“Looking back, joining ELF was the wisest decision that I have made in life”

Gladys Maina was not always going to be a STEM professional. She had initially pursued a medical laboratory certificate but realized rather quickly that a career in medicine was not meant for her. She quit and travelled 250Kms to Nairobi where her passion for technology started.

She never looked back and has gone ahead to excel in her career and studies. She recognizes the role technology continues to play in transforming lives and societies. Despite Kenya being a resource-constrained developing country, she believes that it offers her the opportunity to use technology to solve social-economic issues. It is for this reason that Gladys continues to seek international experiences that guide her in achieving these goals. In November 2019, she was named a 2020 finalist of the Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship in line with Adobe vision of creating the best products by bringing gender diversity into the technology industry. In 2018, she was one of the four finalists and the only Kenyan nominated in the category of IT Project Management for the 2018 Afrika Kommt! Initiative.

Gladys attributes her continuous success to the training she got at Emerging Leaders Foundation, an organization she came across as she was casually browsing the Internet. ELF helped her rediscover who she really was and her capabilities. She learnt how to align her passions with a successful living. As an aspiring leader, the session on leadership gave her lessons that she carries with her to date. She was taught that leaders have clarity, leaders take care of the company they keep, and leaders give back to the community.

It is for this reason that Gladys has continued to champion for gender diversity and inclusion in the STEM field. In June 2020, she was selected for the 2020-2021 TechWomen program from an incredibly competitive cycle with only 108 women selected to participate. TechWomen brings emerging women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East together with their professional counterparts in the United States for a mentorship and exchange program in the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, DC.

ELF taught her three crucial lessons which she has carries and shares with those around her:

  1. Never settle for less.

You should keep pursuing your goals and increasing your knowledge no matter what position or title you hold in life.

Steve Jobs said that we should never settle and we should never arrive.

  1. Be brave and take risks.

“We need to be brave and take risks to achieve our ambitions. We need to lose sight of the shores to discover new oceans. Taking risks means hurdling into the unknown and believing that we will make it to the other side, despite not yet knowing what the other side is going to look like. It is taking bold actions and forcing ourselves into unfamiliar territories.”

  1. Run your own race

“Sometimes we are tempted to look at others and compare ourselves. We evaluate ourselves by how much our colleagues, teammates, friends, and family members have accomplished forgetting that they are their own unique individual. One thing ELF taught me is that it does not matter when you start the race, what matters is that you eventually finish. Learn as much as you can as there is room at the finish line for all of us.”

Gladys hopes to continue inspiring the next generation of leaders. She believes that she stands on the sacrifices of a million women before her and is always thinking what she can do to make the mountain taller so the women after her can go even further.

“Looking back, joining ELF was the wisest decision that I have made in life.”

 

 

By: Gladys Maina, LDP Cohort 5

 

Mentorship works, Embrace it.

“You need to get a mentor.” Stella insisted on this for the better part of 2017.

I am a stubborn being at times and it can take time and effort- or bullying- for me to be fully convinced on certain issues. We were in a matatu with Stella when her mentor, Ms. Caren Wakoli called. They had a chat before Caren requested to speak to me since we had previously met in a few forums. Knowing how bubbly and warm Caren is, I was excited to talk to her and get to hear how she was fairing.

A mentee must always find a way of being of help/ contributing to the mentor

Little did I know, my ‘bullying’ moment had brought itself closer, in a warm way. “Cate, when are you applying to join Emerging Leaders Foundation?” Caren asked.

I took a little giggle and responded that I would join soon after I had my finances in order. She was not about to take that non- committal answer. “I will be waiting for your application for the next cohort which starts in January and I will not take anything less.”

Oh my! I was cornered! I have so much respect for her and I could not say no. That is how I found myself as part of ELF Cohort 5 where I met my current mentor, Ms. Zippy Musyimi. My life has not been the same ever since. After the leadership training, I asked to be paired with her as my mentor. Ms. Zippy honoured my request and took me under her wings.

It has been a journey of success. A wise lady once told me that for mentorship to work, it must be personal and intentional. My first meeting with Zippy was casual. She invited me for tea where we got to know each other. We set goals for our journey, and wrote down our expectations. By the time we were done, I had learned so much from her and about her and got to experience her comic side.

It has been more than fourteen months now and we are still counting. We have become friends. Three things that I took from my journey with her:

  1. As a mentor, you are called to be a consultant for your mentee, a counsellor and a cheerleader.

She has led our discussions from the front and from a point of knowledge. This came so automatically. She has paved the way for me and does not hold back information that she thinks will benefit me at any point. She has listened to my rants, shrunk them and walked me down the path of finding solutions. Sometimes administering small doses of painful lessons. At the end of it all, she has been a great cheerleader.

