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about 2 months ago
Our attention was recently caught by a Quartz Africa graph that shows how mobile money is changing the game in Africa. With more people using it over banks, it will be fascinating to see how mobile money continues to evolve in the region.
2 months ago
When Jeddidah Thotho was laid off in 2017, she did not let the bad news keep her down. She had done good work in her six years as the Group Retail Director at Deacons PLC (previously Deacons Kenya Limited), having helped build a solid team and grow the brand as it entered the Kenyan stock exchange. But a number of macro economic changes and unforced strategy errors drove the company to downsize. As a senior employee, Jeddidah was one of the few that were let go. “I’m a go-getter, and I am all about making the numbers. But they didn’t come through and that was demoralizing,” she says of that time. “But it is important to believe in yourself and your skills despite what happens externally.” She is very clear that though layoffs are something that many here in Kenya look down on, she chooses to talk about it because it’s important for people to know that downsizing does happen. “They now happen more here [in Kenya] because of the economic environment. But in first world countries it happens now and again depending on the economic performance of the company and the macroeconomic experiences.” Jeddidah has taken that same dynamo attitude to her new role as the Commercial Director at Liberty Eagle Holdings, which owns the local rights to Yves Rocher, Subway and Pizza Hut. Because the company is a startup, she has had to stretch herself and use all her 20 years of retail experience from the U.S. and Kenya. Having come from larger, established companies like Sears Holdings Corporation in the U.S., Jeddidah has had to adjust to the fast-moving, indefinite world of startups. As the marketing strategy director for Sears, for example, she led a department of about 5,000 people alone. “Moving to a startup, you really have to widen your knowledge-base,” she says of the role she found through Kenyans Come Home. “Your skill-base becomes very flexible and adaptable to the point of stretching yourself beyond your experience, and you have to learn on-the-job things you haven’t done.” And as more international brands continue to enter the East African market, Jeddidah believes the market is ripe for diasporans who can localize these companies’ international strategies. “These companies already have the skills and expertise in their own countries. So what they are really looking for is the local know-how of the consumer and the ways of doing business here with a first-class mindset.” She had that expertise in 2010 when she first moved back to Kenya from America. And now eight years later, she is glad she chose to come back “without a doubt." “When you work in a smaller market like this and you have a specialized skill set, you can make more of an impact than you do in an organization that has thousands of people.”
This week, we are recommending the book "Essentialism" by Greg McKeown. Life is always crazy busy! But have you ever taken the time to think about what is really important? Have you considered what you can say yes to, but more importantly, what you can say no to? As we continually try, and fail, to manage all the things on our list, Greg says that “there’s a word for trying to do everything all the time. Madness!” “I truly feel like it’s this perverse disease of thinking and it has an absolute monopoly right now,” he continues. “Do more. Do more. Get more. Fit in more. More more more.” The most successful candidates we know are those that have reflected deeply about what is important to them. Such thinking has allowed them to focus, and to find exactly what they want in life and in their careers. They have developed an essentialist mindset that views the world differently, and this book provides awesome tools to help you “know when to say no”. “Our whole society has become consumed by the undisciplined pursuit of more,” Greg says. “The only way to overcome this problem is to change the way we think—adopt the mindset of only doing the things that are essential—and do it now.”
Sheena Raikundalia never thought she would live in Kenya again. Though born and raised here, she left at a young age for England. Most of her family had also relocated to Britain, and a fast-moving job at a top London law firm kept her sights in the U.K. So when she visited Kenya years ago for a wedding, a chance meeting with her high school boyfriend completely changed the course of her life. “If you asked me five years ago, where I’d see my life today, I’d be a partner [at a law firm] in London,” she says. “No single part of me ever thought I would come back to Kenya. I didn’t even want to get married!” But she did marry her high school sweetheart. And though she was happily in love, she knew she had to quickly figure out how to translate her high-powered career in London to her new life in Nairobi. After meeting with many top law firms and companies in Nairobi, she instead decided to start Kamandizi, an insurance comparison business. But she had to shut it down just over six months later after going separate ways with her business partner. Sheena doesn’t consider shutting down the business a failure. Instead, she says that "failing fast" allowed her to quickly figure out her next career chapter. “I always celebrate it because I learned so much from that experience,” she says. “And although I say that it was a failure, I think I learned more in those 6 months than I did in my law career.” These are the indicators of a candidate with real Grit. She uses many of those lessons today as the senior advisor for Intellecap Kenya, an India-based company that offers innovative business solutions that help build and scale profitable and sustainable enterprises dedicated to social and environmental change. Kenyans Come Home helped place Sheena there almost three years ago as one of the company's first four employees. Today, Intellecap Kenya has grown to include 15 people. Working in social entrepreneurship and impact investing was completely outside Sheena’s wheelhouse. But helping to grow the company not only feeds her entrepreneurship bug, but also offers a vision and purpose that melds well with this highly-motivated self-starter. “I thought that you work hard, get paid well and give your bit to charity—but this is completely different, “ she says. “Instead, you are working and you are getting paid, but you are actually doing good at the same time.”
This week we'd like to recommend the book "Grit" by Angela Lee Duckworth. Angela defines grit as passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals. Research indicates that the ability to stick with things that are important to you, and to bounce back from failure, is an essential component of success — independent of talent and intelligence. We have found that candidates who demonstrate grit through their careers are better leaders, team players, and more likely to be retained in your company. We ensure that when we assess candidates, we look for grit, as well as other core assets needed to be impactful and effective professionals.
