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Rosalyn Mugoh: I used to be a hawker at the Nairobi Bus Station

Achieving Woman
 Rosalyn Mugoh talks about the lessons she has learnt on her way to the top (Photo: Courtesy)

"I do it just because I understand where they are coming from - many hours in the sun, just trying to get a sale done. I have nothing but utmost respect for them," she says.

The reason she understands what they go through so well is that she has been there, hawking items for sale herself. She used to be stationed at the city clock at Bus Station in Nairobi, selling for a bus company that operated back in the day.

She was doing this as a degree holder because jobs were hard to come by, and she needed money to pursue her Masters degree. So she worked many odd jobs, sometimes working two jobs at a go to see that come to fruition, which also included selling real estate without understanding it, and another one for a company that would sell advertising space on garbage trucks.

"When I was in it I figured things should be different. But many years later, I realised those are the things that have made me who I am. They gave me a very strong work ethic, which I think is one of my strongest qualities to date," she says.

Years later, she would join the insurance field, working for a couple of institutions before she joined Zamara Kenya as an account officer. She has been there for 12 years, growing over the years through various positions. Today, she is the managing director.

She leads the insurance unit, which won eight awards at this year's Think Business Insurance Awards, including overall Best Insurance Broker of the year.

"I felt like it was an appreciation, a recognition of the blood, sweat, and tears and everything that we had put in. I felt like all the hard work was paying off," she says, regarding how she felt when they won.

She shared with Eve the advice that she would give others looking to walk a similar path towards success, based on her own experience. In her own words, this is what she would say:


Elon Musk has said several times that failure is an option. Many people tell us that failure is not an option, but it is. If something is important enough, you have to try it, even if there is a probable outcome of failure. I think a lot of us are held back just by the fear of failure.

When I was younger, I was a perfectionist. Everything had to be in perfect order. I did not allow myself room for mistakes in my work life, but now I have given myself room to make some mistakes and grow from them.

You should give yourself permission to make mistakes. Try, try again, make a mistake, and go to plan B and plan C. As women, especially, we are very hard on ourselves and we barely forgive ourselves for making mistakes. Because of that, we are held back by fear and we do not take bold steps.


A mistake that I see a lot of people make as they climb up the ladder, and I am also a culprit of this, is failing to ruthlessly prioritise the things that are important to them.

If building networks is necessary for your career, then be intentional about it.

If family is important to you, then make time. Be fully present when you are with your family. If mental health is a priority, make sure you have penciled in your schedule moments to take care of yourself.

Without ruthlessly prioritising such things, you will keep doing your job until you one day realise that you have a mental health issue - a mental breakdown, depression, anxiety, burnout, and so on, or you have neglected your family. It is a trickle-down effect.


Comparison is the thief of joy. There is a lot of self-doubts when you are climbing up the ranks, so there is a lot of comparison to people who have done it well.

Comparison inflicts the wrong emotions, and it robs you of the opportunity to just be grateful for where you are and what you have. When you are busy comparing yourself to other people like I used to, you would be surprised, but other people are probably comparing themselves to you.

Another mistake I made is that I listened to too many people. Everybody has a version of what your dream should look like, but only you own your dream. There are many times I talked myself out of things that I really wanted, only to realise later that the dream is mine and only I know that I have the full potential to achieve it.


Emotional intelligence is everything. It is the most important skill in leadership. It forces you to be self-aware, which in turn forces you to self-regulate. It helps you deal with conflict, make decisions, know how to adapt to different situations, and work with people.

You need people, and the key to having a good relationship with your people is to be authentic. If you are authentic you are relatable. That is a secret to working with people. If you recognise that your business needs them, then you do what it takes to make sure that that works.


I did not know I was going to be where I am today, but I have always been very ambitious in everything I have done.

Two things that have worked for me have been passion and grit. Those are my two secret ingredients. Those are the things that help you stay on course. Those are the things that help you not give up. They help you to be consistent and persistent.

But you must enjoy the process itself. You must figure out, "I need to go from here to here. This is my journey. How do I make sure that I enjoy the process during the journey?" That one is on you.

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