Dream BIG, find the right path to your success and don’t stop until you achieve.
“Success is a Personal Quest, to pursue the greatest that we can be, the highest expression of ourselves” Helen Kithinji, Profiles on Success, published in 2015.
It is 1994, about 2 years after finishing my under graduate studies at the University of Nairobi. I am seated at the lobby of The 5 star Nairobi Serena Hotel, at my desk serving customers as The Guest Relations Officer. I have been working here for 9 months now. Prior to joining Serena I had worked in two other jobs, in an Investment Banking firm as a sales representative for 1 year and as an underwriting Manager in a small insurance agency. The one thing that was common about these jobs was that they were jobs that I had to do because I had no choice. With my parents having retired and moved upcountry, I took up the offers because I needed to pay my bills and survive in Nairobi as I searched for a Dream job. During those days, dream jobs for university graduates included a managerial job at the bank or in a multinational company. As for my dad he prayed for me every day for a job in the government, possibly as a District Officer or a Manager in one of the Ministries. To him the government jobs offered job security and one was guaranteed to work until retirement age. Having being a security officer, I understood his perspective only I had a different paradigm. After growing up in a private boarding primary school, a multicultural high school and university; my Vision for my life had changed. My references for shaping my dreams and aspirations were varied; from the interactions with professionals from other fields like lawyers, doctors, architects, bankers, investment moguls, to serving Presidents of Global companies who often stayed at The Serena while on their business trips to Kenya. At this point in my life I didn’t have a clue as to what it would take to be like one of them but seeds of passion to reach higher in my career and life in general were planted. I kept my mind and eyes open, became obsessed with self-improvement and followed business leaders.
And so on this hot afternoon I was seated at my desk in the lobby of The Nairobi Serena Hotel, when a colleague at the front office reception desk across the lobby beckoned me to pick a telephone call that had been extended to the reception desk. Picking calls at the desk was a normal thing and I picked many calls every day, mostly internal from the house keeping department updating me on rooms that were ready for guests or related to guest requests or complaints. I seldom received personal or external calls as this was not encouraged.
I strolled across the lobby to pick the call. I was hoping that it was not from housekeeping because I was having a reflective moment before the interruption. You see, I was at the time beginning to feel bored and underutilized. My colleagues spoke a different language from me, with majority having studied hospitality and hotel management. Their career paths were in the hotel industry. One could start at the front desk as a clerk then grow to a departmental manager and then to a Unit Manager as a General Manager, and ultimately grow into an Executive Role in head office or a Regional Role. From my understanding, people with hospitality Management training had higher chances of growing to the highest levels possible in the industry compared to Arts University Graduates like me. However, like I mentioned earlier, my job served the purpose at the time. That to pay my bills as I searched for my dream job.
Have you ever had a life changing phone call? This was one of mine! I recall every detail of it. How I strolled across the room and picked up the call expecting to hear the voice of the housekeeper, only to be met by a cool male voice on the other end asking me why I had not responded to 3 of his letters inviting me for an interview with the largest bank in the region. Malonza was his name. He went on to tell me that he had made numerous calls and that this particular call was his last call in attempt to finding me to offer me the position of Management trainee in this prestigious regional bank. 30 minutes later I was seated at Malonza’s desk signing the letter offer and 30 days later I started my dream career at the bank.
The next 15 years that followed, I built a very successful career in the banking industry, working in 3 banks, all the while growing my management and leadership skills as well as personal life skills. My last assignment in the bank before I left the corporate world to become an entrepreneur I was the General Manager of a leading Bank in Kenya, Managing a Team of over 3,000 Staff and a branch network of over 300.
A lot people thought that I was out of mind, leaving employment and a good well-paying job at the age of 40. I must say that it was not an easy transition, especially because I had not prepared to leave in advance. I hadn’t saved enough for capital to start a business neither had I established a business at all. All I had was a clear vision and intense desire to be successful, wealthy and happier. I knew without a shadow of doubt that I was going to do whatever it would take to make it happen. And I did.
Armed with a Million Dollar thinking I dove into entrepreneurship and never looked back. With my eyes fixed on my Vision and with an open mind, It has been a journey of 10 intense years of priceless experiences, from trials, failures, big wins, small wins and meeting of people from all walks of life, locally, in the Africa region and Globally. Today I have the privilege of Coaching and helping people walk their individual journeys to achieve their goals and the highest possible versions of themselves. I learnt and continue to learn many lessons of life, success and business. I have ‘Won’ and ‘Failed’ many times along my journey to a Millionaire, but as the saying goes, “In life there are no failures, only lessons”.
In my next feature I will give you highlights on how I established a successful Brand, Advertising and PR business without startup capital, which in 3 years was a leading Agency in Kenya; and a second Multimillion lifestyle global business. The real contrast between the Corporate World and the world of entrepreneurship. My experience as an entrepreneur is far from what I have seen being taught in classrooms and business programs. What you need to know before you quit your job. I will also share with you ” the 10 keys to my success that are not taught in any school or college, detailed in my upcoming book “Finding Me”.
Helen Kithinji is an Author, Accredited Executive Coach and Entrepreneur.