Godfrey Ssenyonjo met with Richard Phillip Sendawula of aBi Finance about his life’s journey. Richard advises that “old skills can no longer be relied upon for future business needs.” He is right. In these dynamic times characterized by a never ending pandemic, you must be agile and dynamic to win. Below are the excerpts.
Qn. Briefly, who is Richard Phillip Sendawula?
Ans. I am a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Accountants of the UK. I am also a member of CPA Uganda. I possess a Master of Business Administration from Uganda Martyrs University and a Bachelor of Science Degree in (Math, Statistics) from Makerere University.
I began my working career at Ernst & Young immediately after Makerere University in November 2002. While working at EY, I undertook independent appraisals of risk control mechanisms and performed statutorily and management audits for various organizations till April 2006. From EY, I Joined Centenary Bank in June 2006 and worked up to January 2011. I worked in Internal Audit, Treasury and later Finance as a Principal Accountant. I joined Diamond Trust Bank at the level of Finance Manager. I was in charge of reporting, operations & strategic budgeting, taxation, external and internal audits.
In March 2015 an opportunity arose to join Interswitch East Africa as Head of Finance. I was charged with the leadership and management of the finance department reporting to Lagos Nigeria until May 2018. An interesting opportunity arose, where I was headhunted and fell for it. I joined Exim Bank as Finance Manager till July 2019. In August 2019, I joined aBi Finance Ltd as Head of Finance. I’m making my fourth month at aBi Finance Ltd.
Qn. In your profession as an accountant and a bank executive how much of your success can be attributed to good parenting versus luck?
Ans. While growing up with my parents, I got to understand that good parenting is the number one factor. My parents taught real-life skills and discipline habits that I couldn’t learn even at school. The parents instilled in me the discipline of trust and humility which has been key in my roles as a Finance. However, Success in most cases is built on hard work and the group of friends you spend your time with.
Qn. What top two skills would you say one must master to succeed professionally?
- Agility. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in (Math, Statistics) from Makerere University. I quickly transformed my career into accounting. As the work landscape shifts, learning to be agile is a critical skill, as yesterday’s solutions do not solve tomorrow’s problems. At the heart of being agile is shifting gears when the context calls for it and responding accordingly to the needs of your workplace, clients, or industry trend.
- Problem-solving. While across the companies I have served in various capacities, I learned that the world is seeking problem solvers. You need to be an expert in your practice so that you become a consultant. How often do you go beyond your immediate job as assigned and instead, use more knowledge, facts, and data to see gaps and solve problems? Being a good problem solver is essential because employers value people who can work through challenges on their own or as an effective member of a team by defining the issues, brainstorming alternatives, sharing thoughts, and then making sound decisions.
Qn. You say keep agility and problem-solving helped you succeed. How can one master the skill?
Ans. The waves of change are sweeping many people’s career choices. However, those who act swiftly and position themselves survive. You must keep yours hears to the ground, to know where the next opportunities will come from. That way, you can adjust accordingly. You will become a consultant!
Qn. As a leader, when do you stop asking questions and start setting the direction?
Ans. Situations vary. It could be a crisis and you are sure of what to do but in most cases it always good to ask questions.
Qn. What are your top two regrets in life?Ans. I think losing touch with some of my friends and not have built a network with people who are now successful but were failing back in the days but I think I need to thank God for blessing me.
Ans. It can be lonely but am working round it now and building my networks.
To succeed in an environment like Uganda today, what should an executive do?
Ans. The business dynamics are changing so fast. Old skills can no longer be relied upon for future business needs. To stay relevant, you must be able to adopt technology since its driving business.