Shivon, MD Babyl, Rwanda’s First Digital Healthcare Solutions Shares Her Experience As A Female Executive



Every employer wants to hire someone who works hard and works with others to add value to their business.

Shivon Byamukama, Managing Director of Babylon Health Rwanda (Babyl), a UK digital healthcare provider, has been in the corporate world for years.

She argues that employers should make sure that the person they want to take on board does not only have the expertise they need, but that person is a team player and can fit in with the existing team and within the corporate culture.

“Think about your skills gap and ask yourself whether the person can fill that need,” she says. “Surround yourself with the right people with the right attitude.”

What kind of people are they supposed to be?

In this first section of an exclusive interview with Dr. Shivon Byamukama, Taarifa engages her on her personal experience as a female executive and what she knows about handling complexities in the corporate world.

Taarifa: Do you enjoy being a CEO?

Shivon: I love what I do although it has its challenges. It is a constant learning process that is absolutely enjoyable. I strongly believe in babyl’s mission and what we are trying to achieve in Rwanda which makes my work easy. I wake up every morning looking forward to a new day, a new challenge and work with my colleagues to find solutions to these challenges.

Taarifa: As a CEO, do you remember that you are female, or does gender trigger anything, or you just know you are a CEO and have to deliver on your duties? Do you consciously or unconsciously feel it?

Shivon: To be honest with you, I think Rwanda spoils us. It doesn’t really cross my mind. I come from a place where my former CEO was a woman, I see 50% women representation in cabinet, some of them my age or younger. This allows me take it for granted that a woman can lead. I am sure this is not the case everywhere else in the world, but it Rwanda, I believe it was a deliberate effort by government which is paying off, not in the future but today. The effect of this is that I can take it for granted that I have an equal chance as my male colleague to lead my company. To be able to take it for granted in Rwanda in my generation when developed countries cannot say the same is pretty remarkable.

Taarifa: When you are in a boardroom, do you not feel it or recognize that you stand out in male-dominated boardrooms?

Babyl: I feel like my views are respected. I learned at an early age that respect is earned and not given. In any boardroom, whether male or female, you earn respect when you contribute substance. You have to put in the time to learn the business and meaningfully contribute to the board. That is why you are there. It is possible that women may face some sort of discrimination. But counter those biases by bringing value and your expertise to the table. You are not there by accident- you are there for a purpose. No one will disrespect you, male or female if you are bringing substance to the table.

Taarifa: Does being a mother add importance to the fact that you are a CEO, such as skills and decision making abilities in your workplace?

Shivon: I think so. Motherhood has taught me to be more patient, compassionate and understanding.

Taarifa: Explain how the capability to handle those issues comes about?

Shivon: My colleague recently told me that she needed the day off because her nanny had suddenly quite her job. I didn’t even think twice, told her to go take care of her little ones and the situation. I called her at the end of the day to check on her. If I didn’t have children, I might have wondered why she didn’t make a few calls and sort herself out. It allows you to be more compassionate for sure. People that work with you give more than eight hours of their time to the company. If you care about what they care about, they will care about you too. Family, especially children is one of, if not the most important thing people care about. It doesn’t take much to care about what they care about, share parental stories, laughter, joy, and parental tips. It allows you to be more connected to your team.

Taarifa: Have you ever had a professional breakdown when things seem like a you have hit a wall, banging the head on it and you just cannot cross it? Having to circumvent it by either being patient or figuring out something that would get you out of the ditch?

Shivon: I would be lying if I said I have never had such moments. But I have noticed that I have grown as a result. I have learn’t to take emotions out of a picture and really try to understand where the blockage is. Pill the onion and find out what the real issue is. Then take a step back and think of solutions. Sometimes it is good to ask for help. But it help’s to ask help to a problem you have thoroughly diagnosed. People are willing to help. But be very clear about what you are asking. I have found this very useful.

Taarifa: Have you ever broken down?

Shivon: I am also a human being and an emotional one at that. While I can’t remember a specific moment, especially in this job I wouldn’t be suprised if I have.

Taarifa: Mention a few encouraging top secrets to survive the rough waters out there, particularly to young CEOs?

Shivon: Do what you love and believe in. It allows you to give it your all sometimes without feeling like you are even working. Second, surround yourself with great a great team. Additionally, hire character and attitude. Do not hire someone only because their CV looks excellent. They also have to get along well with the team. Skills are critical, but so is character and attitude. Third, have a good support system, whether its your husband, wife, friends, whatever. Have a good support system. If you can, get a good mentor/s.

The remaining part of her interview will run on Monday. We dive into the company operations, the numbers and the future of healthcare with the advent of technology. It is an edifying conversation worth reading. Don’t miss it.

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