Why did you decide to intern abroad with Balloon Kenya in Kenya?
Nirmal: Interning with Balloon Kenya for the summer was a key target of mine as it is such a practical programme. It was an opportunity to challenge myself; allowing me to analyse and solve real life business problems in a very short span of time. I believe that Balloon Kenya is a programme whereby experience is the best teacher. Prior to starting the internship I was certain that I would get to implement and improve on the current skill set which I possess whilst also learning new skills.
Working in Kenya was a priority of mine, as I felt strongly about playing an active role in improving the Kenyan economy. This is mainly because I am a proud Kenyan citizen. I believe that Kenya has great potential. A number of very creative business ideas such as M-Pesa, a method of sending money through mobile devices is used widely and can solve numerous problems faced by individuals; such a service has proved essential for the success of businesses. I strongly believed that the next great business idea could be through funding of Balloon Kenya and the thought that I could be a part of this motivated my desire to take part in Balloon Kenya.
What made this experience unique and special?
Nirmal: I have lived in Kenya my whole life and as strange as this may sound, I got to experience it in a completely new perspective. The most special memory I have of Balloon Kenya was a trip to a village called Lalwet. It was a new experience for me because I had never been to the rural sides in Kenya before.
This place had an aura of happiness, warmth, humbleness, love and compassion. It was incredible to see how everyone in the village lived like one family and supported each other on a daily basis. Majority of the people in the village struggled financially and most of them had other difficulties in their daily lives but their behavior did not reflect this at all. This experience was certainly an eye opener. I learnt from my fellow friends in Lalwet that working hard, believing and remaining positive are the key ingredients to success.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Nirmal: Personally, I think my biggest improvement was my Swahili because I realized that communication with some Kenyan entrepreneurs was made a lot easier, especially in groups where the entrepreneurs were not fluent in English. I gained confidence and I felt a sense of satisfaction because I was making a positive impact on so many lives. I improved my presentation and teaching skills which were abilities that I felt I had previously struggled with. I also made a good group of friends and got a new perspective of Kenya, which has only made me love it more.
Professionally, working with real life businesses has given me an insight and the experience to carry out skills revolving my accounting and finance career. This experience has only further convinced me that it is the right career path for me and Balloon Kenya played a vital role in that decision. I have also improved on time management, team work and organizational skills. These are all highly relevant skills required in the workplace which I feel that Balloon Kenya has equipped me with.
Academically, I have enhanced my understanding of relevant topics revolving around accounting and has only made me better understand the modules I study mainly because I was able to witness these topics as a practical experience and how they are applied in reality. In addition, I learnt new business concepts such as the Business Model Canvas (BMC) which I applied when writing a business plan as a university assignment. Presentation skills were also enhanced because my experience with Balloon Kenya helped my confidence during presentations.
What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering interning abroad in Kenya?
Nirmal: ‘Am I the sort of person who wants to make a positive impact in someone’s life?’ If your answer to this question is yes, then this internship is perfect for you. My experience of Balloon Kenya, was that it was very challenging at that period in time, but now looking back at it, I realize it was the most rewarding aspect of my life. My experience involved watching Kenyan entrepreneurs grow their businesses in a span of only six weeks. This is a very short period and as a Balloon Kenya facilitator, you need to be highly self-motivated, dedicated and focused on the objective of improving the Kenyan entrepreneurs’ career. I am stressing this as a key point because I believe that these aspects are the backbone of a successful facilitator.