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A girl goes corporate

BY MIKE MUTHAKA 

“I ask why in everything. Sometimes I get my answers. Sometimes I don’t. It’s life.”

“Why do you ask ‘why’?” I ask.

“Because life for me is made up of whys and why nots. But why not is not a good enough answer. It’s a shortcut. I like finding out why things are the way they are. If someone does something to me, I’d like to know the background. I like knowing backgrounds. Maybe that’s why I like history, ‘cause you get to know what led up to that action.”

This millennial asks to neither be named nor photographed. She’s 24.

She keeps her voice low and her shirt rolled up at the sleeves. She keeps her curly hair short. And keeps only a small number of friends. “I have a semi-circle of friends,” she says. “I think that’s what I love about me. I feel like I don’t have to try. I have friends who wouldn’t think I’m weird if I did something.”

We’re seated in a booth on the upper floor of Gloria Jean’s Coffee, along Koinange Street, against a window overlooking the flower stalls at City Market. She looks at the flowers without saying a word. Moments pass. Then, more to herself than to me, she says, “I think I’ll buy my Mom flowers after this.”

It’s Saturday today. On Friday she woke up feeling lightheaded. She thought taking a shower would make it all better. But she could barely reach her bedroom door. She lay back in bed and sent a text to her office Whatsapp group: Good morning, I am not feeling well today so I won’t be in the office. I am however available on phone and emails.

A trip to the doctor revealed she had a bacterial infection.

 Right now she has a dry cough. She wants something to burn her throat. She orders a dawa while I go for an overpriced mango smoothie. Every few minutes she takes out tissue from her bag to blow her nose.

*

On January 29th, 2018, at 23, after graduating from USIU with a degree in International Relations, she went corporate, landing her first job at DAN, a branding and digital marketing company. She started out as the CEO’s PA, learning the ropes, writing reports, getting CC’d on the CEO’s emails. In September she was assigned her first big client, Coca-Cola.

“Initially I didn’t know media buying. I also learnt media planning on the go. Everything was urgent. And then I’m thinking, ‘OK, I’ve never done this before but I’ll figure it out.’ So yeah, after that I was just gliding through. There are many rough spots. Now I’m on Coke, and Kingsmill [bread], and Chrome [vodka], and J & B whiskey.

“At the moment I don’t really know what my JD is. I find myself in two worlds: the client service and the trading, which is basically the media buying. I’m still the one in contact with client and I’m still doing the buying and the planning.

“The brief comes in from the client. Then you come up with a strategy on how you’re going to do it. From strategy you come up with a rationale. Before the buying you have to set up – that where you put in your audience, demographics, psychographics, whatever.”

Every time she doesn’t have a direct answer to my questions, she says, ‘that’s a good question’, then she thoughtfully turns to the window.

“How long do you plan on staying at DAN?”

“That’s a good question. I don’t know. But not long.”

*

Her dawa finally arrives. It comes in a tall glass of lemon water and a tiny bowl of honey. She picks up the bowl and lifts it to her eyes like she’s doing a chemical experiment. “This is so interesting. It has particles inside. Is it weird that I want to bite the particles?”

“Bite away,” I say.

She dips her pinky finger into the honey, licks it, then empties the bowl into the lemon water. Honey tumbles down the glass like dust-colored ink. Then she stirs the concoction, ever so slowly, ever with grace, like a secret ritual performed in honor of the bees responsible.

“What do you like most about your job?”

She thinks it over for a moment. Then she smiles slyly from the corners of her mouth. “That I get a representation of how life is.

“You rarely receive what you give. If you think people are going to be nice to you because you’re nice to them,” she shakes her head, “it’s not going to happen. And at the same time when you think all hope is lost, you’ll still find those people who have some humanity in them.”

“And what do you hate most about your job?”

“I feel like a fish out of water. Or an eagle being forced to swim. I feel like I’m not in my element at all, and every day I’m forcing myself to bend to the point where I’m afraid I’m going to break.

“I know in life you’re supposed to be flexible and I like that I’m learning a lot of things every day. But the thing is, I don’t think learning is ever going to end. And I don’t like the environment that is being created in the name of learning.”

She sighs. “Sticking at one place thinking that I’m there because I’m learning, I think is not a good enough reason. That’s what I hate the most about that place. I feel it’s completely different from how it was when I joined.

“In the beginning I was like, ‘oh my gosh I’m so excited.’ Bearing it all, giving everything, even what I don’t have. [But I learnt] Not everyone has your best interest at heart. Everyone else is thinking about themselves, trying to get ahead, which is how life is in this capitalistic setting. Everyone else is a means to your end.

