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Dalisu Jwara / 4 min read
How a student leadership programme changed the trajectory of my life.
Dalisu Jwara is a graduate from the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He now works as a Corporate Development Associate for MFS Africa. As a student, he attended a Common Purpose student programme, Global Leader Experience, delivered in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Dalisu credits his Common Purpose programme experience that helped him develop skills which eventually led to being recruited by a top employer.
When I graduated university, I thought that I was going to be an investment banker. I was wrong about that. A conversation with a CEO during a Common Purpose programme in 2015 changed the course of my life.
Meeting the CEO of Weir Group
I was in one of the group sessions during the programme when one man struck up a conversation with me. We talked about background, university life, business and state affairs. He asked my opinion about different topics and I answered as truthfully and candidly as I can. Towards the end, the CEO of Weir Group told me: “What you’re saying is fascinating because these are the things that are keeping me awake at night.” Afterwards, he said the company would like to get to know me and chat with me more in the future.
Coming back home, I was about to join the investment banking world when I thought about that conversation with the CEO. I made a decision to contact them to see what opportunities there were for me. In the end, I went through three different rounds of interviews with a mix of people to get a position at Weir Group.
The path I laid out for myself was completely transformed. On a cold morning, thousands of miles from home, I started my first day on my first job in Glasgow for one of the top companies in the industry. This wouldn't have happened if I didn't join that Common Purpose programme.
The importance of being agile in my career
It's been over eight years since I've completed my first Common Purpose programme yet the values and skills I’ve gained have stayed with me through the years. Agility and resilience, in particular, were crucial as I moved from one role to another.
When I look back, I would say that the skills I've learned from Common Purpose – being agile and resilient – have been instrumental in my career path. I went through a period where I took on a role that I wasn't passionate about. Being agile meant that instead of resisting, I recognized that there was a lot that I could learn from that role. The role may not be what I wanted at that time but because I chose to adapt to this new environment, I gained the skills that come from international experience and cultivated meaningful working relationships.
All those skills from my previous roles, including the role that I wasn't passionate about, have become useful in my current position in a fast-growing fin-tech company.
These days, employers from all sectors look for new graduates who are not just skilled in their jobs but who are also able to demonstrate core skills that are needed in the world today. That's what a Common Purpose student programme gives you. It immerses students in a city, connect with senior leaders and explore relevant issues that are happening on the ground. As a result, they develop the skills required to understand and navigate complex and diverse environments.
Common Purpose, alongside remarkable mentors and individuals in my life, has made me a better person. That is the most important thing one can ever one can ever have.
Common Purpose has changed the trajectory of my life, and it could do the same for other students.
Dalisu Jwara is an MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School. He took part in the CSC Leaders Students Programme, in 2012.