Carol Mukonyoro is the chief operating officer at Octagon Africa Financial Services Limited, a firm that offers pension and insurance services.
I once tried the taxi business. It was at the height of popularity of the online taxi businesses. I decided not to be left behind by the band wagon. Based on market sentiments and calculation of profits via an excel sheet I went ahead and bought a Toyota Ractis and got a driver. The profits were not what they had appeared on paper, and soon, I ran out of energy to micromanage the business. I walked out, having learned that it is always prudent to have some understanding or experience of the business or market you want to invest in.
I have had a fairly short career, 11 years so far. In my earlier years, meeting deadlines and sticking to timelines was a challenge which impacted on client experience. Learning to agree to realistic time lines and honouring my word to deliver as promised remains a great lesson that I hold to date.
I have come learn that in life, losses are inevitable. As such, we really shouldn’t beat ourselves too much. Instead, it is more rewarding to draw your lessons, and to launch a plan for change. Failure is not in falling down, but in falling down and refusing to wake up.
I am largely risk averse with respect to my saving decisions. I lean towards the more stable and safer saving and investment options. Over the years, I have saved using money market funds, government securities and additional voluntary contribution (AVC) in a pension saving scheme. I also save through my Sacco. These have been effective, with a stable return and offer fairly easy accessibility for rainy days.
In my early twenties, I saved through a bank account for specific projects. But in retrospect, the savings attracted no return. The ease of access to the account also made it overly tempting for me to spend money on lesser priority needs.
Most of us want instant results. Our country is often awash with stories of students cheating in exams, numerous and massive corruption scandals, and unhealthy betting, all of which seem to have the same root; the desire to take the shortest and easiest route possible, regardless of whether it is right or wrong. This is puzzling because we have potential to be a prosperous people if we can exercise diligence and patience. These are the two virtues that have brought me this far in my career.
I was young and naïve when I joined the financial industry. I began as an intern in 2009 handling administrative functions. I didn’t know much about pension and insurance but I had great interest. One day, I was asked to attend a board meeting for a key client alone. To my surprise, the client was elated and expressed their pleasure noting that I had become a ‘subject matter expert’. That for me was great success having demonstrated leadership. That was succeeded by opportunities to run specialized training among the clientele and staff. Then followed consulting and supervisory roles and for some years I was the head of the department. For someone like me who couldn’t quite speak to crowds with confidence, this took courage, diligence, commitment and God’s help. It taught me that we can grow and achieve much more than we ever imagine we can.
It pays to be content as opposed to constant longing for more. Unhealthy preoccupation with goals and dreams of where we want to get to in our career and the money we want to make can easily rob us joy and peace, and veiling our current achievements. I have also come to learn the power of being humble enough to learn from others, including peers and mentors.
This feature on Carol Mukonyoro was first published in the Saturday magazine. The Saturday Magazine is a publication of the Nation Media Group.