The job should give you space to express yourself

Friday July 23 2021
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Stanbic Bank Uganda corporate social investments (CSI) manager, Barbara Kasekende.

By Denis Nsubuga

Mentor.Barbara Kasekende is the corporate social investments (CSI) manager at Stanbic Bank Uganda. She argues that whereas money is important, when it becomes your topmost reason to take on any job, forget career growth.

When did your career journey start taking shape?
 I think it started at secondary school level. While at Mt. St. Mary’s College, Namagunga in O-Level, I failed to fit into the lifestyle, which caused me to attempt suicide twice. 

Luckily, one of my mentors approached my parents and told them that the best place for me to be was out of the country. 
Fast forward, I got a scholarship from Elmhurst University in Chicago USA for the Bachelors of Science in Computer

Information Systems. But that was my father’s degree, it  was not my thing.  My passion was music, I used that time to also study music and participated in a lot of music related activities at school. 

Because of  my outgoing personality,  I chose to do  a master of Business Administration (MBA) International Management Studies at The University of Texas at Dallas, School of Management. That gave me understanding in international markets and creating new markets.  I worked in sales and marketing for different companies in the USA, before returning to Uganda in 2008.

How easy was it for you to get  a job after your return?
It was not easy.  But after months of searching, I landed a job at AIG Insurance as the Business Development Manager.  This job helped me realise that it did not matter what I did, if I did not add value to the younger generation. I started working with girl groups, mentoring young people, and I introduced a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) department at the firm.  

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After over four years, I felt I had done everything I could at AIG. I had been given a chance to build, so now it was my turn to let somebody else run it. I decided to leave in 2012.

Did you have something lined up?
Not at all. I am the kind of person who needs to build things, I get bored when I am not innovating or doing something new.

Since I am good at doing branding, I decided to look for that company that was trying to revamp their marketing strategies. I thought I needed to find a brand that would help me build my dream of reaching more young people. I did not like banking because literally my whole family is in banking. But my passion took me there. Whether we like it or not, once you have a plan on how to move forward, the financial capacity is very critical.

What did it take to realise your vision?
Getting into Stanbic Bank was not easy. I applied to six banks, with Stanbic as my first choice. But I had to wait, and do different interviews. In August 2014, I entered as an assistant to a relationship manager, mind you, with a Master’s degree and more than 10 years of experience. Of course, I knew that was not where I wanted to be, but it was the beginning. I later became a transactional banker and then a private banker. 

When the opportunity opened up for my current job, I interviewed for it three times. In November 2017, it was not a favourite position among company employees, so many people looked at me and wondered why I took it up. I said that was where I wanted to be, because that was where I was going to create change in young people’s lives. 

What role does money play in one’s career?
The impact is what gets you up every morning to go to work; the money is a bonus. Your career should be a life- changing journey, for you and those people around you. In everything you choose to do, the impact you are creating is the most critical, not the money. If you are creating a career, you have to get that job to ensure you impart and create change. 

What  more  can  one  do  to  make their  jobs count?
Look at the impact you create on the job, and focus on how to enhance it. A job description outlines duties according to the work of the previous holder of that job. So are you going to just sit in the position, and enjoy what has been done already? What is going to make you different from somebody else? You need to have a personal goal,  a vision and purpose. That is what makes a career. The money, the titles do not make a career.

What can the Ugandan employment sector learn from the USA?
The gig economy is a massive in the USA and I would like to see it become more established here. You can do so much with taking up gigs. It is flexible. You do not necessarily need to have a permanent job to pay bills. Even with a job, the different gigs you take up help you learn different skills and not worry about the bills as you do your job.

What advice do you give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
It is not about the position, but what you can do with the position. When your career journey is aligned with your passions, you will know the important skills to acquire and the education you go for.  The job should give you space to express yourself and has to be aligned with your personal values, passion and things you believe in. You cannot work for a cigarette company when you do not believe in smoking. 

What do you do during your  “me time”?
I work out heavily, it is the way I get sanity. I also love books but I love to listen, so I buy a lot of audio books and podcasts. I am also a huge fan of music; I mostly enjoy 80s music.

What book did you last read?
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and Dare to Lead by Brene Brown.

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