Brenda Katwesigye Baganzi
Smith School of Business, Queen’s University
“I’m intuitive, ambitious and adventurous. I love to travel and enjoy high-energy, adrenaline activities.”
Hometown: Kampala, Uganda
Fun fact about yourself: I climbed the world’s highest freestanding mountain: Mount Kilimanjaro
Undergraduate School and Degree: Makerere University, Kampala. BSc in Telecommunication Engineering
Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? The Innovation Village in Kampala, as the Innovation Strategy Lead.
Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Not Applicable
Where will you be working after graduation? Associate Managing Consultant at Mastercard
Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:
- Director of Social Impact – Women in Leadership Club
- Director of Internal Affairs – Scale Up Summit
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of my work with the Smith Scale Up summit. Together with an incredible team, we organized an interactive conference for entrepreneurs, innovators, and industry leaders that featured panel discussions, roundtable sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities focused on the Clean Energy, Fintech and Design sectors. It was challenging coordinating everything virtually, but we delivered a successful event. It was a major learning experience for me that also strongly aligned with my entrepreneurial interests.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I co-founded East Africa’s first manufacturer of prescription eyewear – Wazi. Over the years, I have grown the company to reach clients in different parts of East Africa while helping tens of thousands of people access affordable eye care and eye glasses. I have also led the company’s fundraising efforts and on-boarded multiple partners to help the company scale. Growing the company while navigating the challenges posed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a major catalyst of growth for me as an individual.
Why did you choose this business school? I chose Smith School of Business because of the degree of attention that is given to each student – something I experienced during the application process and also learned from alumni I spoke to before joining the school. The class size is small (90 students), which means that every student is accorded full attention by the staff, faculty and the entire school administration. This gave me confidence that I would not only learn a lot, but would build close knit relationships with fellow students and staff. Looking back, Smith exceeded my expectations – especially the attention given to me during my career exploration.
Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor was Mr. Len Anderson, who taught the financial accounting class. He was always charismatic, kind, patient, engaging and open to feedback. Len delivered the course in a way that everyone, even those without an accounting background, enjoyed and grasped the concepts. His classes were always practical because he used real companies and up-to-date financials to explain the impact of key balances on overall business strategy.
What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite event was the cultural night. The Smith MBA program is very multicultural, with students from over 19 countries. Cultural night gave different students an opportunity to not only showcase their culture, but to also appreciate the cultures of their peers. I enjoyed participating in the Bollywood dance which showcased Indian culture. This event highlighted the fact that the school and program truly celebrates different cultures, nationalities and perspectives.
Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Most of the MBA was delivered online during 2021 due to the pandemic, so there was limited in-person interaction with other students. However, the Student Executive Council organized events called .4s (point fours), where students connected outside class. Even though they were online initially, students met in person once lockdowns were lifted. Given another chance, I would participate more in the .4s (both virtual and in-person) and create more time for coffee chats with the class of 2022, a cohort of incredibly smart, kind and interesting people.
What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth I heard about Smith School of Business was that the MBA classes are structured mostly for people with a quantitative background or a purely business background. However, that is far from true. The program has multiple courses (even before the program officially starts) to prepare students without a quantitative background for courses leaning towards mathematics, such as Business Analytics. Likewise, there are various courses for students with no business background that are very helpful in preparing students for courses throughout the program. Professors also deliver courses in a considerate way, ensuring that no student is left behind.
What surprised you the most about business school? I expected many courses to be taught straight from the textbook – like I had studied in undergraduate school. However, I was pleasantly surprised that many lecturers had long careers in big companies and much of what was taught was very practical and applicable in the real world. Even though there were elements of the usual textbook approach, I loved that many professors blended their sessions with cases and experiential learnings from industry experts.
What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I believe I told my story well – both at the interview and in the cover letter. Being a female entrepreneur in East Africa, I ensured that I relayed why the MBA was important to me, why now, and how it would impact my work on the continent in the long term. I also ensured that I spoke with many alumni and admission advisors to truly understand how and why Smith School of Business was the right fit for me.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate I admire the most is Obinna Obiora. He is currently an Associate at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). Obinna is incredibly helpful, selfless, charismatic, friendly, and is generous with his time, resources and networks. The most important thing I learned from him is that even though work is important, building relationships is even more important. He also constantly reminded me to structure my thinking in interviews and coffee chats which helped me incredibly in my career journey.
Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My friend, Helen Kobusinge, influenced my decision to pursue business. She is currently the Director of Finance at Queen’s University’s Faculty of Law and an alumni of the MBA program at Smith School of Business. Helen and I worked together at Deloitte in Kampala and I’m incredibly grateful that she was generous with her time and resources. She not only helped me understand what pursuing business would mean for my career, but also made it possible in many ways. Without her, my decision would have been a little more difficult.
What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I want to one day lead a company successfully to an IPO. The second item on my professional bucket list is to one day invest in female founders on the African continent.
How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has shown me that it is possible to be productive in a remote environment. I worked remotely with multiple teams, both in class and in my startup, with no compromise on efficiency or speed.
The pandemic also influenced the key things that I value – health, flexibility, family and overall mental well-being. Therefore, I’m drawn to career opportunities that allow me to thrive in these areas.
What made Brenda such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?
“Brenda is an energetic and truly remarkable business leader. I was impressed with her from the outset.
An impressive social entrepreneur, she founded East Africa’s first prescription eye wear manufacturing business providing affordable eyecare using recycled plastics. She has gone on to help with community development initiatives supporting young women and girls in Uganda and has worked at Uganda’s Innovation Village contributing to the commercialization of ideas to solve the biggest industry and community challenges.
Considering her record of community involvement and leadership, it was no surprise to see Brenda assume a leadership role within the student body in the MBA program at Queen’s. A role model for young women in East Africa, she was clearly similarly inspirational for her peers in the program.
Brenda has executive presence. When she spoke in class, it was to offer a well-considered reflection on the subject under discussion. Her contributions were always welcomed by everyone. When Brenda speaks, people listen.”
Smith School of Business, Queen’s University
DON’T MISS: MBAS TO WATCH: CLASS OF 2022
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