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.”