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How One Manager Changed Jobs and Industries

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Meet Roselyne Meriko

When Kenyans Come Home sent Roselyne Meriko the job description for general manager of the medical business at Jubilee Insurance, she hesitated. “I don’t have a medical background or any insurance industry experience,” she said at the time.

Roselyne previously worked in finance in the U.S., where she lived for 13 years before relocating back to Kenya to create a start-up that operated outpatient dialysis clinics. Kenyans Come Home encouraged her to interview for the position even though the insurance industry was new to her, and the executives at Jubilee were willing to consider Roselyne for her management and leadership skills, and entrepreneurial experience.

Jubilee extended Roselyne the offer as general manager of the life and pension business, in which she could apply her finance and investment background. Learning about a new industry on the job hasn’t been easy, but Roselyne has enjoyed the challenge. “I like to learn a lot, to learn new business knowledge,” she told KCH in a recent interview. The scope of the business—Jubilee Life & Pension generates more than a billion shillings in premiums and contributions monthly—and the breadth of her role have also made for a sharp learning curve. “You have to understand a business in order to add value,” she explained.

Joining a new industry as an outsider has also had its advantages. Roselyne believes she can bring new and valuable perspectives to an industry with immense potential across many fronts. Her experience in a very structured, rigorous and successful corporation in the U.S. taught her strong best business practices, and her stint running a start-up gives her an entrepreneurial mind-set, both of which benefit her work at Jubilee. When her colleagues are uncertain about doing things a different way, she assures them that it’s possible.

As she considers the kind of impact she could have in her GM position, Roselyne wants to “increase market-share in an unconventional way, in a more innovative approach while also increasing profit by driving a lean and highly efficient organization.”

Her desire to try new strategies sometimes meets with resistance. “You will face internal and external pushback,” she said. “It can get pretty intense.” Even so, the challenge to bring her entrepreneurial ideas into a well-established organization is something she enjoys. “Otherwise I would be bored and I wouldn’t have fun,” she explained with a laugh.

Looking back, Roselyne is really grateful that KCH encouraged her to consider working in a new industry outside of her previous experience. She’s also glad that Jubilee executives were willing to think outside the box and hire an outsider. “The recruitment process was really refreshing,” she recalled.

For other professionals who are considering changing industries, Roselyne has this advice: "If you have a high threshold for managing challenge, I would say go for it." She believes that starting in a new industry can be a little easier if it's a smaller organisation or if the position is more junior. But coming in as a high-level executive in a large company, with a significant amount of responsibility, is quite a lot to take on. "You should think about it carefully. Can you handle the challenge?"

For Roselyne Meriko, the challenge has been exactly what she was looking for and more. "I enjoy the opportunities that can be harnessed, that remain untapped," she said. "I love to do new things."