  1. As a mentee, you MUST ensure that there is reverse mentorship.

Just like any other interaction, if the two of you are not gaining then there is a parasite. A mentee must always find a way of being of help/ contributing to the mentor – no matter how irrelevant it may seem to be. This helps boost your mentor’s energy to continue offering counsel and contributes to their growth as well. At the end of it all, mentorship is two-way.

  1. Discipline, Commitment and Fun.

Discipline and commitment to follow through with the plans that both of you have laid down is non-negotiable. Mentorship for me is like any other relationship. It is two way. Both parties must play their part, it must feel right. And while at it, please have some fun! Laugh a little, digress a little from all the serious business, meet for coffee just to catch up, after corona go for a dance…and all will be well ?

 

Submitted By:
Catherine Njeri Gathuru, Cohort 5

Is it the best or the worst of times? Make the choice.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .”  

This opening statement from “A Tale of 2 Cities” by Charles John Huffam Dickens hints at the novel’s central tension between love and family, on one hand, oppression and hatred on the other. It paints an almost similar picture of what is happening now. 

In this trying season, your actions will help define your strength as a young leader.

The world changed in March 2020. We transformed from the best of times to the worst of times without warning. The #Covid19 pandemic is entirely incomprehensible despite expectations of such happening from earlier predictions. We will be able to tell the coming generations of this season. We will speak of the pain and the harm. We will talk of the wisdom and honour that this season has taught us 

Tim Leberecht, the author of Business Romantic, says ‘Everybody is weighing in, has smart things to say, agendas to push, products to market, good deeds to promote, feelings to share, videos to post that add to the cacophony (discord) of a species that simply cannot shut up, even when it’s told to do so. It is much easier to express our humanity than to be human these days.” This reminds me of the ‘Paradox of our Age’ where it talks abouthaving more conveniences but less time; more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgement; more experts, yet more problemsmore medicinal products, but less wellness.  

I have never seen so much volatility in my life. And—yet—I have never witnessed such an opportunity for heroism, leadership, and exceptionalism, especially for young leaders. These truly are the worst of times and the best of times. If we are open enough, this will be the season to shine. We are all in this together and we must work to finding a solution together – each person contributing their skill and expertise in a different way to get through this. 

As a young leader, how do you navigate this transition period with courage, grace, and unusual optimism? This is a question where there are no answers but only choices and you must choose where you lie. For example, you have to choose between despair and hope; between self-reliance and working together with the community; between arrogance and humility in responding to directives; whether to hoard or to share; whether to focus on lack or find gratitude for what we have; whether to focus on problems or solutions. 

I suggest 5 key things 

  1. As a young leader, you should become a Hope Merchant – If you are not lifting people, you are pulling them down. The finest leaders are extreme optimists and heroic enthusiasts. When things fall apart, they maintain their grace, concentrate on the upside, and continue to radiate the energy that causes their followers to perform at their absolute best. (A job of a wartime leader is to protect the hope of their followers.) 
  2. Remember it’s ok to not feel ok – We are humans, fear and anxiety in messy periods are normal. Honour the emotions and they will pass through you. Sometimes it feels like society says you should be always happy, and that showing your sadness is a sign of weakness. We all have good and bad days. It would be inhuman if you didn’t feel the stress of the deep volatility, in some way or another.  
  3. Practice “deliberate kindness” – Whether it’s sewing masks for healthcare workers, tutoring students who are learning from home, or buying groceries for your elderly neighbours, identify the ways you feel comfortable and can help out to improve the situation in your area. This will help people around you while also helping you with any feelings of hopelessness. 
  4. Use the news as a tool versus a drug – Find out the latest facts on this very fluid situation and pivot, as necessary. The constant exposure to coverage of this situation can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety.  
  5. Don’t suffer from Normalcy Bias  Instead, stand strong and prepared to thrive through this. 

In this trying season, your actions will help define your strength as a young leader. I believe that what will see you through is having the right tools – information, courage, cooperation, faith – and using them to the fullest. While we exercise social distancing protocols, our people still need to hear from us, and we still need to hear from them. 

No matter what channels we use, young leaders have the most power to engage, the power to inspire our generations, and the power to create hope. Hope matters, hope is a choice, hope can be learned, hope can be shared with others. 

It might not stop the virus, but it can help stop anxiety, panic, and promote kindness and community-mindedness while displaying the best of our humanity, in some small way perhaps we can play a part in helping turn the worst of times into the best of times. 

