Today our Pearls And Heels lady is Sandra Chepngeno Belyon. Sandra Belyon is a passionate PR and Communications consultant, a youth and women enabler, an aspiring Women representative in Kericho county, a daughter of Buret and proudly Amitai’s mommy.
Describe your typical day. I am a very early morning person, I am usually up by 4 am (but this is not to go to some office) but to feed my childhood habits of watching international news to keep up to date with current affairs and later go through this social media monsters called Twitter and Instagram.
I am currently in part-time employment so most of my time is spent nurturing my PR consultancy baby and chasing my political aspirations. Unless I have an offsite meeting my mornings are pretty colourful; catching up on news, checking and replying to emails, breakfast, and reading the paper (online lately though). By this time little human Amitai is awake I so give her breakfast and my day sets off. It’s never dull and it’s never the same, ever. I have found a way to work, play mummy and nurture my passions and ambitions.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a lawyer but in the end, I became a Communicator after getting a point less than what the Joint Admission Board had set for Law school back then. Although I was a little disappointed writing luckily was and still is one of my hobbies coming in second after reading. It’s by virtue of my love for writing that I actually ended up in PR (writing is one skill you cannot do without in PR). I haven’t given up on that lawyer dream though… Someday soon I will fulfil that bit of my dreams.
Politics – I have always been outspoken and passionately speak up about what I believe in and I guess that’s where my political journey started. I am a firm believer that everyone should speak up about what they believe in. If you are good enough, you are old enough to get involved. It’s not enough to complain about decisions made by those in power, there is a need to get involved in politics. You don’t need to be seeking an elective seat, sometimes lending your voice to a cause goes a long way.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I would exercise a little bit of patience. I would also have had a mentor from the onset of my PR life instead of waiting till 4- 5 years into it. Mentors especially career mentors are crucial. They mould you early enough, push you and challenge you to grow and always be better and they help you focus … Other than those two things I have loved every bit of my career in PR and Communications, it has opened so many doors and made me interact with amazing brands. I have had the privilege to meet and learn from amazing, brilliant and smart individuals (some who have become great friends, mentors and cheerleaders) things I would not change for anything.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
Passion, Confidence and Patience
You can’t hack PR if you don’t have this as PR entails a lot of things, from working with and managing people, being up to date on news and current affairs, and going through piles of materials to simplify it in the best way possible. You have to manage: clients’ egos, stakeholders, media, inquiries, colleagues, difficulties, teams, chores, crises, attitudes, sourcing and third partners.
You need to have the ability to speak out, speak your mind clearly, challenge, uplift, handle pressure, and be flexible as there are days you will double up as PRO and MC or event planner, you will need the three to network and build formidable relations i.e. in media and stakeholder networks to succeed in your job.
As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Public Relations as a career is amazing and helps a lot of organisations and individuals work better. It helps them communicate effectively and through the right channels but it is sadly one of the most misunderstood jobs in this town. Nairobi is an excellent place to work in my line of work as it is a business hub for most global organisations setting up shop in East Africa. PR is much more than media relations, partners, events and handling crises. Although the uptake is slow firms are starting to appreciate the crucial role PR plays.
What motivates you?
Knowing I gave my all to a project, seeing a project all the way from inception through to its successful implementation. Having a successful launch, thanks and compliments from happy clients and generally encouragement from friends and strangers alike.
How do you define success?
Being content with what you have but still leaving room to achieve more.
Being yourself despite the changes around you.
Being an inspiration to others.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My late grandfather Mr Elijah Kimoro Belyon. He stepped in and became a father to my siblings and I, my dad died when we were very young. Dad had been a young single parent having separated from my mum thus need for grandpa and grandma to step in upon his demise. I admired my grandpa for his selflessness, discipline, hard work and ethics… He was a respected farmer, a shrewd businessman, a passionate education campaign, a church Minister and a no-nonsense disciplinarian.
What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Building a brand to repute from scratch. I get to wear casual clothes most times. I love the travel local and international. Also, the flexibility to work from home or anywhere. It’s not the monotonous 8-5 job.
What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
To be the very best in what you do, you have to have a vision and set goals. You have to have a willingness to learn, and the ability to seize the opportunity when it knocks on your door. You also have to have discipline, be fearless, be content with what you have as you grow and challenge yourself not to compare yourself to other people, being honest, having a great support system and still staying humble when you achieve your targets.
What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Be passionate, be confident and be patient, slowly it will fall into place… Read read read, have a mentor, and never be afraid to learn from others, when it’s tough just keep going, and when you fall keep getting back up, you will nail it at some point.
What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of career?
My stint at Coca Cola CEWA… I learnt a lot and I experienced first-hand what it is to love and live a brand… I left challenged and inspired to grow and do better.
What makes you happy?
It might sound cliché but my daughter Amitai. This little human is my heartbeat… Before her my life was so dull and felt empty most times, there was a need and pressure to belong but I no longer feel that way. She is almost 2 years and I still can’t believe I gave birth to this many shades of beautiful love, laughter and happiness.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I am a book junkie, I read a lot. I also love cooking, good conversations and good music.
Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
I will be fully in political leadership or in a position to influence legislation.
I will probably then be having the preteen adolescent conversation with Amitai and would be working at balancing work, being a good wife and mother.
I likely would have published my first book on telling brand stories the Kenyan way.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We're all stories, in the end.” ― Steven Moffat