Carol and I met through a mutual friend called Racheal Natukunda. We are both part of a G4G cohort called ShEagles. G4G is a group of women from different countries, that come together to help empower girls to lead. Here is our interview about her scientific journey:
Nice to have you onboard Carol. Please give us your full name.
Caroline Gumisiriza. My friends and family call me Kajoy, this is a story for another day, hehe. Oh, a few people also call me Mrs. Guma but Carol works really. When people say Caroline, I am reminded of my childhood days! If my dad ever said “Caroline”….ha, I just knew discipline measures were going to follow!
Who is Carol Gumisiriza?
Eh, wow. How do I answer this? Haha… Let me attempt.
Carol is a simple, down-to-earth lady (I use the word lady but I am a tomboy at heart). I love God. Eh, I love God. I will not get into this because it may take up the whole conversation. Haha….so eyo tuveyo.
I come from a simple home; born and raised in Kampala. Growing up, I was the youngest at home and my three older siblings made things so easy for me! They still do. My sister, the eldest of the pack, would have rather go without, than see me struggle. I recall several occasions where she even gave me her best clothes to wear to functions, and she would wear the next best ones. My brothers always involved me in their activities (I have a good right foot and my position is right wing forward on a soccer team). Regardless of being a daddy’s girl, I was never a snitch, haha! Both my parents were (and still are) quite (no. not just quite – extremely) principled, so suffice it to say, it was a strict home I grew up in. I think I was more pampered by my siblings than by my parents.
I am passionate about family. I believe I wouldn’t be where I am without family. I believe in honouring my parents and elders (my siblings should not read this!!! Hehe. But honestly they are the best). I am married and have three wonderful children. I pray God continues to guide me on doing the wife and mother thing right to the best of my abilities…not an easy feat, but the joy is immeasurable
I am an introvert, but deeply value true relationships, so with my family and friends, I am highly extroverted. hehe
For my education, I went to Kitante Primary School, Mt. St Mary’s College Namagunga for O-Level, Gayaza High School for A-Level, and Makerere University for my Bachelor’s degree, which was in Mathematics, Statistics and Economics. I have an MBA from Edinburgh Business School of the Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. I am a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), and a member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU).
About work, I first started working in my high school vacations and continued also in my university holidays. As I was “not qualified’’ at the time, it wasn’t ‘blue collar’ work, but it was hard work none the less! I must confess it wasn’t easy at first, but looking back, I appreciate it more than I can say. I was taught quite early (in my lovely, strict home), the values of hard work, commitment, integrity, etc; and doing these jobs at that young formative age further ingrained these values in me.
My first job out of university was in external audit at Ernst & Young where I stayed for about four years, then moved to Lafarge where I was a treasury analyst for 2 years, and then an Inventory accountant for a year. I then went back to external audit as an Audit & Consultancy Manager for almost 3 years, after which I became a Finance Manager at Cellulant, a digital finance company. I was at Cellulant for almost 3 years, then decided to branch out into consultancy and advisory, which I still do. I took a couple of years to do the consulting alone, and then once I had built its momentum and stability, slowly rejoined the mainstream workforce.
What do you do currently?
I am currently working with a Programme/Project funded by the German government, that aims to improve on water supply and sanitation for refugees and their host communities in Northern Uganda. I am the Procurement, Contracts and Logistics specialist on the project. I love knowing that in my own way (albeit indirect), I am serving to help fellow human beings improve on their quality of life.
I also do consulting in Strategy, Finance & Audit advisory, Tax Advisory, Business planning and engineering/re-engineering.
Earlier this year (2020), I got certified with a diploma in Life Coaching. I am super excited about this. I love young talent. I am inspired and moved and quite often deeply amazed by how great these minds are! I believe in nurturing, encouraging and growing people. One of my deepest passions is bringing out the best in people; mentoring and coaching people to see who they really are, and come out and ‘blossom’…oh, it’s just beautiful! This diploma is just a step further for me in this regard, because I plan to use it to further guide those younger and ‘fresher’ along this journey. I believe that many of the experiences we go through in life are lessons we can use to lift up others and guide and encourage them.
What have you found inspiring and challenging along this journey?
Which journey oba? This journey of life in general? Haha… we may need to sit a while!!
