2019 Best EMBAs: Alither Rutendo Paidamoyo Mutsago, London Business School

Alither Rutendo Paidamoyo Mutsago

London Business School

“I self-disrupt the confines of my limits, constantly pursuing seemingly insurmountable goals beyond my dreams.”

Age: 42

Hometown: I am a global resident, I was born and raised within the heart of the tropics of Africa, in Zimbabwe (Harare), but my youth and adult life spans three continents. For six years, I experienced the Mediterranean climate of Cape Town (South Africa) before swapping it for the cold and wet British weather in London for just over 12 years. The hot deserts of Qatar (Doha) have been my home for the past five years and counting.

Family Members: Rufaro Makanya (husband), Ndawananyasha and Ndapiwanashe (twin daughters), and Rufaro JR (son). I was born in a close-knit family of five children, I have four brothers: TD, Mukayi, Allen, and Simbarashe.

Fun fact about yourself: I enjoy dancing and let my guard down when dancing to local Zimbabwean music genres.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  1. University of Cape Town; B.Soc. Sci, Economics and Human Resources
  2. University of Cape Town; B.Com (1st class Hons), Economics
  3. University of Cape Town; MSc., Economics and Health Economics
  4. London Business School: EMBA (class of 2019)

Where are you currently working? Economics Specialist at Georgetown University School of Foreign Services (Qatar) and Co-founder at Yibuntu Growers Enterprise

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I am a long-distance runner and I play competitive squash and tennis. I love unique prints and accessories, I have turned this into a hobby, designing ethnic print apparel. I currently run a self-financed scholarship scheme for a mix of 10 deserving underprivileged primary and secondary school students in a remote village of Marange in Zimbabwe. I was an Economic Advisor for the British government on key flagship policies including development aid, global funds, universal credit, and child poverty. I was awarded three special achievement awards for supporting and delivering, the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown’s Education Initiative for developing countries, the UK 2014 Child Poverty strategy and the analysis underpinning the Housing Benefit business case for Universal Credit. A 1st class honours in my B.com Economics degree resulted in the award of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) post graduate academic Scholarship.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Ecocash Zimbabwe won both the ‘Judges’ Choice’ and ‘People’s Choice’ prestigious accolades in the “Best Beats First” award category for the London Business School 2018 Real Innovations Awards, which celebrate the messy and less spectacular side of innovation. Ecocash’s selection to the short-list of nominees was anchored on a short academic piece I authored for Developing Entrepreneurial Opportunities core course. In the academic paper, I articulated how Ecocash moved quickly to dominate an emerging market sector by making mobile banking ubiquitous and accessible to the vast majority of the unbanked population. Promoting a Zimbabwean-owned company on the global business stage aroused and rekindled an inner sense of self-connection to the motherland and an accomplishing sense of gratification.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Co-founding Yibuntu Growers, an agri-based export distribution business start-up with a vision to become a best-of-breed export distribution hub in Africa, stands out. The odds were stacked against the business with no sound financial backing or prior industry exposure. However, I had the resolve to take measured risks that enabled Yibuntu to see beyond the short-term start-up capitalization challenges. Within a month of pitching to potential clients, Yibuntu signed its first contract and the first shipment arrived within a week. Yibuntu was born. In its first eight weeks, Yibuntu shipped over 30,000 kgs of whole foods (fruit and vegetables) and recorded a turnover in excess of $100,000 with a gross margin of just under 10%. Yibuntu had entered unchartered waters with the potential to become an enabling conduit that links large and small-scale African farmers directly to global supply chains and markets.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? David Myatt (Managerial Economics) – he brought economics to life in a manner I had never experienced before. Ronen Israel (Corporate Finance) also brought his personal dedication to my learning. His comprehension and consolidation of the dense course material were phenomenal. 

