Today our Pearls and Heels lady is Linda Musita. Linda Musita is the Radio Africa Group legal officer and her main task is to manage the group’s legal matters. She is also a director and editor of a small independent publishing house, Lesleigh, that has published three books so far. In 2014 Linda was selected by the Africa 39 project as one of the most promising African writers South of the Sahara with the potential and talent to define trends in the development of African literature.
- Describe your typical day?
It depends on which day of the week you are talking about. On Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays I wake up at 5 am to clean and cook meals for that day and the day after. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I wake up at 6.30am. After that it’s shower, breakfast and the 30-minute walk to work. By the time I get to the office my energy levels are high enough to get whatever needs to be done. I make my to-do list and try to get everything done by 4pm. I rarely get everything done by 4 pm because there is always something new and urgent to do, solve, mitigate or draft that pops up just when I think I have my ducks in a row.
After work I walk straight home. If it’s a Tuesday or Thursday I will get groceries before I head home. Those two days are my easiest days. I try to be in my bed by 9pm so that I can read till 10pm. Most times I nod off mid-reading.
Weekends are for writing and selling Lesleigh books whenever I can.
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a dentist. But when I was making the university course selection in high school my class teacher told me that I am an Arts person and choosing sciences would be a waste of time and talent. I didn’t follow her advice and of course I did not get the grades for dentistry and I had to choose between Mass Communication and Law. I chose Law.
- If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Nothing so far. I ended up working in a media house anyway, first as a sub editor and nine months later I was in charge of a legal department.
Deep down though I just want to stay home, plant a money tree outside my house, water it and write fantastic fiction as I wait for the tree to drop some mullah.
- What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
You have to be very organized. If one thing slips out of your range the whole ship will sink. Everything has to be listed down and booked in a calendar. And reminders are your best friend. You cannot forget anything. The world as you know it will end if you are not organized.
You also have to be very observant. Know everything that happens around you, including things that have nothing to do with your work.
Finally, you have to be a critical thinker. Sometimes you have to make decisions there and then and the consequences of making the wrong decision are not looked upon kindly in the corporate world.
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi has almost everything I need. The problem is how fast I can access it. Traffic is unpredictable and if you choose the wrong route you are screwed. I also think that key registries and parastatals should all be in the CBD not in areas that you need Google maps to find…or off Mombasa Road. That’s on the legal side.
When it comes to publishing and writing in Nairobi I would say the city has been good to writers and authors. Certain areas of Nairobi, to be specific. Those areas that may be considered elitist or maybe middle class. Those people buy books and go to book launches and events. Which is good but I wish the book industry would be open to more Nairobians. I wish it was possible to sell a Kenyan book for 50bob or 100bob on the streets or even give it out for free. Kenyans read but mainstream Kenyan publishers make very expensive fiction and then accuse Kenyans of being book shy. The taxes are high and piracy is a big problem. I honestly wish the pirates would be selling the pirated copies for a much lower price, like the movie guys do. That way their actions could, maybe, be tolerated by some of us.
At Lesleigh the book that we are selling at 250 has sold more than the ones we are selling at 500. We only have 24 copies of it left while the other two have a batch of around 150 books per title that we need to move. Clearly the secret to selling books in Nairobi is in the prices. Not in the myth that Kenyans don’t read.
- What motivates you?
Fear of a bad track record. In everything.
- How do you define success?
On a small scale success is being able to go back home at the end of the day without being anxious about the next day or having nightmares about pending work.
On a larger scale, paying it forward to as many women as possible. If I can help another woman get a great job or a good education, or even half of what I have achieved, then I have succeeded at almost everything in the world. More so if she pays it forward too.
- Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My mother. We butt heads sometimes but she has come out of every storm in her life without any noticeable scars. I always tell myself that if she could stand strong there is no reason I shouldn’t. She gave me life. I can’t be anything less than she has been.
I am also inspired by Catherine Gicheru, Amina Mohamed, Christiane Amanpour, Rohana Rozhan and Angela Merkel. These women walk the talk. Very few of us do it with as much confidence as they do.
- What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I learn something new every day.
- What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
Patience. Just patience. Things will never be just right when you want them to be, they have to go through cycles and processes. That takes time and some frustration, but patience pays.
- What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
You will never be paid what you are worth and the only way you can negotiate this is by gaining as much experience as you can. Never ever say that any task is beyond your grasp or scope. The only time you can make excuses is when your education or some required certification limits what you can do. And even then, if you can make the time please go back to school.
Two, never ask for an office on your first day of interning. Your law degree may make you special in front of your family and friends but in the real world you start at the pig sty.
Three, some people will not like you. It’s okay.
- What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of career?
I haven’t had that moment yet but I am working towards it.
- What makes you happy?
- What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I love reading. I dust every day because my house is full of books from the top of shelves to the unders of beds. I blog about books at www.akhatenjereads.wordpress.com and say random things on twitter about current reads via @akhatenjereads.
I also love very, very bad tv – Naija movies and Telemundo shows, which are becoming very gangster lately. I also love cooking. My favorite ingredient is ginger. Ginger rocks everything, especially cabbage and beef. I only hate it in tea.
Hobby number three is people-watching. That helps my writing.
- Where you see yourself in around 10 years?
I am not psychic. Plus, the last time someone asked me this question it was during a job interview and I had to make up some unrealistic and unattainable things. Life is easier one day at a time.