It’s another Monday and time for our Pearls And Heels segment. Our Pearls And Heels lady today is Emily Mutindi Mutua. Emily Mutua is a professional Talent Manager and Executive Coach at TalentWorks (K) Ltd., an organization she founded in the year 2013 having previously worked in various organizations including Coca-Cola Northern Africa, Cadbury Kenya Ltd., and lastly WPP Scangroup Ltd., as Chief Talent Officer overseeing a talent base that was spread across 6 countries in Africa. She is passionate about business and people with a desire to see success on both fronts as she offers solutions that advance careers and build businesses.
1. Describe your typical day?
My day starts at 4 a.m. and interestingly enough I don’t need an alarm clock for that. Motherhood (did I mention I have a 16-year-old son?) and life in the corporate world taught me the value of getting up early so that I could do what I call ‘Commanding My Morning’ I wake up and pray and just take a couple of minutes thinking through what I would want my day to look like. By 5.30 a.m. the house is buzzing with activity between me and my son. We are morning people who wake up chirping and we love listening to gospel music which sets us off on a positive and reflective note.
By 7 a.m. I am ready to hit the road. This year I have promised myself to stop working from home between 6 and 7 a.m. but to make it to the office by 6.30 a.m. I read mail and respond to mail from clients before the phone starts ringing with client requests and follow-ups from previous meetings as well as me working off the phone doing what I love doing – headhunting for organizations as well as writing up business solutions on Talent Management.
2. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Believe it or not, I wanted to be either of two things. An airline stewardess which was influenced by a cousin who was a stewardess. My cousin used to travel the world, she had the most beautiful clothes and in my head, it was a world of glamour.
The other one that tickles me was that I wanted to be a cop on a bike. You know those white bulky BMW bikes that the Presidential Escort team has? I wanted to be on that bike. Again for the look, feel and thrill for speed. It was almost impossible to see a female bike rider when I was a young girl. I’m contemplating getting a cruise bike soon though the society will think it’s a mid-life crisis but who cares! I love the adrenalin rush.
3. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I love what I have done so far and I would not change much based on the lessons I learnt in my career journey. What I would do is ask that I don’t get short-changed on the compensation package. Women in the workplace don’t know how to negotiate for their worth and it’s a lesson I learned along the way. I made up for it but women need to drive a hard bargain on the table.
4. What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
Business acumen. Understanding my clients’ business, a strong technical aptitude and understanding of my candidates.
Reading a resume is not enough as a Talent Manager and Executive Coach, you need to see what is said on paper and what is not being said to be able to offer solutions to organizations and individuals.
A futuristic approach to business – what does the customer (client) want now and where are they going? Which should also align to what the individual wants for themselves in the present and in future.
5. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi?
Working in Nairobi as a professional is very fulfilling. It’s considered the regional hub and as we offer local solutions we are also challenged by the need to upscale ourselves to give solutions that are world-class. Nairobi is a growth catalyst if you want to grow you will grow. It’s not a comfortable place which means you are always striving to learn more and to be up to par with your peers.
Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi is open to me although I have to engage clients into thinking differently for them to get the best results. We need to look at people and business with an understanding that for the business to grow our people need to grow with it. Investing in people and recruiting the right people at the right price is what makes your business grow. Businesses need to appreciate the value of rewarding their employees for retention and motivation purposes. Are we there yet for the SME sector maybe not but we are seeing a paradigm shift as young entrepreneurs get into the playing field. We could do better and we are trying.
6. What motivates you?
A smile on my client’s face motivates me. When I get a call from a client saying thank you or when I help someone jump over a hurdle either on the professional front or personal front and they show gratitude that motivates me. My son whom I have brought up singlehandedly is a big motivator in my life. He is always pushing me to do more and be more. I always describe him as a 16-year-old going onto 28 based on his ability to draw out the best in someone and also the fact that he is always asking what is next for his mum. It’s not enough for him that I move from one level to the other his concern is always the next one after that. He gives me good pressure which motivates me to do more and be more.
