My career and my passion for sports: a biathlon every day!
By Olive Ekallam, published on February 14th, 2018, modified on February 27th, 2018
Born in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, I had a nomadic childhood as my father worked in education and had regular regional job transfers. My first opportunity to shine as a budding athlete came in school competitions, in which I discovered I was a talented female sprinter. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for sports was snuffed out in primary school when people taunted me for being an athletic ‘tomboy’.. My zeal for sports was later revived in secondary school, where I played netball and volleyball. At Makerere University, I studied economics and later joined the volleyball team, which had an unbeaten record and won various trophies in the Inter-University Games.
After completing university, I joined the Kampala Amateur Volleyball Club (KAVC) and soon after was recruited as a tax consultant by Ernst & Young (EY) Uganda, an audit and accountancy firm, before moving on to Grants Management at the Global Fund. I then enrolled for ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) courses for my professional development. For a while, I had to leave my sporting activities to one side in order to complete my studies, after which I resumed volleyball and also joined the Ernst & Young Staff football club, where I kicked the ball for the first time. The team participated in the National Corporate League and won a few medals and trophies. I also watched Inter-University matches and the English Premier League, becoming an avid Manchester United fan in the process.
Later, I was appointed as the team manager of the KAVC men’s volleyball team. I led the team to victory in the National League, qualifying to represent Uganda at the Confederation of Africa Volleyball (CAVB) Men’s Club Championships in Tunisia in 2015, thanks to Total sponsorship. Currently, I’m the Director Marketing & Sponsorship at KAVC. In 2012, I joined Total M&S as Head of Internal Audit. Two years later, I joined Total E&P Uganda as Internal Audit & Sarbannes-Oxley Compliance Manager, an important career move given the opportunity of venturing into the nascent oil and gas sector in Uganda.
At Total, sports and career mix easily, as the work environment includes sports activities. I joined the ‘UG Invincibles’ football team, which includes players from both Total E&P and M&S, in the national Corporate League. I play a team-building role, since for us to succeed we must play as one unit. The team bonds through weekly training and mid-week workouts and drills by a professional fitness trainer. This explains our resilience and confidence at Total Cup 2016 in Spain. At our first appearance, our team performance was commendable: we came in seventh out of 20 teams. The One Total spirit coupled with management support built a good sporting environment for the team to thrive and succeed. My most memorable sports experience was at Total Cup 2016, as I was one of the few ladies to score a goal with a back heel flick, finally ending my daughter’s probing about when I was going to score. I learned this technique from my team strikers during training.
A typical day in my life starts and ends with sports. I believe everything is possible if you put your mind to it. From Monday to Friday, I swim for an hour before heading to the office for my 8-5 job. I then play volleyball in the evening, while football is reserved for Saturday mornings. This is the time to network and interact with the ‘Invincibles’ in our routine practice. On weekends, I usually also allocate time to my daughter’s sports interests; swimming, volleyball, tennis, basketball and chess, as we cheer each other on. The schedule is tight, but as my days kick off with sports, I feel energized and my alertness increases at work. At the end of the day, sports help me unwind and relax as I play off the stress. This helps me keep vibrant and in good shape for work, too.