Meet the Boss: Phyllis Wakiaga, CEO, Kenya Association of Manufacturers

Phyllis Wakiaga, CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers

Phyllis Wakiaga, CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers

1. What was your first job?

I worked as a peer counsellor at SCAD – Students Campaign Against Drugs – when I was in college.

2. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?

I worry about the volatility of our economy and how suddenly situations happen that are beyond our control as manufacturers. So I think, what if I wake up tomorrow and something significant has shifted? What would this mean for us? I also wonder how we can use industry to really make a difference for our country – not just economically, but also socially and politically.

3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?

My mother, a successful woman in her own right. She has been very supportive of my career in many ways, including giving me guidance, moral support and the education to propel me to where I am. She made me realise I can have it all.

4. What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?

The one who never quits ‘reaches there’. There’s always need for constant improvement professionally and personally – and you have to always stay ahead of the curve. Secondly, it is important to maintain good relationships with other people.

5. The top reasons why you have been successful in business?

I believe in God. I have trusted him with my life’s journey and he has been faithful. I am hardworking and I have integrity. My values are important to me and they inform my work ethic. I have also had great mentors all through my career that have both shaped me and always challenged me.

6. Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership? Business school or on the job?

Definitely on the job. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. You won’t know something until you experience it – and that way you learn from it and you become better.

7. How do you relax?

I read a good book. I love listening to music. I walk every morning when I can. When things get too hectic I take a holiday to a destination where I can enjoy some quiet time.

8. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?

Between 6:30am and 7:00am

9. Your favourite job interview question?

My favourite question is: “Who do you look up to?” You can’t really grow professionally without mentors.

10. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs?

That Africa is wonderful in many ways, and if we are to realise our greatness we must look at what is standing in our way. Some circumstances we have found ourselves in, as a people, have been quite bleak to the point where we have questioned our potential to shine. But we need to focus on our diversity, and in doing so devise ways to build a sustainable economy for African citizens and future generations.