7. How do you define success?
Success for me is intrinsic. When I’m able to derive satisfaction from what I do that equates to success. I was always motivated by my boss to be the best I can be and he always said ‘money follows success’ which I’ve come to prove to be true. Money is the end game but you will not be satisfied with money without internal self-satisfaction.
8. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My mum. I call her the iron lady. She always pushed forward and taught us to push forward as long as we have breath in us. She taught me to look back only to appreciate how far I have come.
9. What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Meeting different people when I am headhunting. I get to pick up the phone and talk to strangers. I am also learning daily – new clients in new sectors means that I have to do research on their business and the industry they play in. I have since worked in insurance, steel, education, food manufacturing, science and communication sectors amongst others.
10. What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
Focus and clarity. You have to know what you want, how you want it and when you want it. That way you get to overcome all the side shows that you encounter on a daily basis and use them as stepping stones to success. Each and every experience serves a purpose whether good or bad.
11. What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
You will need tons of patience. Sometimes we see things differently from the business owner when we are offering people solutions and if you are impatient you may never get to work well with clients.
You also need to be a strong individual. Businesses want results now and we know people are not machines making that turnaround requires dedication from the business and the people.
If you lack the passion to go for the long haul and offer support then the results will not be realized. You also need to be able to take on projects you know you can deliver on. It is a very personalized kind of business and unless you can take your word to the bank I would suggest you let go of some projects.
A sincere interest in the clients’ business is necessary. If you do not enjoy the sector they work in do not take the project it will reflect on your work.
12. What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of your career?
When I was able to step out of the comfort of a 9-5 job and take the learnings I had from the corporate world to offer solutions to business I realized that I had grown to a level I had not dreamed of. My career moulded my next phase of life and the ability to trust in myself to use the experience as a tool of the trade was the most defining moment of my career. Everyone thought I had lost my mind because I left at the peak of my career but at that point, I knew it was time to go make a difference to a bigger community of clients.
13. What makes you happy?
Waking up with a purpose makes me happy. Being able to know that I still have the fire burning up in my belly to do good for business and people makes me happy.
14. What are your hobbies?
Cooking. Although I have slowed down since I went into self-employment.
Reading – at any one time I’m reading three books, I grew up in a house of readers and it’s an awesome pastime.
Meeting new people for me is an experience. I’m always looking for opportunities to network and make new friends and acquaintances.
I used to be a fitness freak and I’m working towards that. Getting a business off the ground may at times rob you of a few joys but with time you realize the activities played a certain role in your life which gives you balance.
What do you do in your non-work time?
I see what I do as a vocation and I am always inclined to serve people. During my non-work time, you will find me serving as a Rotarian. I am currently the President of my Rotary Club in Nairobi Lavington where our motto is ‘Service Above Self’.
I also serve in various capacities in the church. Currently, I lead the Guest Experience team and in the past, I have taken the word of God back to the workplace through a program called Corporate Mizizi.
I love being with friends and discussing work-life dreams. You will often catch me with a close friend(s) sitting for hours over a bottle of wine just chatting away. Somehow whatever I do in my non-work time is people related. I love people and I cannot function in isolation whether I’m doing work or life. I was born to serve and it gives me joy. I am a busy body and often times people wonder when I get time to do all that I do. I love speed and once in a while, you will find me in my Subaru OUTBACK (pun intended) zooming off on the highway in the middle of the night for the sake of it. I love adrenalin-packed activities and after bungee jumping, I now need to skydive and do a couple more daredevil stunts and activities because the kick sits with you for days to come. I still need to buy the cruiser bike and be the biker lady I wanted to be. Fortunately or unfortunately I have biker friends who are on a cause to get me to own a bike.
15. Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
I want to see myself as a woman of influence. Sitting in a position where I am a household name for the right reasons. I want to be a role model for a young girl to know that all it takes to succeed is passion, willingness to learn and hard work. I want to steer the masses towards their passion and purpose. To be able to offer a platform of hope and self-belief, often times when robbed of these two elements of life we live a mediocre life and tend to blame circumstances we cannot control. I believe that we are all good people who at times are influenced to do bad. My quest for humanity is for us to strive to be good people who influence others to do good.
If you would like to interact with Emily you can find her on Twitter at @Emmelye.
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