I have never had a shortage of people to learn from

Kagonyera says the pandemic was challenging but had lessons. PHOTO/Edgar Batte.

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Learning: Aggrey Kagonyera has been in the marketing circles for a long time, yet he says he has not stopped learning

With 30 years in marketing, Aggrey Kanyonyera is a respected marketer. He cut his teeth with VR Promotions and spent a good part of his career with telecom giant, MTN Uganda, where he headed the marketing and events portfolio. Seven years ago, he switched from the corporates world to start his entrepreneurial journey with his own Legends Events. He relieves the times.

What was your aspiration as a child?

Like all children, I wanted to become a pilot simply because I saw planes fly over Kigezi. We saw the likes of Amos Nzeyi drive rally cars. At some point, I wanted to join the medical field because we had a doctor in the family.

I eventually became a marketer because I was creative and inquisitive. I went on to advance in my studies and ended up doing a master’s in Information Technology even when I knew that I was not an IT person to sit behind the computer.

My working career started in Australia. When I returned, I joined hands with Andrew Rugasira at VR Promotions which was all about events. I later moved on to MTN Uganda as the sponsorship manager which was still in the marketing space. I now can do the same things that I love doing with different companies. It has been a fulfilling career.

Who was your big inspiration?

It is the people I worked with who inspired me, those I was fortunate enough to learn from, those who were kind enough to allow me enter their space to teach me. At VR Promotions, I interacted with an outfit that brought in different artistes.

I was fortunate and lucky to spearhead events such as the Lucky Dube concert. MTN Uganda allowed me to make mistakes and learn from them. It also allowed me to be creative think outside the box and explore.

I teamed up with several people and agencies run by people such as Patrick Quarcoo then Susan Nsibirwa who have been in the field of marketing for a long time, so I have never had a shortage of people to learn from.

What was the transition like for you from the corporate office to your personal hustle?

It was a sacrifice. It was something that I needed to plan for so I was ready when the time came. It’s a Wednesday and I am wearing jeans and I am happy with it. I am more relaxed.

I think I have added more years, I look younger away from the corporate space and stress. It has been a transition because I had to sit with my family and assure them that the decision I was making was the right one.

I was coming from an office that almost gave me everything. I was well-paid, had many facilities and privileges. I was trading all that for the unknown, the uncertain world out there.

I always told myself that I would leave MTN while I still loved what I was doing. I when i left, I was at a managerial level that had influence, I used that to help me open doors and in a way, it worked for me. It has been a question of whether they can afford me because they knew what I could do.

What informs your ethics?

Honesty, you will really have to do what you say. It is such a small market that what goes around, comes round so if you are not doing the right things, you will not go far.

I always tell my team that I was on the other side so we must perform the way I would have expected if I was on the other side. I would not accept mediocre work so why should they get it.

It pushes me to push my team. I am very tough on them and rightfully so. We are paid to do a job, but we must do it well. Then there are things they teach us at home, such as being polite and courteous.

What is the biggest test that you have faced over in your career?

Towards the end of my time in MTN, I was just starting a family and I was heading to Iran. While there, I missed the birth of my second child. I felt I had given MTN my all and needed to come back home.

I got some offers, but I felt I was not going to jump to the competition for a few more millions to do the same thing that I was doing at MTN, so I turned down the offers and stayed at MTN and when I felt I had done enough, my time was up.

The Covid-19 lockdown was challenging. The business was still young, and the most painful part was having to lay off people I had started the business with. We had to make certain sacrifices.

It was very difficult. Covid-19 was a big test. It taught us how to cut the garment according to the cloth we have learnt how to reduce the number of unnecessary expenses and live within our means.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

Well, the nature of the work I do takes a lot of my time, one time you will be up country and before you know it, there is another assignment. I do not want to get up and realise the next thing is my daughter’s giveaway and I have missed them growing up. It is something I would never forgive myself for.

I have tried to make sacrifices, but they are not enough. If you asked my family, they would tell you that I do not spend enough time with them. But again, there are certain things that I must do to ensure that I put food on the table and pay their fees.

How do you make it up to them?

I am somebody who is very close to both my nuclear family but also my sisters and uncles. We have Sunday lunches together. I have been surrounded by love throughout my life. I have been spoilt by being loved and adored by those around me and I cannot take that for granted. I want to give it back. It drives and inspires me, but I feed off it.


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