The Toilet Paper Rule...

There is no point building a lavish house and hosting an extraordinary party for your guests and forgetting your basics, you forget your toilet paper! – Brown Onduso

My weeks’ mantra is all about embracing that which is diverse in myself and in others. As an international of African descent it has become even more important to draw the lines of cooperation, support and friendship and for these to prosper we need to be honest, brutally; and unapologetically honest that the status quo in handling all issues international needs revision. Let us begin this conversation introspectively – know the essentials, find our toilet paper!

I met with international Tampere resident Mr. Onduso to shed some light on the space between businesses, international talents and international markets, especially, given the anti-racism week – I was keen to understand how and what it means to use international resources to change the reality of the internationals’ often disadvantaged disposition.

Our conversation, lengthy and deep spoke up for four pillars that according to him will help you navigate the murky waters to internationalization, your toilet paper, which in addition they are to my understanding solutions for both parties to the conversation. My question at the end, who will reach across the aisle first, and does someone have to?

Mr. Onduso, a self-made successful businessman in Kenya and Finland with experience in international business, research, sales, marketing, and aid work accredited his success to knowing and using his number one rule – that also inspired the title of this article. To understand this he talked about four key pillars that transcend the cultural and race divide to create a truly collaborative society. Here they are:

  1. Know your roots, there is an underlying importance to understanding your roots, your skills and competences; with these, you can better present yourself as the product in new markets. It is paramount that you understand your new environment well enough to assess its need and repackage your credentials to meet prevailing market needs. Make yourself a resource, not just a resource but an indispensable one. Gather the knowledge and understand the problem!
  2. Understand the WHY? Everyone must understand why the question of internationalization is important; tackling diversity with transparency and inclusivity will be as a result of this understanding. We will begin to see a more inclusive and diverse workforce because frankly, smart business sense means inclusion and harnessing resources of different internationals and embracing internationalization. Understanding the "why" further supports anti-discrimination and creates the space for different cultures, colors and creeds to co-exist in a healthy work space all pushing towards the business’ bottom line. Today, a more globalized world economy makes it prudent for business to engage international competences, know that this change is guaranteed and prepare yourself for it.
  3. Build your networks and be truthful to yourself, this permits you, according to Mr. Onduso, the clarity to know what your limits are; where you can improve and challenge yourself and how to go about this, knowing this, a prospective candidate will know how to align themselves where they belong. This journey of discovery coupled with vigorous networking will contribute to the change we hope to see, a more multicultural workforce.
  4. Define what success means to you, acknowledging that different stereotypes will manifest themselves as your journey to internationalization, sanction yourself to be more tolerant as change is slow and sometimes difficult. Consequently, defining small and large milestones for yourself keeps you focused on the goal, and don’t doubt it, consistency and hard work will pay off!

That concluded my three-hour conversation with Mr. Onduso, and I learnt a great deal. First, that we must reorganize ourselves introspectively before we repackage and present ourselves to the market. I was empowered to know that international competences are relevant and necessary. So as we celebrate the international week against racism – with all the stereotypes and biases attached, I encourage you to create a portfolio that showcases your skills, talents and stand strong in the wake of discrimination because your place and time is now.

Photo: Njoki Githieya

The author is an international master's degree student with an interest in internationalization. She hopes to encourage equality and inclusivity and close the existing gap between internationals and the business actors. She actively supports diversity in all spheres.

Cover photo: Shiko's Eye