Tio Kauma on Building Career

In the 42 days of lockdown, Robert Kabushenga (RK) is taking off time to run a daily mentorship program called #40DayMentor hosted on his Twitter spaces. In this episode he hosts Stephen Tio Kauma (TK)to talk on career.

RK: Hello Tio, Welcome to Spaces. Let’s begin already. Remind us of the lesson your dad used to teach. There is something he used to tell us about being foolish and not being stupid.

TK: Greetings from Cairo. It’s very hot here. He used to say if you must be foolish, don’t be stupid, he had seen HIV ravage young people and he had come to the conclusion that abstinence may not be the solution. He made a decision to tell people to protect themselves.  He meant that if you must be foolish to have sex, do not have it unprotected.

RK: Another quote I remember from your dad was something to do with “biyinzika”, could you tell us about that as well.

TK: For those of you who followed my tweets earlier, I mentioned that grew up in a faith centred home. One of the verses my parents had as their mantra was that verse was in Mathew 23. For with God, all things are possible. When they accepted Christ, in a way that protected them from the ravages of youth that their peers went through. They also got a chance to travel and consequently got into ministry. My dad (The Late Rt. Rev. Misaeri Kauma 1929-1997) became the bishop of Namirembe in 1985. Whatever you choose as a base becomes your therapy. My father believed without God in his life, there is not much he would have achieved.

RK: How do your family principles and upbringing impact the kind of you make in life?

TK: Part of the experiences/lessons at home was that it was a practical faith. We had to live the mantra. When you talk about fellowship, we had a lot of it at home. We met different people and learnt how to welcome and treat people. We were always ready to have visitors at home. At any point, a visitor would come and you had to surrender your bedroom for the guest. You had to have the right attitude.

Attitude is the behaviour you display as you go about doing things. If you do not have the right attitude when dealing with people, it becomes hard to grow your career. Your degree alone is not enough. That background gave me the chance to learn how to deal with people. You do not need to have the background that I had for you to have a good attitude, you can always cultivate it

RK: In our days, parents chose for us the careers we would take, it is different today. How do you address this with the children?

TK: First of all, I would like to look at it this way. Engagement with the children on career is a conversation that comes up along the way. There could be an instance where you’d want your child to study something else and they want another. In that case, help them speak to mentors who have gone into that space. At the end of the day, the most you can do is guide, ultimately they should make their own decision. Most time, we probably make too much noise on this career choice and they end up not mattering much. Sometimes, I think what matters is that they are getting a good education. I think that is more important.

RK: I want you to talk about married people especially women who find themselves conflicted between choosing career and pursuing family life, what are the pressures and how do they exercise their judgment?

TK: Working in a financial institution like the one I work for, I have seen men switch jobs. I have seen it myself. My wife left her job in Uganda to join me in Cairo and she is a stay a home. I have seen that the amount of work that goes into looking after the family. A lot of the times I was unable to do it. When she came through, we became closer as a family. If a woman has to put her career on hold, it should be a decision they feel they have to do.

RK: How do you conduct a conversation of choice? How do you go about it as a man if it is the woman switching?

TK: In my view, you should not have this convo as a lightening volt, instead it should be about what the family wants to achieve. E.g. if the job requires you to move, are you ready to move? My wife and I had this conversation, we were both applying for jobs and I was ready to go if she got the job first.

RT: What about a situation where the woman’s career takes off faster than the man’s?

TK: First of all give yourself a pat on the shoulder if it happens, it means you are doing well. You are on this journey together, you are a couple and therefore you should support the family; you and the children. And the benefits are for all of you.

RK: Career growth and paths requires career open mindedness. Could you talk to us about that? Should careers be linear?

TK: A lot of times we tend to look at career depending on the current job one holds. The moment you decide your life as the holder of this job, you stop to exist the day that job ends. We need to apply ourselves to our personal brands.  Our careers should be able to transition.

Rk: From your personal experience what has your career journey been?

