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The Power of Being Open to Opportunities

By Clarisse Uwamahoro

College graduates: is your career aligned with what you studied?


For many, the answer is no and this is not a problem, says Nathalie Munyampenda, Chief Executive Officer at Kepler, an organization that partners with Southern New Hampshire University to provide students in East Africa with access to the US accredited Bachelor’s degrees.


Nathalie believes that it is important to gain new knowledge over the course of a career journey and not get hung up on what one studied. The reality is that many jobs that will exist in the future don’t have aligned degrees or certificates today.


“As we speak, there's a lot of opportunities being created within different fields,” she said. “There are different types of jobs that did not exist when I was in university.”


Nathalie studied international development at the University of Ottawa and later earned her master’s in strategic communications from Seton Hall University.


“I have also seized opportunities outside my educational background,” she recalled. “Prior to Kepler, I had the opportunity to work at the Next Einstein Forum. This is in a scientific field and it's not an area that I studied at all. There are definitely relevant skills that you learn as you go through school and then it depends on what you do in terms of how you use and further develop these skills. But you don’t have to be limited by your degree or major.”


Key Lessons on Innovation and Leadership


The world needs leaders and innovators who come up with new solutions to different challenges that have an impact on society. How can young people set themselves up to do this in their career? Nathalie had some interesting thoughts to share.


Demonstrate competence. Nathalie mentioned that young people need to demonstrate skills that can help move organizations forward. “Building your competence, going to school and participating actively in lifelong learning helps you build competence in your field.”


Work hard and take advantage of your youth. Some may view youth as a drawback. In Nathalie’s opinion, our youth is an opportunity, and that we shouldn’t be wasting our time but use this time wisely to explore different interests and opportunities to help us grow. She also mentioned the embracing of sacrifice to reach our goals.


Build confidence. With competence and hard work, Nathalie believes that building confidence through an intentional leadership journey helps you achieve more in your career. “When you're a leader, you are working on influencing people with a vision,” she said. “So you have to understand and communicate that vision confidently and by example.”


Learn from your mistakes. Nathalie said learning from mistakes is good because you know what you did wrong and avoid repeating it. “You have to be bold, learning how to take risks and accept your mistakes,” she said. “When you've made a mistake, take responsibility. Bad leaders blame their teams, but good leaders take responsibility.”


Network strategically. “As you network with people from school and other places, you should be intentional about building your network as this builds your future,” she said.


Key Takeaways


One day, I aspire to work in the education industry. I would like to help my fellow refugees to grow and develop. I would like to use my talents to increase their hope.


Following Nathalie's advice, I need to understand and set a vision regarding who I want to be and what do I love doing. This will help me to live a life with vision and to achieve my goals.


In my discussion with Nathalie, I was able to learn that practicing self-reflection is very useful. It is needed for young people who want to be successful. As a young person, I need to love what I am working on. This will help me to build my future career in education.


I also learned from Nathalie that communicating your vision is another key step to preparing our future. Sharing your vision is a big part of self-branding. This can help you to get recognized to further your impact.


Finally, the interview underscored that my studies are only the beginning. Putting into practice some of the points from Nathalie, I know that I can position myself to evolve in pursuing different opportunities.


Nathalie Munyampenda is the Chief Executive Officer at Kepler. You can connect with her on LinkedIn. Clarisse Uwamahoro, a student at Southern New Hampshire University, is pursuing a Bachelor of Art in Communication with a concentration in business. You can connect with her via LinkedIn.