Baobab Platform Podcasts

#TheHustle: Carryl Masibo - Advisory Associate @KPMG East Africa

January 25, 2021 Baobab Platform
Baobab Platform Podcasts
#TheHustle: Carryl Masibo - Advisory Associate @KPMG East Africa
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Baobab Platform Podcasts
#TheHustle: Carryl Masibo - Advisory Associate @KPMG East Africa
Jan 25, 2021
Baobab Platform

Carryl gives us a glimpse into her work as an Advisory Associate at KPMG. She also discusses the winding career path that led her from a Computer Science degree to Financial Services and finally Consulting. She runs a career development page on instagram @interviewprep.kenya where she shares tips and resources for prospective job applicants.

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Show Notes Transcript

Carryl gives us a glimpse into her work as an Advisory Associate at KPMG. She also discusses the winding career path that led her from a Computer Science degree to Financial Services and finally Consulting. She runs a career development page on instagram @interviewprep.kenya where she shares tips and resources for prospective job applicants.

Share your comments on Baobab!


Halle Rubera:

Hi, and welcome to The Hustle, a professional development podcast series in conjunction with the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. I'm your host, Halle Rubera and alum of the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at Wellesley College. And with this series, I will share the stories of accomplished African professionals from different backgrounds, currently working in investment banking, management consulting, big tech, and more. Each episode discusses the wide array of career opportunities and provides listeners with advice about working at top firms, such as Goldman Sachs, Facebook and Novartis. The title of this podcast, The Hustle is an aught to my hometown of Nairobi, Kenya, which I love and where the spirit of the hustle hard work and resilience, shines bright.

Halle Rubera:

Today, I have the pleasure of hosting a really good friend from high school Carryl Masibo. Carryl earned a BSE in computer science from the African Leadership University in Mauritius. She is currently working as an advisory associate at KPMG in East Africa, located in Nairobi. And she's had past experience at Goldman Sachs at the Graca Machel Trust and doing some consultancy for Distinctive. Carryl is based in Nairobi. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today.

Carryl Masibo:

Thanks for having me, Halle.

Halle Rubera:

Carryl, could you just tell us what kind of is your role as an advisory associate as KPMG right now?

Carryl Masibo:

I work at KPMG Kenya, the Kenyan office as an advisory associate. And I specifically work with a department called deal and debt advisory, which basically does a lot of financial analysis and advisory services as well as a bit of strategy. So some of the services that the department offers range from due diligence to transaction advisory, to which could be mergers and acquisitions, to a lot of strategy work. And pretty much as an associate in the team, I rotate to different parts of the department depending on the client that I'm working on. Yeah. And this ranges from different industries as well, banking, manufacturing, infrastructure.

Halle Rubera:

Sounds like it's a lot of dynamic work. Is that what you intended for yourself when you took on this role?

Carryl Masibo:

I would say so. I think, I passed myself to take the first two years of my working experience to just learn as much as possible about the different industries before I decided to specialize or take up something specific. So I guess it's part of the learning process for me just to explore different aspects and see what's exciting for me. And what's not so exciting for me and adjust as time goes on.

Halle Rubera:

Yeah. I really liked that answer. And it's a great segue into my next question, which is, you studied computer science. So I mean, looking at your resume, or like if you told me you studied computer science, I would almost automatically assume that you'd go into either software engineering role or tech related role. So why did you do computer science and then go into advisory as opposed to like tech?

Carryl Masibo:

I think like many young Kenyans who finished high school, you pretty much don't know exactly what you want to explore. For some people it's pretty straight forward, but for myself and others, I really wasn't sure about what I wanted to do. So computer science almost seemed like the next best thing for me to explore, given a lot of conversations around the tech space and how many organizations are evolving to embrace tech, which is still the case. So that was my initial incentive to exploring the field. But as time went on, I realized I was more excited about the project management aspect of tech, as well as the business development bit of it, as opposed to coding. If you asked me, I found coding to be pretty boring because it's more or less the same thing.

Carryl Masibo:

Yeah. So I was only as more excited about taking more projects that are very dynamic and related to business development or project management that would allow me to interact more with people and take up new challenges from time to time. And so I think from my second year moving onwards, I was pretty sure that I was not going to explore a career path in the tech spectrum, at least not the traditional coding, software engineering aspect of it. And I wanted to explore other fields, hence my decision to start taking up more internships that were outside my previous niche.

Halle Rubera:

Carryl, I can imagine that if you are a software engineering student, then a lot of your interactions tend to be with your professors who were in software engineering or your classmates that are taking the same course. How did you find the confidence to explore outside of what you already knew?

