Networking is akin to Noah’s building of the ark

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 Networking is a leap of faith

By Paul Udoto Nyongesa

When the biblical Noah build the ark, it wasn’t raining. So, when the global flood came much later after torrential rains, he and his household were saved. Some people have ridiculed the Flood story. But this story has abiding lessons for modern professional networking. Like networking, it’s an investment for the future; a leap of faith.

My recent attendance of the week-long Global Leadership Conference organized by the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship in Washington DC serves as a good example of such networking in practice. The occasion sponsored by the US Department of State not only provided me with an opportunity to meet with Fellows from 13 other American university campuses and 97 countries in a single room. It reminded all of us who attended the all-important get-together that we came to these shores as Humphrey Fellows, thanks to the American taxpayer, because we have a shared global destiny. oIt was an opportunity to reflect Humphrey’s life-long work and commitment to public service, to social justice, to expanding basic human and civil rights to all people and to expanding global understanding and cooperation.

Ms Anne L. Howard-Tristani, a niece of the late Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, with me.
Ms Anne L. Howard-Tristani, a niece of the late Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, with me. Picture by Bill Clark

The conference brought together change agents from different parts of the world – with varied customs, cultures and religion and strengthened bonds of unity among diverse people.

Moment of reflection

The interaction with other Fellows helped me to reflect on some of my deepest held assumptions and strongly held values. It also served to foster mutual understanding about issues of concern to sub-Saharan Africa, particularly when Fellows from the region were grouped together to deliberate on this. The presentations by Humphrey Fellowship alumni in how their career trajectory had been impacted by the program were inspirational.

One abiding lesson for me is that networking doesn’t have to be like instant coffee, with immediate results. Neither should it be perceived as a forum for ‘Do You Know Anybody?’, a 1994 short story by journalism lecturer Magayu Kiarie Magayu taught in Kenyan secondary schools as an example of corruption through whom you know, rather than what you know counts. The value of networking is not about using others for career growth. Rather, it’s about bonding and connecting with others with shared goals and aspirations.

Extended interactions

Later, I used my free time to interact with professionals from the US National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. My engagements focused on exploring ways of enriching my leadership development goals, multilateral collaboration, shadowing experiences, and international cooperation on shared global challenges.

Looking back at the whole experience of the Global Leadership Conference, it served was an excellent served basis for establishing long-lasting productive partnerships and relationships I would not have imagined would ever come my way. Like Noah’s ark, the contacts I made will come in handy in days to come.


About Paul Nyongesa

Paul Udoto Nyongesa, Kenya Paul has 23 years of experience as a high school teacher, journalist and communication expert. He is a passionate champion for environmental conservation and has written extensively on wildlife and tourism in various publications and served as contributing editor with Msafiri (The Traveller), national airline carrier Kenya Airways inflight magazine since 2011. He has been instrumental in coordinating publicity for high-level ivory burning events in Kenya in 2011, 2014 and 2016. Paul has also been an associate consultant with Impact Africa, a Nairobi-based strategic communications firm, and for the last four years served as a media liaison with the Rhino Charge, an annual charitable off-road motor competition which raises funds for conservation. He is away on sabbatical leave from the Kenya Wildlife Service Communications Manager where he oversees relations between the government wildlife agency and various stakeholders. Paul is a social media enthusiast who holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Moi University, a postgraduate diploma in mass communication and a master’s degree in communication studies, both from the University of Nairobi in Kenya. He also holds a certificate in strategic leadership from the Kenya School of Government. He is currently a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow (a Fulbright exchange activity sponsored by the US State Department) based at the Arizona State University’s Cronkite School for Journalism and Mass Communication for one year. During Humphrey year, Paul plans to focus on the use of new digital communication tools, social media, media literacy, international media relations, crisis communication and leadership. He plans to devote the opportunity to strengthening his leadership and public mobilization skills.

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