Today on Pearls and Heels we feature Jacinta Nzioka – Mbithi. Jacinta Nzioka – Mbithi has been the Acting CEO of the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) for the last 9 months. She is the Director of Marketing at KTB. Jacinta is a Tourism and marketing professional involved in various projects with the government, private sector, international agencies and development partners as she yearns to position Kenya positively globally. She has risen through the ranks over the last 15 years from a junior marketing executive to being put in charge of Kenya’s tourism marketing strategy. Jacinta has an MBA in Strategic Management and Bachelors in Tourism Management. She also has various professional courses up her sleeves in marketing, project management, and strategic leadership, among others.
Jacinta says “I have been acting in the position of Chief Executive Officer at the Kenya Tourism Board for the last 9 months, since Feb 2016, slightly adding administrative and strategic management responsibilities on my plate. But I can now focus on what I do best as the board successfully hired a CEO. I have learnt a lot during this period. Those who understand the role of a Transition Leader, know it is tough, but it will only make me a better person.”
Jacinta is a wife, and a mother to twins and she is also a twin. She is a trustee and sponsor of two girls’ rescue centres and orphanages. She is a firm believer in mentorship from a young age as she did not grow up with a silver spoon in her mouth. Above all, she says she is a child of God. She is thankful that God has brought her this far, and thus far, for her is success.
- Describe your typical morning.
My day begins at 5 AM. After having a devotion of about ten minutes with the Lord, then I leave for the office. During school days I wake my kids up at 6 am, have breakfast with them till 6:20 am then leave for work – that’s on days when I am not headed for the running field in Nairobi club, or hosting those many breakfast meetings.
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a dentist. No idea where this came from, but I wanted it. Then I landed in Tourism Management for my first degree, and then my life began!
- If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I would specialise earlier. I think we went too much into general studies; we didn’t specialize or get an opportunity to really nurture talent. I should have been writing and publishing, all the experiences I had across the globe needed to have been documented better. That said, I would not change a thing in terms of how passionate I am at my job, and how gratifying this career has been for me and my family.
- What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
Analytical skills for project management.
Interpersonal and negotiation skills are very key for a marketer – you have to be a pleasant person.
People skills – when you manage diverse and large teams, you got to be smart and fair at dealing with people.
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi is an admirable hub for the region, it’s fast-moving so it keeps you on your toes. There are great places to meet and network with all sorts of people who can inspire you to higher dreams.
Nairobi is also hectic – the traffic, the noise, it’s not very well organized. I miss the smooth and easy public transport in other capitals in the developed world and wish one day I would just catch the train to work.
Nairobi is open to what I do. The vibrancy, cuisine, innovative things to see and do – so many clubs to meet peers, an enjoyable lifestyle, diverse cultures, the only National Park in the city, etc. We can do better with infrastructure and cleanliness.
- What motivates you?
My family – nuclear and larger – so many people depend on me! Don’t ask, but that’s the truth. They keep me going even when the storms are rougher than I could handle.
The inner desire to get better and always serve God in whatever I do.
- How do you define success?
Achieving one’s dreams. It’s got to be from within. It’s not what others think you should have achieved, but what deep down makes you satisfied that you made it – in your own way, at your level.
- Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My mum. She is a strong lady. A smart lady. A beautiful lady and one who always trusts in the Lord. She has been my biggest cheerleader all through.
As I grew in my career, several professionals have inspired me, especially in the field of tourism. One is Fiona Jeffrey the founder and chair of Just A Drop Charity organization which is a true testimony of sustainability. She is a long-serving chairperson of the World Travel Market and now impacts people’s lives by using her tourism circles in providing clean water to the less fortunate communities globally.
In Kenya, and specifically the public sector where I have been for the last 15 years, it’s got to be Amb. Amina Mohamed – she has served the Kenyan people with diligence, professionalism, confidence and integrity. She is a true fighter for the people, an excellent face of Kenya in diplomacy and international relations, a mother, and an inspiration to me as a Kenyan lady in public service.
- What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Promoting the world’s most beautiful country. I get carried away and thrive when talking about my country, and encouraging people to travel to Kenya.
- What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
Being smart at your decisions – you don’t have to be right but learn even from mistakes.
Success for me is being well-rounded. Having a happy family life for me is the greatest success, the rest is secondary. You may succeed in your career but you can’t sleep at night because there’s is no love where you went after work – what’s the need?
Life is like a highway, if you want to over speed, take the extreme lane and move on, but do not block others as you speed up.
- What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Listen. Stay focused, try out many things, be visible and love what you do. This career without passion is difficult. Also don’t dismiss haters!
- What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of career?
When in 2015, KTB won Africa’s leading Tourism Board, five times in a row at the World Travel award, the Oscars of the travel industry and knowing the role I played in this.
In 2011, the Italian Travel Trade recognized me as one of the top ten tourism professionals making an impact in the Italian market. At that time I was a regional marketing manager responsible for the Italian market.
Then in the last two years, the CEO magazine of SA nominated me for the award of Africa’s most influential women in the public sector.
- What makes you happy?
When I succeed in a project I believed in. Other things that make me happy include spending a day out with my family, travelling around the world and also when I make the less fortunate happy.
- What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I sing in my church choir. I am an excellent swimmer and still enjoy swimming. I also love road trips to anywhere and hanging out with good company on these trips gives me an injection of happiness. I love the countryside.
- Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
I will be in my fifties, ageing gracefully with my husband and having grown-up kids. I will be financially secure and be a satisfied/content individual who has mastered her profession and making a big impact in my circles. I hope this is where God plans for me to be.
I want to find more time to give back to society. I also want to back to class and teach.
If you would like to interact with Jacinta you can find her on twitter – @JacintaNzioka.
Pearls And Heels: Rosemary Ngigi