Esther Ngenyi Musila is an International civil servant working for UN-HABITAT in programme management running water and sanitation programs in Nepal and Laos.
The 51-year-old former banker celebrated her 20th anniversary working for the United Nations on Saturday, August 7, 2021. She shares her career journey with the Sunday Nation.
Briefly tell us about yourself
I’m a God-fearing mother, wife to an amazing man, a career woman, liberated and a lover of life.
Tell us about your childhood and family life
I was born and raised in Nakuru County by Morris and Loise Musila, who are both now deceased. I have only one sibling, Fred Musila. I’m also a mother to three exceptional children, two sons and a daughter, all grown-up.
What’s your educational background?
I went to Moi Primary School before joining Bishop Njenga Girls High School for my secondary education, but I only stayed there for one term. I transferred to St. Angela’s Girls High School in Kitui. Later, I joined Kianda College, where I studied Business Administration.
Could you share with us your career journey?
My first job was at Mea Ltd, Nakuru, in 1989, where I worked as Secretary to the Financial Controller, then in 1989-90 I worked for Siginon Freight as the PA to the Chairman and Managing Director.
Between 1990 and 1996 I worked in the Advances Department at Kenya Commercial Bank. I then took a four-year break from employment to raise my young children.
In 2001 when my last born was of school-going age, I applied for a job at the United Nations, UN-Habitat, where I was initially given a three-month contract as a maternity replacement. I will be marking my 20 years of service as an International Civil Servant on August 7 2021.
I work in Programme Management assigned to the Urban Basic Services Section, where I support project monitoring systems in Nepal and Laos. My current job entails tracking project activities, preparing budgets, monitoring checklists to identify programme/project development stages, funding sources, and follow-up actions.
I also monitor budget commitments, prepare periodic budget revisions, ensure appropriate resource allocations, reconcile accounts, prepare financial reports on projects for donors as required and establish monitoring systems to ensure reporting deadlines are met on time.
What is the most memorable thing about your career journey?
Commitment and wanting to learn more have kept me going. I did not want to limit myself to the skills I had learnt in college. I learnt a lot on the job, which I have, especially with my current job. I am more satisfied with the experience I have gained and skill rather than position.
How has been your career progression over the years?
When I started working as a secretary, I was earn a salary of Sh6,000, something that really excited me. But I was aim higher since I had graduated from a reputable college and during our times, your certificates and good grades could speak for you.
When I joined Siginon Freight, my salary tripled and I gained the experience of working in a bigger company with more responsibilities. There and then, I knew I wanted to grow to greater heights and begin my career as a professional. In both these first jobs, I lasted for six months.
Working with the bank introduced me to numbers, that is, finance which has significantly contributed to my present-day to day work.
When I joined the United Nations UN-Habitat, my first assignment was in monitoring and evaluation; then, I worked with the Partners and Youth Section, where we gave out grants to finance the youth and their projects.
What are some of the key drivers of your career growth?
As international civil servants, we are committed to serving humanity and my fulfillment has been seeing us change lives in the projects we undertake. UN-Habitat’s mandate is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities to provide adequate shelter for all.
My drive has been to give my best at what I do and love what I do. I give 100 percent in everything I do. One of my greatest strengths is that I’m a fast learner and I’ve been able to learn on the job by enrolling in courses offered to better my skills and continuous training. I also consult with my peers. This has greatly improved my knowledge.
Anyone who has been useful in your career growth?
In my current job, my direct supervisor has entrusted me with responsibilities at a higher level, and I have proved myself. We work well, and our relationship is greater than her being the person I report to. My colleagues have influenced my career growth as we operate on a one-on-one basis. We are family more than we are colleagues.
Which accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am proud of being a mother, which is a full-time job even when you have grown-up children. I’m also proud that I have stood the test of time and my desire to live a life with purpose. This I achieved when I met the love of my life just before I turned 50 last year, and I have made decisions in my life unapologetically. I am now living the life I desire.
Key decisions you might have taken along your career?
Choosing a career that I love and making sound and informed decisions.
What would you tell your younger self?
Believe in yourself, trust your soul, look for joy, do you and do your best.
What would you advise the youth in Kenya today?
Do not wait for white-collar jobs. Times have changed. During my time, we did not have the kind of opportunities that there is today. Use digital platforms to your advantage. Start small and grow. That way, you will appreciate what you do and learn to be responsible for your life.
There is too much pressure to fit in, which is destroying a lot of the youth as they desire to live a life they cannot maintain, which is depressing them. Learn to be your own individual.
Your future plans?
I plan to work for a few more years and then retire to enjoy the fruits of my labour and tour the world.
What do you do for fun?
I dance to keep fit, sing and do farming. I also support and manage my husband, Guardian Angel, in his projects.
How are you handling the media attention you have been getting recently?
It has been one journey that I was not prepared for because I have lived a private life. At first, it was overwhelming because my current relationship became a topic of discussion, most specifically because of our age difference. Still, I have learnt to ignore and live my life. My mantra is, “The only thing greater than the power of the mind is the courage of the heart”.
What has the pandemic taught you?
The pandemic has taught me that a lot of things are just vanity. I have been able to do/go without things that I thought I would never live without. If this pandemic has not taught everyone that life can change, then you are doomed for life.
If there was one thing you could change about your past, what would that be?
Live for me. That I come first.
What are you scared most about in life?
Living a life without a purpose.
If you had one week to leave, what would you do?
I would go on my dream vacation in Bali, an Indonesian island known for its forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies, beaches, and coral reefs.