RK: It’s good to have you on #360Mentor.
MF: Thank you Robert for the invite.
RK: What is your real name?
MF: My name is Mwebya Fred. Commonly known as UGAMAN
RK: What’s the story with UGAMAN?
MF: The story behind UGAMAN is quite interesting. I started working with Uganda Breweries in 2010. In the production section, the spirits, Uganda waragi in Luziri. I had a friend in Sweden at that time and everytime we would chat he told me about twitter. But he told me not to use my real name instead to find a name that people can relate to and can easily engage with. Since I was a Ugandan man, I thought of using UGAMAN01. I thought UGAMAN would already be taken.
RK: Tell me about Mwebya Fred, where is he from? Who is he?
MF: Mwebya was born in Masaka and raised in Kampala. He lost his parents while in P5 and he moved to Kampala to stay with his uncle. My clan is nnyonyii nakinsige. We light the fireplace in Kabaka’s place.
I went to Hilltop Academy in Seguku and Ndejje for O’ level and Namilyango College for A’ level. I later joined Makerere University Business School.
RK: What did you study at MUBS?
MF: Bachelor of Science in Finance.
RK: What was your first job when you finished?
MF: I got my first job when I was joining campus.
RK: What was that?
MF: The first job was process minding in the production of the spirits in the brewery.
RK: How did you end there?
MF: My uncle had worked for the brewery before and for a long time and I had emulated the brand. We used to go there for parties and I was mesmerised by the culture, how these employees would relate and bring together their families. I grew up seeing that. When I finished my S6, I applied to work with them. My CV had nothing but, I wrote in my letter that I wanted to learn to work. The manager was pleased. So he asked me how I was going to be able to handle it since I had university coming up. I told him I would be taking the evening classes.
My first role was process minding. You do not run any machine. Your work is to sort the bottles.
RK: So you Ugaman, you were a casual labourer, is that what you are saying?
MF: Yes. In production, it is called process minding.
RK: I did a similar job and we were called inserters.
MF: What were you inserting, Robert?
RK: Let’s not go there. Tell us, what were you sorting?
MF: There is something called OPQR. Outgoing Product Quality Rating. You sample the products that are running on the line to make sure the bottles are full and not broken. The bottles are covered. That was the opening role I had.
RK: How long were you at the brewery?
MF: It was from 2010 to 2014 when I graduated. And I worked at different levels. I became a machine operator after a year. I knew how to operate the filler and the capper.
RK: This was while you were at MUBS?
MF: Yes this was while I was a student. I would work during the day and study in the evening.
I did so well on the machine. All I wanted was to get into breweries. I wanted to grow. In my second year, I was promoted to a supervisor.
RK: Were you still with the brewery?
MF: Yes, I was. For all the four years, I was working in the spirits. I then became a contract supervisor. We had a team of about 36 people. I started my leadership role.
RK: When do you leave the brewery?
MF: In my last year, my line manager gave me a promotion and I became a logistics controller. At that point, I moved from the spirits controller to the beer plan at Port Bell. I was responsible for supervision of warehouses and making sure the logistics yard was all maintained.
RK: Are you still there right now?
MF: No, I left the brewery at the end of 2017.
RK: To where?
MF: Robert, through my entire school life, I had a passion for writing and telling stories. I would attend and review events. I realised that storytelling had power. It would change perception and secondly, it would position ideas in a way that would be believable. When I was in O’ level, I was in charge of writing the school news. At A’ level, I was new and for the first time, I was the first new student to be elected the chairman of the student’s council.
RK: Didn’t you bribe voters?
MF: No, Robert. I have always wanted to be a leader and the best way to do that is to avail yourself for people to know that you are available to serve them. When I was at the brewery, I was doing side gigs. I was writing for brands. In 2016, I realised I needed to network more. When I was doing the 8am – 5pm job, I didn’t have time to go and network. I told my family about my intentions to leave.
One of the things I got while at the brewery was training. Companies with an international touch always make sure their staff get more training. The brewery had offered me a lot of opportunities.
In 2017, I told my boss that I was leaving. He thought I was joining one of the competitors. He thought I was quitting to go somewhere to get a better pay. But I was not going anywhere. The money I was getting from my writing gigs was equal to what I was getting from the brewery. I bid my farewell and left.
RK: You studied finance and went into marketing, tell me, with all these ideas, how did you come to this decision?
MF: It was easy for me, Robert. Getting into the workplace at a very early stage, helped me to shape out what I needed to learn. My level of association was very helpful. At the brewery, I had seen people come and leave, and also I had seen people who had been asked to leave at some point. As we were working you could see what people were going through.
