Ahead of our first Ask Anything Q&A, looking at setting up in business, we caught up with panellist Naily Makangu to find out about her experience.
Tell us about your expertise
I am The Mary Poppins of Business. I founded Athena Leaders, a remote-first management and leadership company. I sweep away organisational issues whilst creating happy high-performing teams thanks to our play mindset. I work mostly in the tech sector as an Interim Manager for Software and Product teams, Project or Programme Manager. Some of my clients rely on my business and culture transformation skills, to help them maintain and create an environment where leaders grow and people laugh.
I have a track record of redressing struggling organisations or projects. In 2017, as JCI Cambridge President, I took the chamber from the brink of closing down to having over 25 engaged members and winning 5 awards in less than a year.
I am passionate about empowering and developing individuals, supporting entrepreneurs and businesses.
How long have you been a JCI member?
I joined JCI Cambridge in 2012. I will never forget the first event I attended. I was so nervous. At the time, I was a shy, introverted Software Engineer walking in a room full of lawyers and accountants wearing suits. I remember everybody being so friendly and making me feel welcome. 8 years later and I am still reaping the rewards of being a JCI member.
What’s the best thing about being a JCI member?
JCI is an incredible organisation. I see it as an “incubator” programme. Pick a skill that you want to develop, speak to your chamber and join a project that helps you grow your skillset. I took many first stumbling steps at JCI: networking, building my confidence, leadership, training, running an organisation, marketing, sales, partying abroad with people I’ve never met before!And don’t get me started about the number of friends and mentors I have found at JCI.
Tell us about a JCI highlight
It’s really hard to narrow it down to just one highlight. My proud moment was being able to pull together the Deaf Awareness Programme for 2 years running. It was a challenging programme yet very inspiring for me. We organised workshops for hearing and non-hearing people, “Pub quiz with a twist” and more. My favourite event was “A cup of silence” where we had an intro to British Sign Language in a coffee shop, taught by a teacher who is deaf. We then spent the remaining of the evening communicating without making a sound – which included ordering drinks.
How has JCI helped you in your career?
As I mentioned earlier, JCI is like an incubator. Back when I was working at Siemens, after being involved in many projects, I used the skills learned at JCI to convince my managers to let me run large projects and programmes. I became an award-winning trainer at JCI focusing on LEAP, JCI flagship leadership programme. In 2017, I was JCI Cambridge President, which was like a crash course into running organisations. When I started Athena Leaders, although the learning curve was high, I already developed the basic skills I needed to survive the craziness of my first year. As a JCI President, I picked up social media and marketing skills, sales and business development, doing more with LESS (less time, less money, not enough people) and more importantly growing and developing people.Another big bonus of being a JCI member is the great network I have. As I am building my company, whenever I’ve needed advice or to bounce ideas with someone, I just call a JCI member who will either help me or refer me to someone who will.
My advice to anybody considering improving their leadership or soft skills is to not only join as a member, but look for any opportunities that allow you to get outside of your comfort zone.
You can sign up to this event here.
This post was written by Zoe Toseland