As a young leader, is it the best or the worst of times? The choice is yours. 

 

Submitted By:

Edward Kipkalya- Programs Officer, Governance

Dennis Leiyan: Leading Change in Kajiado County

“I decided to try my hand into leadership as the president of Cohort 5 so as to put into practice all that I was being taught at the ELF. This would help me learn and polish my shortcomings as a leader and as an individual. I am privileged to serve my cohort as their president.”

Dennis was part of ELF’s leadership program in 2018 where he got a chance to serve as his cohort’s president.

He has previously served as the chair of Young Diplomats at the USIU-Africa and also served as the chair of African Model of the United Nations which he helped lead a bid to host over 400 youth delegates from Africa in 2017, at the UN offices in Kenya. Additionally, he successfully led his cohort in organizing a visit to the Compassionate Hands for the Disabled Foundation located in Ruai.

Right after his ELF training, Dennis started a number of initiatives in his home county, Kajiado. In his pioneer project, Dennis leads a sanitary towel drive for young student who can’t afford them in Kajiado county and he has been able to directly reach at least 300 girls in government day schools since he started the drive. He also came up with a bi-annual football tournament, Changamka Cup, where he uses the tournament as a platform to discuss youth agendas and governance in his constituency Through this, he has been able to unite a number of football coaches in the area who help him improve football in the area. So far, Changamka cup has had two successful tournaments with the most recent one having over 1,000 youth in attendance.

“At the ELF, the greatest lesson that I learnt is that one doesn’t need to be great to bring change. All you need is to show up and do your part”

He has also partnered with youths from his Kajiado North constituency to form Kijani Ustara which he serves as Chairperson. The organisation deals with environment issues in the constituency.  Dennis also mentors’ youths from his constituency into leadership by partnering with Taifa Teule organization. Through this, he has his sights on consolidating young people who have interest in leadership. This is to help in making sure the youth agenda is not lost in the midst of politics.

“At the ELF, the greatest lesson that I learnt is that one doesn’t need to be great to bring change. All you need is to show up and do your part”

Dennis has set his sights on mentoring more young people to be enlightened and empower them with knowledge and skills to help them be agents of change.

His favorite quote is by Tom Mboya, “There is no superman. It is up to us.”

We celebrate Dennis’s determination and persistence to be an agent of positive change in his county.

 

CHANGE IS HERE

The ‘A’ team. There is a desire to belong, but few can. To a clique? Certainly not, but the struggle to be part of something greater than the persona of self, a movement, mission of purpose, to create, impact and continuously do so. Isn’t this what we strive for? Be part of? Yet choose not to! “How?” you ask. You first think of your-self before our-self, you think of your milestones rather than of our milestones. You dream of being part, however the validity of your dream is dependent on your actions. With such witty thoughts, how do you be part of a mission that requires selflessness, resilience, commitment and conviction?
The year 2018, the philosophy of team work has never sunk so deep. Joining Emerging Leaders foundation, that “ahh” feeling with an end to end smile of satisfaction crossing your face, knowing change is here with us, knowing the toil and effort required and saying yes to be part of the change and more encouraging, the fact that you are not one or two but that you are a community, a multitude of change agents. The ninth wonder that should be included is how the Elf staff synchronize their work, the synergistic transfer of energy to where needed most such as that employed by all-wheel drive (AWD) in Subaru vehicles (it’s okay to google). It’s seamless and delivers quality results. Keep up you are my inspiration.
I celebrate cohort 5 2018 at ELF. You are the life changing experience of my 2018. You are creative, intelligent, persistent, resilient, compassionate, concerned, dependable, reliable, committed persons determined to improve yourself so as to improve their space of influence and community. Driven by Ubuntu, service through leadership and excellence in what we do, you are an inspiration of a team. Whatever you do, wherever you will go and to whom you will interact with keep being the inspiration.

 

Written By;
Lore Kouko – ELF Alumni (Cohort 5)

GOVERNANCE & PAN-AFRICANISM RECAP

“Young people are experts of their own experience. No one knows being youth today than the youth themselves”

It has been exactly a week since I graduated from my university. With all this excitement, I couldn’t get a better gift from ELF than this session. As I went through the session, I could clearly see it as a great gift to me. The session inspired me, challenged me and more so shaped my mental focus and strength for the life journey ahead. To summarize in one word, the session was – excellent!

The experience of going through a session, finding out that you have not really done and that you need to hit the reset button in your life in order to progressively move forward was an eye opener to me.

