Stella Makona Simiyu is the founder and Chief Operating Officer at Sentinel Africa Consulting Limited.
I usually wake up at 5.30 am and get out of bed 15 minutes later. I usually want to be out of the house by 6.45 am but mostly make it out by 7 am. This will mean that I will get to the office at 7.45 am, just in the nick of time for early morning operational meetings. These meetings will set the tempo for the upcoming week as we review what was achieved the week before and our goals for the upcoming week.
Sentinel Africa is a risk management consulting company. As Chief Operating Officer, I manage project delivery end-to-end. My position involves scheduling consultants, managing delivery milestones as per set timelines, as well as client relationship management.
Five years ago, a typical day would have been focused on the specific deliverables of individual projects, writing or reviewing reports, executing trainings, client engagements or individual meetings with my consultants for progress updates. As the company has matured, I find my plate is taken up by the relationship management bit of my role. Most days I try to be a presence in the projects that are running, not so much in operations but lending my expertise in translating the customer’s vision into actionable and innovative solutions.
“You have done a great job.” I love getting that from my clients. I believe every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it and nowhere is this more relevant, or more impactful, than as an advisor.
My favourite part of the day is 3 pm, when I can indulge in overpriced coffee and recalibrate. I get most of my work done late in the afternoon and into the night. I guess I am a night owl. I have numerous projects I am managing. I have recently begun implementation of a cyber security strategy for one of my clients, a project that excites and motivates me.
My most career-affirming experience has been in my job as a business continuity professional. A big chunk of my career has been spent preparing organisations for disruptions including the uncertainty of disasters. It is one of those things you hope will not happen but when a disaster does strike, and my client can rely on my experience and the work I have done for continuity, then it is very affirming. I have one client that relied heavily on our work during the terror attack at Dusit. It was an emotional and fulfilling experience to see our work in action.
The best career advice I’ve ever received is to fail fast and fail forward. Yes you will fail, but don’t get stuck in your failure; learn from it. The best career advice I can give is to always know that you never get a second chance at a first impression. It is imperative to show up, participate and give your best all the time no matter how small or big the company or person you are dealing with.
In the evening, if I have made it home before 8.30 pm, I will have a chat with my son about his day. He is such a curious and inquisitive mind, so his questions give me a fresh lease of life. At 8.30 pm I take him to bed wish him a good night after praying and tuck him in. Then I spend the evening winding down with my husband watching TV or just relaxing.
I am currently reading the Art of War for Women. This book brings the eternal wisdom of philosopher-general Sun Tzu to women looking to gain a better understanding of who they are and, more importantly, who they want to be. Reading the book has been an eye opener in terms of how I manage my team, manage scarce resources, and plan for competitive environment.
It is always a challenge achieving the balance between work and life. Making sure I don’t miss the important family engagements and my son’s critical milestones as well as pushing the business to its next success. This year I am focused on involving myself with groups focused on women in business to learn better time management skills. I also have Sundays as strictly family day. I leverage a lot on help from my extended family as well as my husband to ensure that delicate balance is achieved. In the business I am pushing an effective approach to ensure an optimum structure is set up where the business can function optimally even without me. Next year, I am moving houses to be closer to work and my son’s school.
Source: Sunday Magazine