I was always in the top 1% of the class and eventually a first-class student in the electrical engineering class of 2008 at Makerere University. In 1998, when the biggest telecommunications company in Uganda was launched, I knew that to make a profound impact in engineering, I had to be part of that organization. From there on, I worked very hard to become an electrical engineer with a specialization in telecommunications. I was very excited when I got a placement in the company a few weeks after graduation. With my fresh mind from university and big dreams to be the best at my job, I worked very hard, hit deadlines, and executed projects in record time.
After three years, tired of routine and exhausted from prolonged work hours, I enrolled for a post-graduate diploma course in project planning and management. This was a distraction from the cycle I had got accustomed to. Again, I excelled with a first-class distinction. Yet, I remained at the same level at work even after this achievement. I went back to the same routine with my patience running thin at the status quo. Everyone else in my circle seemed to be progressing by the fifth year in my employment and I thought that a master’s degree would remove the feeling of failure that had started creeping in. I started applying for scholarships to go abroad with a plan for a fresh start on return and I was not successful. I, then, settled for studying within the country and enrolled for a master’s degree in management studies specializing in project planning and management. I got a distinction for my excellent research on Information Technology and Communications (ICT) and Sustainable development. Another academic accolade, but I remained at the same level at a job I had grown to simply tolerate.
After a decade of routine work and stagnancy at an entry-level, I resolved to look for a greater purpose beyond myself. Mentoring almost came naturally to me. I enjoy guiding youth on life choices and so I embarked on looking for a group of likeminded people. While waiting for responses from some mentoring organizations, I went on to become a keynote speaker at a career guidance fair in Rukungiri district at Grammar High School in 2018. Deep in my heart, I did not get the satisfaction I sought and so I kept looking for a mentoring group. My persistence paid off and I was invited to join Project Girls for Girls. I realize now that the core of mentorship is to inspire hope, to ignite embers and to awaken a sleeping giant. What happened to all the excellence in my academics? Did the grades not matter at all in this pursuit of my wildest dreams?
In session one of the mentorship circle, we were told to write down our goals. My most pressing need was a change in career or job. I confessed to Allen Asiimwe that a decade’s stagnation had taken a toll on my hope in my career and out of desperation for a change, I was going to pursue a PhD. She asked me to give my career a shot, to soar and experience success, then pursue the PhD. I was stressed out at the thought of non-achievement and school, again, seemed like the best escape route. Throughout the sessions, I realized that, in my job, I had worked very hard in a hope to be recognized and hence promoted — a school mentality. I believed that excellent academic grades needed to be merged with life skills in order to take me farther.
A session on building trust was an epiphany. I had spent an entire decade with self-doubt, a fear of failure and had hardly owned my work accomplishments. I could not believe that there were other brilliant engineers facing the same challenges. Speaking about our challenges and writing down our goals was the tipping point for me to forge a way forward. It was apparent that fear of the unknown, of failing at a new challenge was blocking my progress. I was treading carefully for a decade, and yet in need of change.
For seven of the ten years of work, I had made several hundreds of job applications far and wide and not one ever responded. I became more open-minded and hopeful each time we had a session. The guest speakers’ spoke of their journey to success. That indeed their lives were an iceberg. There were the accolades, awards, positions visible to the human eye but beneath all that victory were moments of confusion, tears, wrong decisions, sleepless nights, rejections and most importantly, grit, persistence, hard work, sacrifice, growth mindset, focus, daily goals and meeting of targets set. This was the golden thread that ran throughout the different stories that I heard. It has been an eye-opener for me. That I can rise from any level and become all that God created me to be. And that was it. All the rejections I received on several hundred job applications I had submitted before were part of the journey. I got renewed zeal and a grand new vision to press on until a door opened. We were urged to be more visible by writing about what we are passionate about and what we have read, to update our LinkedIn accounts, to seize the moment and speak up at gatherings. We were advised to volunteer for the work many people shun in the work environment and to brand ourselves as capable everywhere we go. In G4G, I found a new village of women who believed in greatness, and a new environment of tenacity and grit.
One of the mentees forwarded a job advertisement for a new role in a newly formed department of a telecommunications company. Out of the fifteen listed qualities and prior experience, I had only two. She said she believed I was the right person for that job and I applied for it. I was called for an oral interview after the sessions in courageous leadership and art of communications. I answered all the questions with confidence and with the framework of communication at the back of my mind. I was no longer modest in what I had accomplished in my career — it was no longer a case of “we” but ‘I”. I was later called back for three other interviews of the same job that tested my emotional state and intelligence and I excelled because I now know who I am. I am capable of achieving greatness with a lot of optimism. I emerged as the most preferred candidate and I got the job. Part of my success this time around was my updated LinkedIn account and my visible presence on sustainability- a subject I am passionate about. The recruiter viewed my profile before interviewing me. The hundreds of rejections I received before could have been a result of a poorly crafted profile that did not exude excellence.
Now, I am at a new level, with a new challenge, in a new environment and I intend to rise higher and higher because Girls for Girls has given me a firm place to stand, and from it, I will change the world. I walked into Project Girls for Girls with a desire to mentor young girls in STEM but instead, transformed and received liberation from my fears. Why do I tell my story? It is a story of many brilliant girls who disappear from the scene after school because they are stuck. They are waiting for someone to hand them a promotion without realizing that the first courageous step towards their dreams is up to them. Please join me in holding another girl’s hand on her journey to greatness until we leave no girl, no woman behind.