MEET YAKAMA MANTY JONES- A YOUNG LEADER, INSPIRING PORTFOLIO CAREERS
April 26, 2019
Yakama Manty Jones is a Sierra Leonean woman with a passion for education and development, both in the personal and economic sense. Having being groomed from an early age by her parents, Sanah Jonhsen Mara and Zaria Amina Mara on the importance of education, she finds everything that has to do with learning and acquiring new knowledge and skills very attractive.
So over the years, in the formal education space, she pursued learning with great tenacity. At no point did she ever want to have less than the best possible grade in any subject. So you can imagine how frustrated she was at receiving C grades in arts and crafts. Lol. Creative arts was definitely not her forte. She started out with the pure sciences, because at some point she wanted to become a forensic detective; then later she moved on to social sciences in University and now she is an economist with four degrees [Bsc. (Hons) Economics; Msc. Finance & Economics; MRes. International Business and Economic & Development; PhD Finance and Economics] and couple of certificates including one in social entrepreneurship from the University of Oxford.
So how did you do it?
This question has been a recurring one, ‘How did you do it’? I usually say God’s grace, family support and pure ‘tawa’. Yes ‘tawa’, I feel ‘dedication’ and its synonyms cannot adequately illustrate the degree of sacrifice, bouncing back, overcoming challenges etc that went into my academic journey. Okay, ‘book learning’ done! Adulthood and its responsibilities including the financial ones marches in. Greater awareness of happenings in the World hangs over you like a magic cloud. The hunger to not only survive but also contribute positively to global needs in your own little way, keeps growing. These forces are what led me into the field of portfolio careers.
What is Portfolio Careers and what do you love about having a portfolio career?
According to the Cambridge Business English Dictionary, a “portfolio career” as replacing a single, salaried job with a combination of self-directed activities: some for pay, some for good causes; some to exploit one’s competencies, some to learn new ones. In my current portfolio, I am a wife and a mother (yes being a wife and mother is a job! Imagine if we charged per hour); I am a Consultant , currently consulting for the Government of Sierra Leone on Economic Research; I consult for private sector organizations; I lecture Economic Statistics and Econometrics in the Department of Economics at Fourah Bay College; I lecture Economic Policy on the MRPP program, a collaborative Masters program between the University of Sierra Leone and the Partnership for African Governance and Social Research; I am the C.E.O of PI Group, a company I own with my husband and I am the founder of the Yak Jones Foundation.
So with this mix of jobs in my portfolio, I am able to earn money, contribute to the educational foundation of several people, groom future economists, share knowledge, plant seeds of a passion for education and learning in the young, create jobs and contribute to national development. This is what I love about having a portfolio career. In addition, if we evaluate things more critically, given current global trends, we need to work twice as hard to make a difference and put ourselves on a part of sustainable growth whilst positively touching the lives of others. Having a portfolio career is one way of doing this.
What would you have done differently about your career choices, if you knew what you know now?
Hmmm. I really don’t think my career choices would have been different. There is always room to evolve. Like I said before, I find everything that has to do with learning and acquiring new knowledge and skills very attractive. So I still try to learn new things, learn from people, participate in various training and capacity building events and read a lot. One shouldn’t really allow themselves to become obsolete skills wise if they can help it. So I intend to keep doing what I am doing but learning new skills applicable in my field.
How do you think having portfolio careers will influence job opportunities and economic growth in Africa?
In the last few years, Portfolio Careers have been hailed as the future of work. It’s like being a ‘jack of all your trades’ and ‘master of them’ as well! With the right skills and knowledge mix, people would have more to offer in the job market and can tap into multiple opportunities. The long run impact would be more people employed, being productive and contributing to economic growth.
Give us 5 tips for people considering a portfolio career?
Having a portfolio career takes a lot!! There are different pieces of advice you can get online and from other people. Here are five things that makes it work for me that could work for you:
Have a clear vision of where you want to go and be resilient to ensure you achieve your goal.
Have an ‘Anchor’ job whilst the other jobs revolve around it.
Be a detailed planner, organised and a good record keeper especially in terms of finances.
Develop good networking skills and have strong support system.
Learn; learn and keep learning. Learn from the best and learn to save for a rainy day.
As a young leader, what do you think is the greatest inhibitor of growth and success for young people around the world?
There are so many factors and a lot of them can be tagged ‘great’, as the ramifications are far reaching. I’ll just try to name a few. More like just mention; because we decide to talk about them in great detail; we would need more than a day. Thank God for recent changes in the world’s attitude towards youths. Over the years successive institutions and governments have failed young people. Even young people have failed young people. So we can look at this from two sides. Obviously, they are two sides of the same coin.
External factors: weak foundations especially in terms of education and the moral fibre of society; low investments in human capital development; lack of opportunities; lack of belief in the capability of youths; lack of investments in ‘soft-skills’ development ; lack of ‘finishing schools’ or investment in getting youths ‘job ready’
Internal factors: low self- motivation; sense of entitlement; minimal creative thinking; low willingness to evolve and learn new skills; some youths come across as unreliable; commitment issues; lack of perseverance; feelings of hopelessness and low self-esteem
Ok. I’ll stop here!
Describe that time you hit your greatest challenge in your career, did you overcome it? What lessons did you learn?
Education: laptop was stolen, had not yet discovered online saving platforms and had to redo course work. Learn to save online!
Business: Ebola, general down turn in economy, staff stealing from the company. Had to re-strategize, work harder and not give up. Learned that saving for emergencies should be strengthened, internal controls and monitoring mechanisms in a business are really important. The line between ‘proper delegation’ and ‘handing over /letting go’ should not be crossed.
Career as an Economist in work circles: at the start, I was really shy (did not like talking to people especially public speaking) which made me not come across as ‘confident’. There were occasions where I was overlooked for leadership positions because of this. I learnt from more confident people, watched videos on public speaking and gradually opened up. On one occasion I actually put myself forward for a promotion.
As we draw the curtains on this interview, we cannot help but dwell on this quote by John Quincy Adams
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Yakama Manty Jones has raised the bar high for African youths. She is inspiring us all to live the life of our dreams.
Have you ever heard of portfolio careers? Do you have a portfolio career ? Does your portfolio work as a whole? Share with us.