As we celebrate our fifteenth anniversary, Mariam Maina   Kamau ( pictured) who joined us straight from the university, recalls her days with us. Now a highly successful corporate communications professional, she advises young graduates to embrace the value of humility as they seek to grow their careers. Excerpts:

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BL: How did you learn about us?

 Mariam:  Back while in campus (Moi University), in 2008, while attending the SIFE 2008 competition at Sarova Panafric Hotel, I met Gabriel Maroa, a staff writer from Asante Media. He was interested in the work we were doing in SIFE Moi and requested me to write an article on the same to run in Biashara Leo (BL) magazine. I was really excited about this because I had always wanted to work in the media industry. This dream started while in high school. I did the article, sent to BL and Gabriel encouraged me to apply for an internship after campus – I was set to graduate in 2009.

After completing my studies in May 2009, I sent an email to requesting for an internship to the editor, George, who invited me for an interview and gave me a job, not internship! I was truly happy and excited. I had gotten a job, fresh from campus months before graduation.

 BL : How were your first days with us?

  Mariam: Well, given that I was coming straight from campus and I didn’t know my way around Nairobi city it was a bit hard for me. BL stakeholders are mainly drawn from the corporate world and leading people in business. I found this to be intimidating because we were meeting and interacting with CEOs and the who is who in business.

I vividly remember my first assignment.  Hass Consult, a leading real estate firm, was releasing some results and my editor sent me to cover the event. He gave me a camera and sent me to Hilton Hotel for the press briefing with clear instructions to ask for the press release. Let’s just say that despite being anxious, I delivered on my assignment. That evening I shared the experience with my mom and she was very excited.

BL:   What are the major skills that you acquired while working with us?

Mariam: Asante Media has a big mandate to deliver on. The flagship product, BL magazine was and is still a platform for business in Kenya to share their stories. We had a lot of work and few hands and this meant multitasking a lot. I had to learn how to bring the clients’ stories to life. I had to really improve on my writing skills which called for a lot of practice and reading widely. I received a lot of support from my colleagues and editor and this helped. I also had to learn how to take good photos – photos that told a story.

In addition, I acquired sales skills. I was given the opportunity to sell advertising space to clients. I not only got an opportunity to hone my people and negotiation skills, but I also boosted my income. It always felt good to sign a space order and collect the cheque!

I was intensively involved in the implementation of a rebranding process of BL that significantly contributed to increased business and growth for the media house.

BL: Give a highlight of your career growth after leaving BL?

Mariam: I worked for BL for three years after which I moved to the University of Nairobi (UoN) as a communications officer. With the writing and photography experience I had gained at BL, I was able to fit into my new role perfectly.  I enrolled for a Masters of Arts degree in Communication Studies at UoN and through this, I acquired the much needed skills and knowledge in corporate public relations and communications. I graduated in 2013. With time, I rose through the ranks to the position of public relations and communications manager which came with more responsibilities. I now had a team to supervise and this was not an easy task.  I was now playing a critical role in Implementing the university’s public relations and communications strategies; implementing the set website and social media strategies by developing and uploading content onto the university’s corporate website and social media pages, monitoring and managing feedback from web, social media and media, act as liaison for creative content; developing speeches, press releases, liaising with media contacts and events management, among others. With the changing trends in public relations and communications, I had to stay on top of the game. In 2017, I enrolled for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), UK for Professional Public Relations Diploma Qualification. I am now an internationally certified public relations practitioner working at the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency, a government agency as the Corporate Communications Manager.

BL:   Give advice to young graduates who are keen on growing their careers?

Mariam: Everyone starts from somewhere. Unfortunately, today’s graduates expect to start at the top which is not possible. It is okay to start as an internship or with an underpaid job just as long as you are improving on your skills. Take advantage of every opportunity presented to you. Most importantly, be courageous and work smart.

BL:   What is your message to our stakeholders as we celebrate our 15th anniversary?

 Mariam: A hearty congratulations to the BL team.  Fifteen years is quite an achievement. To the stakeholders and clients of BL, trust me, you are the with the right partner.

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