Halle Rubera:

Did you have like mentors that you sought advice from? Did you do your own personal research? Like what kind of prompted you to look outside of what you are seeing in your immediate space?

Carryl Masibo:

I think it's pretty much a mix of everything. So I'm lucky enough to have had mentors who were as candid as me to remind me constantly that whatever I study doesn't always have a correlation to what I ended up practicing. And with my mentors being, living examples of that, having studied something completely different and exploring a totally different career. So I think that was like a big incentive for me, seeing other people who've gone before me do it and be successful in their field. But I also took it upon myself to explore some of the things that I found to be interesting. So ensure that the internships that I would take would be outside of my comfort zone, so that they give me a chance to explore different industries and see what I like and what I don't like.

Halle Rubera:

What was the recruitment process like for you? Did you have to go through referrals? Did you do a bunch of online applications, resume prep?

Carryl Masibo:

For all the roles ... So for like when I was in university, I did get an internship through a referral. So my internship with Graca Machel Trust was actually through referral with a schoolmate of mine who had interned with the organization and I was interested. So I reached out to them and they did a referral for me. But subsequent roles, so Goldman Sachs and KPMG, I had to go through the application process on like the company portal and sending my resumes and take the aptitude tests and have multiple rounds of interviewing before I did get my offers.

Halle Rubera:

When would you suggest that students start to think about internships and who should they be speaking to? You mentioned that one of your friends is really resourceful in getting you the Graca Machel Trust internships.

Halle Rubera:

So kind of what is your takeaway from that experience, in terms of like the circle that you kept around yourself while you were in college?

Carryl Masibo:

So for starters, in terms of when is the right time to take up internships. I'd personally, say from your first year, you're pretty much set to start exploring different organizations and different industries to figure out what excites you and what doesn't. So if I was to speak to people who are just joining university, absolutely, you can do that from your first year. And it doesn't have to be as intense as starting internship somewhere interesting. It could be you job shadowing someone and for two weeks just to have a feel of the industry, or it could be you volunteering one day a week to work with specific organizations that you're looking at. And it could also just be an internship within your university.

Carryl Masibo:

I know a lot of universities offer students different jobs. And so that could also be like an avenue for you to start exploring the working world and how that looks like just to be able to gain some of the skills that are needed in the working place. I think the people around you and human beings in general are your biggest resource. So network, network, network and networking isn't necessarily, you meeting with some CFO at some top investment bank. It doesn't always play out like that. It could be your classmates who are working in organizations that you're looking up to. It could be people ahead of you in university. It could be your faculty members. It could be people you meet at industry events. So I would say networking is really, really, really crucial in this day and age.

Carryl Masibo:

And especially, I know with the current COVID situation, a lot of organizations are not hiring. So for you to get an opportunity, it probably is going to stem from a referral from someone who's worked with you and they know your work ethic, or you've expressed interest in the same fields before. So I would say networking is very fundamental in getting opportunities presently.

Halle Rubera:

So I remember when I was preparing for this interview, I remember seeing that, when you had just graduated primary school, I think, and someone asked, Carryl, what do you want to do when you grow up? You mentioned that you wanted to be a doctor and be really curious to know one, what was really like the benefits of taking on different things, right? Which you've touched upon a little, but maybe if you could go a little bit in depth of why you think it's really important to do that kind of exploration, because a lot of us kind of grew up thinking like your college degree automatically translates into a specific career, that you've pictured in your head, that you kind of box yourself into like one specific career, which is my first question.

Halle Rubera:

And my second question following up on that is if you studied computer science and you're currently working as an advisory associate, did you have to do any kind of like online courses to bridge the knowledge gap? What was the process of you transitioning seamlessly into this role, especially coming from a background that was not traditionally finance or consulting?

Carryl Masibo:

For anyone who comes from a similar system like me with the Kenyan system, you're pretty much programmed to either believe you're going to be a doctor, an engineer, or a lawyer. And if it's anything that doesn't fit within that spectrum of a career trajectory, you're considered to be unsuccessful per se. So I think that's what I grew up with. Just knowing that, okay, you're an exceptional student and you get good grades, then you either have to take one of these three courses.

Carryl Masibo:

And so like for me after finalizing high school, I thought I was going to be a lawyer at some point, I even did do a semester of law school, thinking that that is the career trajectory I wanted, but I realized quickly that I was bored. And I like things that change. I don't like static things. I want to feel like I'm taking up different projects at different times. So the exploring was really fundamental because the thing with like your career path is that, it's a significant portion of your life. So I don't think any 16 or 15 year olds, straight out of high school already knows how they want the next 10 to 20 years of their life to pan out. And so for me, it was important to see, okay, what am I good at, leveraging some of the strengths that I have, and also what do I enjoy doing, do I get excited when I'm doing this?

