Every Monday we have our Pearls and Heels segment where we interview women on their careers. Today’s Pearls And Heels lady is Wanjiru Kihusa. Wanjiru Kihusa is the founder of Still A Mum an organization that supports families dealing with miscarriages and infant loss as well as infertility. They also demystify adoption and IVF. Wanjiru is also a family blogger who is passionate about all things family. She recently discovered she loves cats thanks to her husband.
1. Describe your typical day?
Each day is unique. Some days I work from home all day and other days I have meetings scattered throughout the day. When I don’t have a meeting I sleep in and wake up at 6:45 am. I am not a morning person so I usually say bye to my husband in unintelligible words at about 5:45 am every day.
I try to put meetings on the same day so I’m more productive. I don’t take visits mid-week. When people hear you work from home they don’t take you seriously. They want to visit all the time. I start each day reading emails as I have breakfast. I have disciplined myself to have a regular work day even from home.
2. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I honestly don’t remember. Knowing me I probably oscillated between doctor and lawyer. Either way, I never thought I’d end up doing what I do.
3. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Not much really. I think I gave every part of my life my best shot. However, I’d start blogging earlier – in campus. I worked in ICT for several years and even though it is not what I’m doing now I acquired a skill set I am still using now.
4. What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
Compassion – I encounter women and families dealing with a loss almost every other day. Having gone through it myself I have learned to be kind and patient with their grief process. You have to be a good listener too.
Strength – the inner kind. I hear a lot of sad stories and it is easy to walk away angry at the world. Sometimes I have to encourage people when personally I’m in the dumps.
Great communication and negotiation skills.
5. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi is amazing the opportunities are numerous. Anything is possible here. You meet and connect with brilliant minds and if you put your mind to it, there is nothing you cannot achieve here. Other than the traffic, Nairobi is an awesome city.
6. What motivates you?
I know I am changing lives and that is quite something. Nothing beats giving hope to people. There are days I wonder what I’m doing with my life and then I get an email or inbox from I woman who says “I’m doing much better now. Thank you for being there for me” and I remember why I started this in the first place.
7. How do you define success?
Success for me is setting goals and achieving them. It’s being a solution to a problem, a light in the dark.
8. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
I have been blessed to have many amazing people in my life. My greatest inspiration is my husband. Every time I feel like I need a regular job so we can have a better income he says “relax, we have money. I am rich.” 🙂 We both know he isn’t rich but it helps me do what I do without worrying about bills. He will stay up late at night working on a poster for Still A mum and when I need to brainstorm on something he’s there. He’s pretty awesome this man!
9. What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Getting feedback from women and families we’ve worked with. There is something very powerful about having a chance to touch other people’s lives.
10. What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
Sticking it out to the very end. Keeping at it even when you are plagued with doubts and challenges.
11. What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Charity work? Then love people and be genuinely interested in what people are going through. Do your research and be excellent at your work. Non-profit does not mean mediocre work. Get good partners too.
12. What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of your career?
An old friend stopped me on the streets and said to me “I love your blog and the work you are doing with Still A Mum”. It wasn’t the first time I had heard that but this one was special. This friend is Muslim. You see I write about marriage and family and because I’m a Christian there are times I fear I lock out other people. To hear that my blog was relatable and practical for her was a huge deal. I felt I had succeeded.
13. What makes you happy?
A good book/movie and a glass of orange juice. Oh and a well-deserved vacation, preferably somewhere with a beach.
14. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I watch lots of movies and crime investigation series. I garden too – I find it therapeutic. Really.
15. Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
I hope to have Still A Mum in every country in Africa. I look forward to affecting policies relating to women’s reproductive issues. For instance, the Kenya Employment Act does not say anything about (maternity) leave for women who’ve had a miscarriage or even adoptive parents. I see myself employing many people and having a facility of our own when we have support group meetings and other events.
Check out Wanjiru’s blog at http://www.wanjirukihusa.com/. You can also interact with her at @wanjirukihusa.