TK: If there was an italicised career mine would be it. I graduated with a BA in Political Science. We used to tell ourselves we were studying to become presidents. I joined the Monitor at the time. And I applied for many jobs thereafter. I applied to Alliance Air and we were about a thousand applicants. I was afraid I wouldn’t make it but I did. I got a chance to travel the world as a young man. That is how I joined the finance world. I did an MBA at MUBS which opened a door at KPMG as a consultant. Afterwards I joined the world of organisation structuring with PWC.

Then I got called to do more work at Lafarge to broaden my mind. After a year I joined Afroexim Bank where I have been for the last 13 years. Eventually I did a diploma in HR to help me understand the field.

RK: Breakdown a few principles that everyone should look at when looking at their career. Those things one needs to get their career on the road.

TK: The first 3 are knowledge, skills and attitude. For whatever you do, you need the three.

1) Build on your knowledge, you can never assume that because you have degree, you have it all.

2) Build up on your skills, it helps. The easier way is to volunteer.  We have to spend a huge amount of time in building up on those skills. We have to work on empathy, mood, self-control, compassion, endurance… and this applies to everything we do. This is why looking after our health is very important.

3) If you have a bad attitude, people will not want to deal with you. That will be very hard for you.

4) No man is island. The networks you build will be a huge determinant in the career you build. How you ensure that whatever you do is done in the right way. Some of the things we have to do deliberately (and at times with difficulty) choose it. Always have it as something you do on a regular basis. We always ask at the bank, what you do outside work. Those kind of activities that make us better people. Some of our self-awareness comes from that.

5) Wellness and mental health. I have seen some of the fantastic people burnout because of substance abuse. In all things we do as we socialise, we should take charge. Alcoholism and drug abuse are real and I have seen people lose track along those lines.

RK: How important is the aspect of image?

TK: The first impression makes a lasting impression. In KPMG & PWC your dress code gets assessed in the first two weeks. That has affected the way I dress to date. Image is very important.

Comrade Otoa (CO): A lot of young people are always asking; will I be of impact? Will I be able to stand out in the next 5 years? Yours is a story of personal branding, what have done to make yourself appealing to your employers?

TK: Perhaps the right thing that young people asking themselves this should think of is reorientation. They should remind themselves that they are not looking for jobs for their employers. They should realise that they are doing it for themselves.

Secondly, who is that person out there? Who is that person that you are in synch with? You should have a good understanding of yourself. A lot of the times when you write your CV, what I want to understand is what value did you bring to the workplace you were at not just listing the jobs you have had.

CO: we all know everything starts and ends with leadership, what are the qualities of good leadership?

TK: Leadership should not be placed on you, dress it and be it. Act like one, do not wait for the moment. It should find you doing it. Do not sit back waiting for someone to do it for you. Live it.

Belinda Namutebi: What can you say about workplace politics?

TK: Politics at the workplace is like tea or coffee in a meeting room, it can never be missed. Everybody comes with different values. Politics is what happens in real life. One thing I have learnt, do not play it. In one way or another, it will come back to you. Let people see you by the value you bring to the organisation. People should know you by the work you do. You will be seen by work and honour. Politics is a short term gain and I have seen many people burn from it.

Brenda Ntambirweki: What advice do you have high performance careers on work-life-balance, how do you deal with mental health

TK:  I have since stopped using the term work-life-balance, try to find another term for it. How do you manage to have a wholesome life? If you spend all you time working, the other side will be affected. You have to create deliberate spaces that will allow you to step away from your work.

Many times you have to fight to create that balance for yourself. In terms of mental health intervention, physical fitness is very important.  Depending on the type of medical cover you have, you should include counselling and therapy. It is important to make those facilities available. I have realised not many companies put much emphasis on mental health as they do on physical health.

Raymond Mujuni: At what point do you think it is the right time to jump and change career or is it just a lag that is going to go away?

TK: First of all, does it have to be jumping off one cliff onto another? Are there things you are doing today that you can combine with the things you can do in the future. Talk to people who are in the field you want to go to. Along the way, you will end up making that decision a lot easier. But where you feel you have to make that jump, make it especially when you are still younger.

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