#JobsMatter (Part 4)

__Your career is too important for you to outsource.

When I was a young engineer, the government of India sent some retired executives to Zimbabwe as part of a mentoring exercise. They were assigned to various departments of the public telephone company where I worked at the time.

The irony is that no one was actually assigned to my own department, but I nevertheless sought them out and befriended one of them who was very excited to engage me. He would come to my office and just chat with me over lunch, and even in the evenings.

He had been a very senior executive in the Indian telephone company, but was now retired. It actually surprised him that the person he ended up mentoring was not the person he had come to mentor. That guy thought he was too important to be hanging around with an old Indian executive. I invited this guy to my flat, to visit places, and all the while I asked him questions.

I had never met anyone (in my entire life) who had been that senior in an organization before, what is known popularly today as the “C-suite.” This was my opportunity to learn about what happens there!

I literally pestered the guy, and he enjoyed it. For him, it was like he was back at work. As for me, I had set my eyes on being in the C-suite of a major organization…

__But how can I get there, if I don’t know what is there?

He also encouraged me to read books by the world’s leading executives and entrepreneurs. It became a lifelong habit.

One day my now friend came to my office, and he found me devastated.

“What is the matter?” he asked.

I told him that I had been taken off a list of engineers heading to Japan for several months of training. I was hurt and bitter. I knew that I was the most qualified person who had been dropped. I believed it was because the relative of a powerful politician who was much less qualified, and in a totally unrelated area, had been given the opportunity ahead of me. I was literally dropped.

My Indian friend consoled me with some life lessons which I will share here with you, to add to the life lessons above:

# Your career development is too important to outsource, even to the most progressive employer in the world. He told me to take charge of my own career development.

“There are lots of things you can do to invest in your own career development,” he said.

He challenged me to put down a list of the things I thought I would learn in Japan, and we then sat down and tried to come up with ways to get the same knowledge without the help of my employer. I found that with a bit of ingenuity, commitment, and passion, I could develop my own personal training and coaching program.

“Whilst your colleagues are in Japan, why don’t we pretend that you are also in Japan on training?”


“So what are you doing this weekend?”

“Watching football with my friends.”

“In Japan?”

“Actually no. I have to spend some time studying and reading.”

# What are you doing to advance yourself?

There is much more you can do for yourself than you probably appreciate. Today there are a lot more avenues for self-promoted advancement than ever before.

# Television and the Internet should not be seen purely as tools for entertainment. It’s not going to be easy but you have to force yourself, just like I did all those years ago.

By the way, one of my friends who went on the training trip was amazed to find how relaxed I was about being left out of the trip, when they returned. He was even more surprised to learn that I was no longer available for a lot of the things we used to do together at weekends, and in the evenings. I had changed forever, whilst he was in Japan!

# I turned that setback into one of the greatest benefits in my life.

Just before he returned to his country, my Indian friend (mentor) said to me:

“You are going to be more successful than even I could imagine.” This is after I told him I did not have time to attend a cricket match (a shared passion)!

The people who get ahead are those who seek out and seize an opportunity. I literally “hijacked” that Indian program. It was not the first time and would not be the last that I did that with an opportunity which others were just wasting! You must do the same, because “no one owes you a living.”

People who spend their time saying “Why can’t so-and-so do this for me?” will be saying that at the end of an unfulfilled life!


by 21 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

21 thoughts on “#JobsMatter (Part 4)

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.
    I bumped into another Indian friend of mine in London (not the same guy as in my main story). I asked him what he was doing in London.

    “I’m on leave,” he said.

    “So why all the books?” I asked, pointing to the books in his hands.

    “Every year I take time out to study for something. I use part of my leave.”

    “Do you pay for it yourself?”

    “Yes, very much. It gives me the freedom to shape my own career the way I want.”

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.
    In whatever career you are pursuing, if you have not been getting regular professional refresher training (planned and designed by you), then you are heading for obsolescence. If you have been working somewhere for more than 5 years, and you have never been on some kind of career advancement training, which you yourself initiated, you are setting yourself up for trouble… “You are responsible for you.”

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    When the Patriarch Abraham approached a man who owned a piece of land on which he wanted to bury his beloved wife Sarah, the man offered the land to him as a free gift. Abraham politely declined and implored the man to accept money for it. Have you ever wondered “why”? (This is not a religious question; it’s an eternal life lesson question.)

    Be careful what you rush to accept as a “free” gift. Of a truth, a wise person is one who (amongst other things) does not always want to get things for free, particularly if they are the most valuable things in life.

    When did you last insist on paying for something that had been offered to you for free? If you cannot remember, perhaps there is a problem.

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4.
    As you see in this story, there are a lot of retired executives out there who are only too keen to share their experiences and life lessons. Don’t just focus on high profile guys (like me) who are often too busy to give you the time you need. Seek out people who have worked in successful organizations and humbly ask them to share their thoughts. Invite them into your business and ask them to give you their advice.

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Samuel writes,

    Wow! Thanks for this. Before your visit to Abuja this thought dropped in my head and immediately my team and I began combing our contact and created an informal advisory team made up of the Top Executives we know. We don’t know many but the few we do, to our amazement are so enthusiastic and quite generous with their knowledge.
    Quite an invaluable asset.

    My gratitude to you always for finding time to mentor us. We keep learning and most importantly apply your teachings.

    My reply,
    Your country Nigeria has some of the most skilled and experienced (now retired) executives I have ever met. Many of them have experience at the highest levels of the business world.
    Please, please seek them out and ask them to advise you. It will surprise you how enthusiastic you will find them to be!

