20something profile: Kerry
When I was ten, I gave up on my dream of becoming a doctor. I couldn’t stomach the sight of blood and feared the needle piercing (to date, I don’t wear earrings).
I am sure that my father was quite excited when I told him that I wanted to go into the corporate world. He really wanted his first born daughter to follow in his footsteps. I believe that since all his children are all girls, he wanted to prove to our community that even though he did not have sons, they could still be proud of us.
Growing up, I used to watch CNN and Sky News not because I could understand everything that they reported but just to admire the way anchors carried themselves and how articulate they were. I wanted to be as knowledgeable as they were, but I did not know they had teleprompters as their very able assistants.
My father fueled my voracious appetite for reading. Aside from the monthly trips to the bookstore (and ice cream), he would always give me newspaper clippings of successful people or things that I should try out. His favourite tagline was and still is ‘Think Big.’
I created my first vision of my future calling: being dressed in a power suit with the power heels to match and delivering an awesome presentation to a group of clients that brokered a billion shilling à la the Merali-Kencell-Celtel deal. Of course, my boss would be overly impressed with a presentation and reward me with a paid sabbatical in Italy. This vision led me to take accounting in high school, and thereafter I was confident in pursuing a career in finance.
College opened me up to a whole new learning experience. Aside from learning about balance sheets, CAPM model and maximizing shareholders’ wealth, I got to appreciate Philosophy, Ethics, Literature and Marketing. Actually, at some point I was so involved with the marketing club that I thought of become a branding specialist.
However, Development Studies finally won me over. I enjoyed the classes, since I was exposed to the world’s political and economic systems. I got to study different governments: why some are succeeding, why some are in their current dire state and why African countries need to get rid of the big man syndrome.
That was my turning point; I decided that if I was going to the world of finance, it would be to make a difference. I wanted more in my career than just to be a high-powered executive on the Kenyan Wall Street who only thought about commissions and maximizing shareholder wealth. Don’t get me wrong. I love money, but I want the money I earn to add value to myself and to others.
Currently, I am working with a financial institution that is rooted in the cooperative movement and has the interests of the common man at heart. My journey so far has been quite intense.
I started out in my company’s mailing room, which was a very humbling experience. I got the chance to learn a lot about the company culture and also network with people in different departments. It also gave me the chance to spend my extra time in the library, and when I worked night shift, I brushed up on my Español.
I am now working in the treasury, where I handle international payments. I am also the in-house trainer, so I get to hone my presentation skills.
Looking back, I have come to appreciate that everything eventually adds up. Learning about different issues on CNN and through reading books has given me a broader world view. Knowing basic information such as the location of a country, their currency or whether or not it is sanctioned has made my work a lot easier.
I did not give up my branding and marketing passion. After reading Tom Peters’ seminal paper The Brand Called You, as well as Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha’s The Start-up of You, I am spending more time investing in myself. My blog has provided me with a creative outlet and avenue to network with millennials such as you. It has given me the courage to experiment more with writing.
We should not take for granted our everyday experiences, as they shape who we will become in future. By taking an interest in things that may be considered mundane or by helping others with a simple task, we can unravel a whole new world.
Paul Angone puts it best in his book 101 Secrets for your Twenties: ‘Success in your 20s is more about setting the table than enjoying the feast.’
PS: Just in case you are wondering, I am going to attend grad school next year to study International Development or Development Finance and pursue my dream of (directly or indirectly) helping others with their money.