Laila Macharia serves on the boards of Centum Investment Ltd. the Africa Digital Media Group and Barclays Kenya, and holds a JSD (Doctorate in law) from Stanford Law School. At heart though, she is an artist and an engineer, constantly looking for something beautiful to create.
1. What stands out to you as the prime difference between doing business in the United States and doing business here?
In the US, the investment climate is more supportive of business. Everything from the efficient judiciary to affordable credit allows you to predict and plan your business and your life, so people can take a longer term, less desperate view on almost everything. That said, Kenya’s challenges create opportunities for innovation. And to make a difference.
2. What would you have done differently, career-wise, 15 years ago?
My younger self thought there was a single ‘right’ career path or set of choices leading to the perfect life. The truth is you make decisions daily with the information and resources you have at hand. You can only commit to approach your work and relationships with abundance, excellence and integrity, and when you find yourself in difficulties, often through no fault of your own, you work your way out. Hopefully, you emerge wiser, stronger and with some dignity intact.
3. Why is it that some people, women especially, find it very hard to ask for what they deserve to be paid, or ask for a raise?
On this, books have been written, research commissioned, conferences held…basically, women don’t ask. We suffer from an ‘entitlement gap.’ Many of us steer clear of negotiating, just as we avoid politics, rather than enjoying the sport of it. Often, we don’t recognise we are negotiating, even when in the thick of it. But help is on the way.
4. Do you think it is ever possible to reach the point where you would say, I am happy, this is enough, I’ve done it?
I am very happy and have more than I need or deserve. But I will never stop striving. That’s the privilege and tragedy of the human condition.
5. What do you do for fun?
Learn, grow, and laugh. Spend time with loved ones.
6. How has motherhood shifted your life perspective?
I appreciate better the circle of life, the arch of history and the spirituality of everything. And the paradox that I am at once epically significant and completely insignificant.
7. What would you say is your greatest passion?
Building people, companies, sectors, countries. I do anything I can to power dreams.
8. What do you consider your lowest point?
I abhor injustices, large and small. I hate to see hearts broken, hope shattered, value wasted, potential squandered, which is to say, there have been a number.