Inspiring…so much! For starters, looking at my parents and their humble beginnings, to where they are now, where I am because of them, I am simply blown away. I am also inspired by different people I meet, read about or watch. For some reason, I am drawn to tales/stories of the underdog that makes it in life. In the Bible, for example, I especially love and resonate with the stories of Joseph, David and Gideon; to think of who they were at the beginning, and see whom they ended up as!
I am also inspired to be the best Kajoy I can be when I think of all the belief people have in me! Eh! It’s both inspiring and somewhat scary…hehe, for example, knowing that my kids think of me as amazing mum, haaaa….I often ask God to ‘help me do this right’.
Challenging……Hmmmm, this is life; so many challenges and curveballs get thrown our way all the time! I don’t know which ones to zero in on. As a young girl, I had an unfortunate incident where I was mauled by dogs, and although I survived it, I have dealt with body image issues, partly due to the resulting scars that are a constant reminder of that incident.
As a young adult, being a female in a male-dominated field was not easy. For example, at the university (during Bachelors’ level), some male classmates would take offense when we the girls would top the class, and they became verbally abusive and offensive.
Looking at now, there are daily challenges on many fronts but I will give the example of having a work-life balance. Gosh, this is tough! It is not easy to wear so many hats and perform at full capacity in all spheres. But allow me to thank my support system!!! I have the most amazing support system (God, my husband, my dad & mum, siblings, and a few friends)! My husband, bless him, is, for lack of a better word, an amazing man. I have had to travel for extended periods for work, and he supports and encourages me to do so, and stays with our three children!! I mean, wow! Then when I decided to take a break from employment and become a consultant, he was super supportive and encouraging; my first client was referred to me by him! We also went through a particularly trying period when I was an emotional and hormonal wreck after the birth of one of our children. It was rough. To this date, I honestly don’t know how he managed to hold it all together, but he did. My dad is another one I must mention – I can tell him anything and know I will meet no judgement, but only truth and loving advice (however harsh it sometimes is). My sister, hmm, if I start, I might cry. Suffice it to say that my support system is amazing. I am definitely where I am because I stand on the shoulders of giants.
What do you enjoy doing outside work?
Well, outside work, I have many hats, so you will likely find me in those modes; wife, mother, friend, sibling. I absolutely enjoy family time. It is not even possible to describe how much!
But in my ME time (when I do get it), I read. I read. I reaaaadddd. I enjoy books about the mind, spirituality, growth, leadership, and the like. Some authors like Eckhart Tolle, Gary Zukav, Oprah Winfrey, Robin Sharma, Deepak Chopra, Paulo Coelho, Malcom Gladwell.
Okay, I also watch TV; mainly the Crime & Investigation Channel (IDX) and programs to do with Crime and Investigation (I like to know the WHY behind anything. I believe there is always a WHY, always!). Lately, I have started watching talks by authors I love (thank God for technology!)
Early in the morning (I love to wake up before everyone else in the house, when it is all still and quiet), I meditate. It helps me center and focus and set the pace for the day ahead.
I love to travel, I love nature and animals. So when possible, I explore new places, pet as many cats as I can, and just enjoy nature.
Tell us about your achievements & awards
Haha, first of all, I believe being where I am, against many odds, is an achievement in and of itself. Kubanga eh!
I was the best National Candidate in some of my papers during my ACCA journey…is this the type of achievements you mean?
By the way, I have started writing. My first published book will be a great achievement for me! Does this count? Haha
Allow me to give two please.
Proverbs 3:27-28…. Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbour, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”— when you already have it with you.
Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better…. Maya Angelou
Please leave us with a words of encouragement for a young girl in STEM.
Be you. Love you. Value you. This is the best gift you can give to yourself and the world around you. Once you love and value yourself, you resonate with good energy, and even just begin to radiate it. And you give a good quality you, to those who need you. And this gets easier if you allow yourself to be yourself and not try to be whom you think society or anyone else wants you to be. Just honour your truth.
Everyone is a somebody – to themselves and to someone else. Treat others with kindness, respect, love and honour. If you feel that they are not meant for you, then just peacefully let them go. Their path may not be the same as yours, but that doesn’t mean it is any better or any less. It is just different. Just wish everyone well.
Always be willing to learn, unlearn and relearn. No one knows it all. Life has seasons. Things ebb and flow. What you know today, could have changed tomorrow (I mean, just look at the phone today compared to just 5 years ago). Be humble and open.
Thank you very much Carol for taking your time to do this and for being so open about your life. I have honestly enjoyed every bit of our session, and, may God greatly bless your husband and entire family.