Mutoko: Why Queen of radio doesn’t settle for average

By | Updated Tue, January 12th 2010 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Morris Aron

From the way she authoritatively comments on issues on air, one can definitely discern that she is not your ordinary lady — she almost plans everything to the second.

Forgive her for being tough-talking. You only act like that when you know it is a position you have earned through hard work.

She rose from one of the lowest cadres of employment.

Caroline Mutoko — breakfast presenter Kiss FM and a manager at Radio Africa, handles everything from advertisements and promotions to guiding new presenters. She once worked as a messenger cum sales lady at Kirinyaga Works, now Multi-Option (in receivership), a carpet and rugs dealer along Baricho Road, Industrial area.

Her first salary was Sh1,200 a month and her daily chores bordered on petty errands around the Kirinyaga Works offices and the dusty industrial area streets, in addition to selling carpets and the rugs for a much-needed commission.

But even at that early age, the Loreto Convent Valley Road graduate knew she was destined for greater things. It is easy to tell this from the list of her classmates.

Anna Othoro of Telkom Kenya, Agnes Gathiaya of Deloitte, Anna Maingi-Arung of the United Nation, Lucy Odhiambo of ICT Board, Anne Marie Oyuga of UNDP, Judy Ndungi of Cussons and the list is long.

Qualified ladies

"If I were a President, I would fill the cabinet with some of the most qualified ladies in the country and we would get the job done," she says and one is tempted to believe her.

On a typical day, Ms Mutoko wakes up at 3:45 in the morning and after stretching for two minutes, the first thing she grabs is a glass of water and a prayer journal.

"I pray, write down my goals for the day and ask God to bless them. I then put on my workout gear and get ready for 30 minutes of serious sweating."

"After that, it is a glass of cold milk, and the shower — and I take my time, sleek hair back into pony tail, eye-liner and lip gloss, dress, pack my food, eat my oatmeal while watching CNN, then off I go for a four minute ride to the office."

At the office, the first thing she does is go through her outstanding mail from previous day and check the status of all client promotions on the breakfast show.

She then briefs her co-presenters about the show; checks out the main news stories and scans newspapers for interesting material that may make a good show.

Normal routine

Here is one thing to remember: Before you hear Caroline Mutoko’s voice just as it turns six o’clock in the morning, you can be sure she has visited the toilet a few minutes before that — not because of a running stomach.

In her own words: "You would be shocked how hard it is to leave the studio and go to the loo once a show starts." Most presenters — and managers who attend endless meetings — never talk about this.

After that, it is the normal routine until ten o’clock when the team of presenters sits down to sort out any bits that need fixing from the show, including sending guests copies of their interview and thank you notes and the normal planning for the week ahead.

"Usually, we know what we are doing a week ahead. So people asking to be on the show in the same week are dreaming. We plan, it’s stupid not to. I don’t wake up at 4am to try and figure it out."

She rarely schedules anything past four o’clock, unless there is a meeting.

Ms Mutoko will be in her house by six in the evening, go through a couple of next day’s plans, supper and a sleep soon after.

So what was the craziest thing she did while a BA student at the University of Nairobi?

Most of her stunts were typical of a tomboy. She, however, calls them bold moves.

"I don’t do crazy like conventional people. My idea of wild in campus was swimming in the main campus pool and eating at Kitchen One with the guys."

The rest sounds like she hit the go-slow-on-this-question button.

Mutoko had to overcome her short fuse to reach where she is now. After years of picking fights left, right and centre, she has learnt to write down what she wanted to say when she gets vexed, and let it sit for a day.

Lesson? After a day, the tone of the same words will change dramatically and can be said differently.

"I don’t suffer fools patiently. In fact, I can be very brutal. Problem is, once it’s out, there’s no going back."

Her first car was a Mitsubishi Outlander — being a late bloomer. After that, she went straight to the show room and bought a Mercedes E240.

Dos and donts

Ms Mutoko would never hire a close friend as firing him or her would be a task she is not ready to undertake.

She would also never sleep in the dark and always has her lights on for fear of geckos.

What is the one thing she is daring to change about Kenya?

"The mentality of our people to hang-on to every word that comes from a politician’s mouth. It’s heart-breaking."

Ten years from now, she would want to be doing homework with her kids, farming on weekends, running a successful organisation and spending a bit more time with family and friends.

But for today, she wants to be a great daughter, a sister, a friend, colleague, employee and partner.

"If I get that right, everything else will fall in place."

But perharps, what has not come out in public limelight are her plans to adopt a baby.

"I want to give a child who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance, the gift of possibility. I was inspired by my Vice -Chairman, Sudi Vidyarthi and his wife and by Jimmi Gathu and his wife."

If not in the office at Kiss, Mutoko would rather be in Capetown at Cape Point watching the sun go down with a glass of wine.

Her basic rule for success?

"Do more than expected, do it better than expected and don’t settle for average."

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