Alice Owambo, a senior brand manager at Kenya Breweries Limited, started off her career in Kenya Breweries as a Graduate Management Trainee in the Quality department. Over the years she has risen to the position of senior brand manager for International Spirits.
One of her greatest achievements is steering the increased sales of Johnnie Walker in Kenya making it the number 1 growth market for scotch among Diageo’s markets globally.
She shares her career and parenting journey in an interview with Eve Woman:
What challenges did you face climbing up the career ladder?
Diageo, where I started my career is a place of many opportunities offered to those who are prepared and are ready. A challenge for me would be identifying where I wanted my career to end as I had various points. However, with the right guidance from mentors and great line managers, I took confident steps one year at a time, to get me to where I am now.
What is a typical day for you at the work place?
My day starts with reviewing last day’s performance. As a Senior Brand Manager it’s my responsibility to know the health of my brands to the very last case. You will also find me in alignment meetings with key stakeholders across commercial teams to review execution of plans after which I will align upwards to the Executive team on key action plans. I also spend a lot of my day working with partnering media and creative agencies in charting the advertisement plans for my brands.
What are the issues that give you sleepless nights?
I cannot say sleepless nights per se. But as a corporate woman and a mother I tend to worry about the art of balancing. I ask myself many a times if I am giving the best equally to both my home and my career, or I am I letting one lag behind.
How do you manage people and their different personalities?
This is a quandary but it’s a skill I am learning to perfect on the job. I first start by managing myself, growing my self-awareness and self-mastery. Only then have I learnt the art of influencing teams both upwards and downwards. I have learnt to remain highly adaptable taking into account multiple perspectives on a given situation from different people. I have also learnt to be firm on demanding the right level of accountability from the people I work with.
How do you juggle a busy career and motherhood?
I am super planner who is obsessed with the details of everything I do. Like I mentioned earlier, I have 2 major passion points in my life, my son Hakeem who is nearly 8 years old and my career. I am a very hands-on mum, so I stick to my routine to ensure my son gets quality time. Be it, dropping him to school each morning, taking him to sports every Saturday or organizing sleepover for his friends at our home and his holidays etc I make sure I don’t fail on these things due to work. I rely on my great support system, this will sound funny but my house keeper Agnes remains a key pillar of stability in my life. She organizes our life.
I also lean heavily on family, Hakeem’s father and my friends for support. When it comes to work, it’s not a job for me, it’s my passion so I treat it with the utmost respect and commitment. I set high goals for myself and team and I work diligently to meet those goals, also without compromising on my parenthood. This is the balancing act, that is still being perfected.
How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
I am a big reader and a pod cast lover. This is where I meet most of many other great minds like Robin Sharma, Daniel Goleman and I have a library of over 100 collections, which I lean into for motivation, relaxation and amusement. I also get motivation from family and friends through regular heart to hearts and also within clubs to that I belong. Music comes 3rd. I am always looking for new beats from all over the world, nobody knows music in my circle than I do. Above all, I journal and I talk to God a lot.
If you were to start from scratch, what would you do differently?
I would leave everything just as is. Because all the good and bad have been the very catalysts of who I am today. No regrets.
Describe one of your biggest accomplishments
Switching my career from a technical role in the factory, into a marketing role has been one of the highlights of my career. But it’s not just the switch that I am excited about, it is what I have accomplished as a marketer, growing Scotch through Johnnie Walker brand in Kenya to make our market the fastest growing market for Scotch across all Diageo markets globally. This led to an award of a tour of whisky in Scotland for 30 employees from across EABL, led by our Managing Director for Kenya. This was a proud moment for me and the business awarded me Overall winner of the Execution Champion Award 2017 at the annual KBL Commercial Conference.
What lesson did you learn and how did it contribute to a greater success?
I learnt that self-belief is where success stems from. After which you can inspire other members of the wider team towards the same goal. Secondly hard work pays! Nothing genius comes without grit. Thirdly, you cannot achieve resounding success without the support of other brilliant minds. With the success of Johnnie Walker, I got an added responsibility as a Senior Brand Manager for all International Premium Spirits.
Describe one of your biggest failures. What lesson did you learn and how did it contribute to a greater success?
I honestly cannot put a finger on any big failure. Life has had its fair share of challenges which I have quickly come to see as stepping stones to something better. I have had a couple of failed relationships in the past, but then again sometimes things just don’t work out and you must move forward.
Do you have a mentor to guide you through this journey?
Yes, I have had a couple of mentors throughout my career both within KBL and outside it. I would not be where I am today without them and for this I am truly grateful to them, wherever they are. Just to give a few milestones that were influenced by mentors: my International assignment in Diageo UK and my career switch into marketing from manufacturing.
Would you recommend that women get mentors?
Oh yes, with a mentor, women can expand their knowledge and skills, gain valuable advice from a more experienced person and build their professional networks. As a result, they can build their confidence in ways they never thought possible and we all know the role of confidence in scaling the corporate ladder or achieving anything in life really.
In summary, what five tips would you give young women who have just started their career journey?
- Establish your personal brand
- Seek out a mentor
- Get a life, outside work!
- Keep up with the news every day and this includes organizational or industry news
- Go to your boss with a solution, not a problem