It was organised by the US Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit and Vital Voices Global Partnership, an NGO that identifies and empowers emerging women leaders around the globe. She talked to REHEMA AANYU.
When did you venture into business?
I started Century Marketing, an advertising firm, in 1998. This was after I had resigned my position as art director at Lowe Scanad where I felt I was under-utilising my potential. Starting the company was my way of unleashing my full potential. In 2007, I started Century Entrepreneurship Development Agency, a social entrepreneurship organisation, aimed at equipping especially women with practical business skills to start and maintain their own businesses.
I have worked with women and community groups in Mbarara, Kalangala, Kumi and in different areas in Kampala including Nsambya, Mpererwe and at the Infectious Diseases Institute at Mulago Hospital.
I have also worked as a consultant with International Trade Centre, Geneva to engender the National Export Strategy and to build competitiveness for businesses in the dairy and tea sector.
How did you get into the programme?
The American Embassy in Uganda sent an e-mail about the programme to various women groups like the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Association Ltd.
I applied and was among the three who were nominated by the embassy.
American embassies in other countries also nominated people, of whom 32 women were chosen to be mentored. I was the only Ugandan in the group. In addition, I was the first Ugandan in the programme, which has been running for three years.
What were the opening and closing ceremonies like?
I left for Washington on April 25. The opening night was magical and full of positive energy from the women. At dinner, we introduced ourselves and where we come from. We had a four-day orientation, which included a visit to Lincoln Memorial, dinner at the White House, the Capitol Hill and the World Bank office.
I then travelled to Manhattan, New York to my mentorship company AXA Equitable from April 30 to May 18.
The programme ended with a three-day closing ceremony in New York city, crowned with a Fortune Most Powerful Women dinner gala on May 21.
We interacted with women, like Gayle King, editor-at-large for O (Oprahâ€™s magazine) and Christiane Amanpour, CNNâ€™s chief international correspondent.
What were your expectations?
I looked forward to the chance to work, interact and be mentored by the most powerful women from The Fortune 500 companies. Working with these companies, which include AXA Equitable, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Exxon Mobil Corp, Time Inc. and Wal-Mart stores, was a lifetime opportunity.
I was partnered with Barbara Goodstein, the chief innovation officer and executive vice-president of marketing for AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company. She introduced me to her staff and the different departments related to marketing, from which I got an overview of the company, how it works and what has kept it in business for the last 150 years.
About working with AXA Equitableâ€¦.
Arriving at AXA Equitable, I did not know what to expect from the work, the people and the environment. However, I was pleasantly surprised as the people were so welcoming.
My daily schedule ran from 9:00am to 5:00pm. I attended meetings with the different business units like product development, legal, human resources, corporate marketing and distribution which had a direct connection impact on marketing using â€œThe AXA Wayâ€.
Was it all work and no play?
No! In fact I visited some women groups, leading women entrepreneurs, developmental partners, publishing houses and advertising agencies and the Barnes & Noble bookstore, because I love to read.
I also went to the home of Geraldine Laybourne, the former CEO of Oxygen Media, Essence Magazine and Google offices where we had an exciting discussion about leadership.
I also visited the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, Museums, Statue of Liberty, Time Square, walked through the Central Park, went to Broadway theatre, went on a boat cruise, learnt how to whistle for taxis and, of course, shopped on the expensive 5th Avenue in Manhattan city.
Your most memorable moments
My first week in Washington was memorable because it was proof that â€œno dream is too bigâ€. There I was, a girl all the way from Ggomba, mixing with the most influential women in the world. It was unbelievable.
My other moment was touring the White House where we met Hillary Rodham Clinton, the US secretary of state and other senior women in the State Department and watching Senator John McCain debating about the budget framework at the Capitol Hill. It was a telling moment meeting all these women with diverse backgrounds sharing their life experiences. It was inspiring just listening to them on how they balance work and family.
Any cultural shocksâ€¦?
None. The people were hospitable and eager to listen and learn from me as much as I was eager to learn from them. However, they were more shocked by me than I was by them. One man asked me if Uganda was the country where pirates lived.
A lady asked me where and how I learnt English. Another gentleman asked me to show him where Uganda was on the Google map and together we zoomed in to my home in Muyenga. Another lady confessed that before we met, she had been terrified by the idea of spending a whole day with me wondering if the two of us would be able to communicate.
How are you to better society from your experience?
For my business and those that I support, I have started strengthening the systems to enable more growth and sustainability. I am also engage in and supporting employees to have concrete visions, goals and career plans so that they become better leaders.
I plan to establish a Women Empowerment Centre in Kampala to nurture and support women by providing them with leadership and entrepreneurship development skills so as to uplift them and change their mindsets towards self development.
I also intend to start Mentorship Clubs in girlsâ€™ schools to grow a â€œGeneration of New Leadersâ€ through mentorship and career planning. This will inspire them to discover and unleash their potential through some of the key life skills development involving self-discovery, goal setting, communication, negotiations and leadership. One thing I know for sure â€œIf I walk alone, I will go very fast, but if I take some people with me, we shall go very farâ€.
About the programme
Fortune/U.S. State Department Women's Mentoring Programme (Partnership) is an annual programme for emerging women leaders from around the world.
These women are chosen from the business sector, aged between 28 and 42 with a good command of English.
The women are partnered with Fortuneâ€™s most powerful women CEOs and senior executives from some of Americaâ€™s prestigious companies and organisations.
Participants apply through American embassies in their countries after an announcement by the office of Citizen Exchanges. The US Embassies usually send out an email inviting people to apply. They then nominate three people and send them to the organisers in the US for final selection, who choose only 32 women.
The programme includes a three day orientation tour in Washington, D.C, three week mentorship assignment and a two day debriefing in New York City where follow up activities are developed.
All expenses are covered by the Department of State in partnership with the US mentoring companies.
Participants travel individually to their company location where they are mentored by a Fortune most powerful woman and her team.
The programme was startes in 2006. It is an initiative by the US government and Fortune 500 companies.
Kasule was mentored by Hillary Clinton