Inside the 2023 Global Leadership: A Q&A with Samuel Onyango Omondi

The following Q&A features insights from Samuel Onyango Omondi, an African Leadership University (ALU) student pursuing a bachelor’s (B.Sc Hons) in software engineering. Samuel was one of 20 ALU students to participate in the 2023 Global Leadership Program, a month-long entrepreneurial leadership immersive learning experience in Silicon Valley at the Carnegie Foundation headquarters.

At ALU, students declare missions, not majors – defining their educational experience by the impact they want to make in the world. Samuel’s mission is to tackle the irresponsible dumping of plastic waste in the city of Mombasa by implementing a solution that converts plastic waste into cooking gas.

Follow Samuel’s leadership journey to learn more.

What was the most valuable part of your experience in the 2023 Global Leadership Program?

The most valuable part of my experience was the opportunity to visit prominent companies in Silicon Valley. Walking through the offices of Google, Intel, Verily Life Sciences, IDEO, and Netflix was an eye-opening experience because it allowed me to see firsthand how these tech giants operate, innovate, and nurture their unique corporate cultures.

Interacting with industry leaders during our visits and masterclass sessions was truly invaluable. Learning from CEOs, CMOs, and other executives provided insights into their journeys, the strategies behind their companies’ success, and the importance of ethical leadership in the business world.

The masterclasses and workshops we engaged in were crucial learning experiences. They equipped me with practical knowledge and skills in areas like AI, design thinking, marketing, and responsible innovation. These sessions were directly applicable to my field of interest.

The program’s emphasis on diverse perspectives, both in terms of company cultures and global viewpoints, broadened my horizons. It enriched my understanding of different industries and encouraged me to adopt a more global mindset in my approach to problem-solving.

The focus on innovation and problem-solving throughout the program resonated with me. From the site visits to the masterclasses, I consistently saw how technology was being harnessed to address real-world challenges. It inspired me to think creatively and consider how I can contribute to positive change.

Personally, I experienced significant growth and found inspiration during the program. Hearing the stories and experiences of industry leaders reinforced the importance of empathy, ethics, and social responsibility in my career and life in general.

Building relationships with fellow participants, industry professionals, and program organizers was a cherished aspect of the program. These connections have not only enriched me personally but also offer promising professional opportunities in the future.

What learnings have you taken with you from the 2023 Global Leadership Program?

It provided me with invaluable learnings that continue to influence my personal and entrepreneurial journey. Some of the key takeaways include:

  • Ethical Leadership: The program emphasized the significance of ethical leadership in the business world. I learned the importance of conducting business with integrity and social responsibility, which has influenced my approach to entrepreneurship.
  • Innovation and Problem-Solving: The focus on innovation and practical problem-solving was a central theme throughout the program. These principles have become ingrained in my thinking and are guiding me as I navigate entrepreneurial ventures.
  • Global Mindset: Interacting with industry professionals and fellow participants from diverse backgrounds expanded my global mindset. This broader perspective is now influencing how I approach challenges and opportunities in the entrepreneurial landscape.
  • Relationship Building: Building connections with both program participants and industry leaders was a significant aspect of the program. These relationships have opened doors for potential collaborations and partnerships in my entrepreneurial endeavors.
  • Sharing Knowledge: I organized two sessions where I shared my Silicon Valley experiences with students at ALU who have not had the opportunity to participate in the program. This experience reinforced the value of knowledge sharing and mentorship, and I plan to continue this practice.
  • Design Thinking: I’m actively applying the design thinking frameworks taught by the Carnegie Team in my startup venture. These frameworks have proven to be instrumental in identifying and addressing challenges creatively and effectively.

Since the program, I’ve started integrating these learnings into my entrepreneurial ventures. I’m committed to ethical business practices, focusing on innovation to solve real-world problems, maintaining a global perspective, and nurturing relationships. My experiences in Silicon Valley and the knowledge gained during this program have given me a strong foundation to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities with a thoughtful and impactful approach.

Which piece of work that you completed during the 2023 Global Leadership Program are you most proud of?

The piece of work that I’m most proud of is undoubtedly the prototyping project from one of our design thinking workshops. This project stood out for me because it allowed us to put into practice the principles of design thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving in a real-world context.

Our specific task was to address the pressing issue of mental health among post-secondary students. This challenge resonated with me on a personal level, as I’ve seen the impact of mental health struggles among peers and friends. It’s a complex issue with profound consequences for students’ well-being and academic success.

Working in groups, we embarked on a journey to design a solution that could genuinely make a difference. It wasn’t just a theoretical exercise; we were crafting a prototype of an app that could potentially address this critical problem. The process was dynamic, interactive, and highly engaging.

We began by conducting user interviews and empathizing with the experiences of students dealing with mental health issues. This phase was eye-opening as it revealed the diverse challenges students face. From there, we delved into ideation, brainstorming creative solutions, and ultimately developing a prototype.

The prototype was a tangible representation of our collective efforts and understanding of the problem. It wasn’t just about creating an app; it was about crafting a tool that could offer support, guidance, and resources to students in need. This hands-on experience allowed us to truly empathize with the end-users and design something that resonated with their needs.

Presenting our prototype to the group and receiving feedback was a highlight of the program. It showcased the power of collaborative problem-solving and design thinking in action. We had transformed an abstract challenge into a concrete solution that had the potential to improve the lives of students facing mental health struggles.

I’m proud of this work because it epitomizes the program’s commitment to creating practical learning experiences where participants can make a positive impact. It reinforced the idea that, as future leaders, we can drive change and innovation by applying the knowledge and skills we’ve acquired. It’s a project I’ll always cherish as a testament to the transformative potential of the 2023 Global Leadership Program.