It’s 7:37 PM, on a Tuesday evening. I’m the last one in the office. Justifiably so because finally, I have managed to get a one on one with one Ben Muchimuti, just in time for tomorrow’s publication. He has been nice enough to come for the interview in person, despite his obviously tight schedule. Actually he walked in twenty minutes earlier, but was still engaged on his laptop, probably tying up a few loose ends on the day’s engagements before we can finally sit down for the interview. Because he’s a nice guy he profusely apologizes for keeping me waiting, but I’m more than glad we’re here. You see if you’re a writer or a journalist for that matter, you’d know time is the most precious commodity, and getting a source or news-maker to give you a few seconds or minutes of their time is actually the determinant of whether you continue doing your work or not. So we writers never take it for granted. From where I sit you can see a man who evidently has a lot to handle, with tight deadlines and myriads of expectations to meet. But more explicit is the grace with which he takes everything in his strides, an aura that silently but firmly states ‘I got this.’
I ask him how he manages to juggle everything in his life, work, social life and strike a balance. “Most of my decisions, in all spheres of my life are guided by my religious faith. That is what determines every step I make. As for striking balance, I don’t believe in losing, in everything I do. I’m either a victor or a victor. When I meet my objectives, it’s a victory and when I fall short, I learn a lesson, which is still a victory.”
The cold weather in Juja continues to bite, especially with darkness now hugging the vicinity, so we get on to the rest of the interview. Ben Muchimuti, an engineer by profession, joined Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in 2008 and graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Currently an employee of Avaya, he serves as an Account Manager and a Marketing/Sales Executive in a team that deals with the company’s West, East and Central Africa region. The multinational company, which coincidentally is a key partner of JKUAT, specializes in Internet telephony, wireless data communications, customer relationship management software, business communication solutions for customer and team engagement among others. But that’s beside the point. Let’s hear more from Engineer Ben, our alumnus of the week.
Briefly describe your career journey from your graduation to your current position.
After graduation I started as an intern at Broadband Communication Networks where I’d done my internship back in 3rd year. They then hired me as a Field Engineer where my roles ranged from project management, implementation to network design and testing. It was whilst here that my continued interraction with the vendors and other clients sparked my interest in pre-sales and then sales.
I then moved to Avaya as a sales associate, then under their Global Management development Program.
Apart from the academic provision, what role has JKUAT played in your career development?
Definitely yes. Key was the development of people skills. I was a member of the JKUAT chapter of Model United Nations and here I got a chance to sharpen my public speaking and negotiation skills. Also very significant is being a member of the University’s Christian Union community (CU) gave me a chance to to grow spiritually and morally. Almost all decisions I make are wholly guided by my faith and beliefs as a christian.
Do you think studying at JKUAT has made you uniquely equipped and qualified to handle various jobs and initiatives and the challenges that come with them?
Yes and No.
Yes because majority of the people we schooled with including myself were by default taught to be go-getters. No challenge is too challenging for a JKUAT alumni. There’s always a solution.
No because I feel there is more to be done to equip the students for them to be ready to face the reality in the world after academics.
What are your most treasured memories as a student in JKUAT back in the days?
My life was quite eventful, that’s for sure. From participation in various church initiatives, charity activities with fellow students, club activities to class trips and internships. The list is endless, but top of it was a mentorship program we ran at an orphanage next to the University. That was something special.
In your everyday engagements and activities, what keeps you going and what is your guiding principle/philosophy?
There are only two results in all I do; A win or a win. If I achieve my goals, I win. If I don’t achieve them, there’s a lesson learnt; I win. With this mentality, I believe there’s no chance for quitting.
What are your career plans going forward? Any anticipated change or advancements?
This is work in progress.
If you were to go back in time and become an undergraduate student again at JKUAT, what would you do differently?
Well, I would invest more in myself, and also probably sleep more. With the insight I’ve had now, I would have a clearer picture of where to drive my destiny to. I would also definitely strive to make up for lost time.
What is your advice to the prospective and current students taking the course you studied at the University?
First of all, know your passion. Electric and Electronic Engineering (EEE) is wide and you can’t be a guru of everything. Secondly, understand and decide whether you’re working towards white collar employment or to be an entrepreneur. Third, invest in yourself. Grow your leadership skills, communication skills and get professional certification in the disciplines you’re passionate about. Fourth and lastly, get relevant mentors.
Would you recommend to someone the course you studied at the University?
No. Why should I? Everyone needs to understand himself or herself before making such a decision, and this should be informed by relevant mentorship.
What are some of the opportunities and challenges in your current job area?
It is a diverse industry. Opportunities are many but limited. Many to those at the top of their game, but limited to those who are clueless. What I can add is that exposure is paramount, and this can only be gained through networking and reading.
Are there any improvements or changes you think should be effected in JKUAT as pertains the course you studied?
Yes! I actually need a whole week to discuss that! To summarize, I can cite the following; there should be more industrial visits, more mentorship programs, establishment of more incubation labs and more organized placements for internships. And finally, in my opinion the scope for EEE is too wide with minimal knowledge retention. There is need to narrow the syllabus to specific key courses.