To many, (friends, workers, and family), Nicole Ingabire Munyangabe is elucidated as a woman of steel and a go-getter. The phrase “I can’t”, doesn’t seem to exist in her vocabulary because she believes in giving a try to everything, regardless of how hard it might be.
The Director of Human Resources at Kigali Marriott Hotel has worked tooth and nail, knocking each door for every opportunity without hesitating. In the long run, her efforts have paid off. With working experience of 25 years in general and, 15 years with a focus in Human Resources, she is indeed a role model to a number of women. She had an interview with The New Times about her strengths, career, lessons, challenges, progress, among others.
Briefly describe yourself
(Smiles, poses a little bit as she figures out how to go about it) I was born in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I did my primary and Secondary schools. In high school, I did Literature, with a focus in Latin and Philosophy. Immediately after high school, I relocated to Kigali and later started University. I am a happy mother of five wonderful children. (Three boys, two girls).I am a committed worker who believes in using my talents to create and impact the lives of the people around me. I like criticism as I believe it enables me to know what my weaknesses are and I am able to find a way to polish them. I have used my mistakes to create the person I am today because I learn from them. I believe in creating something out of nothing and seeking advice where need be.
Take us through your career journey
I will soon be graduating at The Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA) for my Master’s Degree in Business Administration, specializing in Human Resources. I graduated for my Bachelor’s degree in Law at Kigali Independent University (ULK) in 2008. As for my professional life, I started working at the age of 18. I was fortunate enough to work in great companies around the country such as PAM Rwanda, OCIR THE Rwanda, former Electrogaz, Global Fund, UNICEF, Rwandamotor, Plan International, Radisson Blu & Kigali Convention Centre. Kigali Marriott Hotel is my 9th Employer. During 9 years at the former Electrogaz, I got a chance to work in different departments, and hold different positions like a Secretary, Storekeeper, Recovery Agent, Archivist, Head of Central Secretariat, among others.
My exciting journey as a Human Resources person begun at Rwandamotor, my time there was very practical and I learnt so much working in the department alone, where all HR functions were under my responsibility. In addition to what I learnt at Plan International, I got well prepared to go for a bigger role in a five-star hotel that was about to open shop in the country, “Radisson Blu Hotel & Kigali Convention Centre”.
I applied as a Human Resource Manager, and I got the position, launching my career in hospitality. I worked with the hotel from 2016 part of the Pre-opening team, until last year in 2018.
It seemed quite an awesome journey for you, so how did you join the Kigali Marriott Hotel?
Having left Radisson Blu Hotel & Kigali Convention Centre end of September 2018, I applied In October 2018 at Kigali Marriott and fortunately, I got the chance to embrace another International brand! I got the position of Senior Human Resources Manager at Kigali Marriott Hotel.
On 1 June 2019, I was promoted to the position of Director of Human Resources, a position I currently hold.
Of all the professions, why was your focus on Human Resource Management?
Born in a big family, I love being around people, meeting new people and reconnecting with old ones and with my knowledge in Law, and passion for psychology, Human resources seemed like the right fit for me. I love that I get to work with different people and the fact that the skills I acquire can be resourceful in all organizations, big or small and all over the globe.
With your many years of experience in Rwanda, what would you say distinguishes Marriott from other companies?
Truth be told, Marriott International has a unique culture that I haven’t experienced anywhere else. The first fact I loved about the company is the philosophy of “Putting people first” in all we do. As a human resource person, you want to work for a company that prioritizes the people who work tirelessly every day to deliver to its customers and makes sure they are thrilled being at work daily. With this spirit all, it comes naturally for these employees to work with passion, excellence and maintain the ethics and compliance of the company.
A Marriott Hotel employee is referred to as an associate which is more of a partner in the business we do and one of my other favorite things about the company is how senior management creates an environment that enables everyone to work comfortably with one another and an open-door policy that encourages everyone to speak up and freely.
We have a Take Care program that mainly focuses on the wellbeing of “associates” with several activities done at the hotel to ensure this culture stay alive, such as GM morning runs, gym access for associates during specific times of the day, vegetarian foods, health checkups on the property among others.
Associates are continuously given training both in class and have access to a wide range of online training in different departments, to improve their skills and knowledge.
Another among the many values of the company is to serve the World by doing good in all directions which we like to call “Serve 360” program. Wherever Marriott operates in the world, we take part in community initiatives by offering support in any way we can. Marriott International has so much to offer I could go on and on (… she said with a smile)
How has Kigali Marriott been able to reach out to young professionals interested in hospitality?
We work with institution and schools such as Rwanda Development Board, Akilah Institute for Women, Vatel, Esther’s Aid and many more schools that offer hospitality courses. We offer internship placements to these young professionals from our partner institutes and Universities all over Rwanda. To those who show potential and the attitude, we as Marriott look for in our associates during their internships are considered for available positions. Only Senior or managerial positions, do we require a candidate with experience and qualifications.
What is the way forward for you, future plans?
I anticipate having a higher position and perhaps an ex-pat in different Marriott properties around the world. I yearn to retire when I have achieved so much in my career and share my knowledge and skills with other young go-getters. I might even write a book about myself, maybe it could inspire others who are scared to take risks.
What lessons have you learned from all the years you have been working?
Patience and working in harmony are important virtues I learned along the way. I have come to comprehend that a team that is divided, has higher chances of breaking down a company. Regardless of our indifferences, when it comes to work, we need to be a strong team that works and supports each other. That way, the business is able to flourish. A good workplace must be like a family; we need to pass through challenges stronger and happier but not ridiculing each other’s efforts, yet we are on the same team.
That is encouraging, so tell us, and was it a bed of roses for you or you encountered some challenges while pursuing your career?
(Laughs in amazement.) Since I am the kind of person that loves giving all my efforts in everything I do. At some point in my life, it almost seemed impossible to manage a good and stable balance between school, family, and work. If I wasn’t passionate enough, I probably would have given up on one or two for the other but I had goals to meet and in the end, each sacrifice I made was all worth it. It took patience, resilience, self-trust, practice, and commitment, to learn and reach my full potential and I still believe I have a long way to go still because learning is an endless journey.
What occupies you, apart from work and family?
I am passionate about reading and writing. In my free time, I am always with a pen and a book, jotting down something on my mind. I noticed that through writing, I am able to express and share my ideas, thoughts, and opinions to a large group of people.
In 2011, I wrote a novel called “Le Bonheur Retrouvé” which is mainly about psychological analysis & love, highlighting the torture and torment people go through silently leading them to odd decisions about their lives. This was my first published book in 2012 by Multicom Publishing House, Rwanda, and re-published by AfricAvenir Editions, in 2018, Cameroon. The book title in English loosely means: “Happiness lost and retrieved.”
My second published book is a children’s book titled, “Urukwavu Rwange Rwiza”, which means, “My nice rabbit.” Published by School Books Distributors (SBD) in 2016 and its main purpose is to teach kids the 12 months of the year in Kinyarwanda.
I currently have eight books in the pipeline.Follow mbabazijoan11