I saw what the environment people were going through. Despite not working in the top positions, I was able to learn the processes, the experiences that this brand was offering. That is what shaped my leadership.
I knew if I walked out there having learnt networking skills, being able to be a team player, it gave me the confidence that I would be able to work with people out there. In my 2nd year at university our lecturer Dr Ramathan Goobi used to tell us that what matters in life is having a goal not how long you stay at a job.
I looked at the money I was earning at the brewery and I thought if I compound that ugx 180,000, it would be a significant one. I was freelancing for some brands like National Water. I had no qualification but when I approached Dr Mugisha, he gave me a go ahead in 2013. I would write a weekly article in the Observer every week. So I thought, if I walked over to more other CEOs, that would help me to improve my earnings.
RK: How old are you now?
RK: Do you have a family?
RK: Great. I will ask you now, what are you doing now for a living?
MF: I am a digital strategist. I also run a company called Tout Media. We create content for brands. Some are already big and others are just start-ups. That is how I survive.
RK: Tell me, who is a digital strategist?
MF: When it comes to digital platforms, brands always have plans; sales, marketing, culture, HR and all that. A digital strategist is one who helps a brand to apply the plan they have within the digital spaces. Brands already have a culture and objectives. As a digital strategist you walk in to offer guidance on which platform will give them the best results.
RK: Do you have any regrets?
MF: I don’t have any, Robert.
RK: Why is that?
MF: I love what I do even when I am not paid. The regrets I would have would be if I am not getting the money. With the work I’m doing, everytime you get to build a new block, it will pay you. And that helps to keep me going even when the client is not there. For example, in covid, most of our contracts were cancelled. We turned to our savings for survival.
But I had never used youtube at the time, so I turned to creating content on Youtube. And within five months, I started earning from youtube. After covid, I put my youtube on hold. In between that time, I was learning new things.
RK: Just to understand, what platforms are you familiar with and how do you leverage them?
MF: Three platforms; facebook, linkedin and twitter. Those three are the ones that have built Tout Media. It is where we get our clients.
RK: What do they bring to your clients?
MF: Allow me to say this Robert, there are so many things in the world that are making business in the world today. The only thing that is bigger than attention in this era we live in is stock markets. No matter what NGOs, governments, businesses are doing, everybody has a goal of attracting attention. That makes attention a very huge asset to trade on social media. For those that know how to win attention, win on social media. One of the things these platforms bring this commodity called attention towards your brand.
When you have it, you actually know who your audience is. You can get this through tools. You get to know what they do, their preferences and such details. You then employ this attention to make decisions but also to be able to understand what your target market really wants. You can improve on your ideas, markets, culture depending on what your graph is showing you.
However, there is a downside. Quite a number of people get it twisted when they think that the best thing to do on twitter is to become salespeople. It cannot always be about buying. Many brands want to sell without helping their clients. You don’t get attention by asking people to buy from you. You get attention when you give them value. Once you know who your audience is, then you go to your drawing board and try to figure out the problem of your target group. If you want to sell a car to someone who is 32 but you don’t know them, how is the car going to be important to them?
RK: For people of my generation, you guys call it a gig, this thing of influence, what is an influencer?
MF: First and foremost, Robert, I would like to make it clear that influencing is a big industry. Social media created this industry and it is only tapped about 50% in the western world and about 10% in the rest of the world.
Being a huge industry, this is what happened. For people to shift from a traditional industry to starting online platforms and portals that would raise awareness. For those who were transitioning the analogue ways, they needed people who needed an awareness of how that could be made. And those are the people termed as influencers.
Influencers can work for as many brands beyond selling products. They are in policies and government because this is how it works, the person who has the capability to attract attention because of their opinion, especially those with a craft in that industry. For example, If someone came to Uganda looking for someone in the media to talk about the future of media, I would walk to your desk.
RK: First of all, I don’t have a desk anymore.
MF: It doesn’t matter.
RK: Secondly, I am from the media past my friend.
MF: That’s okay because even when I walk up to you, I will not describe what I want from you, I will just tell you the journey. I want to walk with you. In my own view you are the right person. You are the right person I want to walk with. The bigger picture is to build a new media style but because of your experiences and the audience you have I walk to you. Therefore you become an influencer in the venture that I am about to do. Influencing is actually at bigger levels; from nano to micro to mega to professional influencers. Any of those has the opportunity to make money but also to move industries from where they were created online.
