Cold Call Interview Series: Andrew Musoke (NB)
Cold calls. Your professors love them. You fear them. Your ed rep crushes them. We think it’s about time that this HBS staple gets the rebranding it deserves. Each week, The Harbus will chat with a randomly-selected member of the student body. This week, C. Patrick Erker sat down with Andrew Musoke (NB) to talk about bridging the gap between the US and Uganda, being mistaken for
Bernie Madoff Warren Buffett, and the advice he would give to his future self.
CPE: I feel like I see you everywhere, and that you know everyone. Be honest—are you the Heidi Roizen of Uganda? Am I talking to a man with political ambitions?
Andrew: You’re definitely talking to a man with political ambitions, but I’m definitely not the Heidi Roizen of Uganda. It’s funny because everyone thinks I know a lot of people, but it’s such a big school coming from my background.
My undergraduate, Connecticut College, was a total of about 1,800 students. So basically the whole school was the size of the EC and RC classes together; this is much bigger than what I’ve come from. But it does help to smile here and there and shake a few hands and just be open and inviting of others within the class.
The business school has been great for me and it definitely is a foundation for future political ambitions. I’m not sure if it’s Uganda or the US yet, but I know that as I progress in that arena I do have to make a choice of what side of my dual citizenship I’m actually going to choose.
CPE: So, we’re nearing the end of the RC. Hopefully we’re starting to get past the name game and get real with some of our classmates. To that end, what’s the most moving or emotional experience you’ve had at HBS so far?
Andrew: Most recently, the SA put on a series call My Take, which featured four ECs sharing their stories. To be honest, that’s been the most captivating experience that I’ve seen so far.
With this community we live in, everyone’s pretty much Type-A, you don’t see us sharing our weaknesses or our challenges, but you always see us sharing our accomplishments. I realized that we’re all individuals here, at the end of the day we’re all human beings; we breathe the same air and have the same blood.
CPE: Continuing on a slightly serious topic, what motivates you in life?
Andrew: What motivates me is really to bridge the gaps between the two worlds that I come from. On one end I come from an impoverished nation that’s struggled with a dictator and currently has a president who’s in his 26th year of power.
On the other end, I come from the United States which is a democracy, and offers a dream that a lot of other counties can’t compete with. As things change in the world, the US politically is changing, geographically, and economically. Things are changing around the world, we see for example Portugal getting money from Angola which we would never have considered before.
So what motivates me is reducing that gap between the two countries. Giving opportunities to those that do not have as well as giving the opportunity and perspective of life to those that are somewhat sheltered in the western world, and letting them know that it’s a bigger world out there, because only together will we actually move forward.
It’s important for leaders like us to understand the dynamics of business because business is now almost fundamental in anything we do, and that’s my reason for being at business school, to get that foundation.
Another thing—happiness. I want people to be happy. It’s hard sometimes. You travel around the world and see people with what we perceive as the “greatest things in life,” like money and access, but who are so unhappy. When you go to developing countries like Uganda, you go to the most removed village and you see the happiest of individuals, even with dire concerns and dire needs, whether it’s health, food, and they’re just incredibly happy and fortunate for where they are. It’s amazing to the see the difference between the two.
There’s a saying we have with my brothers—“play at your own level.” It’s a very simple saying, but it’s almost like, you don’t need to have a million dollars to be a happy person, you don’t need to have $50 to be happy. It’s about you being satisfied with yourself and being satisfied with your life, whatever that life may bring. For me, the keystone of that is family.
CPE: On a somewhat related note, bringing in class concept from TEM, would you rather be rich or king?
Andrew: Where I come from, it’s always been more about respect than money, it’s about being honorable as opposed to buying your way to the top, it’s about working hard for what you get, as opposed to maximizing on an alpha, using financial terms. My family believes that it’s better to be happy and to have family and a good life than it is to be rich and wealthy and not have family around you, the love and trust and relationships that come from kinship and enjoying one another’s company.
CPE: I was talking to a few fellow sectionmates recently about how we’ve changed since starting at school. How has HBS changed you?
Good question. I think HBS has changed me in seeing that, one, I definitely had a perspective of business school as being really quantitative, in the sense that everyone here had perfect GMAT scores, was very wealth-driven (which a lot of people are), but I’ve seen a lot of leadership here, I’ve seen people doing things, I’ve seen people step up to the plate when I didn’t expect them to. It’s forced me to step up even more.
It’s one thing to be accomplished in whatever life you had prior to HBS, you come here, it’s a great school etc. It’s another thing to be surrounded by people who constantly test and challenge you. For me that’s been a very difficult transition. I took a lot of personal steps to prepare myself, even in the classroom. I don’t take it for granted, just coming to class—I do try to read cases, prepare myself and think about concepts before going into the classroom.
I’ve changed because I believe I’ve become better at understanding myself and my self-awareness. That has to do with leadership, has to do with challenging yourself, has to do with being prepared. Being self-aware of my influence on the world, on my peers, my family.
Having the attachment to HBS, I already know that my words carry much more weight outside of this community. A cab driver the other day was asking me for investment advice—I’m not an investment banker, I don’t work in private equity or anything like that. Just the fact that they drop you off at Harvard Business School, they think that you are next [Freudian slip here] Bernie Mad—Warren Buffet. Your words do carry a lot of weight. And that’s in the US. When you take that context to the underdeveloped world, it’s ten-X the weight that it carries here.
It’s about being very careful, in everything from Facebook, Twitter, etc. As long as you have an HBS email address, you’re associated with it. I have to be much more careful about what I say publicly just because it’s attached to the HBS name. And it’s an honor to have that brand and name attached to me, so in respect for it and those who came before me, it’s definitely self-awareness.
CPE: I know you’re a fairly active social media type. What’s the over/under on the number minutes after this article is published that it will be on your profile?
Andrew: (Laughing) I’ll give you an hour and a half.
CPE: Give the future Andrew Musoke, who just found an old Harbus article about himself from 2012, some advice. Anything you’d like to tell that future self?
Andrew: I’d like to tell that future self—just remember where you came from. Still continue to trust and place faith in people. Don’t let a negative world or negative environment ever take away the love you have for the human race and your neighbor. I don’t know where I’ll be in 10 or 15 years, but my biggest fear is to lose that passion and love I have for people. That’s the only thing I fear. Everything else will come as it comes and go as it goes.
How will you avoid losing that faith?
Andrew: I think it’s just never losing sight of my initial foundation, who I am, my roots. Little African boy from Uganda trying to make it in the Western world and give back to society as a whole. No bias, whether it’s US, Uganda, India, China. Just trying to make a difference, and make the ladies smile!