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Education gives you an edge that no one can take from you

Thursday October 13 2016

Phyllis Wakiaga is the Chief Executive Office, Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM). PHOTO | COURTESY

Phyllis Wakiaga is the chief executive office of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. PHOTO | COURTESY 

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You must be well-educated to be where you are today…

Yes. I have a Bachelor of Law Degree from the University of Nairobi, a Diploma in Law from the Kenya School of Law, and a Higher Diploma in Human Resource Management from the Institute of Human Resources Management, Kenya. I have two master’s degrees, one in Business Administration from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and another in International Trade and Investment Law from the University of Nairobi. Additionally, I am an alumni of the Swedish Institute Management Program on Sustainable Business Leadership and Corporate Social Responsibility.

What were you doing at 21?

I was an undergraduate student working as a peer counsellor at the Students Campaign Against Drugs (SCAD). This was an eye-opening experience that made me see how much a support system means to those struggling with addictions.

Which one of your attributes do you owe your success to?

I am hardworking. Life is a learning process, and I am always gearing to excel. I always do tasks to the best of my ability.

Your advice to that young woman who looks up to you?

One never quite “reaches” there. There is always need for constant improvement. You have to always stay ahead of the curve. This calls for foresight and the courage to venture where many have not.

Relationships and networks play a big role in propelling you to success. Ensure that your connections are good, reliable, long-term, and most of all beneficial. Also, never underestimate the doors that education will open up for you. Look for opportunities to educate yourself and to sharpen your skills. Education gives you an edge that no one can take away from you.

What inspires you?

The desire to excel pushes me to work harder, anticipate challenges and produce tangible results. I regularly interrogate manufacturers’ capacity to withstand drastic changes in a volatile economy, while constantly re-evaluating their strengths and resilience. This gets me continually planning what we would have to do as a business to sail through and to be sustainable. That way, I go above and beyond the call of duty to make things happen.

What do you do for leisure?

I love children. I teach the children’s choir in church, and also study the Bible with them. I just enjoy spending time with children. I am also a good cook, and I love hosting and organising cookouts to have friends and family sample my food. I also sing, and do Karaoke with friends.

Do you have a mentor?

My Mother. She is a successful woman in her own right, and has always been a career woman. She has been very supportive of my career in many ways, including giving me guidance, moral support and the education to propel me to where I am.

Give us your top five secrets to success

•             My faith in God.

•             Valuing and maintaining my networks.

•             My family’s support. My husband supports me intellectually - he has different perspectives of looking at things.

•             I do not limit myself.

The most interesting book that you have read so far?

How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region by Joe Studwell. This book is quite profound in the way it analyses industrialisation in the East. In our quest to create a sustainable future and to alleviate poverty in Kenya, we have established that the only way to get there is through an industrial revolution. Reading this book made me realise that with sound policies and political will, the East Asian Miracle is possible for us too.

Any outstanding awards and recognition?

I am currently the United Nation’s Global Compact Network Representative for Kenya. I champion for the adoption of the 10 principles of UN Global Compact in Kenya’s business community, which are categorised under human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.