Faithful Is Successful Interview: Dano Jukanovich

Rwanda_baskets_National_University

Image: Traditional Rwandan baskets exhibited in the National University of Rwanda, photographed by Colleen Taugher

ESN continues its series of interviews with authors of Faithful Is Successful. Dano Jukanovich is a co-founder and partner with Karisimbi Business Partners in Kigali, Rwanda, a socially motivated management consulting and private equity firm focused on small and mid-size enterprise development. His background includes five years of service as a U.S. Army Airborne Ranger and Senior Intelligence Officer prior to application of his leadership to a variety of companies. Dano received his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1993. He also holds an MBA degree with a specialty in Finance at Wharton and a Master of Arts in International Economics & China Studies at the Johns Hopkins Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

1. ESN: Would you tell our readers a bit about your day to day life in Rwanda working with Karisimbi Business Partners?

Dano: Rwanda tends to have a more relaxed pace than the US, where I’m from, but at the same time we are running a business where “time is money” so we had one foot in each paradigm. Part of my days in Rwanda were filled with a combination of meetings with Rwandan consulting clients—a range from junior to senior and business to government to other stakeholders. The other working hours include time spent independently and collaboratively on typical consulting research and analysis activities.

Because in God’s grace our firm has carved out a niche market and reputation over the last five years, we get to meet and work with some pretty amazing people. During just this week, my colleagues in Rwanda are meeting separately with the following actual or potential clients or partners (among others): Executive Director of the Howard Buffet Foundation, Executive Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for Kate Spade New York, Global Operations Director for Coca-Cola, CEO of Solar Kiosk, and CEO of Tyson Foods. At the same time, other colleagues are working directly with farmers in Rwanda and the region to distribute Moringa tree seedlings and train best agricultural practices. One of my favorite case studies started with an assignment from the Minister of Commerce to develop a business plan for a critical Rwandan sugar cane processor. After visiting the ultra-high net worth family owners in Uganda in an attempt to build a trust relationship with them, we engaged in the nuts and bolts of the business in Rwanda. We walked through factory operations and financial accounts, surveyed the market and interviewed farmers. From that work, we were able to make the case that a small investment in equipment and a raise for employees would ultimately increase the processor’s bottom-line. In part because of the trust we built early on with the owners, they took these recommendations, bought the equipment and raised the salaries of 5,000 estate workers by 40%.

2. ESN: Since many of our readers are in graduate school, I’m curious how your own graduate education plays out in your current work. What aspects of your work in enterprise development are shaped by things you studied in graduate school, or in your undergraduate experience? What are some other aspects of your experience that challenged or expanded things you studied in graduate school?

Dano: I’ve had the good fortune of attending three great educational institutions: West Point, Wharton and SAIS. West Point taught me that leadership is caring for people. Wharton taught me that everything can be quantified. SAIS taught me to care about the world.

As a person engaged in international business, my undergraduate and graduate school experiences have each directly benefited my current work in the areas of leadership, analysis, and communication. In my various career phases to-date, all of the activities have included some combination of these three functions. In the leadership category, I put everything from working cross culturally to dealing with conflict to people development. Analysis is simply problem solving—strategic, tactical, business, people, political, or any other problem. Communication includes presenting information so that other people understand and understanding what others are presenting. To get even more philosophical, I subscribe to Carl Jung’s statement about education: “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material…”

3. ESN: How did you grow in your own understanding of faith and vocation through writing this essay in Faithful Is Successful?

Dano: My writing was intended to encourage people to live faithfully. God continues to work that out in me. For the last almost two years, I have juggled a number of different roles: continuing to oversee Karisimbi Partners with frequent travel to Rwanda, conducting leadership training seminars in China periodically, refurbishing a 150 year old farm house, barn and vegetable-stand, supporting my wife’s work in a stressful senior executive role, being the primary caregiver, playdate scheduler and sandwich maker for our 5, 8 and 11 year olds. Two experiences paint a picture of this faith-stretching last two years. When we first moved to our current home, I spent most of the day sweeping years of dirt out of a huge three-story barn. I had a dust mask on singing worship music, praying I would be a good caretaker of this treasure God had entrusted to me. A year and a half later in that same barn, I was prostrate in praise at God’s goodness as I had just finished my piece de resistance converting a horse stall into a beautiful office for myself. I found myself offended when I would try to describe what I was doing to people who didn’t know me well. I would get comments like, “isn’t it nice to work with your hands.” Inside I would respond with, “no it’s not ‘nice,’ it’s my life, my work, my calling.”

Not too long ago, as my wife and I continued to work through our occupational role reversal, she made a comment, building on others over the months, that she wished I didn’t have to do so much errand running and house cleaning. That comment ate at me for a couple days. I realized my angst was the implication that I was “failing” in my job as stay-at-home dad—I was too stressed or overwhelmed to handle all the required activities. Again finding myself at the feet of Jesus I realized how much I wanted this job, how fortunate I felt to be doing what I was doing in spite of the stress, and I begged Him to not take this job away from me. So when I read or hear about the dad who pats himself on the back for taking a hiatus from the high-powered job to get some quality time with the kids, I react similarly to how I did to the comment about working with your hands. It’s not a hiatus for me. Faithfulness isn’t something to be considered after spending life’s first half focused on successfulness.

I once had an African classmate from Wharton ask me at a reunion how we went about moving to Africa. I responded somewhat jokingly, “it’s not that complicated, just sell your stuff and move, which should be even easier for you given you’re from there.” Of course obedience is hard sometimes, but it’s not complicated and there is nothing more fulfilling. This modified version of Henry David Thoreau’s quote summarizes my concluding advice to current graduate students:

“If one advances faithfully in the direction of God’s calling, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”


For more details on the image above, see http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rwanda_baskets_National_University.jpg


Note: An interview part of the Faithful is Successful series on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog.

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Hannah Eagleson

Hannah Eagleson is a writer/editor on staff with InterVarsity’s Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). She edits ESN's collaboratively written devotional for academics. Hannah also crafts other community-building events and materials for ESN. She holds a PhD in English literature, and she’s working on a novel about a dragon who gave up fending off knights to become a tea importer in eighteenth-century England.

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