An inspiring Q&A with one of our MBA graduates: Rwandan Emmanuel Kamanzi (35)
“I was born in Uganda, where my parents spent over 30 years as refugees, and returned back to Rwanda when I was 14. My parents were underprivileged and unable to go far in terms of studying, however they were keenly aware of the importance of education and did their best to send all of us to school. I grew up with a sense of making them proud by going to school up to this level of masters – but my goal is to go further” and further he went.
Emmanuel, father of one, graduated with his Master of Business Administration in September 2016. “Celebrating this great achievement was one of the most exciting moments in my life,” says Emmanuel. “When you receive your diploma, you have the credentials to justify the skills you have learned. You also have the confidence to take on new challenges toward creating a better world.” Bearing in mind that during the MBA programme, Emmanuel was promoted – not once, but twice! However, Emmanuel’s driving forces are strongly ideological. “My greatest passion is to make a positive impact on the world, especially with communities that are battling poverty and disease.”
What was your main motivation to register for the International Action Learning MBA?
“After graduating from the University of Rwanda with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, I was hired by the University as a Tutorial Assistant. After a few months, my passion to serve the poor took me to serve in the most rural districts of Kirehe, Kayonza and Burera in Rwanda, managing a number of health projects intended to improve health outcomes of people. A few of the projects include: a $5.8 Million, 150 bed Butaro hospital in northern Rwanda that serves more than 350,000 population and is home to the National Cancer Center of Excellence that treats cancer patients coming from all over Rwanda and beyond; and the health center strengthening project that intended to improve the quality of care at 21 health centers in two districts in Eastern Rwanda. Two years later, I was looking for a great Master’s programme where I could learn while continuing to work, which was the only way I could pay my tuition fees. After looking into a number of options, I decided that BSN’s International Action Learning MBA programme was the best fit for me.”
What has been the biggest challenge throughout your studies?
“I received two promotions at work during the MBA programme. While that was great and, to a large extent, credited to the skills I learnt during the programme, the new positions I was promoted to, required a significant time investment reflecting my enhanced role, which was a big challenge to balance with studies. I had to plan my time efficiently and greatly reduce my leisure activities to successfully complete the programme.”
What was it about the Action Learning approach that appealed to you?
“Besides the fact that I could study and work at the same time, I found it to be a unique approach that allowed me to learn new things, put them into practice and see whether they would work or not. The experiential learning approach enables you to think out of the box, clearly understand problems and to find solutions.”
What were your expectations and goals before starting the programme?
“I expected to build upon my undergraduate studies and master different management disciplines. My overarching goal was to have the necessary skills to become not only a manager, but a leader who could captain complex and multidisciplinary projects and organisations with the potential to make a huge impact on people’s lives—especially for people living in poverty, as my parents were when they raised me.”
Did you foresee any obstacles?
“I faced two obstacles. First, I lost my dad who died of heart disease just toward the end of the first year of the MBA programme. This coincided with receiving a promotion at work, which required me to relocate to the United States where my job with Partners In Health was headquartered (I have worked for Partners In Health for eight years now). Due to this, I was forced to cease my studies after 12 months, resuming them later.”
How do you look back at the programme?
“It was an enjoyable learning journey that added a lot of value to my career. You are challenged at all times during the programme and learn a lot of new things – theoretically and practically. Also, you read extensively, and think innovatively and creatively to meet certain academic standards and deadlines…which is great but sometimes this was challenging for me to balance with my evolving work commitments. I had to stay in the office for extra hours, wake up very early at night and spend my weekends in libraries. In the end it was very rewarding.”
How did you personally develop or grow during the programme?
“I am a different manager than I was before the MBA programme. I am capable of working independently and managing complex multi-million dollar projects and the programme allowed me to master different management disciplines, which bolstered my competitiveness. I am humbled by being entrusted to lead big projects.”
And how did it affect you as a manager?
“The programme prepared me to be a good manager of people, large budgets, operations and information, and taught me to be a strategist. In both my prior and current roles, I have used and continue to use these multidisciplinary management techniques to be successful in my work.”
… any concrete examples?
“A few examples: the culture of decision-making and problem-solving based on adequate information and proven research, working to support teams to excel in their jobs, building systems that support the organisation’s core functions to meet their goals. I have applied these skills at my work and they have contributed to significant positive results.”
What to you has been the greatest insight or eye-opener of the MBA?
“Managing project or programme costs, timeframes and scope to meet or surpass their quality standards was one of the many highlights I learnt from this MBA programme. Successful management of these three components (project management triangle) will make you succeed in any projects you are involved in.”
How has the MBA impacted your career?
“This MBA programme has greatly transformed my career: I am proud of the projects I have been honoured to manage that have touched millions of people’s lives. Starting in December 2016, I will be relocating back home to Rwanda to take on a new role as a Director of Campus Development creating the world’s next great international university specialising in global health. The University of Global Health Equity’s main campus will be in Rwanda and will train the next generation of global health leaders.”
How important is the type of knowledge and expertise which you gained through the MBA, for the future development of Rwanda?
“Rwanda is a landlocked country with a few natural resources. It remains, however, the safest country to live and do business. Its economy is among the fastest growing economies in the world. The major resource that Rwanda has is its people; its continued development will be highly dependent upon its skilled workforce. The opportunity for Rwandans to enrol on Master’s programmes, like the one I enrolled on or go even further, will be critical in unlocking their potentials, becoming competitive in the job market and in starting their own new businesses.”
How do you hope to contribute to that development?
“My greatest passion is to make a positive impact on the world, especially with communities that are battling poverty and disease. I am proud of my work at Partners in Health, and soon, I will be at the University of Global Health Equity, which will contribute to closing the acute gap of global health professionals that is faced not only by my country, Rwanda, but also the entire African continent and beyond.”
Anything else you would like to share or add?
“Action Learning at BSN has a unique approach that other academic institutions need to harness. It helps to unlock students’ potential through learning and practice. It gives the opportunity for students to meet during their on campus workshops. At the new University of Global Health Equity that I will be helping to create, we have a similar approach, but in the field of health care. We are linking academic medical sciences to actual health care delivery where students learn as they practice. I am indebted to BSN’s great faculty and staff for sharing their knowledge with me and the leaders at Partners in Health, including Dr. Peter Drobac, who supported me in this professional and career growth.”