1. What was your first job?
My first job was working on campus, cleaning the school’s floors.
2. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
Making sure we keep the momentum going so we can grow our market share on the continent. Hard tech development is a long and expensive process – bringing a product to market can take years.
3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career?
My mother. She was born in a time when women did not have the same right as men, and was not taken seriously. But she achieved so much – she put us through college, and supported a lot of my other ventures. So every time I am feeling down, all I have to do is think of her and the challenges she must have endured and I quickly get back to work.
4. The best professional advice you’ve ever received?
No matter what, never give up. As long as you keep fighting you will see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Patience, persistence – and two of my biggest strengths, strategy and execution. I do not like to waste time on theory or thinking about ‘what if’. Any idea I felt strongly about, I just did it and adapted as quickly as possible to find the right recipe to make it work.
6. Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership? Business school or on the job?
Neither one of them. Just start a business – it will teach you more about yourself and your abilities than any other institution, and will force you to improve on your weaknesses or you will fail.
7. How do you relax?
I love to sleep and watch documentaries or shows about business. I also love going to the movies.
8. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?
Eight or 9am. I’m not really a morning person, but I like to work at night, it helps me focus better than when there is noise around me.
9. Your favourite job interview question?
I don’t have any, most of my jobs did not need interviews.
10. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs?
It is time that we strengthen the business and leadership ecosystem, and network more. We need to change our mindset from a local thinking process to more of a pan African thinking process. We can accomplish much more as a unit than by ourselves.
Henri Nyakarundi is the managing director of ARED, a Rwanda-based company that leases solar-powered kiosks (businesses in a box) to agents under a micro-franchising system.