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Thabiso writes,

    After you shared the story last year, of that young man who read 25 books a year and still in high school, when I was reading only 3-5 books a year, I had to do things differently.

    I have changed and today am on my 20 with the aim of 24 at least this year, next year I must double that.

    I subscribed to Bloomberg, Harvard Business Review, Insead Knowledge and McKinsey, I read at least one article a day from each site.

    I have designed a program to attend short term course at Gordon Institution Business Science. I did my Foundational Program with them and I learned a lot.

    My reply,
    You are awesome!

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author


    Talking about setbacks and how you were left out of the Indian training though you were most qualified reminds me of my own very life. Just about a year ago, I was unfairly fired from a job I worked so hard at!

    Though traumatized, I learnt to get over my ‘misery’ quickly and create the kind of future I want. I quickly went back to school to finish up with my MPhil. in Mathematical Statistics and then co-founded a social enterprise that is currently making impact in my country.

    Such is life and Joel Osteen rightly said: ‘Your setback is a setup for a comeback.’

    My reply,
    Just amazing!
    Well done. Inspired by your story.
    Keep it going.

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    India is a remarkable country. At the time I was particularly fascinated with how you build organizations that can operate across such a vast country. India’s population is exactly the same as Continental Africa.
    It is this type of curiosity that you need to nurture for the future.
    It was then that a seed was planted in my spirit that would take decades to realize:
    “We Africans must develop the capacity to build organizations that can operate across the entire continent.”
    I was already thinking about this when my business was just two people!
    #Your turn!

  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    I have never yet been to Japan even today, but I have recently agreed to serve on the board of a Japanese company, so I will travel there for the first time next year.

    But let me tell you this, I spent years studying Japanese companies and their history. I used to carry around the story of Akio Morito the co-founder of Sony in my bag wherever I went for years.
    I have cultivated relationships with Japanese companies for decades.

    #Curiosity drives entrepreneurs.

    #Open mindedness let’s in opportunities.

  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Breaking News!
    What happened at Stanford?!

    3.2m views….something is happening here!
    Now that is a record.
    Have we started a revolution or what?!

    I very much appreciated the incredible support.

    In January, I will be doing Kenya, and Uganda.

    Also plan to visit Burundi next year.

    [Hopefully] Zimbabwe will be in December next year, as promised.

  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Veridique writes,

    I know almost all about financials of large cap firms trading in the NYSE. Have been following the Dow Jones since it reached 17 000 points and it’s now about to reach 25 000 points.
    Thanks to Bloomberg I watch interviews of CEO of successful firms in America to an extent that I even feel that I have met them : Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and his customer obsession, Satya Nadella (Microsoft) emphasizing on the ability to think for his self as one of recipes for his success,…
    Internet, is a game changer. We as Africa, has a lot to do on that front because the most off us are still off the grid, sad. But thanks to firms like Airtel, Mtn, Liquid Telecom,… many people use internet.

    My reply,
    When I have encouraged every entrepreneur, and executive on this platform to do things like this every day, Africa will have some very, very big companies!
    I watch Bloomberg TV EVERY SINGLE DAY!
    I do not follow markets because I have a big company, it is like “oil dipstick” of a car.
    In the beginning I did not understand everything, but with practice I taught myself. This figures are not more complicated than soccer statistics. Everyone can learn, and unlike football statistics, this can make you very rich!

  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Alloyce writes,

    I always emphasize this to other aspiring entrepreneurs I talk to sometimes, the goal is to build companies that can do business anywhere in the world and represent Africa as a whole. Technology has even made things easier, there is no excuse of saying you can’t find or don’t have the right skills. For example, I was able to successfully build an app remotely with Indians I never met. I used Indians solely because we didn’t have the necessary skills in my country, Namibia (especially cloud computing) and our neighboring countries such as South Africa, I felt they over priced their IT skills. This is one of the incredible experiences I have undertook with Technology, we are truly 1 global village.

    My reply,
    As an entrepreneur you must learn to look for the best skills to get a job done. We had a lot of problems with our mobile money platform in the beginning because we tried to do it ourselves. We had the humility to accept our own limitations, and we then approached developers in India, who developed a solution using our specification. For a number of years now it has won international awards as one of the best in the world.
    A good entrepreneur knows who to approach for specific tasks. India is #1. for this type of development, at lower cost.

  13. Strive Masiyiwa Post author


    Before execution comes strategy!

    In the banner picture you see an MTN shop which sells Kwese TV.
    We are now rolling out in the shops of 35 mobile operators in Africa.
    In business we say:
    “Before execution comes strategy”:

    Don’t just rush out, spend time on strategy….

  14. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Kiseka Samson writes,
    “If am given 8hrs to cut down a tree, i will use 6hrs for sharpening the blade ” Once a great mentor said! That’s strategizing i guess

    My reply,
    Well said…
    Once you get the strategy right, execution should be simple, and also fun!

  15. Samuel Hwambo

    Thank you very much for your entrepreneurship advice. I was priveledged to work under your systems and learnt cloud accounting systems, like Hyperion. I was however elbowed out of employment by one of your most ruthless Finance managers at your plant in Mutare. However I now understand as you say you don’t employ Christians only.
    I am one year less your age and feel that time is no longer on my side but I have always harboured entrepreneurship in me. At the moment I have a plan to do plastic recycling and still at the initial stages of sourcing funding. I have come up with a business case but banks, with the Zimbabwean financial situation, are not forth coming with loans and even if they do, the terms and conditions are stringent and expensive. I would like to start off with a state of the art plant and employ high level people to operate and manage the plant. You started Econet with US$75. What happened thereafter?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *