Every Monday we have our Pearls and Heels segment where we feature women and their careers. Today’s Pearls And Heels lady is Njeri Macharia. Njeri Macharia is a civil litigation lawyer currently practising at one of Kenya’s top firms that specialize in judicial review and constitutional matters. When not trying to win every possible argument, she is a junky for life and everything that it offers. She is also a curious being, a bathroom singer, a dawdling writer, and a reader.
1. Describe your typical day?
I am up at 5:30. I am not much of a morning person, but I try. Hit the shower; get ready for work grab some breakfast and I am out. I feel like, given the traffic situation and how everything in the city moves so fast, it’s important to spend as much time as I can squeeze in with my family. I like getting to work between 7 and 7:30 am so I can get settled, check emails, see what needs to be prioritized then prep for the court which includes going through every file to make sure I have and I know what I need to achieve with every session before a Judge. Confer with the supervisor. And off I go.
Typically court sessions are slow and take up most mornings; this is a good time to catch up on the news and everyone else in my life, thank God for smartphones! In the afternoon after court, I get the real work done; you know the part that Boston Legal and Suits don’t show you. Drafting pleadings, research, client meetings, and correspondence …all the boring stuff.
In the evening I prepare for the next day, and complete as much work as I can, so I can review it with a fresh mind in the morning. This means I have no set time for when I leave the office. Check the cause list to see if my diarized matters for the next day are listed. Leave everything ready for the next day. Then I go home and try not to think about work. Make dinner on the days I have energy, watch a movie and then sleep.
2. What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was much younger I wanted to be a veterinarian. I had a way with animals and they make for such good company. But I quickly realized I wasn’t cut out to see them injured leave alone to put them down.
Then I wanted to be a journalist. We can thank Catherine Kasavuli for that.
Then a techy because I was and I believe still I am good with gadgets. I used to joke that I have more patience for machines than people. Machines don’t have moods.
But I settled on being a lawyer, initially because, like every child, wanted to put some bad guys away. However, it was because I am a curious being, meaning research comes a little easy for me and I like logic, as a result, I can string together a pretty good argument. So here I am.
3. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Not much. I think I did things as best as I could. I would however experiment more with the jobs that I took up while I was in school. There are a few interesting opportunities I passed up thinking they didn’t fit into the narrative of the career path I chose. But I can see how they would have helped build other aspects of my character and skill set.
4. What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
Inquisitiveness coupled with a healthy level of cynicism
Communication and confidence.
Guts. No guts no glory!
5. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi is perfect. All the action seems to happen right here. All the interesting briefs are here. The traffic though is not interesting. We waste too much trying to get from one point to another. But it’s a great place to network with other professionals.
6. What motivates you?
I’ll take this to mean what gets me out of bed every day. Life generally. The chance to be out there every day. Hustling in my own way. The chance to improve myself and the chance to touch other people’s lives.
7. How do you define success?
Success for me is a constantly evolving term. It’s setting goals, achieving them and having a new set of goals and achieving them and so on.
It also means finding what I love and doing it as best as I can.
8. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
I draw my inspiration from various people. Mostly from the women who have gone ahead of me, shattered the glass ceiling challenging me and others to go past that and set the pace for the others who will follow.
But I find myself constantly looking to my mother for many things. But mostly for how she knows what she wants and she goes for it.
9. What is your favourite aspect of your job?
I would call it the “Allan Shore” moment. When all the hard work and all the late nights pay off; an argument comes together so beautifully and the court agrees with you. You just sit on your balcony with a great view of the city below and smoke a cigar; (this all happens in my head) it is the thought that counts, right?
10. What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
First, know what you want then go out to get it. Persevere because nothing comes easy. Working smart and grabbing every opportunity that takes you closer to your goals and of course assisting others along the way.
11. What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Work smart but don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it.
12. What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of your career?
It’s a bit of a funny story. It was my maiden appearance in the Court of Appeal before a 3 judge bench (ask any lawyer, they will tell you it’s a big deal, especially for a freshly admitted lawyer). My then boss sent me on what I like to call a suicide mission. Baptism by fire if you would have it. But, despite my jitters, and the hopeless brief, I held my own. It was a defining moment, where all my doubts about my choice of career were removed.
13. What makes you happy?
14. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Catching up on the rest of my life. I love to cook.
Spend my non-working time binging on family time.
Swim. I try to read and travel as much as I can.
15. Where you see yourself in around 10 years?
I see myself either as Judge or in a position where I have a say on policies that improves the lives of others or both.
If you would like to interact with Njeri Macharia find her at @Ms_Macharia_
Potentash Founder. A creative writer. The Managing Editor at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories and stories about the inclusion of minorities. Find me at email@example.com.
“We're all stories, in the end.” ― Steven Moffat