Mirian on learning the art of making bold decisions and living her best life
I do not think it would be possible to spend a day with Mirian Ndyanabo Kaamate and not be inspired. Despite the fact that she has achieved some of her dreams, she has absolutely no airs and graces. She is disarmingly honest about everything. “I do not have anything to hide…. I have always known who I am and I am proud of that. I celebrate myself every day because then nobody can tell me anything different. Every day I refuse to give anyone else that power over me,” she shrugs. Mirian’s world is what we dream of as little girls. A beloved and well respected educationist, Mirian has forged a successful career in people management. She is popular for her infectious enthusiasm and excitable energy that she brings to whatever project has at hand.
While her path to success has been nothing but aspirational and bold, it is highly relatable. “I think my life philosophy is a result of the many things that happened to me while growing up. Growing during the war in the 80’s, losing her parents and siblings I realised at a very early age that if I needed something I had to get it myself,” she shares. This realization coupled with the fact that she was the eldest in her family compelled her to live a life of dignity and decency because she was a role model for her siblings. “I knew without a doubt that my failure or success would affect those that came after me, I did not want to be the one to bring shame to not just my family but my clan too,” she reflects.
Mirian is proof that anything is possible as long as you have the right attitude. “Most people I meet always wonder how I have managed to remain so grounded most times in spite of everything. ‘Where do you get the confidence to do the things you do?’ They ask. My advice to them is always do whatever you would do if nobody was watching; never hold yourself back because of other people….even as a young employee, I never waited for my supervisor to push me or direct me.’ She suddenly pauses as if checking to see whether I am getting the point probably a trick most leaders use. “You have to believe that you can do it, that you are the best at whatever you do and then go ahead and make that belief come true,” she adds.
One of the memorable events that shaped her character happened when she was in secondary school. “Up until that time, I considered myself a great student in one of my favorite subjects and I really wanted to pursue it as a career. My teacher then, seemed to give attention to those he felt deserved it more…,” Mirian recollects with a mischievous smile. Now Mirian had two choices; one was to believe that her mother, a school teacher who had always praised and encouraged never to give up and the other was to give up. She went ahead to excel in that subject. With her stellar academic achievement, finding a job was not hard for Mirian after university. The experience Mirian says taught her an important lesson that no one should use their power to take away from others. “True power is helping people discover their own strengths and that is who I try hard to be as a leader,” she adds.
This is a lesson she took with her to Vienna College Namugongo where she stayed for 14 years. “I started at that school as a teacher and went through nearly all the ranks. By the time I left, I was The Dean. In those 14 years, I witnessed the school go through various transformations, some exciting, others concerning but overall the college gave me great experience it trained me a lot about leadership, interpersonal relationships and always being ready to embrace changes,” Mirian notes.
Serving as the Dean,of a prestigious international school, prepared her well for bigger responsibilities. She set out on a new career and was rewarded for it. Her chosen venture was Human Resource for which she attained a Masters’ degree at Uganda Management Institute (UMI). “During his opening remarks, I remember the Director commenting that the course was for intelligent people, not people who did fine art. That comment offended and inspired me in the same measure. I decided once again, it was time to change yet another wrong stereotype; and I did,” she shares. After her graduation, Mirian left her cushy job and started working at Job Connect, a recruitment agency. Her employer however, recognized her potential and motivated her to look for bigger opportunities. While under her wings, Doreen Mwesigye the CEO selflessly taught her the science and art of HR. “When Grant Thornton Uganda through BBB advertised for a People and Culture Leader I applied without hesitation. At that time I did not know that this was a network of independent assurance, tax and advisory firms all over the world, made up of 53,000+ people in 135 countries. Initially, we were over 50 applicants including one of my lecturers who later commented that he lost hope after seeing my name on the shortlist. Then we were 20 and finally it was just down to two people. The day for my final interview dawned and I found myself in one of the most imposing and impressive office spaces,” she relates with excitement. Mirian got the coveted job and set out to prove that she deserved to have it. In her first year, she helped the company win the second runner’s employer award under Federation of Uganda Employers awards. Her hard work was rewarded generously; in addition to her paycheck, the job had some serious perks. “I got to meet people from all over the world. I met and made connections with people I would only have read about. It was an incredible time for me,” Mirian shares.
It is incredible how easy it is to adapt to luxury, the more exposure you get the more you expect. It is easy to get stuck in that. “For a while I lived in that bubble, by the time I came to my senses, I realised the rest of my life was falling apart. My dogs died, my plants and flowers died probably from neglect. I knew once again it was time to make a very difficult decision. I remember the exact moment I made up my mind; I had been busy the whole day. I left my desk to use the bathroom briefly and I looked outside only to realise it was dark. I checked my watch, it was 9pm. I thought of my children at home already in bed, and I felt very sad. I knew no amount of money in the world was more important than my family,” Mirian notes. Shortly after that she resigned from her glamorous job and went back to her maiden career which at least would give her time to be with her family.
Mirian says she is a happier person now that she gets to spend time with her four children and husband. “I have learned that you really do not need that much money to have a good life. It is all about priorities and proper budgeting. You do not need a lot of money to take your children to Sheraton or Serena hotel Kampala. I have learned to invest in experiences with my family because they last a lifetime,” she asserts. She has also learned to prioritize self-care and takes vacations every year. “Most of us mothers and wives tend to get lost in taking care of everyone else but ourselves. We give until we are running on fumes. At that point, however much we want to lie to ourselves, we are not giving our best. You should take care of yourself so that you are at your best. Only then will you be able to lift your family, your community and reach out to expand the power you have wherever you are,” she adds.
On remaining authentic
I have never been anything but myself. I have always had that self-confidence and now that I am a mother I want my children to learn to be proud of who they are from me. I wore my hair natural before it was trendy, now I see people embracing it as a sign of being different. Being natural which was thought to be boring now seems like an act of rebellion to go against a society that is determined to tell you that you are not enough.
On making beautiful things
I am an artist so I have an eye for beautiful things. I can transform a simple room with a few wall-placed items. That ability is existent in every one of us. If you can put together an outfit, then you can easily make your environment beautiful. A beautiful environment gives off a positive energy that will be evident in your general performance.
On finding joy in simple things
I enjoy reading and writing, it brings me joy writing about things in my head. I enjoy keeping records through photographs and I love mentoring young ones. My greatest joy is that moment when a young girl or boy discovers that powerful talent or ability they had no idea was buried within them. I believe that everything can be taught, you just have to find the right teacher and a willing learner.