Cheza kama wewe…saidia wengine. ~ Dr. Vincent Ogutu
Become the best that you can be so that you can serve others are the words of Dr. Vincent Ogutu (Vice-Chancellor Designate, Strathmore University). He has whizzed through the earlier positions of DVC Planning and Development, Vice Dean- Executive Talent Development at Strathmore University Business School (SBS), Director for Regional Academies in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda at SBS, and Founding Director of the MBA at SBS. He was also the Deputy Principal of Strathmore School. He holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Management from Rutgers University (NJ), an M.Sc.in Financial Economics from the University of London, and a BA in Economics from the University of Nairobi. Since May 2018, the Vice-Chancellor Designate has been working intently with Prof. John Odhiambo (Vice-Chancellor) on all affairs related to the office of the Vice-Chancellor.
“Bricolage” – do-it-yourself
The ability to meander through these various positions was largely influenced by my upbringing. As a child, I was taught to be resourceful and encouraged to solve problems. For example, we had to make our own toys and create our own games. Even now as an adult, I continue to use my hands and be creative to make things happen. Being able to generate multiple solutions to problems has taught me to approach everything from diverse viewpoints. I also aspire to always seek a deeper understanding than what is on the surface. Over time, you learn not to wish for what others have and to seek rather to become a better version of yourself. Remember, life is not just about having but mostly about becoming.
“The only thing I have lost is black hair”
I am often asked what leadership is like. It is definitely a great opportunity and can be very exciting. The downside, however, is it may cause you to lose that nice black hair you had (like Obama!) but you can always claim it is a sign of wisdom seasoned with age. With that said, if I had to choose an age to remain at for the rest of my life, it would be 39. This is because at that age, you already have enough experience to have a huge impact, you have the benefit of maturity, while still having the energy of youth. Looking back on my college days, I miss spending time with my buddies and not having much responsibility on my shoulders. I made an effort to get a deep understanding of the courses I signed up for. I recall having a love-hate affair with the accounting unit because the professor made it unnecessarily hard when he saw that the economics students treated it as an easy subject. Eventually, the highest grades were a couple of B’s with half the class failing. At that time, I wanted to be a journalist (and it may still happen!). This is because I enjoyed the excitement I associated with it, speaking in public, being impactful and of course facing the unpredictable every day – I thrive on unpredictability. As fate would have it, I still manage to get all of this in my current work, so all is not lost! Perhaps some time in future, I might choose to make more impact by being involved in shooting documentaries that will inspire people with lots of interesting stories.
“He Leadeth Me: An Extraordinary Testament of Faith” by Father Walter J. Ciszek S.J.
Strathmore’s founder, St. Josemaria Escriva, once said “Put your heart aside. Duty comes first. But when fulfilling your duty, put your heart into it. It helps.”I may not have set out to take this position, but once I accepted it, I put my whole heart into it and now it’s exciting to just think of what we could achieve together as a university. I get a lot of inspiration by reading books. One of my all time favourites is “He leadeth me”, the true story of an American priest who was sentenced to prison in Siberia. He had such incredible self-mastery the torturers couldn’t break him, until God allowed it to happen to teach him humility and abandonment. After that he became all-powerful and the perfect instrument for God to use in an extreme place like Siberia. If I had to choose an historical figure to hang out with, it would be Saint Augustine! He was insanely talented, a great communicator, and a fun person to be around. His wisdom allowed him to address issues in theology, philosophy, and politics at a level that remained unsurpassed for centuries. I like the fact that he was not perfect, and so we can all relate to him for having gotten over his broken past and risen to become a source of inspiration to the world. Saint Augustine was not put down by negative vibes around him. For example, his African accent was made fun of when he went to Europe, but he continued undaunted since he had a much better command of Latin than his peers who were raised in Europe.
A Manchester United die-hard who loves to “never walk alone”
I do take a break sometimes, and I do so by engaging in physical activity such as soccer and running half marathons. I am a Man U fan but admittedly love the slogan of Liverpool – you will never walk alone. I also enjoy playing the xaphoon which is a chromatic keyless single-reed woodwind instrument. Its sound falls somewhere between a saxophone and a clarinet. It is also known as a pocket sax. When it comes to sitting at the table I indulge in bhajia but my favorite meal is my mother’s traditional ugali made from a blend of various flours like millet, cassava, and maize meal with a side of traditional vegetable greens some of which are bitter. The last time I travelled upcountry, I went to my eating joint in Kisumu, Luang’ni. Here you get to eat fish straight from the lake. Too bad they have now shut the place down!
My last words to those who aspire to be influencers: start by becoming a better person. Seek education as a tool that broadens your thinking and makes you address the ultimate questions like the meaning of life and the secret of happiness. Make an effort to acquire skills in every activity you engage in, be it class work, sports, music, whatever. Do not let other people’s ideas of success become your gauge of success. Instead aim to follow yourself, the true self you were created to become which is your yardstick of success. Even as you continue to “Cheza kama wewe” pursue humility so that you will put your constantly improving self at the service of others and the greater good.
This article was written by Annete Karanja.
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