Alumni Spotlight: Esther Kinuthia – Inform, Inspire, Ignite
Esther Kinuthia is knee deep into her second master’s degree at Europe’s top business school in Paris. Six years prior, she graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Strathmore University. Popularly known for her blog – Miss I, she was named top 40 under 40, one of the youngest to have been in the coveted list. She went on to win other accolades, work at Google, Dublin and has since graduate with a master’s degree from Trinity Business School, Ireland’s Top Business School. We spoke to her on the impact of higher education in the professional arena, and steps to take in branding oneself.
Many people will be content with one master’s degree, especially one from a top business school. Why did you pursue a second Masters?
I vividly remember telling my Strathmore classmates that I would not bother pursuing a Master’s degree ever. Prior to joining Google, I confidently communicated to the recruiter that I am not interested in pursuing a Master’s degree post-graduation. At the time, a graduate degree was not something that I even wanted to consider. But here I am today with one from from Ireland’s Top Business School and currently pursuing a second one at Europe’s Top Business School (HEC Paris). On top of that, I am considering going to Stanford Business School for their LEAD program upon HEC Paris graduation, but at the moment I am telling myself I need a break. We shall see what future Esther will decide.
Such is life. We learn from experience. You venture into the workplace and you begin to learn that you have to keep evolving if you want to unlock superior versions of yourself. Much can be said about how the world rewards those who persevere or those who benefit from certain privileges, but at the end of the day, knowledge is power.
How has your blog evolved from your days in Strathmore to now?
My mission has always been to Inform, Inspire and Ignite the African youth, and it’s based on Albert Einstein’s quote ‘’Be a Man of Value rather than a Man of Success.’’ Everyone wants to be successful, but the blog seeks to remind people that that should not be at the expense of values. That has not changed and the blog’s motto continues to be ‘’Refuse To Be Average.’’
After running the blog for two years while based in Kenya, I relocated to Ireland and that made it difficult to continue working with my partners to produce high quality interviews. I also started considering I was too far away and I can’t continue giving localised content to my audience, which drove me to give a pause to the blog.
After living in Ireland for seven years, I have come to learn that proximity is not synonymous to closeness. I have watched my nephews and niece grow through consistent Whatsapp calls. I probably see them more than those at home do. So I relaunched my blog and continued to connect with my audience via LinkedIn. Plus I have now made it possible for my audience to book one on one sessions with me to write stellar CVs and prepare for job interviews.
Please tell us about what currently fills your day.
Other than business as usual, I split my weekends between studying, pursuing a hobby or relaxing. One of my friends who moved from Facebook Dublin to pursue her MBA at INSEAD left me her paint supplies, so I have started painting in the evening. I live next to a Canal so I sometimes go there for an evening stroll or to do some relaxing colouring. I also run a Community of C-Level Women in Africa and Young Kenyans in Tech; I like to engage with the amazing members as I unwind for the day with some hot chocolate.
Why did you choose to offer CV Writing coaching?
I was outside the Strathmore Library when a Google recruiter called me and gave me additional tips on how to improve my CV. She knew of the great stuff I had achieved but I had not done a great job bringing it out in the CV. I did work on the recommended changes and I am glad that I eventually got the Google job.
I want to pay it forward by helping others unlock great opportunities for themselves.
One of my clients earning less than Kshs. 50,000 monthly approached me to write their CV. The client is very talented and has a history of exemplary performance. We ensured that it is sufficiently represented in the CV in a succinct but powerful way. 6 weeks later, they applied to a C-Level position using the new CV and out of 1000+ CVs, less than 5 were selected and theirs was one of them. As we speak, we are expecting an offer letter with a salary of >Kshs.300,000.
That is the kind of impact I want to continue having on the African youth. It’s important to emphasise that we wrote a strong CV because they had put in the work in the companies they had worked for. You can’t write a strong CV without facts, so young people must continue to persevere and work smart so that they are able to illustrate their strong performance history in their CV.
Job hunting can be stressful especially now when the market has been financially hit by the pandemic. How can a current student at Strathmore begin building their brand?
Try new things. Get a role in a club and give it your all. I was a Business Development Manager at AIESEC, a position that gave me an opportunity to engage with senior executives. For example, we once ran an event in partnership with AIRTEL and we had seven Directors present. Of course prioritise school work and ensure you get a good grade, but create time to do well in a club role or start a small company.
When you try new things and do well, you will build your brand in the process. People will know what you are great at and how you work. For example, after 2-3 years of people engaging with me through the Miss I Blog and AIESEC, I was referred to the Marketing Society of Kenya which in turn referred me to Google.
How did SU help you become a global citizen?
After 3 months of my internship, Google wanted to extend it. I didn’t know how I could continue doing this considering I was supposed to go back to school full-time. I had a conversation with my then BCOM Course Administrator, Ms. Roseline Lubulela and we were able to have my units split between full-time and part-time classes. Shortly after my internship, I was offered a full-time job in Google Dublin. I am forever grateful to her for enabling me graduate with my peers, and get a job in Europe.
You’ve gone on to win other accolades after being named the top 40 under 40 while 21. Have you experienced imposter syndrome? As a top achiever, how would you address this syndrome that affects many women?
This topic deserves an entire podcast, but for now I want to share an article published on Harvard Business Review. In a nutshell, the article suggests that imposter syndrome is an outcome of spaces that aren’t fair to people either based on gender or race. It encourages people to refrain from telling women to stop having imposter syndrome, and instead hold leaders accountable for maintaining company cultures that are not unfair to women or people of colour.
Since change can sometimes be slow and painful, at the end of the day you just need to decide that you know yourself, your worth, what you are capable of, and commit to finding people that will not only walk with you, but fight for you. It’s not an easy journey and it’s often hard to find such people, but if you are one, you have one reason to believe you can find more.
To connect with Esther, click here.