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Rose Kananu: I left engineering to train project managers

Readers Lounge By Moses Omusolo
Rose Kananu, Howard Aidevo Consulting Managing Director (Elvis Ogina)

Many large construction projects have been won by or deliberately dished out to foreign companies. Take the standard gauge railway (SGR) and major road projects going on in Nairobi and other major towns, for instance.

While local contractors have been crying foul over this trend, for Rose Kananu it was an opportunity and her cue to switch from her civil engineering career to project management consultancy.

“I saw an opportunity to help build the capacity of local construction professionals so that they are able to deliver on large projects, which are mostly taken up by foreign firms,” says Kananu.

Creating strong teams

So she teamed up with Dr Nathaniel Ambassah, also a civil engineer, and the idea of Howard Aidevo – a project advisory and skills development consulting firm – was born in November 2017.

Since then, the company’s training arm – Building Capacity for Developing Infrastructure Projects (BCDIP) – has trained at least 300 project practitioners.

Kananu says that at affordable fees and through strategic partnerships with a team of experienced professionals, Howard Aidevo offers the much needed training to its clients.

“Each programme gives a choice ranging from basic courses for beginners, foundation courses to give you a solid knowledge base and advanced courses in specialised areas. We also customise our courses to suit the need of the client in helping them improve their efficiency for project development and implementation,” she says.

Among the notable clients they have trained are Kenya National Highways Authority road engineers, project managers for the Tatu City project and a team from an Eritrean company.

Make the most of your strengths

Dr Ambassah is also an educationist and is a lecturer at a local university. He taps this experience in developing the curriculum for the BCDIP programme.

Kananu, on the other hand, is the managing director of the firm, given her experience in project management, which she has practised since 2000 when she graduated with Bachelors in Civil Engineering from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

“I’m a trained engineer, but I have never practiced engineering since I left college. My first job was as a project manager for Mobil (now Oilibya) and that is where I developed the interest,” she says.

She is also a trainer, and they have programmes in project management, construction and public-private partnerships.

“We support clients by providing expertise in project preparation and planning, development of project monitoring tools, and providing oversight of project teams,” says the 43-year-old Kananu.

Howard Aidevo takes the lead in building capacity for efficient project delivery through Earned Value Management (EVM), a technique for measuring project performance and progress, especially on cost and time.

What ails many projects

Kananu says many local projects report the challenge of time and cost overruns, and EVM gives project managers the skills to avoid this.

The firm also has a programme for fresh graduates as a way of introducing them into the job market.

“Realising that most of our universities are not producing graduates ready for the job market, we have developed mentorship programmes around project management, financial and life skills,” says Kananu.

Business gone bad

The company has come a long way and made some leaps, she says, but this has not come easy as they have run into obstacles that they have had to overcome to keep afloat.

“When we were just setting up, I lost Sh700,000 on a business deal gone bad. I had flown in two trainers at my expense but low turn-out of trainees ruined everything,” she says sorrowfully, but with high hopes for a better future.

The other challenge that they have had to deal with more often is the high cost of hiring trainers because they deal with professionals who have successfully delivered large projects in the past.

“Project owners get overwhelmed because of the number of teams and activities involved in developing a project. It is our mission to ensure that you sleep well at night knowing your project is flowing smoothly,” says Kananu.

But the challenges do not dampen her spirit, as she projects the company to become the go-to training provider in project management, construction management and public-private partnerships.

“Our vision is to be a respected advisory services practice that helps clients across Africa to realise their project development dream,” she says.

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