Pelagie Mbabazi caught up with Jessie Kalisa Umutoni, the Human Resources and Administration Manager at Inyange Industries. Below are the excerpts from the interview
Briefly tell us about yourself
I am 38. I was born in Uganda where I attended my primary school, secondary school and later joined Nkumba College, which is now called Nkumba University. After graduating I did different jobs and after twelve years of working I went back to school where I achieved a bachelor’s degree in human resources. My parents are Andrew Kalisa and Violette Mukansanga, both of whom are teachers. I am the first born in a family of seven girls and two boys.
What were your childhood dreams? Are you living them?
To be honest I can say I am living them. Having lived with my grandparents I have a chance to know what our culture requires of me. I will never forget what my grandmother told me. She told me if I had a chance to go to school and then get a job, I needed to get married and give grandchildren to my parents. I believe that I’ve lived up to her aspirations because this is my twelfth year of marriage.
I have always been people-focused since my childhood and I thank God. My job at Inyange is my dream job.
What are some of the challenges you meet and how do you overcome them?
There are many challenges like anywhere else. The major challenge I faced when I joined Inyange industries was the working environment. I had been working with MTN-Rwanda previously and I had to deal with a different working environment.
Coping up with the environment I found here and helping people change was another challenge I faced. The culture where people think that they are working for the company rather than thinking about what they were benefiting from the job was something I had to work on.
The biggest challenge human resource managers face is trying to please everyone especially when it comes to salary increase, promotions, training and many other benefits.
What impact has this position made in your life?
I am in a position where decisions I make impact the company directly. So I make sure I think twice before I make any decision. I’ve learnt how to better work in a team. Many people think they can make decisions by themselves but the fact is that you need to listen and to learn from others.
What is your current relationship status?
I am blessed with two beautiful daughters with a loving husband.
How have you been able to balance work and your responsibilities as a wife and mother?
On the family side our daughters are old enough to understand that if I’m working I commit myself to it. When it comes to the family time I make sure I give my daughters and my husband the time they deserve.
I think if I didn’t have an understanding family it would have been so difficult for me to be where I am today. Many people fail in their duties at work because back in their homes it’s a tug of war.
What do you think are the greatest challenges Rwandan women face?
Fear is the greatest challenge we face. Women are scared of doing things even before they try. I have been a risk-taker since my childhood and people who know me can testify to this. The challenge of fear is not exclusive to Rwandan women, but African women in general.
How do you spend your leisure time?
I love cooking so much. When I am free I cook for my family, go to church, go for sports and I also go to the gym. If there is a wedding I will attend it and if there is a party, even if its all night, I will enjoy my time with my friends and family.
What are your future plans?
I have many projects that I would do like to deal with but the main concern is with my work. I want to be a human resource consultant in the future.
What is your message to Rwandan women?
They should fight fear because if you are the kind of person who can’t express yourself, who will be willing to help you out? We are in the world of competition where everyone is looking for better jobs. So they need to make themselves as competitive as possible.