Career Path With Communication Specialist Evelyne Ogutu

May 16, 2022

Evelyne Ogutu is a communication coordinator at the Heinrich Boell Foundation and Route to Food Initiative. Ogutu engages stakeholders on diverse issues affecting Kenyans, such as food insecurity, gender inequality, and plastic pollution.

She is also passionate about mentoring young people and she believes in giving back to society for the continuity of future generations.

Evelyne is a champion of agroecology (farming with nature in mind) as a solution to attaining the human right to food.

She shared her career path with Sunday Nation:

Briefly tell us about yourself

I am a communication and policy specialist passionate about creating change in people’s lives by leveraging communication. I started as a journalist before venturing into communication.

Basically, I am a storyteller by training and by choice. I am passionate about mentoring young people as I believe we must give back to society for the prosperity and continuity of generations.

I find peace and tranquillity in the long walks in the forest or a fruit garden, so I strive to plant a tree or two whenever I have an opportunity.

Of late, I have been keen on our local farm and food system. I am a champion of agroecology (farming with nature in mind) as a solution to attaining the right to food.

Tell us about your childhood and educational background.

I was born in Kisumu. My family later moved to Kericho County.

I went to Kipkelion Township Primary School and Mercy Girls Secondary School, then run by Irish nuns. I enjoyed attending my catechism lessons, which have been the foundation of my Catholic faith.

I am the middle child in a family of five; I have three sisters and a brother. This means there was no time I experienced loneliness.

It was a fun-filled childhood.

Share with us your career journey. (How/where you started – position, scope of role.

My career path is self-made. I always wanted to be a journalist from a very young age. When I graduated from secondary school, I did not think twice. I knew I wanted to join the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC).

From KIMC, I was lucky to get an opportunity to work with the Standard Media Group in Nyeri Bureau and Nairobi for seven years, where I learnt all the writing tricks from my superiors. I was in the team that unveiled Instinct and Eve Woman publications.

After seven years in the newsroom, I worked with several public relations agencies, where I learnt the ropes of strategic communication.

I almost quit and went back to the newsroom, but two of my seniors encouraged me to stick to public relations. I am glad they dissuaded me from re-joining the newsroom, as my career path would not be what it is.

Two of the communication agencies where I worked made me who I am today. This is through mentorship and coaching that I received from my seniors.

At Apex Porter Novelli, a 360 strategic communication company, I thrived not because I was supported and guided.

I enjoyed working on projects, especially communicating the East African Community (EAC) integration for three years. Not only did I grow in terms of knowledge of such a complex issue but also networked with some of the brightest minds.

At Media Edge Public relations, which lasted for four years, I also enjoyed the free-spirited team. My then supervisor Ms Maurine Sande, who became my coach in public speaking, used not only the carrot but sometimes the stick to ensure I excelled.

What are the fondest memories of your career journey thus far?

 In 2019, I was identified as the lead communication consultant representing MediaEdge Public Relations for the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Nairobi, Kenya.

The role needed meticulous planning and developing multimedia content besides managing a media centre that hosted over 500 journalists drawn from all over the world.  The Summit attracted over 8,355 delegates, 173 countries, 150 sessions and 600 speakers.

What has been a key driver of your growth?

My motto in life is not to be just a passerby in this world but to serve and leave a mark. In the 19 years of my career, I have learned that teamwork, patience and dedication bear fruit.

I trust in God in everything I do. I am a believer in meritocracy and striving for excellence.

Who are the people or relationships that you can single out that have been useful in your career growth?

Maina Muiruri and Andy Kagawa believed I was best placed in the communication field, and I am forever grateful to them. The late PS Nalo and Kap Kirwok planted a seed of public policy in me.

They even nudged me to go back to school and pursue a course in public policy.

Looking back, their counsel has shaped who I am – a communication specialist who’s keen on public policy and how it contributes to the good of the people and the environment.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in life?

It was working on the UNFPA’s project on the ICPD25 Summit and the EAC integration communication campaign.

We started EAC clubs in universities, launched a social media campaign purely on a complex subject like the integration and showcased to Kenyans the benefits of the integration, such as the Common Market Protocol and breaking it down to what it means to the mama mboga.

Another accomplishment I am proud of is my client winning the best crisis communication campaign award by the Public Relations Society of Kenya awards.

Key decisions you might have taken along your career journey?

One key decision I’m glad to have undertaken is making a deliberate and intentional decision to go back to school and study Public Policy and Administration.

It opened my mind and made me a critical thinker in some of the issues we are grappling with as a country.

I have a firm conviction that the best way to make a lasting impact on public policy is to change public opinion.

By changing the people’s beliefs, the government, decision-makers and even the media changes with them. That is how leveraging communication to solve public policy issues is important.

Your current role and scope of the job?

Currently, I am a communication coordinator at the Heirnrich Boell Foundation and Route to Food Initiative.

My role is exciting as I communicate to various stakeholders on diverse issues affecting Kenyans, such as food insecurity, gender inequality, and plastic pollution, and work with amazing people from different fields and expertise.

What would you advise the youth in Kenya today?

Hard work, consistency and being truthful pay off. Besides those virtues, get a mentor to walk with you in your career, relationships and even spiritual matters.

It takes a community to bring up a child; one can never lean on their own understanding.

Future plans in your career and in life?

In the future, I see myself working in the public policy space using my communication expertise to solve challenges facing the world by shaping opinions and attitudes.

But as of now, I am taking one step at a time as I use my expertise to create real change in people’s lives.

What do you do for fun?

I love dancing, long walks and runs in the forest (especially Karura Forest) and being with young people. Young people, especially teenagers’ energy and zeal to conquer the world is something I admire, and sometimes it is infectious.

If there was one thing you could change about your past, what would that be?

I love how my life has panned out. If there are any challenges I have encountered along my career path, I have learned from them, making me who I am today. I see challenges as stepping stones for future excellence and key learnings.

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