how to keep our programme going. So, some team members left, some activities were delayed while others were canceled,” she says. 

Ms Ainomugisha learned “if your team decides to create a cup, you must come to an agreement on some fundamental details, such as the design, colour, and material. Otherwise, each will end up with their cup material and design,” she says. 

The winning solution was categorising their programmes so people can contribute where they feel fulfilled to work. “Teams independently craft projects that enable them be impactful. This is premised on being consistent with the category vision and presenting them to the team for direction,” she says.

As an entrepreneur, Ms Ainomugishas has learned to be adaptive and flexible, with the willingness to pivot in response to evolving markets. “After 2012, I have learned that failure is a stepping stone to success,” she says.