PROFILE: Jane Mutinda, career coach pulling down barriers that hinder women from leadership
By Patience Nyange
I first met Jane Mutinda in 2012. She was the Human Resource Manager as I signed my employment contract to join the British Broadcasting Corporation, Media Action as a Broadcast Mentor.
She struck me as an amiable person. Well, she wasn’t your typical HR. There was utterly no distance between her and the rest of us. In fact, her office operated on an open-door policy, with no prior appointments.
Nine years later, Jane is one of my best friends, and I am glad that our paths crossed at the BBC offices in Longonot Place, Nairobi.
I host my mentees for a sleepover from time to time, but I make sure someone comes to talk to them about life matters. Jane has met them and coached them on career growth, CV writing, preparing for interviews etc, for free!
She has gone ahead to forge personal relationships with each one of them, and they can reach out to her, at any time. One of them recommended Jane’s services when her dad was preparing for an interview.
She then texted me to say: “Thank you so much for introducing us to Jane Mutinda. She has been preparing my dad for an interview and guess what, he got the job.” Fantastic feedback. I live for such stories.
Jane Mutinda defines herself as a career coach, women empowerment enthusiast and a human resource specialist. She is the founder and Managing Director at Career Management Centre- a HR advisory and consulting firm based in Nairobi, Kenya. They will be celebrating their 5th anniversary in March 2021.
Jane is passionate about supporting professionals to find their next big thing and job seekers to navigate through the talent market, making them employable by equipping them with life skills that are rarely taught in school.
As a HR Specialist, she has over 10 years of experience working with international NGO’s including BBC Media Action, Practical Action International and International Medical Corps with one mission; to change how people view HR by endeavoring to create happy workplaces where employees are engaged, motivated to stay and contribute to their organisation’s strategic goals.
Jane’s career journey began at the University of Nairobi where she majored in Biochemistry and Chemistry and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree, 2nd Class Upper Division. During her internship in a Microbiology Lab, she realized this wasn’t the career for her.
“I was not going to spend my entire life in a lab looking at reagents. It was a lonely space for me. I was very sure that was the end of me and sciences. I was privileged to have experienced other departments during my career – I was either going to pursue Marketing or Human Resource Management. I choose HR and have enjoyed every moment thirteen years down the line. My last formal employment was as the HR and Administration Manager for Eastern Africa Regional Office for a UK-Based NGO.
“I set up Career Management Centre – A HR Advisory and Consulting firm in March 2016. We have two main departments – a job seekers department and an Organisations/Employers department. For organisations we provide the whole range of HR services either as an outsourced service or as a standalone assignment. We also provide trainings in HR and leadership with signature program on the Managers Tool Kit, a program that focuses on Skills that every manager must have,” she said during our interview.
The job seekers wing has many exciting products/services including:
Executive and Board CV writing – Your CV is your ambassador and the most important career tool you’ll ever have. It knocks and opens career doors for you.
Interview coaching – Interviewing is a strategy, the best interviewee gets the job not necessary the most qualified candidate. Most of us are not that good in interviews even though we are very qualified.
HR Mentorship and Coaching Programs –We support upcoming HR professionals to jumpstart their careers. Our mentorship program simulates the HR office, it complements experience for those with limited HR experience and Exposure.
Strategic HR Mentorship – We provide this to transition operational HR professionals to the strategic place.
You are passionate about empowering managers with leadership and people management skills so that they perform well at work. Please tell us about this, some programs you offer to individuals and organisations respective of their size, for their career and business development, respectively.
Every manager is an HR advocate and should be equipped with people management and HR management skills because employees deserve a happy workplace.
There is a famous quote that “a majority of the employees don’t leave companies; they leave managers”. We a run a program dubbed ‘The managers tool Kit’ which trains on several skills that every manager must endeavor to excel in – from Career Planning, Team Motivation, drawing the Team Charter, Conflict Management, having difficult conversations, managing poor performance, delegation, budgets etc. We also have HR Management for Non – HR.
My biggest achievement career-wise was the decision to walk out of formal employment and start Career Management Center Limited. I have worked with thousands of job seekers helping them to transition to their next big thing; I have worked with organizations especially SMEs ensuring regardless of their size they manage their Human Resources with dignity and within the Law.
My most recent achievement is supporting women with maternity/motherhood employment gaps pick up their careers. Qualified women are leaking in the career pipeline every second to take care of the social development agenda and we are not giving them second chances. It will be my biggest job to see such women come back without explaining the gaps in paragraphs.
You are the Vice President of Women in Africa. What does this role mean for you and other younger women who look up to you?
At Women in Africa, we are currently implementing a project on Turning Girls into Breadwinners. This involves the search for a Female President a.k.a leader in whichever sector. Our mindset surgery project is about demystifying all the limiting beliefs that stop women from dreaming big; the myth that men have a higher capacity to lead compared to women, that the man must earn more and take care of the ladies.
