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I've learnt not to feel guilty for pursuing my goals

Achieving Woman
 Dr Geneva Musau-Mutuku, the Group Talent Lead at Absa Group (Courtesy)

Dr Geneva Musau-Mutuku is the Group Talent Lead at Absa Group

My day usually starts at 3am. I am an early riser, a habit I’ve stuck with even as I’ve been working from home. I have my quiet time between 3am and 5am.

There’s something special about these early hours because I get answers to questions as well as ideas I never thought I could have. Then I get ready, have breakfast and retreat to my home office for work. 

As Group Talent Lead at Absa, I am responsible for talent acquisition and management, a job I love because it’s in line with my purpose of stirring greatness in people.

But I joined human resources kicking and screaming. I disliked it because I assumed it was basic. My first role after university was in supply chain at General Motors. After a while, I moved to the sales and marketing department.

Later, I joined British American Tobacco where I did exports management. Maybe they saw something in me because they asked me to do a role that included HR. I accepted it on condition that they facilitate my training, which they did at the Institute of Human Resource Management.

I learnt that there is so much more to HR. It is about potential and giving employees the environment and opportunities they need to bring out their best, which turned out to be something I quite enjoy.

I’ve learnt that there is no such thing as a wasted experience. When I was in university, representatives from large corporations used to come to recruit students for their graduate trainee programmes.

Unilever was one such corporation, and they asked me if I wanted to join them as a graduate trainee in personnel management (what we called HR then) and my answer was “No way.”

As I said, I disliked it. I look back and wonder where I would be today if I had said yes. But then again, I tell myself careers are just journeys and there is no wasted experience. I use a lot of what I learnt working for different companies in different departments in what I do today.

Purpose is discovered, not created, and the discovery requires introspection and self-awareness.

Some pointers could in lie in answers to the following questions: what do you stand for, or what are your values? What do you enjoy doing? What are the things that you’ll still want to do when everything else is taken away from you? What do people tell you you’re great at? I think most people walk in their purpose; they just don’t know it.

One career advice I’m always repeating is to close doors gently. I’ve seen people throw tantrums or act rude when they are leaving a job. When you leave a role, close the door gently because you never know if you’ll be back. Thank people for the opportunity and wish them well – that’s it.

Self-care to me means taking care of myself even as I support others. I am a mother and a grandmother, and I know women are always taking care of everyone else around them but themselves. I have learnt to guard jealously the things I must do for me.

These include my quiet time at 3am and my sleep time. I go to bed at 9pm every day and that is non-negotiable. The only time I ever stay up past my bedtime is on New Year’s Eve.

I guard the things I love doing and order everything else around them. Something women need to change is feeling guilty for pursing our own goals.

Outside work, I enjoy farming. I’m a small-scale fruit farmer. I also love travelling. I am a curious person and a lifelong learner and travelling opens the mind. My plan is to visit 60 countries in my lifetime. So far I’ve been to 40 countries and as soon as it is safe to travel again, I look forward to adding to my list.

One of the most memorable places I’ve been to is Italy. I went to St Peter’s Square and watched the Pope address the crowd, and visiting the amphitheatres of ancient Rome was like travelling back in history.

I’ve taken to going for walks in the evenings since Covid-19 hit, a habit I intend to stick with because I always feel so refreshed afterwards. Because of the pandemic, I find myself reflecting a lot more about how to grow myself and help develop others.

I feel like the pandemic was a God-given pause from the rat race. I am an author of titles that include Career Growth Secrets from an Insider and The Best Kept Business Secret. People always tell me how difficult it is to write a book and last year, to debunk this myth, I started an author’s class with colleagues and they got to write books.

The class consists of 40 people. I don’t think we would have had such a large number had it not been for the pandemic. I love reading and I guess that is how my interest in writing was birthed. I also spend a lot more time on the phone because I know I’m not going to see the caller in a few hours like before.

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