Carryl Masibo:

Do I feel like I can do this for a long period of time without feeling like I'm bored and I need to do something else? And that's the case for me. But I also know people who are pretty open-minded to changing parts from time to time. And that's okay. It's also the entire process of exploring and seeing whether something gives you joy. And also if you can be able to add value within the spaces that you're exploring.

Carryl Masibo:

I think one of my mentors always told me that you can acquire technical skills as you go. So I didn't have all the technical skills relevant for my role, but I knew that I had certain skills that were fundamental, that I could leverage. So basic things like use of Excel, making slides, that cut across different industries, I knew I was really, really good at that. And I could pitch myself with that kind of information, but then also I've had to go out of my way to leverage on different platforms. And I think we were lucky enough to be living in the internet age, where you can acquire information anywhere.

Carryl Masibo:

So I have taken multiple courses online. I'm currently working towards doing my CFA examinations in the next year, which would also be really helpful with the path that I'm taking. So I think it's important that if you know that you want to explore a field and you may not necessarily have all the technical skills that you should go out of your way and try and acquire that information online, because there are multiple free sources of information.

Halle Rubera:

I like that you talked about, kind of going in a bit green and learning as you go and kind of learning the ropes as you went along. Because I think a lot of us get a bit intimidated by job descriptions or our perception of what the role is going to be. And something else I picked up from what you were saying is, when you went into law school, of course you had this idea of what law was before you got in. And once you did it, you were so bored and you knew that you didn't want to do that any more. And they find that's almost a similar experience with jobs as well. Where there's a certain job description, or there's a certain idea or perception of what the job entails and until you actually get into it and you start to do it, that's when you realize that, oh, wait, I just don't enjoy this. Or my skills aren't suited for this, or I could be doing something completely different.

Halle Rubera:

And I think that's really the value of, I would say, and I think he would agree to, is the value of that exploration is that, it truly gives you the firsthand experience that you wouldn't necessarily get from even a coffee chat or reading online about a certain role. So I appreciate you sharing that experience. Yeah. And as you were talking about like the lawyer, doctor, engineer thing, that's been a common theme across almost every single episode that I've had. And it's so interesting that, in a world that's as dynamic as we live in right now and in a world that's changing super quickly, it's sad that we're almost a bit stuck in that mentality, that there's only a couple of career options that would make you successful or would give you some sort of like fulfillment.

Halle Rubera:

And that's one of the reasons I do these episodes is, or I do this podcast is for the exposure of the wide array of opportunities out there that we still haven't explored. So, Carryl, you also participated in a good number of extracurriculars in college. So you didn't just have your head down studying super hard. You were head of logistics at ALU MUN, you were a career student fellow. What would you say was the benefit of having all these extracurriculars to your professional life and your personal life?

Carryl Masibo:

I think one is the networking bit of it. You get to meet different people from different parts of the world who have different backgrounds and it's important in terms of networking and being able to learn from different people. So that was always like an exciting aspect for me. But also, it gives you a bit of personality so that you're not just that candidate who brings to the table, the technical skills, but they're not able to add value in any other way.

Carryl Masibo:

So for me, I ended up doing things that I was more excited about, like the career fellowship, especially, or something that I was passionate about during my time in uni, because it was also my way of feeling like I'm adding value to the people around me.

Halle Rubera:

When we think about big four firms like KPMG, we know of the long hours. So I'm so curious to know what keeps you going after working every single day and just being like, oh my God, it's another 10:00 p.m. I don't know what time you go home or you kind of stop, but what's the thing that just keeps you going despite like the long hours that is very central to this job?

Carryl Masibo:

I think one is the people that I work with. A lot of the people being, it's just been a year and a few months into my role at KPMG, but I've been mentored by so many people who've gone out of their way to ensure that I'm learning in the process and to ensure that they can teach me how to do various things at work and just seeing how exceptional they are and how quality driven they are, has been like super inspirational for me to aspire to want to get to a place where I can also add value to that significant extent. But also just being in a place where the culture is people driven. I know with most big four farms, their working hours are quite intense, but we also do have our time to play. It's interesting, we're having this conversation because we have a people's week that's just coming up and during this week, we're going to have one virtually because of the pandemic, of course, but it's our chance to interact with different people.

Carryl Masibo:

We're going to be having debates. We'll have cooking shows done by different people. So it's also a pretty fun environment to work with just beyond all the work that's done. And I think the final thing for me would be the impact. Just knowing that I work with an organization that's able to have impact across different industries and add value to different people from different countries is exciting for me. And being able to provide support for organizations.

Halle Rubera:

Did you feel ever intimidated to apply to some of these companies like KPMG or Goldman Sachs or the Graca Machel Trust?

