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Tuesday, October 25, 2016 at 2pm

One Month into a One-Year MBA: A Female Student’s Perspective

Tuta Wamanga has now joined the one-year MBA program at the University of Edinburgh Business School

Growing up in Kenya and studying an undergraduate degree in environmental studies in Nairobi, I didn’t always see myself ending up in a management career.

But I ended up in the corporate world after I joined Unilever, the multinational consumer goods company, as a management trainee in their Future Leaders Programme. I worked there for almost 10 years in supply chain and, by the age of 31, I had become the youngest member of the company’s leadership team.

Managing customer service for Unilever's tea brands in Kenya and Tanzania, we oversaw 16,000 employees in peak season in Kenya alone, making it the largest private sector employer in those two countries. The days were long, and it was challenging, but it was interesting and a lot of fun. I learnt the organizational dynamics at work there, as well as how to develop strategy and implement it. Although I didn’t have a business background, I learned on the job. However, nine years passed and, in 2015, I decided that I wanted to do something different. I had wanted to do an MBA for a long time. Now, the time had come.

Connecting with myself again, I moved back in with my mother in Nairobi, started thinking about entrepreneurship, and all of the options that could follow a one-year MBA. Having now been an MBA student at the University of Edinburgh Business School for a month now, I hope the course will give me an idea of where to go afterwards.

I joined the school because I wanted a one-year MBA from a top-tier school. That led me to look at the UK straight away. At Edinburgh, if you have worked for over three years you don’t need to sit the GMAT – which worked for me! With a mature class and a reputation for academic excellence, it was exactly what I wanted. The city is friendly and beautiful – even though I’m still getting used to the change in weather, it has been easy to settle.

All of the University of Edinburgh Business School professors have been very helpful, telling us what to expect from day one. I’ve enjoyed meeting my classmates – they represent 23 different nationalities; what great international exposure! I love this cultural diversity and the different backgrounds. We have the likes of actresses, film producers, and even military personnel. It makes for very interesting team discussions! The one-year MBA also means strong networking opportunities, the chance to learn from entrepreneurs, and meeting people from industries that I’m interested in, from healthcare to technology. So, this really feels like the time to clarify my goals.

I’m reaching the point in my life where I want to really enjoy what I’m doing. I have a few ideas about what this might be after my one-year MBA. For instance, I want to make healthcare services more affordable and available in Kenya. My brother is involved in healthcare so I know how significant it would be to improve the availability of diagnostic tests and equipment, to drive down the costs of these tests in communities. 

Part of my long-term dream is to set up a youth center in memory of my father. He believed in the empowering nature of education and helping people. He would be proud to have this in his name. It would be such a good way to give back to my ancestral area where my grandparents still live today. It will provide an opportunity to empower the area’s youth by giving them a chance to access additional educational and sporting facilities as well as to learn essential life skills. It would also allow them to spend their time on something productive, especially over the holidays, which can help keep them away from getting involved in inappropriate activities. The youth center would also provide scholarships, especially for orphans who drop out of school because they can’t afford the fees.

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Tuta Wamanga spent 10 years working at Unilever, where she became the youngest member of the company’s leadership team in Kenya and Tanzania, before deciding to head to Edinburgh Business School in order to pursue a one-year MBA. She is hoping to use the degree to propel her dreams of building a youth center near her ancestral home in Kenya.