1. Describe your typical day?
I am a digital media content creator and strategist, I am also a business journalist. I normally get up at 6 AM, and start getting ready for work. I get at my station between 8 and 8.30 AM. Normally I do a 8 to 5 sort of job.
2. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I knew in my heart of hearts that I wanted to be a communication professional – to be part of well done stories. I wanted to write, edit or be a radio DJ… Generally, I wanted to be in the communications field. This has however not come on a silver platter, as I had to work towards living my dream of being the media world. It would be a long time coming because my parents fixed me into the teaching profession from quite early, a job I did for many years. Those were like the dark days of my life because the fire to be a communicator stayed on, and I knew I would get there. The how is what I had to work on for a good while, including saving up my earnings to pay for university, and networking into doing what I am doing today.
3. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I would not be too afraid to follow what my gut tells me. I’d have knocked more doors to be able to study and train more towards my dreams and passion. I am glad I followed my heart though it took many years after my parents had diverted my dreams to suit their needs. Oh, parents please believe in your children more!
4. What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
In no particular order, I would say writing, interviewing skills, networking and negotiation skills, guts, good communication skills especially languages, personal time management and yes, loads of self-discipline.
To be a great communicator, your articles or radio or TV pieces need to send the message that you intended. Many journalists are generally poor interviewers. You see them on TV, forcing a guest to answer either Yes or No just to satisfy the TV host’s line of thinking. I would say that it is unacceptable in this profession, because interviewing helps you get more information than what you had thought or planned.
Networking and negotiation are important because it is not always that one’s status as a journalist that will open doors. There are situations where you must use your personal gut to know whether to follow a certain lead or way, rather than running around. In fact, working in the media has 90% to do with listening to your gut instinct, knowing when to walk, and when to run. It is knowing when to follow a lead and when it is not worth your life.
Language, especially basic grammar, separates the boys from the men, in this work. There are loads of times I cringe when I read a badly written text message, a WhatsApp forward, a Facebook post etc. Now imagine that pathetic grammar in a print newspaper, and you have a ripe candidate for ridicule wherever that newspaper is read, whether in a primary school or in a boardroom meeting. Language is everything. It influences how we think. Therefore we must be very careful when we use it otherwise, we end up abusing it so much that it loses meaning at all.
Not many journalists have been to a management class. They will not quote Abraham Maslow or Peter Drucker, but most have a good grip on what to do, when and where. That is basic management. Personal management goes beyond time to finances, managing friends and being able to say No to those who cannot bring value to your life. This is where self-discipline checks in. In this profession full of celebrities and peer influences, a faint-heart may find themselves sinking in the quicksand. Have a grounded lifestyle, ignore the daily noise and listen to the inner voice that is usually right most times. Beware of group-think!
5. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
I love Nairobi. It’s the New York of Africa, well according to me! There is stuff to do, people to meet and yes amazing opportunities. God meets your needs at the location he has ordained for you to be. I believe Nairobi is one major meeting point for me and my God.
One of the challenges of working in Nairobi is the traffic! We need metros and the subway here right away to stop wasting so much money and time on the traffic gridlock. Also the eyesore that is loads, sorry, piles and piles of rubbish. Surely we can do much better than this! A clean city shall help us even become more productive.
The opportunities in the cities are many, depending on where you are looking. There are openings to do small vibarua on the side depending on your skills. You can always start small and build an empire out of any venture you want to do.
6. What motivates you?
I’m motivated by a well-told story. One that makes an impact on society. Stories that bring better times to the communities by giving information on issues like justice etc and generate useful discussions. There was a research published last month in one of the local dailies about what teens are demanding from parents. That article brought nationwide discussion, making millions look inside of themselves, re-examine issues, and chart their actions going forward. Now, that was a well-told story.
7. How do you define success?
Success is the one life that is positively impacted through your actions. It is a communication strategy that makes a difference beyond meeting targets. The one attitude changed. The new perceptions learnt. Success is not just getting awards, but the lives we quietly influence for the better every day through the rather insignificant, but wonderful acts of mercy that we extend to others.
8. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Jesus Christ! See, I have just been through a Bible Study of the book of John, in the New Testament. I now understand the details of what my saviour went through for me. It brought new understanding to me, of what cost he paid so that I get bragging rights to being Christian.
I’m a wife and mother, and thus my family motivates me. You wonder how a young family can motivate a professional? They remind me daily that it’s not just about me me me. Having children opened my eyes to how selfish we humans are, and why that shouldn’t be so.
9. What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Meeting new people. Hearing totally new ideas and learning from anyone along the way. Just coming to understand that even celebrities, the rich and famous are just ordinary people with struggles just like me.
10. What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
My perception of success could be a bit different from the usual path, where people in their hunger for success burn the midnight oil, push and step on others to get ahead etc. I believe that success is humility, and putting others first. It is service to others without expecting to be paid like how politicians do it. It is having a genuine fear of God.
11. What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Learn, learn, and learn some more. Humility is key to getting ahead. Also, network a lot. Go out of your way and do something extra. Work more in teams i.e don’t be a lone ranger.
12. What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of career?
I have enjoyed working in teams that have changed people’s lives whether individuals or communities. Just the aspect of seeing changed lives out of stories aired or published is amazing.
13. What makes you happy?
The inner feeling that someone’s life is better now as a result of something I did to help them in their situation.
14. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Hobbies… Do full time mums have hobbies anymore? I need to work on that area seriously. I’d love to learn baking… I am open to ideas now. I love the theatre but I haven’t been there for so long. Once in a while I take my son to a movie at Planet Cinemas, Westgate. I wish we could see Bossbaby which has been showing for the past month. Most non-work hours I work from home with my little ones.
15. Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
Wow… Good question. I want to use my time and resources to establish a functional training and mentorship platform for people seeking more out of their talents, to help them cut their own path in life.
If you would like to interact with Mercy Gakii you can find her on Twitter at @Gakiiz.