With the theme of Governance and Pan-Africanism, we started off with a training on “Letter to Self”

“Self–awareness is being conscious of who you are and who you are not”

We were encouraged to always learn to go an extra mile and that the self is the basis of your leadership journey. Before we started to write letters to self, we learnt about the basics of character (5Cs);

  1. Consciousness – Everything comes from consciousness
  2. Consumption – Our environments shape us to be who we are. This is the reason why President’s kids become Presidents
  3. Choices – Choices are the basis of our own lives
  4. Cheer yourself up – Learn to be your own cheer leader
  5. Correct yourself – If you don’t learn to correct yourself, someone else will

 

On Pan-Africanism;

  1. As a nation, we need to have a true conversation with ourselves.
  2. Pan-Africanism should start in our families.
  3. Pan-Africanism is about identity at a higher level. This connection should not only

bind us but liberate us.

  1. The love for our continent fuels Pan-Africanism.
  2. The future of any nation is dependent on the young generation. It cannot depend on us

if we cannot show interest/be involved in current issues.

  1. Africa is not interested in people who can die for it but those who can live for it.
  2. The importance of knowledge and information is that;

 It makes you a better person

 It is worth the sacrifice

 It helps you to write more, know more and read more

 It helps you in making intellectual conversations

 It creates value in you. When you create value in you, people notice it.

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”-

Ralph W. Emerson

The afternoon session was led by Mr. Maliba. He started out with the above statement. We

had some basics on youth engagement. He informed us that youth engagement happens when

young people have sustained connections everywhere in their life. The determinants of

engagement include;

  1. Social and economic environment
  2. The physical environment, and
  3. The person’s individual characteristics and behavior

The spheres of youth engagement include;

  1. Self-engagement: Emotional, psychological, or physical well-being
  2. Families: Home, recreation, decision-making, food and nutrition, culture.
  3. Community: Peers, faith, communities, school, and other community settings
  4. Society: Mass media, industry and the economy, social service, their neighbor and

politics

Engagement is a cognitive process i.e. when the brain becomes stimulated by external

stimuli, in this case relating to politics, elaboration occurs. To engage effectively, young

people must understand where we are, get their context and global context right. The steps for

effective engagement includes;

  1. Seek to be included from the beginning – Be part of all steps
  2. Have a clear purpose and plan – It will bring the right people along
  3. Identify and secure resources i.e.

 Human resources: coordination, training, supervision and mentorship.

 Financial resources: power, requires energy a lot of it.

 Partnership resources: leverage resources, piggyback on existing streams

  1. Find role play clearly valued in dignity and be empowered because power responds to

power, speak power, be knowledgeable, be informed and know your stuff. Create a

feedback and learning loop that will allow continuous program modification based on

youth input sound boarding.

  1. Structural support and training –Support vs. Empowerment.

Lastly, Mr. Maliba finished the session with a discussion on the tools of engagement. In

summary, here is what he said,

a) Canvasing: Face to face is still king. People can be mean on phone or email; they

are likely to have empathy in one –to-one engagement.

b) Social media and technology: All of us are well versed with it but its use is still a

challenge.

c) Relationships: Be relational. This doesn’t mean that you are sucked up.

d) Protest: Like war, protest is never an end in itself. Protest in dignity is more

important than living in indignity.

In conclusion, all we can do is study the lives of people who seem to have found their

answers to questions of what ultimately human life is about as against those who have not.

Everything great is just as difficult to realize as it is rare to find.

Edward Kipkalya

Emerging Leaders Foundation Cohort 5 Mentee

Traits of a Leader.

The 2nd session of ELF Cohort 5 kicked off on the 25th of August, 2018 at Metta Nairobi. I was looking forward to this session having spent the last one week reading ‘The Seven Habits of Highly effective people” by Stephen Covey. I knew we would all dive deep into leadership and so I was eager and ready to learn.

Our first speaker was full of zeal and inspiration and I took as much as I could during her talk. Here are my best three take home messages.

  1. Leaders have clarity

It is very important to have a clear vision and a route map for your destination. That way, as a leader, you will not be sidetracked by the bumps on the leadership journey. As Marcus Buckingham said “Above all else, leaders must never forget the truth that of all the human universals – our need for security, for community, for clarity, for authority, and for respect, our need for clarity is the most likely to engender in us confidence, persistence, resilience, and creativity.”

Therefore, let us strive to have personal mission statements that will guide us in the leadership journey.

  1. Leaders give back to the community

There is a book I love and that I reread every year. It is called “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom. It is about an old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lessons. My favorite quote in the book is “All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here. Death ends a life, not a relationship”. This should inspire leaders to give back to the community because people never forget what you did for them even after you are gone.

