BEA KAHUNDA – From reject to manager

“In life, we all make mistakes. But it’s the choices that you make after making a mistake that determine your future.”

These are personal reflections of a self-inspired motivational speaker and youth mentor, Beatrice Kahunda as she narrates her personal life experiences.

Bea has gone through what many people would term “failure” after going through hardships in life. After falling pregnant and dropping out of school, Bea never thought that she would one day hold a high profile position of Manager: Business Banking at Standard Bank Namibia. Her job involves dealing with various clients including large corporates and individuals on matters of business advice and investments, while at the same time making her employer profitable.

Bea is quick to point out: “This interview is not about my position at Standard Bank Namibia. It is about how I got into this position and how other people out there can do the same.”

Born in Omaruru some 31 years ago, Bea was raised by her grandmother in a large and extended family. Her mother was a teacher by profession and also a single parent with the burden of raising children in a large extended family. Bea’s biggest challenge was in 1996, when she, then a teenager, fell pregnant. “I was in Grade 11 at the time but that didn’t bring me down. Instead of being ridiculed by my family, I got a lot of support. I couldn’t blame my parents or anyone, I blamed myself.”

The Namcol route

After the birth of her first child, Bea enrolled at Namcol where she sat for three subjects to complete Grade 12 in Berseba, but her mother had to pay for her education as well as looking after her other siblings. In 1998 she was accepted at the Polytechnic of Namibia for a course in Public Administration, but she was forced out of the course midway because of financial problems. This is when she had to hunt for a job, “any job” just to help her fight through life’s challenges.

“I was lucky to get a holiday job from one of the teachers, Julius Neumbo, at Karundu Primary School in Otjiwarongo who had a village shop in northern Namibia. I worked for him during the December holidays in 1998 and 1999. Later, I would be working at the same primary school with my mother as a school secretary and relief teacher. I didn’t get much money though, but the money that I got at the time was enough to supplement my mother’s meagre income so I could help her raise the other children in the family.”

Towards the end of 1999, she got a part-time clerical job at the Standard Bank Outjo Branch and through hard work she was permanently employed as a waste clerk in the year 2000.

“As soon as I joined the Standard Bank I realised that there are so many specialised divisions in the bank that offer opportunities for growth. Outjo offered me opportunities and other skills such as how I could work with people and get to understand their personal and financial problems. My whole perception of growth within an organisation is that it is measured against one’s relationship with people.”

She moved to Oshakati and began regular meetings with Pea Paavo, the Namcol Regional Manager – Northern Region where they discussed a number of issues affecting the youth and the education system in the country.

“We discussed the way people perceived Namcol courses and the negativity surrounding the whole system. Most people think that to hold a certain position in a company you need to have gone through a good school and had a good family background that could support your education but I tell you there are a lot of underprivileged people who went through Namcol and today they are successful leaders in society and business.”

“What I can tell all those who have failed to get enough points through a formal school system is that they must not despair. Namibia has opportunities for second chance through Namcol and other avenues. I can boldly say, as I speak now that I am a graduate of Namcol and have been blessed with the courage and determination to go up the ladder in this organisation. The youths out there can do the same.”

She believes that the acquisition of the people skills has moulded her into what she is today. She has also learned from other mentors as well, such as John Maxwell’s best seller ‘Winning with People’ and the likes of Matti Kanalelo who introduced her to the latter, her former colleagues & managers throughout her career in the bank.

Together with her “lawyer friend and mentor” Hilma Hitula, Bea wants to go on a crusade around the country to talk to youths, especially those in Grade 11/12 about the dangers of drugs, alcohol abuse and teenage pregnancy.

Family life

She insists that the experience of being a single parent and being part of a large extended family has taught her to work harder and fend for her children and herself.

She says her children, Katoo (14) and Bobbe (9) are part of a large extended family that she cares for and who often comes to her for advice. She insists that people are her greatest asset and she always finds time to give inspiration to “those who are down and low in spirit”.

Her normal day begins between 4 and 5am everyday with half an hour dedicated to the Creator through meditation and prayers. After that she takes care of all the house chores. By 7 am she is already in her office and this is when her normal working day starts.

With such a hectic career engagement, people would assume Bea does not have the essential “me time” but surprisingly she does. She enjoys watching soapies and inspirational programmes on TV. She also reads motivational books and that, for now, keeps her company. PF