One of the phenomenal women I’ve met making moves in Kenya’s banking industry is Emily Kinuthia. She describes herself as a marketer and is currently the General Manager of Marketing, Communication and Citizenship at N.I.C Bank, a role she’s held for just over a year now.
She is also a mother and wife and she enjoys cooking and spending time with my family as well as love serving in her community. She is involved in a personal project around feeding school going children from poor communities in rural areas. She says she is also very passionate about brands and she mentors upcoming marketers and communication professionals, as well as conducting training on brand and corporate advisory, designing strong brands for business growth.
Here’s her story:
“I derive a lot of satisfaction from sharing my skills and knowledge.
This could actually explain why my career path has been as interesting as [I think] it has been.
I started off in advertising and did about 10 to 12 years in advertising. I started out at J Walter Thompson and moved to Creative Y&R, and then to McCann and finally to Scanad. I served in different capacities and it was such an amazing experience
for me because I was able to get the essential basics when it comes to brand communication and marketing, that is; Advertising, communication, brand building, experiential, media, production etc.
In some instances, specifically working with FMCGs like Nestle and Unilever, I was part of the brand team and we were building the brand strategies together with the marketing departments, and this
exposed me to the marketing world. So I understand how brands work, and how to build strong brands. With all that knowledge, I got to a point where I felt I was well equipped and ready to jump
into the driver’s seat.
I needed to make a switch, so I ventured out and found myself in the ICT industry and after a few years ventured into the financial industry.
Some of the lessons you’ve learned so far?
Knowledge is good but experience is even better. I could never trade the experience I got from my years in advertising for anything because it gave me the confidence to make brand decisions that are solid today. I always advise my team and mentees not to run into the next role just for the money or career title.
What I mean is, gaining good experience and hands on knowledge of your field is the most important thing in your career journey, and you have to spend time growing that, and once you have it the titles and money will follow you.
Over the years I also learnt a lot about organisational culture and how important this is. Another piece of advice I like to give is that, before you move into a new role, ensure you gain an understanding of the kind of culture the organisation has.
Why this is so important is because, you
will spend about 8-10 hours of your day in that office for the next few years, and the people and environment you are in will shape who you are, and influence who you become. You better be in a positive and growth oriented environment, and enjoy where you work and who you work with
because if you don’t it impacts your performance and life.
How is it working at NIC Bank so far?
NIC is a fantastic place to work. It’s a dynamic space and has the perfect blend of a performance driven culture as well as empowering environment, and for someone looking for a good challenge
and also looking to grow, then it’s the place to be. The culture encourages leadership and responsibility and this makes it an excellent training ground for corporate leaders, as you are encouraged to take on projects and execute with full support from all levels.
I always like asking this question. How do they treat you as a woman with such an interesting leadership position in such a male-dominated space?
Over the years even outside of working at NIC, the one thing that I learnt as I went through my career was that as women, we sometimes judged ourselves too harshly.
Most women walk into a space with this pre–conceived notion that people are going to judge you because you’re a woman while in fact, no one is judging you but yourself. When you walk into that space, people take what you bring to the table. If you come into the room or you sit in that meeting and you make a contribution that adds value to the conversation, then people take in your contribution and respect you for that. I’ve learnt that this skepticism we have as
women should be put to bed. We need to know that no one is judging us and we need to put the confidence we had in our resumes and interviews into our work.
Going back to your question, my biggest learning in every career move I’ve made is to be ready to make my contribution without fear of self-judgement and a lot of times I found out that the more
you believe in the work your doing, the higher your value goes and this cuts across organizations and businesses.
From a personal branding perspective, I have learnt that your appearance and personal branding plays a key role, whether you are a man or a woman. However while your appearance may get you
through the door, it’s your contribution that will keep you there.
How do you stay focused on your career ambitions as a woman, who also has a family and so many other life goals to juggle?
This is a really good question and one that I dare say might not have a right or wrong answer.
In life, you have seasons and different challenges that you face during each season, so your priorities shift
according to the season you are in.
For example, when you are starting a family your focus becomes settling down, security and your career might take a back seat for a little while. When you start to have kids, again your focus shifts, I
know women who quit work to raise their kids, because it is indeed very important to be there for your children during their formative years, and then get back to working when they get to a certain
I have found that in life you have several balls that you find yourself juggling at all times, and perhaps women tend to have a lot more balls to juggle, spanning from being a home maker, mother,
wife, career etc and yet we are expected to be excellent at all these roles. It can take a toll on you and perhaps even break you.
I have learnt to appreciate the season I am, and what is important in that season. It has sometimes felt like you have to put your personal desires, be it career advancement, promotion or higher education for another priority in life, and that truly forms a big part of the decisions women have to
make. But the mantra I operate from is being intentional at what I do. It is something I am still working towards, but intentionality is the ability to focus on the things that matter to me in that
season, setting aside some clear objectives and being intentional towards achieving them.
I also like to have accountability partners, because in life it is very easy to get derailed from your goals. A lot of people start the year with great ambitions, around their lifestyles, diets and work out
regimes, ambitions around career, finances etc, but get derailed by the end of the first 60-90 days.
The key is to have an accountability partner or partners that you can walk with to hold you accountable on the commitments and goals you have set. These have to be people who you are willing to get advice and correction from, and who you can be authentic with. They need to be
people you respect and that have a track record that you admire, and possess qualities of discipline and consistency. This is because this is a commitment for the long term, and you need to have this
person check on you, correct you and keep you honest to your goals.
Another good approach is to have a coach who walks with you, and this I find is not taken seriously enough. A coach will act as your sounding board and push you to actualize the ambitions that you
have, and this I have found to be very effective in my life.
At the end of the day I have learnt that not everything will go as planned, mistakes will happen, but it is the perspective that you view the mistakes made, that determines whether you land on your feet or not. Mistakes are excellent places of learning and growth, and while they can be painful,
taking that pain and transforming it to a great plan that ensures you never go through it again is the best success story you can every write about yourself.
The name of the game is intentionality, success follows those who are intentional.