3 months ago
When Margaret Githinji realized she was pregnant in 2016, she knew that she needed a change. As a successful advertising executive, her career was on the fast track. But long days that ran until 3 a.m. (only to return for 8 a.m. meetings) would not cut it with a baby on the way --and especially with a husband in the same industry. “Having both of us completely zombied would not work for the baby,” she says. Margaret knew that her next employer would have to be one that understood work-life balance. And having previously worked for four years in Sweden -- a country famous for its social benefits -- Margaret knew exactly what she was looking for by the time she connected with Kenyans Come Home. “When you work outside of Kenya, companies tend to have a really good work-life balance,” she said. “Especially in sweden, where the benefits are really good.” Today, she is the marketing and public relations manager at Azuri Technologies, a commercial provider of solar technology. She has helped build the company's marketing department in Kenya from scratch. Margaret says that her new employer has been pretty good at recognizing that she is a new mother. A prime example is when her boss allowed her to work from home when she had issues locating a nanny. But such allowances are not normal among Kenyan companies, she says. And for returnees used to receiving great benefits abroad, it can be frustrating navigating that balance once they move home. The maternity leave period for new mothers, Margaret points out as an example, is often too short. Although she is content with her decision to move back, Margaret does wonder how she will manage when she decides to have a second child. “I am happy about my decision because home will always be home,” she says. “But the question remains what is changing in this country that would make people stay after they’ve come back?”
Before Adedana Ashebir moved to Kenya in 2014, she had been living the life of a nomad. China, South Korea, Ethiopia —with a stint of grad school in the U.S. somewhere in between— were all places she had called home in the last decade. So when she was offered a job at the African Leadership Network in Kenya, she jumped at the chance to work in a new country while also being close to her roots in Ethiopia. “It was supposed to be a three-month gig. I told myself ‘if you hate it, you can go back [to the U.S.].If you don’t hate it, you stay.' Those three months have become three years and almost 6 months,” she laughs. But for Adedana to have stayed in Kenya this long, it must mean she loves the country, right? Not necessarily, she says. “It’s not that I love it or hate it...It’s just that Nairobi is the place I became me. When I landed here, I was 26. I am now 30, and a lot of life, lessons, and experiences have been lived in that time,” she says. “So I say it’s the place where I grew up. Not in a childhood sense, but in a maturity and adulthood sense. That’s why I am still here." And it looks like her new role as Africa Lead for Village Capital, a position which Kenyans Come Home placed her in 2017, could keep her in Kenya for much longer. “I am excited to see where this goes.” When she is not toiling away at her new job, Adedana spends her free time co-hosting and producing the popular “Afracanah” podcast. The show —which explores the thoughts and experiences of two women who were raised in African families in North America and decided to move back to the continent as adults— feeds Adedana's love for comedy. “It's been incredibly fulfilling. It's great to have an outlet that has nothing to do with work,” she says. “I love laughter and I love making people laugh.”
In 2012, Grace Muchiri was content in her job as the director of food and beverage at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey. Her career was going strong, she was highly stimulated and her work gave her access to the best and brightest people in the hospitality industry. But a trip home to Kenya for her niece’s wedding that same year changed everything. She was able to spend time with family, reconnect with old friends, and see the country’s progression firsthand. Suddenly, everything that was once right felt wrong. She decided to quit her job and return home. "It is not something I had planned, and my family in the U.S. just thought I was going nuts,” she says. Like for most returnees, the adjustment was not easy after the initial excitement wore off. Grace struggled to find a role in which her 15-years-experience and passion for luxury hospitality could thrive. “I was not prepared for the adjustment I had to make in terms of the work culture here. It is very, very different,” she explains. “You are an outsider…[locals] are not going to be your friend automatically. You have to humble yourself and actually win them over in terms of ‘I’m one of you.’” Her first role in Kenya was with the well-known Karen Country Club, which acclimatized her to working in the country. She also founded the Club Managers Association of East Africa to give back and connect with others in the industry. Recently, Kenyans Come Home placed her as the new Chief Operating Officer at Future Hotels Limited --which owns and runs the award-winning safari lodge Finch Hattons in Tsavo West National Park. Finally she feels, after being home for 5 years, that her role “has met my expectations,” she says. She is now married to one of the friends she reconnected with during that trip in 2012, and they have one child. “When it comes to the quality of life and that balance, especially in the position I am in now, I am happy.”
4 months ago
One thing that doesn't seem to winding down is the array of investment opportunities in Kenya. According to a recent Quartz Africa graph, Kenya remains one of the top investment destinations on the continent. "In line with previous years, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria continue to dominate as investment destinations accounting for 76% of total funding this year, slightly lower than the 81% of last year's total."
Happy Furahiday! We hope you've had a good week and (those of you in Nairobi) we hope you are enjoying this glorious weather! It seems Nairobi's sunshine is just one of the many reasons Kenyan diaspora and ambitious expats are making the move to our "cosmopolitan hub." A recent BBC article by Harriet Constable highlights some of the reasons that millennials are making the move to Kenya. With the most developed tech scene in East Africa rivalling hubs like Cape Town, Lagos and Cairo, Nairobi has become a hub for innovators, entrepreneurs and dreamers. Factors such as "high-speed internet, globally-renowned innovation, major funding and the presence of incubators and hubs" present low barriers for new companies to set up. So what are you waiting for? Check out our exciting opportunities right here at home.
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