RK: I will tell you. When we started doing these mentoring series, I got a bit of a problem. A friend of mine sent me a message saying I had caused him a problem. “ Now my friends are pointing to you. Why are you stopping us from being on social media yet your age mate is doing influencer work?”
And then I hear from other circles that you guys complain that I am occupying your space. I am not an influencer. I just came looking for some akaboozi on this street.
MF: Robert, do you want honest feedback from my circles?
MF: You came and did a good thing that nobody could ever anticipate. I will tell you, you shocked so many people. First of all, you had embraced this platform but it was not your major thing when you were still in employment. When you came and started doing these series, many of us were moved. And you came at a time when people knew how to use features on social media and you chose one to do the spaces and you have perfected it.
People like you, Asan Kasingye, Nicholas Opio and Comrade Otoa. All of you have made a difference. In December 2017, I started doing a UOT night every Wednesday at Fame Lounge. We used to meet there to network. I met about 2000 twitter users. I would create a list and look out for these people.
Many young people started entering telecoms and banks because of the numbers. Having you on board has helped a lot in driving this agenda.
RK: Thank you very much for that feedback. The person I credit for this space is Brian Kyeyune commonly known as Quenga.
What opportunities do you see that can be used to earn an income?
MF: I always start from self awareness. No matter where you are, if you are not aware of your potential and what you can do with yourself, you just cannot earn. That is the starting point. Many of us have fantasies but we do not know where we are. For you to understand your talent or skills; you can have a very brilliant career but the only way people can see it is if you put it out on social media. When I talk about software that someone has developed, there is someone somewhere who would like to put their money to use, where social media becomes the meeting point.
Robert, if I started drinking coffee every day from today until the end of December, by the end of December, if you want people to come and sample your coffee at Rugyeyo farm, I will be one of them.
The opportunity is right before us but because we fear to expose ourselves we decide to hide. That is why many people have resorted to misusing social media platforms.
If you talk about fashion every day, before long Santa Anzo will be asking you to talk about her clothes. She pays you for that. Then before you know it, Santa asks you for a collabo to have a jacket with your name on it. Then you create a story about it. And meanwhile I have not talked about the employer. That is how a social media manager role is created.
People will only know you are good when you come out to tell your story. Share your work.
RK: What you are saying is that these platforms give young people an opportunity to show who they are only if they know who they are?
We grossly undervalued self awareness. People have created beliefs that you must follow something if you want to become someone and they have forgotten who they are.
RK: What I find puzzling about you young people is the use of fake names and this thing called violence?
MF: Just like the wall street was created back in the day based on information and predictability of the future, this is the same opportunity that social media promises today.
I can make you believe that 10 years from now Uganda will be having electric cars and few fuel powered cars. And if I started that and I did my research, I can build a brand that will embrace electric cars even when there are no electric cars in Uganda.
Meaning, the tools we have today give us the potential to build a new future and a new way of doing things. However, we have people who are confused along the way. This is what you are calling violence. On social media, people are struggling to find the asset. And we said the asset is attention. The only way people think that they are going to pull that attention is when they behave. It’s like back in the day when telephone booths were introduced to schools, there were students who would call and lie to their parents. But that does not mean the booth should be taken away because there were genuine people making genuine calls.
RK: In our days, we would go and just hide a receiver and pretend like you are talking to a girl and it would give you that feel good factor. Just to get attention.
MF: One of the major precautions people joining social media need to be mindful of is mental health. This has been grossly neglected. Many young people have access to these platforms and they want to feel like someone pays attention to them. The violence going on today on social media is lack of focus and lack of opportunity of the young people. Many of them think that they can attack people to get attention. but two, digital platforms don’t have a framework, in other places, there are policies that need to be followed. Such attacks would be punishable.
Comrade Otoa: How do you work around the idea of personal branding in the influencer world?
MR: When it comes to the online space, sometimes you can be caught off-guard. Some people have become household names. When it comes to the virtual space, two things you must consider;
1. Who do you want to connect with?
You don’t build your online brand as you. You actually begin by identifying those people who are already doing what you want to identify with. If I want people to believe I am a banker, I must talk to the bankers. I must create content about banking. You don’t wake up one day and say you are a banker, instead, you build connections and content around banking.
2. You look out for the trends that are making the industry that you want to be in as a brand
For example, if I am a music critic, I have to go to the different radio stations and start talking about the music. That is when the radio presenters come out to reach out to me.
The element of personal branding is not about what you’re thinking inside, what you want to become versu who is already doing what you want to become. That is how the community is built and you can brand yourself.
RK: Thank you Ugaman for making time.
MF: Thank you for hosting me.