Every Monday we have our Pearls And Heels segment. Our Pearls And Heels lady today is Irene Nyambura. Irene Nyambura says she would like to call herself a communications professional but her work experience dictates that she is a social sciences researcher which means she looks at qualitative data of African countries from time to time. Irene also trains youth and adults; she teaches peace-related courses and likes to experiment with writing content online anonymously.
Describe your typical day.
Wow, I am currently in transition. On some days I have been waking up early to run errands in town and shop for a small business I ran out of town until this month. Other days were spent working on reports online on a short research project that ended in March. And on other days I spend working on researching materials for a training course I facilitate now and then. I have had three jobs simultaneously in the last couple of months but I am currently jobless, which means I have been working on preparing Bible lessons, quizzes for my nieces and nephews, devotional journaling and indoor physical exercises and reading, it is not easy as I am an energizer bunny, I wish I could get a short term consultancy but I am also working on preparing and fundraising to go back to school.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a journalist and tell stories about Africa. I wanted to write stories. I grew up in a village without electricity, TV and modern luxuries. I read Sunday newspapers like school books because they were such an important and only source of current affairs (it was bought on our way from church so we could fill crosswords). I listened to VOK, and BBC World on AM radio and my mind would really travel the world. I read books about Mussolini, UFOs, snow storms, Anna Karenina, Kwame Nkrumah’s Neo Colonialism from my dad’s library before I had seen what a TV looked like.
I remember in High School our Chemistry teacher made us put stickers on our desks with our dream jobs. Coming from a national school, there is a lot of pressure and everyone would write doctor, pilot, engineer etc. I wasn’t good at sciences and numbers and I stuck to my journalism. I went to journalism school but opted to major in Public Relations. I have however never worked in mainstream media or in PR firms. I worked on governance and development projects in civil society right from the start. I eventually learnt on the job that I was good at advocacy and public policy work.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I would go back to undergraduate and study sociology or political science. After that, I would go to grad school to specialize in governance or development journalism.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
My job? I have done so many jobs (laughs). Networking, excellence in analysis and taking initiative. I am going back to school to study development leadership and peacebuilding. It is interesting because I have done several related work in Africa- human rights research, security sector reforms, elections, and youth advocacy. I am just a curious social scientist now.
As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi is perfect. I don’t like the hustle and bustle of city life and its effect on family life but the city opened me up to all other opportunities for work that have come afterwards. My first job after graduation was to head the Africa office of an international youth organization. The Africa region office coincidentally is in Nairobi with other regional offices in New York, Mexico, Beirut, Manilla and Brussels.
What motivates you?
I want to leave this world a better place for later generations wherever I will be. I aim at making just one person’s life better daily. It may be an SMS, smile, phone call, alms, email, or encouragement. We were made for others. When man realizes that the best gift we can give another person is that of ourselves, then life becomes eazzy pizzy.
How do you define success?
Going the extra mile, doing the best in every work there is to be done including unpleasant ones and being at peace with other humans; Even if it means keeping the house neat and preparing meals or even building a bridge. Just excellent work and living in the moment.
Whohas been your greatest inspiration?
Interesting question. I would say my parents but that is too ideal and PRish. Yeah, they taught me integrity which I value to date. I would have wanted to meet Mother Theresa and certainly Pope John Paul 2 whose theological and philosophical work has influenced me very much.
What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Flexibility but it is becoming a bother. I can’t wait to go back to school, come back home and be on a real fixed job and get one of my businesses back on its feet. But then again I would like to settle down and have babies and nurture them outside a 9-5 work schedule.
What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
Who am I? Who owns me? What am I here for? I think after going through these tormenting questions in your youth, you then start understanding what you are passionate about, your resources, challenges and what you can do to make your world a better place.
What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
I seriously don’t know if I am fit to give anyone advice. I am an INFP personality which means I don’t stick to one line of work for long though I nurture my initiatives. I think curiosity and enthusiasm. Look at me, I am already thinking of taking a PhD in Public Policy and I am not even started with Masters in Peace Building and Development- lol a confused soul.
What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of your career?
Serving Africa’s youth built a momentum for me to be engaged in work that is aimed at improving society be it in business, civil society or government. My first job exposed me to practically every aspect of leadership that I will need for the rest of my life. I was given the responsibility to lead and the freedom to make many learning mistakes as a youth in my 20’s.
What makes you happy?
The joy of the Lord is my strength. I am born again and draw strength from my faith. I am not very religious but have a huge space for faith in my heart and mind. That spiritual relationship with my Creator gives me strength and joy daily.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I read and analyze. I am an introvert but also a people person. I love conversations and I enjoy the outdoors alone or in company. Just nature. Walks and gazing out there alone or in good company- be it trees, flowers, mountains, rocks, rivers, water or on the farm. I take time out of the concrete jungle to refresh myself in nature.
Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
I ask God that if it is his will, and I complete a PhD in Public Policy, write research and teach to impact the next generation. If an opportunity arises I would like to serve in Kenya’s public service later in life. I desire to have a family, have a social enterprise that adds value to our local resources for the global market, and live on a farm where we grow herbs, flowers, spices and keep horses…near a river, at the base of a mountain.
If you would like to interact with Irene you can find her on Twitter at @irenesconcierge.