Women believing that they can only make it in life by marrying well off men. The idea that men should take the lead in breadwinning and women in caring for children and the home still affects men and women today. Surprisingly the violation of this norm makes some couples uncomfortable with their arrangement.
Educated women are paying a happiness penalty for their success and economic independence. Educated women are foregoing their dreams to fit in, and some women have an issue with earning more or being more educated than their husbands. This is still very common in our society and the few women who make it should never forget the millions that are still suffering from this mental slavery.
We must do the little that each and every one of us can to uplift women and young girls. It all starts with the mindset, and if liberated all women should spare time to mentor young girls especially from remote and informal settlement areas. In most of these areas, women are stay home mums; hence it would go a long way in letting the girl child know that she too has the freedom to chase after her dreams.
We still have women who fancy rich boys even when they come with flawed character and most still believe their breakthrough can only come through sexual offerings. It’s a new dawn for the Kenyan woman. We are living in very good times; the environment provides for equal opportunity. Therefore, women should dive in and go to the table with confidence. Let’s not wait to be called, affirmative action is good but it still leaves you feeling you are not enough. Women should not wait to go to leadership under affirmative action only; they should desire, dream big and put work towards that.
In many organizations, HR personnel are viewed as the enemy of employees. Please talk to us about this, and some ways employees can cultivate a positive relationship with human resource personnel in their organization for their career development?
This must be a regrettable misunderstanding that possibly stems from the disciplinary and firing role tasked with HR professionals. Some people hate HR because they have information that might affect them (employees) negatively. What we forget is that HR professionals are bound by confidentiality and must play the delicate balance between the employer and employee interests.
Some of the perceptions come from employees not understanding how some HR decisions e.g. promotion, termination etc., are made or when they feel the HR is unresponsive to their needs. HR department exists to support employee welfare in the organisation and ensure you are happy at the workplace. No HR professional would be glad to be referred to as an enemy of the employees.
HR should be seen as an employee advocate and not enemy, but employees should also not expect HR to babysit them. As an employee do your work, don’t be the 3% of bad employees who are always causing toxicity in the workplace, and of course, don’t break the policies – HR will summon you to explain why your employment should not be terminated.
We asked Jane some common mistakes people make that sabotage their careers and what advice she’d give to avert these mistakes?
1. For students and recent graduates – not building experience while in college through internships and volunteer. You graduate with a CV that has nothing apart from your school grades and your year of birth – competing becomes very hard.
During internships, some students also do the bare minimum; they sit waiting for assignments from the supervisor. If you choose to do an internship or volunteer work, have a plan to learn all aspects of your work. You must have some personal objectives that you want to achieve at the end of the internship.
Speak with people, get JDs of assistants and use these to guide your discussions with your supervisor. For starter’s sake, take that internship, get experience and money will follow.
2. Confusing a job with a career and basically lack of career management– most people get a job and become comfortable. A job is a short term goal while a career is a long term goal. Career Management means you are deliberate and intentional about helping yourself to advance in pay and responsibility.
3. Failure to prioritize personal development. Many individuals stop learning the day they get their current job, yet complain that the employer does not value training and development. Your current employer is okay with your skills as they are, but you will struggle to move or change jobs if you are not up-to-date with the skills required in the industry currently. Make your personal development and career growth your business; this you can’t delegate.
4. Failure to network – Networking means getting to know and letting people know you and your work, this is key for personal and career growth. Believing that your exemplary work will talk for itself, is a huge mistake. People grow because of referrals and recommendations, that promotion will not come because you are so good.
5. The serial latecomer- People come late for meetings and are the first to leave. This is common with women than men. At the same time, women tend to volunteer for non-strategic committees/ extra duties at work eg visiting a colleague who recently got a baby and fail to show up for the strategic ones eg the automation change committee.
If you were to choose two values that are most important to you that you live by and that shape the way you work, live, and run your organization; what would they be and why?
Quality is our number one value – we want our customers to see the value for money, we go all out to ensure we deliver products/services in a way that people are happy to send us new clients.
Relationship oriented as a culture– We save all our customers by name and always go out of my way to deliver with a personal connection. It should never be transactional.
We asked people to describe Jane, and they had interesting things to say.
Jane is a champion of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. She is unapologetic about pulling down barriers that hinder women from scaling heights of leadership. She is also an optimistic leader, very knowledgeable in her field, focused, ready to help others. Also, very passionate about women issues.
Well, I know her as a bubbly lady with an infectious smile! So passionate about HR contribution to the business bottom line! Very committed to empowering and mentoring the younger HR generation.
Finally, if you had a chance to create a totally new world of work for young people, what would you wish for in their new world?
I wish for a world that’s results-driven with less control, hoping that young people will exercise strong work ethics and behave like fully informed individuals who understand why they come to work every day. Otherwise, they should be at home sleeping.
Patience Nyange is a Chevening Scholar with a Masters Degree in International Public Relations and Global Communication Management from Cardiff University. Prior to joining Cardiff University, Patience served as an Assistant Director at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).