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My Journey as a Scholar so far: Frank Mtende

Mastercard Foundation Scholars Share Their Story

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program aims to create transformative leaders of today and tomorrow. Current Scholars and Alumni are already playing their part to drive positive change within their spaces. Nyerere Sylvester, a graduate intern in the Public Affairs and Communications team, had a conversation with Frank Mtende, a recent graduate from University of Toronto and a data analytics specialist, about his journey as a Mastercard Foundation Scholar.

Describe your educational journey. How did you hear about the Mastercard Foundation program? Why did it interest you?

I was in the pioneer class of the Equity Wings to Fly scholarship program. While in the program, I learned about the partnership between the Equity Group Foundation and Mastercard Foundation.

During the annual conventions, we had a chance to meet and listen to stories of Scholars who had studied abroad, and I gained interest to apply.

I joined the University of Toronto to pursue economics. Statistics was one of the prerequisite courses. Taking the statistics class sparked my interest in data analytics, the projects we worked on were very practical since we worked with already published data and analyzed changes with different methods. I graduated with Statistics and African Studies double majors.

What have you learned from this Program? What has changed for you as a result of being in this Program?

Being a Mastercard Foundation Scholar has been vital in my personal and professional growth in and out of school. Firstly, we arrived in Toronto a month before school and to acclimatize with the school, city, and took math and programming classes to bring us to speed. This may seem simple to the Scholars Program but for us, it was a great deal since the easy transition helped us focus solely on school. Additionally, the program organized events including an annual dinner where we met officials from the Program. It was a great opportunity to interact with people who I look up to and a reminder of the big role we are playing as transformational leaders. The dinner was held at the start of the year, and this kept me grounded and brought energy to start the year on a high note.

What is your professional experience, and personal ambition? How did you transition to the professional space?

During my second year, I took an Africa-based internship in the internal audit department in Equity Bank, Kenya. I was exposed to lots of data and interacted with SQL programming language which I have used for the most part of my work.

Transition during the pandemic was not an easy task. However, since I was already equipped with the skills, I knew I had the responsibility to put in work to make the transition smooth. I talked to alumni and former professors to get to know how to navigate the job market. They referred me to virtual workshops and conferences where I made connections, leveraged, and marketed myself. I joined Charter Research, a consumer feedback company based in Toronto, dealing with small to mid-size retailers and my role involved getting insights and trends. I have had enormous growth and currently, I work with Rakuten Kobo as a research specialist in data analytics. Here, projects span a long time giving me more time to think of the steps and coming up with better solutions.

What does networking mean to you, and what do you expect from the Mastercard Foundation Alumni Network chapters?

Networking for me is about being vulnerable, building trust, and fostering  long-lasting relationships. It goes beyond just having a LinkedIn connection as people want to see who you are as a person rather than as a transactional contact. I am excited for the launch of the North American Alumni chapter. I hope that through the chapter, valuable information will be relayed to help Scholars as they transition from school to work. I look forward to the chapter having a repository where all alumni are placed to help streamline job search and graduate school programs for recent graduates interested in taking different paths after graduation.

How are you giving back? What does impact mean to you?

My mum has played a major role in raising us as a single mother. To support our day-to-day needs, she had a clothing business in Mombasa’s Marikiti open air market. I have since expanded her business to a large wholesale fish supply within Mombasa. She has hired more people to support her as the business opens more branches within the city.

I believe in impact as invoking the ‘can do’ attitude within people and pointing them towards the right tools. Down the line, I hope to empower more people from my community by supporting my immediate family and hence creating impact from the ripple effect.

What are your plans for the next 5-10years, and what is the biggest lesson you have learnt? 

For the next few years, I hope to enroll in a master’s program in data science to leverage my skill and knowledge and consequently grow in my career. The biggest lesson I have learned is how powerful access to information is and that fortune favours the bold. You need to think outside your immediate environment because there is always an opportunity to pursue out there.