I stumbled into the banking career

Nadine Byarugaba has grown a career in the banking sector over years

What you need to know:

Career switch: Nadine Byarugaba has grown a career in the banking sector over years although she never envisioned this would be her career path

Tell us about yourself and your professional journey

My first job was with Standard Chartered Bank where I grew through the ranks to become a senior executive. I was privileged to work in various departments in the bank and benefit from international attachments. I also had a short stint as an expatriate for two years in Botswana. When I left banking, I started to seek opportunities to serve as a non-executive director on boards of organisations where I believed I could add value. Based on my expertise in the financial services sector, I was able to secure opportunities for the businesses. I am currently privileged to hold the position of Board chairperson of Absa Bank Uganda.

What is your view on women’s involvement in business?

Women thrive as leaders both in the entrepreneurship and career space. With my high appetite for risk, I am a firm believer in taking on challenges and realising your full potential. We have many examples of successful female leaders in our community and therefore, I believe women should be more involved in business.

Do you believe women are better managers?

From my personal experience, I was privileged to work under female managers who contributed significantly to my professional and personal growth. I believe that women have great potential for management because of the various roles they play in society. However, grooming and coaching is also necessary to harness one’s natural abilities to become a more effective and balanced leader. Self-awareness is also key and I encourage all women to be more self-aware to identify their strengths and weaknesses for the benefit of personal development.

How best can women realise their potential in business management?

We should not be afraid to take on new risks and face challenges, explores creative solutions or business offers that help us stand out. We also need to realise  that employing the right people with the right skills and taking an active role in the growth and development of a team are very essential to one’s success. I owe a lot of my success as a leader to the incredible people I have worked with.

There is strength in working together and bringing together the unique abilities of various people towards achieving a common goal.

How can women strike a balance between career and business?

There is the common myth that all of us must run businesses alongside our careers. However, not all of us are entrepreneurs and that is okay.

Many in our community pursue business alongside their careers to seek opportunities for additional income.

However, there are other options to earning passive income, for example considering investing in government securities such as treasury bills and bonds, shares, to mention but a few. For those who have a passion for pursuing business alongside their careers, my advice would be to employ the right professionals and people to help you run your business.

We often cannot do it all, however, with the right people who can implement your vision, you can run a successful business.

What are some of the challenges hindering women’s participation in business?

The disproportionate burden of household and care responsibilities. This was made even more evident by the pandemic, especially with the concept of working from home.

Data analysis reveals that school closures during the pandemic have been one of the main causes for women to reduce working hours and labour participation, as childcare responsibilities still fall predominantly on them. Women were juggling household and care responsibilities with their business or career responsibilities, which was quite overwhelming for many.

How best can these be addressed?

Women in Uganda are very enterprising and this is reflected by the fact that 40 per cent of business owners are women, mostly microenterprises in the informal sector (UBOS 2020). To address these challenges, we need to support the sustainable growth of female-owned businesses and reduce the rate of business failure.

This can be achieved by decreasing the knowledge gap by equipping women with the necessary skills to manage and grow their businesses.

 I am proud of the strides being made through various initiatives whose primary focus is capacity building, training and professional support to new and existing SMEs in Uganda.

We also need to address the burden of household responsibilities through initiatives such as employer-provided childcare, for example provision of lactation rooms to enable motherhood while women still remain productive at work. These are initial strides and I look forward to a lot more.

How can women break the bias limiting their participation in business?

Continuous efforts to acquire skills which will widen your knowledge base. Learning never stops and we should continue to expand our knowledge to develop a competitive edge. This can be done by seeking opportunities for mentorship to allow you learn from those who have achieved success.

We need to be financially empowered to allow us learn to manage money better. Women can empower themselves to manage their money effectively and build wealth by focusing on financial literacy, paying down debt and creating an emergency fund.

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

Be resilient, a team player and never stop learning. This was given to me by Christopher Marimanya, who was the then head of administration and human resources at Standard Chartered Bank Uganda.

What are your tips on career growth?

Young people, specifically those who aspire to grow, need to be more curious.

They should be more aware of opportunities within their work environment and never stop learning.

They should continuously arm themselves with the right skills and this can either be by pursuing training in their own initiatives or even seeking available opportunities for further trainings offered by the employer.

They should respect their supervisors, care for colleagues and show compassion, especially if they are aspiring for leadership, integrity, humility and honesty.

On a lighter note, if you were to change your career, what would you do?

A career in banking was never something I envisioned for myself or even at the top of careers that I wanted to pursue. However, the first team of female leaders whom I worked under as an intern changed my perspective.

Their kindness and good counsel led me to pursue a career in banking, which I enjoyed, evidenced by the 21 years of working in the bank. Even years later, I would still pursue a career in banking.

How do you unwind?

I exercise by walking and dancing, singing and holidaying with family.


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