  1. Leaders take care of the company they keep

It is said that you are the average of the five people that you spend most of your time with. This is because energy is contagious and it is very important to be cognizant of this fact. As harsh as this sounds, leaders are usually judged by the type of people they associate with. Hence the saying, show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.

There you have it leaders. The lessons were many and might not be conclusively discussed here. But above everything else, be a leader that reads. We can always learn more and great leaders know that the best knowledge is waiting inside a book. As Barrack Obama, the 44th president of United States of America said, “Reading is important. If you know how to read, then the whole world opens up to you.”

Gladys Maina listening through the session.

 

Written By Gladys Maina

Cohort 5 Mentee

 

 

Recap of Gender & Leadership Session.

25 of us (Mentees) kicked off our 2nd ELF session with a lot of zeal, power and energy.

“Leadership and taking initiative are two things that go hand in hand, while all leaders are born, good leaders are made.” Those are the words from Dada Power – Stella as she welcomed us to the session.

My take home:

Leadership is about value proposition. It is all about making an impact and empowering

someone/touching a life. Leaders have the following characteristics: they have

followers, they don’t remain static, they are made, they must initiate, they must have clarity,

they must have a balance, they must give back to their communities and they are shaped by circumstances. Why is leadership important? Human beings tend to be led. That

is the reason you hear the phrase – ‘you are a sum total of your leader’. The whole purpose of

leadership is accountability. As a leader, if you want results, participate.

Leaders have to be accessible, available and valuable. They bow out and are not edged out.

They negotiate and define their purpose. They learn from other people mistakes. As a leader

you must be vulnerable to be ready to learn. One must know that self-sufficiency is not a

virtue at all. There are 4 styles of leadership: Authoritative, autocratic, democratic and

transformational. Be aware of them and when to apply them because all of them borrow from

each other. Leaders must inspire and give hope.

Summary of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

“We crawl before we walk. Fix yourself first before having a meaningful impact.”

. Habit 1 – Be proactive: Effective people are response-able. They take responsibility

of their lives. They focus on their circle of influence rather than circles of concern.

. Habit 2 – Begin with the end in mind: Effective people know that the most important

work is always ahead of them, never behind them. They focus their time and energy

on things that can be controlled.

. Habit 3 – Put First Things First: Effective leadership is putting first things first.

Effective management is discipline, carrying it out. Effective people execute on most

important priorities. Habit 1 + Habit 2 = Habit 3

. Habit 4 – Think Win-Win: Learn to work effectively and efficiently with others to

achieve optimal results. Think win – win is not a quick fix. It is a character based

code for human interaction and collaboration.

. Habit 5 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood: Most people do not listen

with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply. Effective people do

the opposite and communicate effectively.

. Habit 6 – Synergy: Effective people understand that ‘synergy is better than my way

or your way. It is our way’. Don’t mistake uniformity for unity and sameness for

oneness.

. Habit 7 – Sharpen the saw: Effective people understand that they must never become

too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw. Renewal is the principle – and the

process – that empowers us to move on an upward spiral growth and change of

continuous improvement.

ELF Cohort 5 elections:

Eventually, the time we had been waiting for eventually reached – to elect our ELF Cohort 5

officials i.e. the President, Deputy President and the Secretary. Being an aspirant of the

Deputy President seat, I was prepared for it with my massive campaign strategies. We were

given 10 minutes to do the last campaigns before pitching our manifestos in 2 and a half

minutes.

The Election Process:

The exercise was conducted in a free, fair and credible manner which was very impressive and the following were declared winners:

  1. Mr. Dennis Leiyan – President.
  2. Ms. Catherine Njeri Gathuru – Deputy President.
  3. Ms. Faith Wachira – Secretary

Lessons Learnt:

This was the first time I lost an election and I learnt that sometimes you have to lose to win, I also learnt that, failure is greatness waiting to happen. The more you dream at work, the

more you raise your standards, the more you say ‘I want to play world-class’…you are going

to get blooded/discouraged. The more you innovate, the more you are going to get stumbled.

Even in your personal life, the more you dream, the more you reach, the more you dare, the

more you are going to get hurt. That is just the price of ambition. The secret is to turn your

PAIN into POWER, turn your SUFFERING into STRENGTH and FAILURES into

FORTUNES. We don’t grow when things are easy. E.g. when things are falling apart, that’s

the chance to learn empathy; when someone has wronged you, you can blame the wrong doer

or learn forgiveness; when someone has lied to you, you can learn boundaries etc.

 

Edward Kipkalya

Emerging Leaders Foundation Cohort 5 Mentee