Yukabeth Kidenda, 28, believes that she is on the right path toward achieving her career goals and aspirations. She’s passionate about building a movement of Kenyan leaders to drive innovation in education and ensure that 21st century learning reaches all Kenyan children.
She is currently a Project Manager with the ALX Program under the African Leadership University, which is a six-month workshop program that gives young people a platform to launch a career of purpose, as well as connect them to a network of problem solvers and powerful potential employers.
It also seeks to give them real life experience and problem solving skills to help them thrive in the world.
She spoke to Nation.co.ke about her journey.
Tell us about yourself
I am the second born in a family of six children; I have four brothers and one sister. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a minor in Marketing from Strathmore University.
I was born in Mombasa, but we moved to Nairobi in 2002.
I was lucky to kick it off two weeks after graduating. I had been applying for a volunteer position to teach English as a second language. I applied through an organisation called Adventist Volunteer Services.
AVS is an initiative of the Seventh Day Adventist Church which I attend. I found out about the position from a friend from the same church who had gone through the program. I got the job and was posted in Honduras, Central America. While there, I also did tutorials for Math and Science for third to sixth grade.
It was a struggle to get a job when I came back to Kenya a year later. This was mainly because I had no tangible work experience that was recognised by employers. Additionally, I did not know how to interview or sell myself to an employer.
I never learnt how to interview or to build my CV well in school; skills I believe are extremely necessary in today’s world. I was in and out of offices, and busy applying for jobs for one and a half years. I tried attending all the forums I could just so I could get myself out there.
Then one of my friends, who offers corporate training, gave me a position in her company. She took me in as her Business Development Manager. I was responsible for scouting for business opportunities.
My mum always had an idea of what my first salary should look like, which was not the case, but I had to start somewhere. While here, I learned so much about professionalism in this role. She allowed me to shadow her meetings and taught me personal branding. I am grateful for the opportunity.
I only applied for the Microsoft job five months later because of pressure from my brother, which was actually the last day of applications. Two weeks later, I received an international call while visiting a friend. I thought it was someone from Honduras, but she clarified that she was calling from Microsoft to do a screening interview.
That was it. I had this great job as a Sales Program Manager, working in East and Central Africa. It was a wonderful experience. I was responsible for their skills program for East and Southern Africa. I handled needs analysis, sales, deployment and training for their online platform for capacity building in ICT.
I grew, I met amazing people, and especially built myself in the education industry, more so using 21st century design and using technology as an aid for learning. I felt that this was a stepping stone into my career. I had a strong manager, Warren, who really shaped me.
The biggest highlight of my career at Microsoft was the travel and the meetings with senior officials from ministries of education from different countries across East and Southern Africa.
It made me fall in love with the education space to see how everyone was planting their own small seeds of change in a bid to transform the space! The most interesting person I met was our country manager Kunle Awosika.
He was a boss, mentor and friend. He was always available to help me through challenges and was a manager that made me motivated to go to work every day!
Then what happened?
I met a lady, Kathlyn Patillo, who wanted to start a venture here in Kenya while I was at Microsoft. She was good friends with my brother.
We talked about it mostly via email, and I once went to her house when she had a think tank session. It was really informal. I got to engage with many cool people in Nairobi’s education space where we discussed various issues affecting the space.
One Sunday morning, as we had breakfast, she asked me to work for her. I never had plans of leaving a multinational corporate to join a start-up.
Eventually, Kathlyn sold to me her idea of transforming the education space through collective impact by creating a platform where leaders could collaborate and I believed in it and still do.
I thought about it and realised that I needed a new challenge and more responsibilities which the start-up would offer.
It was an organisation start-up that would run a fellowship program for educators called Métis, and I was called to be the director. I then resigned from my job at Microsoft mid-2017, a move that my manager was not so happy about initially.
I then started at Métis, where we had a cohort of fifteen brilliant minds through a very targeted recruitment. We were determined to get the brightest spots in Nairobi’s education space.
We had a cohort of 14 superstars including Professor Olive Mugenda- former Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor, Radhika Lee- Director at Nairobi International School, and Dr Susan Kiragu- Founder of Children in Freedom School in Nakuru, among many others.
They were fellows in the program. There was a rich environment of people doing great things in education, and this really helped me grow. I had to work to earn their respect, of which I did.
Somewhere along the line, I thought about the new direction that Métis decided to take after the first cohort, and realised it was not in line with my career goals and aspirations.
I wanted to develop myself as a facilitator, as well as learn more skills in project management.
Then came ALU?
Yes, right out of the blue! I had actually programmed myself not to work for another year so that I could develop my business as I looked for a job that would be a great match for my skills. Life and God had it a different way, so here I am. I joined earlier this year in May.
It is actually known as ALX, and will be launching in Kenya in September. We will be taking a cohort of 300 students through a program called Leadership Co, which they currently have running in universities in Mauritius and Rwanda.
I will be working as a Project Facilitator, which is in line with what I wanted for my next move.
You mentioned running a business. Tell us about it.
Yes, I run a clothing business. I am a lover of all things girly. I embrace the woman that God called me to be.
Overall, I enjoy living my life to the fullest, being happy and spreading love to those I meet. My career in education is something very open to me because education opened so many doors for me. My mother was diagnosed with cancer while I was in high school, and this took a financial toll on my family.
My dad never compromised on our education either way. She is gladly in remission, but watching my dad putting such an investment in our education sparked this passion in me to ensure the young people around me can get the good quality education that will enable them to thrive.
Could you tell us more on the ALX Program?
It’s a venture of the African Leadership Group led by Fred Swankier. As I said, it is a six-month workshop program that will give young people a platform to launch a career of purpose, as well as connect them to a network of problem solvers and powerful potential employers. It also seeks to give them real life experience and problem solving skills to help them thrive in the world.
What would you say is the program’s end goal?
To create a network of three million leaders who have problem-solving skills, and value integrity in the next 6000 days. 2022 sounds like a far reach, so we use 6000 days for urgency.
What challenges are you currently facing?
The course attached to the program is $2000, which is expensive. What most people do not know is that there exists a five-year payment plan in the case that someone cannot afford it.
Who do you look up to in your area of profession?
I would say great African leaders like Tony Elumelu and Strive Mayisiwa. I celebrate such leaders who have thought outside the box despite the challenges they face, owning their journey and who are not doing it selfishly for their gains.
What drives you?
I feel favoured that God picked me and gave me these special talents that I have. I would not want to disappoint Him.
Where do you want to be in five years?
I would want to start something of my own. While in college, I started the Human Link Project that provides mentorship, academic assistance and healthcare supplies to the rural and urban-low income areas.
In five years, I see myself at the helm of an evolved Human Link Project that will have a centre for youth development here in Kenya. I hope to build a curriculum that fosters good leadership, integrity, fighting for justice, friendship and love.