“I feel like it took a 180 degree turn. And now it’s like I’m struggling to breathe. You have to teach yourself how to breathe in that environment.”

*

She spent her first salo on her family. She took them to Baobox, in Westy, where they played board games. “They have all kinds of board games, and they charge for it, which I found out that day.” She chuckles.

“So how much did you spend that day?”

“That I cannot forget. I still have the receipts. I spent 17,500. I remember my cousin was asking for more juice and I was like, can you slow down? Ha-ha. When I saw the bill I sat down for a moment and thought about my life. I was like ‘oh shit. Wow. How can I recover from this?’”

We laugh. I ask, “Would you want to be the CEO of the company?”

“Not this one.” She shakes her head. “There are those who know the digital space is where they want to be. They’ve already mapped out their path. But for me I think this is one of those things that I just jumped into out of curiosity.

“I liked the idea of it. I liked the theoretical part of it, which was cool, obviously. But at the same time, by the way, this is another thing. Some of the things I told myself I’d never do are the things I’m doing.”

“Things like what?”

“After clearing campus, I did a short marketing course. We got to digital marketing and I zoned out…print, TV, radio, all that stuff. I was just looking at them and thinking, ‘what the hell are these?’

“But I paid most attention in the advertising class. Strategy and account managing, those things. But it didn’t help that the lecturer was boring. He wasn’t helping much, and I was like, ‘ah, anyway, I’ll never find myself in digital marketing.’ Now here I am.

“I have learnt not to say never.”

She takes her first sip of the dawa, shuts her eyes and places a hand on her chest. “Aah, that hit the spot.”

I give her a moment to have her moment. I wish my mango juice would do to me what her dawa is doing to her.

I ask, “What do you usually have for lunch? When you’re at work?”

She seems taken aback by my question. “On workdays I eat chapos. I walk out of the office and up the slope of a backroad, into a kibanda. A chapo is 20 bob. I take two, either with ndengu or beef.

“I feel like I have a connection with the person who makes the chapos. The way the chapos come out. I can feel it. Like if that person had a bad day, I can tell from the chapos. Or if he woke up feeling all sunshine-y, I can tell from the chapos. If they switched the person, I would tell from the chapos.”

“What motivates you to get up every morning? Is it the chapos?”

She grins. “Possibilities. Sounds cliché but yeah. Every day I’m like, ‘God just go ahead of me. It’s a new day. I present it to you.’ Of course I’m praying for protection over my entire family, but I’m just glad it’s a new day, presenting itself with different ways of doing things. The fact that I’m alive motivates me.”

*

How does your spirituality play into your work?

“That’s a good question. Uhm…” She exhales. “I take everything in moderation. In the agency it’s very easy for you to go to the extreme. In agency a lot of people binge drink. Almost everyone smokes. I guess it comes from the territory. How demanding it is, so you’re trying to look for a release.

“But I’ve never been a fan of that life, going out. If it’s a work thing, I’ll make a technical appearance then go home. I’d rather meet up with a friend and get a zinger burger than go out and spend thousands of shillings for a hangover.

“In a sense my spiritual values have taught me how to step up.”

Our girl has finished her dawa. She’s now thinking what kind of flower to get her mom. “She’s my best friend. She’s an amazing, phenomenal woman. Also a traditional African woman. She’s always been there for me. I mean I’m thinking of buying flowers for no reason.”

What do you mean ‘traditional African woman’?

“A traditional African woman in the sense that, if you break a glass they say, vunja yote. There’s a hint of how they were raised and how they’re raising their children. It’s like if you want to leave the house, you’re ticket out is doing house chores.”

And do you think you’ll be like your Mom?

“I mean the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. So inasmuch as I’m going to say I won’t be the same way, you have to come from a point of knowing this is how I was raised. Some of those traces are never going to go away.”

As she decides whether to go for lilies or roses, I ask what’s next for her after leaving DAN.

“When I was a kid, I was asked what I want to do. And I said I wanted to start an animal shelter, because I didn’t like seeing animals being rained on, the same for people. I used to cry so much.

“I like to think I did IR for a reason. I’ve always had hope in humanity. Even my high school yearbook quote was, ‘I have too much faith in humanity’. I can’t shake it off. I want to work on that. That’s what next for me. It could be in the humanitarian space, or NGOs or whatever, but that’s where I’ve always been.”

For now, though, this millennial is off to buy some flowers.
—-
Mike blogs at mikemuthaka

17
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@_craftit

Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾 eepurl.com/igmN8P
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,
Me

#craftit
  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Anyway.

To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 

Ha-ha.

No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.

Ha!

It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)

(Ahem.)

The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker
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