Determined to become a lawyer, a dream and pathway towards leadership, Allan Mwase, quit an MTN IT job to undertake his Law Development Centre course. It was trials and tribulations for the youngster starting his own family. Through hard work and determination, he made his way back to MTN, this time as a lawyer. We spoke to Mwase to share lessons and advice for those thinking of switching careers whilst housing responsibility.
- Take us through your career journey?
I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Makerere University in 2012 and immediately got a job at Uganda Revenue Authority as a revenue assurance and fraud management practitioner. I eventually left URA for MTN where I was also the revenue assurance and fraud management analyst. It wasn’t a career per se, more like it was a job that I got after campus.
- How long were you at MTN?
5 years serving as revenue assurance and fraud management practitioner. While at that job, I decided to change my career path.
- Why the change in career path?
When I was leaving campus, I resolved to practice IT related work until I was 30 years. I wanted a more management and leadership role which my job at MTN at the time did not have. So, in 2015, I decided to switch to a career that I was passionate about and would also later open doors of leadership roles. After deep thought, I knew the legal environment would drive me to that reality.
- Coming from a computer background, how was the experience of now studying law?
I applied for the mature entry government sponsorship and I was successful meaning I did not have to worry about tuition. Classes started at 5pm in the evening and ended at 9:30pm. My boss at MTN allowed me to leave work at 4:30pm, get to class at 5pm, study till 9:30pm and by 10pm I was home. It was hectic. That was the routine, at least until I got to LDC and had to leave MTN. Then the hustle got even more real.
- After acquiring the law degree, you left MTN in 2019, why would you leave a big company like MTN?
I left to do my LDC. Indeed MTN is a big company and it was not an easy decision. However, I sought advice and spoke to several people, friends and even practicing lawyers. I even spoke to Enid Edroma, the general manager corporate affairs at MTN before quitting. She said: “The value of that diploma will only be realized when you are done with it. You will catch up.” The others I sought advice from urged me to leave the job and focus on LDC because it is hectic and time consuming.
- You were nearing thirty and had just become jobless yet still had responsibilities, please paint a picture of your life at that time.
It was a very challenging moment. The biggest challenge must have been the decision to quit my job at MTN. There was fear and doubt that if I did not pass, it would be a while until I got back to work. Also, I got married in 2016 and between then and now, my wife and I have had 2 children. With children, diapers are like a must and a basic. We got into moments of using our resources sparingly because either the money was not there or our promised deliverer of diapers couldn’t deliver them in our preferred time. It was hard for me to watch them experience a different life from what they had subscribed to. At LDC, I had a team of brilliant and hardworking colleagues with whom we discussed at 7AM daily. These, “Visionaries” were and are a blessing. Committed, diligent and hardworking people. Then came covid-19 in 2020 and classes were halted for a while, until online means of studying were devised. I will say this though, not once did I regret my decision.
- So how did you cope?
I thank God for my supporting wife. She believed in me. She supported this hustle, she reminded me, in those deep dark nights, when I felt I was letting her and the boys down all in the name of a dream that, “it will all be well”. We sought support from friends who gave it and to whom we are forever indebted. Some of course turned us away, because our requests were outrageous… how dare you ask someone to literally share with you their hard earned money for your school time? Except, they didn’t get that that was the need at the time.
I hope, I will support someone one day when they make the leap into what is not common. When they choose a path less trodden.
- Your experience seemed quite challenging, are there any benefits?
I get to inspire people with my story such that they too can follow their dreams and get the career of their choice. Because I am doing what I love to do, I have the freedom to work as I please and now also have a purpose and can say I have a career path. I am also more valuable to my employer and the business as I possess skills in two divergent careers.
- Having lived through it, what would you advise people to consider before deciding to switch profession?
It is important to do some introspection. First, you need to ask yourself if that is a job you would do without pay? It needs to be something you enjoy and would like to do. Once you have figured that out, you need to ask yourself if you are willing to pay the price because there will be a price to pay. The price for me was leaving MTN. However, it is also important to plan before you make this kind of move. You need to prepare a buffer for example, having savings to take you for some amount of time before you need a bail out. Never ignore your employer, your employer is your starting point.
- How important is an employer through one’s journey towards the career switch?
An employer is a critical part in one’s career path. For instance, when I joined MTN as a graduate trainee, I did not know much. In only six months, I was confirmed as a full time staff of the telecom. There, I was exposed to a variety of skills and career paths because of the presence of several skilled people across different professions all serving one company. When I started pursuing my law degree in 2015, my manager created an enabling environment. The open office policy at MTN allows for mentoring from different people including the CEO who were very pivotal in my decision making towards the career switch. In addition, nurturing a good relationship with my former employer MTN was key in getting me the opportunity to do my clerkship after successfully completing my law degree. During my clerkship, I was also exposed even more which helped me learn vastly in this new field. Eventually, due to my efforts, MTN retained me in the legal department and currently I serve as the legal and regulatory advisor MTN Mobile Money Company.