Nana Kagga. Pursuing a career in Chemical Engineering never stopped Kagga from chasing her dreams in the entertainment world. The production engineer at Tullow Oil Plc has worked with greasy machines and featured in commercials and a few Hollywood films. Hers is a life of extraordinary ambitions
When I ask her to describe herself in three words she tells me she is unpredictable, a little eccentric and a dreamer. Not very different from what I find out after speaking to her for three hours.
Nana Kagga comes off as an enlightened woman, and as she shares her story,it is clear she had gone against the odds to find her bearing in life, yet even when you think she has reached her helm, dreaming is still part of her every step of the way.
She is one of the few chemical engineers in the country but the wealth of things she has done before finally finding a job in her line of qualification tell more about her ability to be able to do things she is passionate about.
You probably remember her face from WBS’ premium programme- Jam Agenda in 1997,where she was a co-presenter with Collin Sserubiri. This was her first pay job, apart from the free entertainment she gave her parents. Her stint at WBS television has been her best moment. It allowed her to discover the actress in her and its then that the dream of going to Hollywood was born.
“I had just done my first year at university and going into my second year. I used to fly here shoot and back. Hollywood doesn’t compare to how much fun the job at WBS gave me. It was a whole new era. Between me and Collin we did it because it was fun,” Kagga recounts.
At the time she had just done her first year at university in the University of Birmingham in the US, so she would travel to and fro before she finally decided to settle abroad.
“My first job there was with Laguna Industries in New Mexico where I worked as a process engineer for about three years,” she recollects. Interestingly, she hadn’t let go of her dream to go Hollywood, not as a mere tourist but as an actress. ““When I graduated, I wanted to act. I thought of breaking into Hollywood to find contentment and I went ahead to find my success there. I began by doing commercials before I landed opportunities to feature in movies like Star Trek with Paramount pictures, He’s just not into you and A good day to be black and sexy, where I am on the cover,” 34-year-old Kagga says. She has done commercials for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Apple and Microsoft.
With such a background, you would least expect that an actress was pursuing a degree in chemical engineering, one of the tough engineering disciplines. Today she is one of the few qualified chemical engineers in Uganda and she’s happy to be using her expertise in Tullow Oil Plc , where she is a production engineer. Currently she is based in UK.
“I am part of the assessment process of production technology where we basically assess the dead crude chemical properties and the best way to bring the crude to the surface in the most efficient and safe manner,” she says . Does breaking through in a field that is dominated by men give her satisfaction? “It gives me joy to be part of the team that brings Uganda oil and gas to the level we have promised. As a Ugandan, forget about being a woman, my biggest fear is getting it right,” she confesses.
In the same breath she says that there are few women willing to take the credit for what they have achieved but she is not one of them. Kagga is a mother yet career and motherhood have not tied her down or stood in her way. “I am a mother above everything else and I can still manage to do the things I love, dream about and things that I am good at,” she says as she cuddles her baby.
What drives such a lady? “The fact that in life people tend to think that they have one path and don’t appreciate other journeys we can take. We have the freedom to do so many things but we align ourselves with what society deems acceptable,” she says. That is what has let her adventure into the arts even if she studied sciences.
The princess from Buganda, tells me she has been able to get to where she is today by sheer self believe. “I think as human beings we are sometimes our biggest enemies. We want to hold onto fear. I decided I am unconventional. I like to study human beings. I like acting because it allows me to step outside myself, shake my fears, pains and share someone else’s happiest,” she shares. She believes we need to give ourselves the permission to be anything we want to be and we’ll be amazed at what we can achieve.