Susan is a media / events manager and shareholder at Executive Events. The bubbly and down to earth woman shares her career life and gives pearls of wisdom on how to land that dream job. ‘I believe that doing something you love and getting paid for it is a dream come true. I do not think I would do any other job better than I do events planning. The happiness I get after delivering a successful event is unequaled.’ Says Susan.
My childhood was a happy and fulfilling one. My home in Mbarara is very close to town and not quite in town so I had the best of both words, I could enjoy the urban amenities and the tranquility of a rural area. Ours was probably the smallest family on the village because my parents had only two children which was totally unusual in our community at that time. However, during holidays our cousins would come visit. I always felt special as a child because I had so many relatives abroad; most of my dad’s relatives lived in Nairobi, Canada and New York. We used to look at their pictures in the Album. Now that we have grown we usually meet once a year especially when they are in town. The Mbarara of that time was a small community, everybody knew everybody so I was kind of grounded. I was afraid of getting too wild because I knew my parents would definitely get to know, but I had my fun too. So mine was a balanced childhood, I would hang out with my friends in town and on Sunday be in church on time ready to play my role as a drummer. I still get to practice this hobby even now in church. Lol. Of course times have changed and so has the world. I grew up doing all the chores in the home. It was my responsibility to make breakfast, clean up the house and the compound and fetch water from the well. In the evening I would sit by the fireside and listen to these riveting stories from the elder members of the family as they prepared dinner. But today the three children in my household 2 boys and one girl live a completely different lifestyle. They have electricity running water, DSTV, Mobile phones etc. One day without these facilities and my children will go “berserk’. Our childhood was less convenient and more of grind and I believe that’s why we are better people. I would really like to see this generation 30 years from now.
I started school from Mbarara Junior School and was interrupted by the 1986 war when I was in primary three. I later joined Bweranyangi Primary school as a day scholar while living at my dad’s friend’s house. This was the hardest time of my life; we were about three kids in the house and we all worked like donkeys. We traversed a swamp and walked about three miles every day to get to school. The three of us would take turns to “ Kuteera orume” going first to clear the dew . But this was a time that changed our lives forever, from being Mummy’s boy and girl to independent children. For secondary school I went to Kibubura Girls but was expelled in senior two following a strike. I then joined Old Kampala but my relatives didn’t think the school was good enough so I was transferred to Makerere College School where I was forced to repeat S.3 which was like a death to my teenage self. My A level was in Bweranyangi Girls School where I met and made lifelong friends. Actually, the true friends in life are those that you went to school with, those that you meet later, either like you for who you are or what you have. And finally I made it to Makerere University where I spent three exciting years free of parental or teachers’ restrictions. I did a BA in Mass Communication (Evening). In this class, I had three male friends from Ntare School Godwin Tumwesigye, Andrew Alberto Mugyema, Julian Mwine and one girl friend called Naome Namara Karekaho. However, most of my friends were a year ahead of me in the 1997 Mass com Class, I used to gatecrash their end of year parties and was like a year mate. I used to enjoy the company of Moses Talemwa, Aloysious Kay Mubiru, Leticia, the Late Charity and the late Barlington Bakunda. We enjoyed many outings together in the Bermuda Triangle in Wandegeya and danced a lot at Viper room. We had many trips as a department, I remember our trip to Rwanda and the trip to South Africa, and this was my first time to travel outside Uganda.
I was relieved when I managed to get through university in time given the amount of partying I and my friends did at Quasi model in Ntinda( now Haruna Towers), Thighs Club at Tufneil drive , Capital Pub in Kabalagala and discotheques.
I am currently an events manager at Executive Events where I have worked for 14 years. Although it was a very tough process for Executive Events to be known, I am glad I stuck it out because the company has organized most prestigious events in this country like CHOGM in 2007, African Union, The International Criminal Court (ICC), ATA and many more.
My first job however was at Black or White salon in Mbarara in my senior four vacation. I used to love cutting men’s hair and beards. My salary was like 1K per day, however, I used to enjoy the tips I would get at the end of the day which would be like 5K. I would save all my money and spend it over the weekend at Vision Empire. I continued working during my holidays, after coaching at Ntare School. My dad who used to be a taxi or cab driver in Mbarara would drop every day. I was probably the only woman cutting men’s hair in Mbarara at that time and this gave me an edge. With my huge size, trendy style (bell bottoms and jungle boots) and attitude I was some kind of celebrity. People used to refer to me as the Shaolin girl courtesy of my bald head look. I did this job until I joined University. I enjoyed and loved it very much. My other “first” Job was at TERP consult, a public relations consultancy firm based at the Serena conference centre.
Immediately after sitting our final exams, I and my other colleagues immediately “hit the streets”. We were so used to Kampala by night BUT now it was time to be sober and move from office to office with my partial results.
I got two jobs the same weekend; one with FEDEX a famous courier company on Entebbe Road and another with TERP Consult. I had interacted with Daniel Kagwe, the general manager then at FEDEX a good fellow who encouraged young graduands to work harder to be better people and he was willing to give me a job. Several of my relatives like Fiona Bassajabalaba, Tiiti Pamela and Joseph Kanyamunyu were already working there.
The other Job was with TERP Consult a new PR consultancy in town based at the Nile conference centre. I was connected to the owner Odrek Rwabwogo by my cousin Anthony Sabiiti , grandson of Arch Bishop Erica Sabiti. I reached the office at around 1PM and found when Odrek had left for lunch. At that time there were three people in the office; Titi the General Manager, Katungi, the Accounts/ Administrator and Sera Kanyunyuzi. When they told Odrek that I was in the office, he told them to send me to the hotel. This was the longest walk of my life. There were so many things going through my mind, I was terrified that I wasn’t what they were looking for. To my relief, the interview took about 30 minutes and I was given an assignment. This was encouraging. TERP was bidding for a job at UCDA (Uganda Coffee Development Authority) so they tasked me to go write a proposal on “How we can use PR to promote coffee in Uganda”. My deadline was the next day. I went back to my little house in Kasubi and went through my notes and tasked my housemate Joanne Assimwe to read through what I had written. When I got to the office I was told to type the work; this was the hardest interview so far. I had touched a computer in the IT class but I had not mastered anything, I was using one finger to type to the amusement of those who were used to typing proposals and proposals.
It took me two days to type that four paged article, with the help of the kafuulu (expert) Sera Kanyunyuzi who is the best proposal writer I have ever come across although she did Accounting at MUBS. This article was later published in the quarterly magazine of UCDA. The rest was history; I joined TERP consult in March 2001, graduated later that year and climbed the managerial level.
What gets you through tough times at work?
Patience, dedication and the willingness to have a successful event usually makes me work harder.
What are the perks and challenges of such a job?
First of all, getting the events is a challenge because of stiff competition. Even when you get it, planning and executing the event process usually requires a lot of time, hard work at times manual labour. Getting paid after completion of the event is also another process that takes time, money and commitment.
The most shocking and hilarious moments
Most shocking is when I was busy in a conference in Munyonyo and I forgot to pick up my son from school. I felt very bad!!!
How do you find balance between your life as a mother wife and a busy career woman?
It’s not very easy to balance work and family, but being self-employed and the flexibility of the events makes it easier to work and live a successful life.
Do you think you have made it finally?
I have not even started; I wish I could have more strength to move on.
What advice would you give to women who want to follow in your footsteps?
Work hard, be persistent and never give up
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were younger?
To be realistic, I have lived a full life from childhood and so I do not think I missed out much.
How does one achieve long-term success in his or her career?
I believe the best is to have short term goals that can be achieved at specific interval and then go on to set some more goals.