Career Path With Communications Specialist Lilian Gikandi

March 7, 2022

Lilian Gikandi is a communications specialist currently serving as a senior communications manager at Shujaaz Inc.

Shujaaz is a network of social ventures based in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam that connects young people with the information, skills and resources they need to take control.

Ms Gikandi designs communication strategies that help raise Shujaaz Inc’s profile locally and internationally through written content, media opportunities, participation in awards and conferences.

She shares her Career Path with Sunday Nation.

Briefly tell us about yourself

I’m a communications specialist with a proven track record working in global organisations and strategic writing for various audiences, social media management, event management, public and private sector engagement to accomplish organizational objectives. When I’m not working, I’m cooking something delicious, baking, going for walks or hanging out with my friends.

Tell us about your childhood and family life

I’m the last born in a family of four children. I stayed with my mother growing up and had a pretty quiet childhood. I’m a mum to a 10-year old boy.

Educational background

I pursued a diploma in architecture right after high school, and later on pursued a degree in Mass Media and Communications

Share with us your career journey

I started off as an architect technician. This entailed designing houses for clients, getting approvals from relevant government offices and visiting construction sites to ensure everything went smoothly. I also designed interiors, such as kitchen cabinets and wardrobes.

I changed careers after two years of practicing architecture, went back to school and pursued a degree in Mass Media and Communications. In 2016, I interned in corporate communications for six months at Kenya Association of Manufacturers and joined Global Compact Network Kenya as a support officer thereafter. This role had aspects of communications and project management.

I joined the fundraising team in WWF- Kenya towards the end of 2018 and started off on public engagement where we interacted with the public in a bid to get them to understand and participate in conservation and environmental sustainability.

We also piloted engagement with school children – developing a curriculum that engaged them and helped them understand the state of our planet and the most pressing needs. I stayed on till the last quarter of 2019 where I joined WWF International as a media communications specialist.

While there, I managed the press office and created content that helped audiences understand science-backed reports, positioned WWF as the lead organisation on conservation in media and brought together WWF communicators from the 100 WWF country offices to discuss the organization’s communications priorities on a monthly basis.

I’m currently a Senior Communications Manager at Shujaaz Inc. I work with the team to design and build communications strategies to raise the organisation’s international and local profile through thought leadership, press/media, external events and awards.

What do you remember most about your career journey?

The career change. It was a tough decision with lots of challenges but it is paying off.

How have you progressed in your career over the year?

I have managed to move up the ranks through almost every job that I have had. I’ve had great opportunities to grow my skills through thematic courses, coaching and mentoring and all these have really helped me grow. Importantly, I have also approached each experience as a learning opportunity, pushing the boundaries on the role and the heights I could take it to.

What has been a key driver of your growth?

I have always had a can-do attitude – that has always helped me get things done. I’ve learned that it’s never too late to go for what you want. I always wanted to pursue journalism when I was in high school. I didn’t get a chance to do that right after I was done with high school, but I eventually pursued it and it has paid off.

I celebrate my resilience. I went back to school when I had a young child and it wasn’t easy. Trying to catch up with school work with a bubbly toddler seemed impossible most times, which makes me appreciate my journey all the more.

There are times I feel like the three years spent pursuing my architecture diploma were a waste of time. Then I look at it as an opportunity to learn something different. My college life was also fun and I have many fond memories.

I am also a big believer in teamwork and collaboration and continually looking for ways to improve organisational results through innovation.

Who would you credit for being useful in your career growth?

My manager at WWF International, Rebecca Clear, had a huge influence over my life. She showed so much interest in my growth as a communications specialist, gave me a chance to pursue what I liked and was interested in, gave me guidance, corrected me where I was wrong and was a great sounding board. She was very approachable.

My mentor, Rucha, is a trailblazer. I’m really excited to have worked with. I got to witness her superb work ethic, and saw her manage through chaotic times. She is kind, thorough, always willing to help out and speaks for what she believes in.

Key decisions you might have taken along your career?

At one point in my career I took up a job that I was overqualified for. I used that as an opportunity to get my foot in the door into an organisation that was in my wish list and it proved to be a good decision. I eventually landed a job that matched my qualifications. It showed me that no role is too small when one’s vision and ambition is big.

What would you tell your younger self?

Believe in yourself like crazy. You have to believe that you can do the impossible and work towards it.

What would you advise the youth in Kenya and Africa?

Young people are the present, they possess so much talent and hold most solutions to challenges they face in life. I wish they would harness their prowess to make this planet a better place. I wish they would pursue their passions – it leads to a very fulfilling life.

What is that one thing you are proud of in life?

My resilience – I have managed to make the most out of less than favorable situations in different stages of my life.

What is your biggest fear in life?

Giving in to my imposter syndrome and forgetting that I have worked so hard to be where I am.

If there is one thing you could change from your past, what you that be?

I would have made my life a bit easier, without too many struggles.

What would you want to be remembered for?

Being an agent of change, a sustainability champion, an advocate for young people, a great mum, friend. A bubbly person.

Future plans?

Grow my career further, mentor young communicators, travel more.

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