Interview: KU’s Team Gladiators on their experience at the Global Management Challenge International Finals in China.

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Associate Director at Adam Smith Intl. Africa Ltd. Eng. Patrick Obath congratulates The Gladiators from Kenyatta University who came top in the Global Mangement Challenge in Kenya

One of the largest problems that the youth face in developing countries is the growing number of unemployed youth. A factor that contributes to this problem is that the majority of the youth and especially the underprivileged ones, lack the skill set to give them an edge over the ones from privileged backgrounds. Most companies are also not always able and willing to invest in effective training and skills development to most of their employees.

Green Pastures Limited, a human resource consultancy firm is for the third year hosting the Global Management Challenge (GMC), a program that was launched in the country to give young professionals and students the chance to develop practical skills in managing and growing a business. To date, GMC had helped develop the business skills of over 300 students and professionals in Kenya, building their understanding of how various business functions operate, and allowing them to make decisions usually reserved for the board rooms.

Associate Director at Adam Smith Intl. Africa Ltd. Eng. Patrick Obath congratulates The Gladiators from Kenyatta University who came top in the Global Mangement Challenge in Kenya
Associate Director at Adam Smith Intl. Africa Ltd. Eng. Patrick Obath congratulates The Gladiators from Kenyatta University who came top in the Global Mangement Challenge in Kenya

Ravi Shah, Director at Greener Pastures Limited said that more and more young people should be encouraged to participate in the competition to enable young students and professionals who are eager to expand their horizons and apply what they have learned in class or during their on-the-job training. He also pointed out that the team that represented Kenya in Macau earlier this year only showed how much potential we have in our youth to compete with the global best in the business arena.

Participants, who are primarily from tertiary institutions, get to grow a viable business, develop their analytical skills and play active leadership roles. They are able to improve their employability and career growth, with the support of GMC partners such as Association of Chartered Accountants (ACCA) and Duma Works.

Earlier this year, students from Kenyatta University beat a total of 40 other teams to emerge winners of the Kenyan chapter of the GMC competitions. The group of five young men and women who go by the name ‘Team Gladiators’ then represented the country at the GMC International Finals in April, in Macau where they emerged 8th from a total of 7,000 teams of university students, professionals and company managers who participated globally!

Tell us a bit more about yourselves. Who are Team Gladiators?

Team Gladiators is a team of 5 students from Kenyatta University. We all pursue degrees in Bachelor of Commerce. We describe ourselves as a team with a global mindset, ambitious and ready to go for whatever we set our eyes on. This world is simply our oyster!

Maureen Mwambi, Moses Wathuta and Oliver all specialize in Accounting while Silas Kipkoech and Julia Wanjiku specialize in Finance.

What is the GMC competition about?

The GMC is a competition that aims to bridge the skills gap in the labor market. It seeks to bring the practicability of the theory that is majorly taught in our schools. In the competition, you are expected to assume senior management roles of your company and make major decisions ranging from Finance, Marketing, and Human Resource Management to Operations. This way, the team that makes the best decisions ultimately has the highest investment performance and emerges as the winner. We would refer to GMC as ‘the big thing’ in the Kenyan educational sector. GMC is bringing a paradigm shift in the Kenyan labor and educational sectors.

How did you decide to join the competition?

We saw a poster advertising the GMC in campus. It got us excited considering we all share a common interest in management. We checked out the GMC website and the more we read about the competition, the more our conviction to participate grew. Considering we had been friends for long and with each member being what we would call ‘a dog with a bone’, it was only obvious that we formed one team.

You participated in the GMC competition, the world’s largest strategy and management competition and emerged 8th out of 7,000 teams! How does that feel?

It was a defining moment! The joy we had that night, was out of this world. Emerging 8th gave us the boost we all needed; the belief that we could come out of our comfort zones and conquer the world! It is an achievement we carry with pride every day.

What did you as team gladiators present as your submission in the competition?

First, the GMC submission is designed in a way that allows for flexibility. It is a very simple task. We could analyze the management reports we got and make informed decisions on what our company needed to stay on top. Each member had their own department and it was up to each one of us to convince the rest on why we should submit a certain decision in their department. It was an amazing engagement.

Did you receive any training, either indoor or outdoor, before you participated in the competitions?

The training we applied was what we had gained from our lecturers during classes. We also did a lot of our own research on Organizational Development especially on how effective teams operate, Human Resource best practices, Financial Management and a wide range of information on how to run effective organizations.

So far, how has the competition influenced you? Especially in the business world?

We are now better decision makers. The best players in the business world are respected for their knack in making decisions based on facts and not emotions. GMC has taught us exactly that. And in whichever field each of us lands, we are poised to be the leaders and make an impact.

The youth in this country, and also in majority parts of the world lack employment and one of the reasons for this is lack of proper skills taught in institutions to help them in acquiring jobs. Do you think that this competition has helped you in terms of gaining experience and in your own perspective, what do you think should be done to help the majority of youth, especially the underprivileged?

GMC is revolutionary. Anyone who has participated in GMC cannot be referred to as half-baked. GMC gives participants a diverse set of skills such that one can effectively work in whatever field they specialize in. The GMC challenge prepares one for the world of employment and also for entrepreneurship.

Majority of the youth and especially the underprivileged ones, lack the skill set to give them an edge over the ones from privileged backgrounds. To bridge this gap, the country’s top leadership and education stakeholders should embrace programs that help enhance the skills among the youth. GMC is a competition that can easily be integrated in our educational systems. One, the competition will give students a practical perspective of what they learn and second, the competition makes you network globally thus giving participants a great world view. GMC really should be made compulsory for all learners and without any discrimination. This way every young person will have the chance to examine their true potential.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learnt during the period of the competition, both during and after the competition (both as the team and as individuals)

As a team we have learnt that together we can do so much. We have learnt to direct our individual accomplishments towards the attainment of our team’s goals. Working as a team made us attain results that we would never have achieved had we gone separate ways.

On an individual level, GMC taught us that we are worth the salt. That we have whatever it takes to be the world’s crème de la crème. GMC has given us the right skills to conquer our worlds.

From your experience in the competition as you interacted with other individuals from different countries, what do you think should be done to change the landscape of businesses in Kenya?

As a country we need to support our local and even small businesses. Great companies from all over the world were once like our Kenyan SMEs. Their countries made it their own responsibility to support these SMEs to the global companies they now are. We cannot only support these small businesses by word of mouth alone. We have to do it by action by providing a conducive business environment. Our politics should be politics of development. Our Financial system should not be seen to be killing the small enterprises by charging very high interest rates. The government should also be on the forefront in the war against corruption. This way, the Kenyan SMEs will have enough space for extraordinary growth. We have to be our brother’s keeper, our sister’s keeper to build a better country for our generation and for future generations.

Registration for the third edition of the Global Management Challenge is now open for anyone in their first year of tertiary study and upwards, as well as for people studying professional courses. Registration is done through the GMC Kenya website and will be ongoing until the 7th of October 2016. The winning team will represent the country at the international finals that will be held in Doha, Qatar in April 2017, and have the chance to redefine Kenya’s story on the global stage.

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