Talking to Julianna Kayaga, three qualities about her strike you almost instantly. She is articulate, knowledgeable in her area of specialisation and above all, a go-getter.
Kayaga describes herself as a person who is happy, inspired and passionate about her kind of work. At 28, Kayaga has headed the human resource departments of two companies in both entrepreneurship and engineering.
In 2014, Kayaga and her business partner, Benjamin Lubogo, started a human resources firm, Strategic Engagement Services.
Kayaga’s early life, having grown up in a family of eight and raised by a mother enthusiastic about human resource management, could perhaps give a clear explanation as to why she is what she is today.
“My mother had initially trained as an accountant, however, she later ventured into human resource management through her firm, Competitive Choices Limited,” Kayaga shares.
Kayaga says as her mother would go out to do some work for clients, she would sometimes tag along with her.
“Our role, my elder brother and I, was to basically help her out with the organisation of the equipment to be used like markers and flip boards. I think this was to help us develop a good attitude towards work. So somehow I ended up liking what she was doing,” she recalls.
Forging her career path
In 2010 while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Organisational Psychology at Makerere University, Kayaga enroled for a training programme at Barclays Bank. This was in the bank’s operations department. She would later join the bank’s human resource management department still as a trainee.
After her graduation in May 2012, Kayaga joined Entrepreneurs’ Financial Centre (EFC) as a human resource officer.
“When I finished my university education, I was very much obsessed with human resource. I think this pushed me to concentrate on developing my career as human resource practitioner,” she says.
After eight months, she says she was promoted to head the human resources department by the company’s managing director, Claude Lafonde.
“Our organisation majorly comprised young people. The best thing that came out of this was that Claude Lafonde, the company’s MD, was passionate about supporting and developing the young people he worked with. On my side, I think this was an advantage since I was still young,” Kayaga shares.
Kayaga would go on to head the company’s human resource department for nearly five years [2013-2017].
She later joined Engineering Solutions, an engineering firm, still as its head of human resource department. She still works there as head of human resource.
Establishing own firm
Kayaga says founding Strategic Engagement Services began as a conversation between her and one of her business partners, Lubogo.
“When I joined EFC, I realised that the transition process of one joining another job, setting up a private company can be tricky. So I decided to discuss this with my business partner. Our focus would be to help people transitioning from one job to another or even outsourcing our human resource consultancy services to some private players who lack the capacity to manage their human resource,” she says.
Kayaga says they decided to start a human resource consultancy firm that started operating in 2014. “To improve the capacity of our firm to deliver,” Kayaga says, “we had to equip ourselves with knowledge about human resource.”
This, she adds, has helped them grow from time to time, giving them a competitive edge in the human resource management world.
Kayaga says some of the challenges she faces include people trying to bribe her for jobs. Asked how she has managed to deal with this challenge, she says she has had to stick to her values, something she says has helped her develop a good reputation.
She says her career growth has also come with a challenge of balancing career and other aspects of life.
“I have constantly been challenged by balancing between life in general and career growth. I have always had a challenge with identifying people I can have a good relationship with, mostly about work issues. People who would understand my ideas,” she says.
Advice to the youth
“If one is looking at being employed, then they should focus on working hard and smart at the same time,” she says.
Kayaga adds that any youth out there trying to shape their career must be willing to learn and create meaningful relationships that would help them grow.