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? I would have to say Corporate Finance; it pushed me out of my comfort zone and literally consumed my whole being like no other course. The greatest ‘aha’ moment came from understanding that companies can grow while destroying value; company growth and shareholder value creation are very different animals. This newly-acquired business acumen is enabling me to challenge certain accounting measures that define a company’s success or managerial investment decisions that maybe value destroying but disguised as profit-making or growth-enhancing.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I circled in on London Business School after well-considered and extensive research of potential elite EMBA schools. The decision was not easy, but I was finally drawn to LBS because of the depth and breadth of the strategy and entrepreneurship courses. They offered practical insights and knowledge into developing and growing strategic and viable business innovations that are dynamic and progressive. I believed that with LBS at my side, my ultimate goal, and essential steps leading to it, would become attainable! I have not been disappointed.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? In the midst of the immersive roller coaster ride with grueling 101 assignments and exams, we got to unwind. I capitalized on the opportunity afforded by the diverse LBS network to diversify my existing network and develop lifelong friendships. I tapped beyond my stream into the LBS alumni to build new professional relationships. I came to appreciate the power of building and solidifying my social capital. I learned a lot from my own peers, the wide spectrum of courses, and varied modes of teaching, which included application models and frameworks to real-life case studies, from guest speakers who are experts in the industry, to study groups, etc. These offered great insights that allowed me to draw on the various courses, making the necessary connections across different subject areas and unifying these ideas into a whole.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Things got a little crazy in my house as my husband started his EMBA at INSEAD 10 months into my program, adding an extra spoke into my work-family-EMBA juggle wheel. Our commutes were synchronized, but did not allow for any flight hiccups. I remember vividly one evening after an exhausting back-to-back block week of Managerial Accounting exam, Corporate Finance II, and Marketing, I was eager to get back to my family when my first leg was delayed by a couple of hours, but I was reassured I would not miss my connecting flight. I rushed to the flight connection desk as soon we landed in Muscat only to find that my flight had been canceled; the next flight was 7 hours away. The sinking feeling! I used this long commute as study time working through my coursework, but had to endure the uncomfortable waiting area seats, the entire night spent drifting in-and-out of consciousness trying to catch up on sleep. I walked into the house at 5:30 a.m. with just enough time to take a quick shower and drop the kids off at school. I was sitting behind my work desk with 10 minutes to spare for a quick coffee before my first meeting…phew.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? When I was contemplating embarking on this journey, a few of my colleagues were of the view that I wouldn’t learn much since I already held a masters in Economics. Nothing could be further from the truth. The EMBA journey is truly a game-changer. I am not the same being I was 18 months ago. Being part of the LBS family has been the best investment yet. I am constantly being transformed into a versatile, autonomous and high performing learner.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I struggled to achieve an ideal work-life balance. I sacrificed family time in pursuit of perfection. This has been a key learning point, perfectionism is an aspiration, but I have come to appreciate that perfect imperfections exude excellence.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It’s difficult to pin it down to a specific individual. The class was diverse with each individual bringing a unique quality and skills set that I had never been exposed to. From a distance, I mostly admired individuals who remained composed under pressure and managed to achieve balanced work-life schedules outside the EMBA program routine.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was inspired by my cousin Hazel Nyathi (World Vision, Malawi – country director) who attended business school back in 2002 and what she had achieved thereafter. I was still doing my undergraduate degree, but business school topped my wish list. However, I didn’t want to go to just any business school. My eyes were set on a world-class business school. When we moved to Doha, my husband, who leads with grit, supported and encouraged me to apply and I knew the time had come.  My business school experience is allowing me to take ownership, continuously cultivate my vison, see the invisible, and achieve the impossible.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My aspiration is to build and expand Yibuntu’s supply base into new countries and launch export-led partnerships in European markets that will turn Yibuntu into a competitive regional dispatch hub. I would like to see Yibuntu grow into a seven-figure grossing business, exporting hundreds of tons of fruit and vegetables annually. Introducing consultancy and training services for new farmers to build and develop customer-centric export capability will take Yibuntu closer to realising its vision to improve the living standards of small-scale African farmers. It offers value creation through facilitating and forging long-term commercial links between large and small-scale African farmers with more profitable global markets. This has the potential to positively impact more small-scale African farmers, increasing their crop income by 30-50%.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you?  A highly competent economic advisor with a predisposition to social and economic development – highly organized, emotionally intelligent, collaborative, hard-working and a selfless perfectionist who strives for excellence always!

What are the top two items on your bucket list? My list keeps changing and growing as I gain inspiration through my everyday experience. For now, the top two are:

  • Expand my scholarship fund to include tertiary education
  • My husband and I have had an incredibly busy year juggling school, work and family; I would like to take time out to relax and travel the world with family celebrating success – what God has enabled us to achieve.

What made Alither such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?

Alither is a great example of the modern woman, always pushing boundaries while managing family and her career. During the intensive first ten months of the programme, Alither managed to keep up with her entrepreneurial ventures while winning the 2018 LBS Real Innovation Award.

Alither’s high emotional intelligence and economist’s perspective allowed her to navigate many tough challenges at LBS, work with a diverse study group, and enrich classroom discussions. She has gained a lot from the EMBA experience within a very short space of time. Alither is a great example of an EMBA student applying the classroom learning to make an impact not just in her life, but also for society.”

Jordana Blanchet
Programme Director
EMBA Dubai, London Business School

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAs OF 2019 or RANKING THE BEST EMBA PROGRAMS IN THE U.S.