"Focus". This was Martha Wangari's most repeated word when she met this reporter at the Standard Group offices on Friday.
Having sat through traffic and driving for more than three hours from Nakuru, Wangari was upbeat about the launch of the Standard Group Women Network (SGWN).
Wangari is probably among the oldest employees of the company, having been confirmed in 1990 and posted at the Nakuru office. At the time, she was paid Sh45 per day.
“I enjoyed it because I was fresh from college and energetic,” she says, adding that today’s employees pay too much attention to salaries and little on delivering services.
The SGWN was formed to give women an opportunity to develop their careers and find mentors who will hold their hands as they maneuver the male-dominated industry. A January survey indicated women's output has reduced and they are less engaged, compared to the men.
“The key to making it in today’s fast media industry is to get someone to hold your hand.”
For Wangari, Ali Mohammed was among those that held her hand. When she first joined, the Standard Nakuru bureau only had three employees, a situation which remained so for two years. Later on, photographers and reporters joined, but she continued as the tea girl.
Wangari’s passion for marketing started when she paid attention to the sales and marketing department.
“I loved how they filled space orders and had to interact with clients,” she said.
Having been a people’s person from a young age, she knew a career that gave her a chance to work with clients face to face would be her home. She found it at the Standard Group sales and marketing department, where she has stayed for 28 years.
Wangari had just cleared Form 4, and had little hope of going on to Form 5 and 6.
“I knew at some point in my life I will step into a university.”
Wangari, who today holds a Master’s Degree in Marketing, says she owes her success to Mohammed and her husband Pastor Kennedy Mwangi.
Mohammed, who took his place as Wangari’s mentor, encouraged her to go back to school. She first signed up for a certificate course, then moved on to a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree.
She adds that Mohammed helped her in every stage of her life, including promising to fuel her first car.
Asked why she stayed so long, Wangari said, “I have seen myself grow. I don’t need to be pushed to work.”
Wangari started as a tea girl who doubled up as the office messenger. She admits that it required a lot of discipline as she often handled up to Sh200,000.
Growing up, she wanted to be a nurse, but fate would have it different.
Wangari found herself in sales and marketing after a man she remembers only as Mr Muthui would take leave or be out of office. She would serve tea, deliver letters as the office messenger as well as book advertising space.
Wangari has grown from a tea girl to a Business Executive cum team leader. Her parting shot to career women: “Trust yourself, you can do so much.”