Today is International Youth Day, a celebration of young people around the world. And I wanted to share some of my own learnings, to inspire and push young Kenyans to realize their abilities and achieve all they can do.
First, let me share my belief that our youth are capable of anything they put their minds to. There are a number of traits which will help you achieve all that you can do. The first is focus and clarity. From the tender age of ten, I knew I wanted to be an engineer. I carried that ambition into secondary school, even when most around me dreamt of being doctors.
This focus meant I chose a course at university that best suited my ambition, after earning the grades at secondary school that opened the door to whichever university and course I wanted.
From my perspective, having a clear sense of direction from very early on is key. As young people, we always have multiple options laid out before us. One might feel in one year they want to pursue a career in marketing. In the next, they might feel they want to pursue a career in finance. This is natural because of all the choices in front of you and the desire to try out different things (you could even head off to become an entrepreneur).
There’s one question you have to ask yourself. And that is, what suits me as a person and what suits my skills and abilities? This isn’t an easy question to answer, and you need a significant amount of introspection to answer this question. There are a number of elements you have to bear in mind. Consider your natural talent, be aware of your family and culture (what would they support and what would you have to fight for), the opportunities that are in front of you, and what you really enjoy doing so that you are able to build your experience.
As they say, practice makes perfect. And putting in the time to improve your abilities is important. There’s a common rule that states that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. If you’re doing something you are enjoying, it’ll become much, much easier to achieve. This is where your determination comes in.
In my own career, I’ve always pushed myself and been ambitious. I focused and specialized in niche areas within my profession – this helped me to progress faster. When I joined Lafarge Holcim (Bamburi Cement) as a graduate engineer, I quickly focused my interest on plant automation systems. In time, I moved to the automation systems department at Lafarge’s Mombasa Plant where I honed my core skills.
One critical aspect to growth is risk taking. After three years in various roles at Lafarge, I developed a strong interest in business operations. I began my MBA in 2012 – the learning never stops – as I worked as head of Automation Systems at Lafarge’s Mombasa Plant. As I concluded my MBA, I took up an opportunity with a leading Japanese Industrial Process Automation company. I’d moved from engineering to business development. That move may be considered a risk as I was moving into a new space. I don’t consider myself an avid risk taker, but the move felt right to me and I wanted to take a leap and try something new.
The final thought I want to share is on support. We all need support. And there are two areas of support which matter to me, namely my ‘home’ and my ‘anchor-cheerleader’. Home for me is that which you define as a space within which you thrive – whether at work or in one’s personal life. Home is the primary definition of one’s wellness and happiness.
To make ‘home’ come into existence, you need anchor-cheerleaders. An anchor-cheerleader is a person who always has your back. They genuinely care for you. They ensure you are firmly situated and are always pushing you on to achieve your very best. In a professional setting, this may be your direct manager, a mentor or even a work-place coach. I have been immensely fortunate to have had several anchors and cheerleaders in my career, and this made an inordinate amount of difference in my early years. We all need mentors and people who will be there for us, who will support us and guide us.
I want to close by saying that if I can achieve what I have achieved in my career in the space of just over ten years, there’s no reason why you can’t do the same. Chase your dreams, believe in yourself, and you will exceed your goals. And I cannot wait to hear and read about your stories of success.
About Josiah Habwe
Josiah is a University of Nairobi Graduate with a BSc. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. He also holds an MBA in Strategic Management. At 36 years, he is the Director, Process Automation at Schneider Electric East Africa.
Josiah Habwe can be reached on the email: Josiah.Habwe@se.com
About Schneider Electric
Schneider Electric is leading the digital transformation of energy management and automation in homes, buildings, data centres, infrastructure and industries. With global presence in over 100 countries, Schneider is the undisputable leader in power management – medium voltage, low voltage and secure power, and in automation systems. We provide integrated efficiency solutions, combining energy, automation and software. In our global ecosystem, we collaborate with the largest partner, integrator and developer community on our open platform to deliver real-time control and operational efficiency. We believe that great people and partners make Schneider a great company and that our commitment to innovation, diversity and sustainability ensures that Life Is On everywhere, for everyone and at every moment.
For more information, go to www.se.com/za/en/.