‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series, where we pose the same 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.
Jay Ireland, president and CEO for Africa, General Electric
1. What was your first job?
I was a janitor, cleaning offices when I was 15.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
Jack Welch. He provided the leadership for GE. I got to work for him directly for a period of time, and it was an informative period of understanding how a big corporation can really drive change.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
None. I feel that you always balance a risk/reward, and as long as you are within the right balance of that you should be okay.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
You need to approach business as learning. So I guess I’m always learning …
5. What are the best things about Kenya?
Safaris, the people, and I think the optimism.
6. And the worst?
Infrastructure. Frustrations with getting things done.
7. Your future career plans?
Grow GE in Africa and then see what happens.
8. How do you relax?
I play golf. I read. Hang around with my family. Travel.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
Grab every opportunity that you can. Don’t get put off by obstacles, just go through them.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
I think it is a combination of government investment [and] private investment. There has to be stability. There has to be more transparency around how things get done in the governments and a real focus on elevating the ease of doing business across the continent.
Jay Ireland is based in Nairobi, Kenya.