Carryl Masibo:

Absolutely. I think for me, especially Goldman Sachs was a big one, because that was the first time I was making an attempt to apply to our global farm. And there was a lot of imposter syndrome for me. One being that I didn't have any finance background, absolutely zero financial background, and my knowledge was merely based on what I could find online. So I was very intimidated and also there's this narrative that top investment banks hire from specific schools and most schools on the continent are said not be prioritized per se.

Carryl Masibo:

So was that imposter syndrome, but I think you quickly realize that you have all ... as an African student based anywhere on the continent, you have everything it takes to be able to get this roles. And I think after I was able to get the role at Goldman Sachs, it kind of made me feel more comfortable doing an application to KPMG because I knew then that I have the skills necessary and I have to just be a bit more confident and put myself out there. And of course you get some, you lose some. So there are also other companies that I explored that I didn't get, but you end up getting a few of them, which is pretty great.

Halle Rubera:

The profiles typically, like LinkedIn profiles or any kind of social media profiles really do hide the struggle. And I appreciate your sharing. I really appreciate your sharing, even just like your thought process while applying or the fact that you didn't necessarily get into some organizations that you'd wanted to, but it all turned out great because you love your current role and it serves you well. And you did spend some time in London, right, while you were working at Goldman. So did you not want to kind of launch your career in the UK or what happened?

Carryl Masibo:

I've always known I wanted to move back home. I think that's the one thing I was very certain from the get go, even being able to do internships in different countries before, I was always certain that after my final year, I'd want to move back home because I think I'm just at my optimal when I'm in Nairobi. And when I feel like I'm creating impact in adding value within my immediate society. So that was also one of the things that made me certain that I wanted to move back to Nairobi.

Halle Rubera:

Obviously being home and making impact is a huge reason for wanting to be back. But are there also certain business aspects that you see, whether in like opportunity or trends that also draw you to Nairobi?

Carryl Masibo:

Absolutely. Entrepreneurship is becoming a big thing within the East African market. And of course, can Kenya and Nairobi being centrally located is one of the destinations that a lot of entrepreneurs are looking to set up different companies. So there's kind of a startup culture that's currently booming in in the Nairobi scene with more investors investing and they think just Nairobi has a lot of potential. And I want to be part of that. I want to be part of an environment that's growing and yeah, and there's a lot of opportunities within Nairobi in comparison to a lot of other places as well.

Halle Rubera:

You currently run a professional development page on Instagram, which will tell us about, what's one common misstep that you've noticed hinders students from getting their desired roles?

Carryl Masibo:

Okay. So I run a page called Interview Prep Kenya, which basically is a platform that I started to have more conversations about careers, targeted at young people just to motivate them and to equip them with some of the lessons and skills that I've gained over my years of doing different internships, as well as my recent roles. To be able to prepare them best for interviews and job applications and to position them best. I think having a concise resume, that's able to express your strengths and it being straight to the point.

Carryl Masibo:

I think a lot of people still use the more older templates of resumes, which are like 10 to 15 pages. And in all honesty, no hiring manager is going to go through 15 pages of what you've achieved. So I think it's important for like more candidates to make that concise and focus more on aspects of themselves that they believe are going to market them best before working on a resume. So my rule of thumb is, if you have less than three years of experience, a one page resume works absolutely well.

Halle Rubera:

Well, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Carryl. We've come to the end of the podcast. And this is a question that I ask every single guest that I've hosted. And that's, when you think back to the decisions you've made regarding your career, what's one thing you think you've done well? And one thing you wish you could have done better?

Carryl Masibo:

I think what I've done really well is to be proactive, to try and gain the skills that position me well for the roles I want. So if I'm exploring a role, I'll make sure that I know what skills they're looking for and try and position myself to meet those skills, either by learning more or being under mentorship of people who do the same. In terms of what I think I could have done better, networking for sure. I think in my premier years of being in university, my perception of networking was always having these scripted conversations with a bunch of random people with the aim of hopefully getting hired by them. But I think right now I'm more aware that it may not always necessarily lead to a job offer but also just being an opportunity to learn from other people and get to know what they do and whether that excites you or not. So network, network, and network some more.

Halle Rubera:

No, it sounds very relatable, I think one the ... I guess again, constant themes of this episode has been with networking, I think one place where we go wrong can be when we tend to make it a bit transactional and you kind of go into the networking space wanting something at the end. And please follow her Instagram page at Interview Prep Kenya, she really posts really thought out posts. And a lot of them are from our own experiences, recruiting. Thank you so much, Carryl, really appreciate your time.

Carryl Masibo:

Thank you for having me.