PROFILE: Meet ‘Miss Fix-it’ Patricia Ndede. She gets the job done even in a crisis
By Patience Nyange and Esther Kiragu
Patricia Ndede is innovator and seasoned communications consultant who has a wealth of experience and expertise from both the public and private sector in Kenya.
After a stint in the newsrooms at Nation Media Group and Capital Group, Patricia Ndede got into the public sector, a different world from the private sector environment, where she began contouring the dynamic field of communications.
She worked at the Retirement Benefits Authority as the Manager, Corporate Communications for ten years. At the time, the pension industry was looking to increase its uptake in the formal sector and the informal sector.
Patricia innovated the Mbao Pension Plan, a first of its kind in the third world pension system. The innovation was beneficial for the Retirement Benefits Authority and got the attention of the World Bank, and they sent their teams to learn how it worked.
The invention was a turnaround for the informal sector investors. For a wider-impact, Patricia took the Mbao Pension Plan to India within the informal settlements in Hyderabad.
The local government pension system in India took up the same model. And she didn’t stop there! Amazingly, a South African Private Pension Scheme also came to benchmark on the same innovation and named their own, Mbao Pension Plan-South Africa.
“The word mbao was specific to the Kenyan system as it involved saving at least Ksh. 20 (mbao) a day towards their retirement using M-Pesa,” she says.
The recognition this innovation received humbled Patricia in so many ways because she had initially come up with the invention through a Corporate Social Investment where a corporate entity identifies its challenges and puts in an investment that will enhance behavioral change, thereby reversing the challenge into an opportunity.
Corporate Social Responsibility doesn’t resonate with many in my world. Corporate Social Investment does.
“There’s never free lunch. A corporate has to give and let the end result plough back into the business,” she adds.
You served at Huduma Kenya, a flagship project of Kenya Vision 2030. Please share with us your experience rolling out this project.
“In 2016, I served as the Director of Communications at Huduma Kenya, a State agency in the Ministry of Public Service, where I oversaw communication channels across the 52 Huduma Centres, crafting and implementing a robust Communication Strategy that saw the success of one of the best-performing Government projects yet.”
“Managing a strong public service brand that enhanced public service delivery to Kenyans was one of the most gratifying achievements in my career. One day while in one of the centres, an old man remarked after being served and said: “If this was a government office, I don’t think I would have received such service.”
Patricia laughed because she knew as a team they had made the much-needed transformation within the Public Service with the services offered at Huduma Centres.
“When you are passionate about what you do, you execute with excellence. On the outside, you may be seen as a perfectionist crossing every T and dotting your every I, but literally, you are passionate about what you do and always want to see things to the end with excellence,” she says.
Her hard work, dedication and passion for communication saw her appointed as the Communications Lead at the State Department of Public Service.
What is more, her transformational leadership earned her yet another appointment as the Director of Communications at the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs in 2018.
Call it the strength of a passionate woman! Patricia Ndede doubled up both roles as she served at Huduma Kenya. During her tenure, she worked under many Principal Secretaries, and Cabinet Secretaries and one thing she had to offer was reliability and dependability.
Crisis Communication was something Patricia got used to handling and managing. “Some days were rough, but the joy of having the work done was priceless! I quickly appreciated my role in all the tasks given to me. There is nothing as comforting as working with a reliable person,” she says.
Described as “Miss Fix-it” by the CS and PS she worked with, Patricia served in the public sector with a private sector attitude and approach of getting the job done and doing it with excellence.
“Many at time public sector officers have been known to be very laid back, least motivated and perform their duties to tick the box, calling it a day,” she says.
This was not relatable to Patricia.Through the years, Patricia Ndede is grateful for the opportunities she got to serve in various capacities both in the public and private sector.
“They say when you get to the top don’t forget to send the lift back down.” Her servant leadership attributes and empathy saw her open doors and extend a helping hand to many unknown to her who needed internships, placements, networks, name it. “It always gave me the joy to help in whatever capacity I could, without looking at what I was going to get back. The satisfaction that comes with it is priceless!” she adds.
Now as a consultant, what projects are you working on that you are most proud of?
Among the projects I am handling, which are contracted through development agencies are Kazi Mtaani: an economic stimulus offering thousands of casual jobs to youth amid the COVID-19 pandemic that led to millions of job losses.
Another one is Boma Yangu: the Affordable Housing Programme (AHP) initiative by the Kenyan Government as one of the pillars under the Big 4 Agenda. Both projects are domiciled at the State Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Talk to us about some of the ways you unwind and give back to the community
Aware that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, Patricia took up golfing for networking purposes, keeping fit and refocusing, strategizing, and reenergizing. She had back to back schedules that could take a toll on her sometimes.
“I needed to have a break when I wasn’t working, but not the kind of break that was an idle break,” she says. Golfing provided physical fitness and, more importantly, interactions with like-minded professionals in the corporate world.
Her zeal and zest for trustable brands had Patricia serve in Sunset Golfing Society, where she helped develop a brand identity that went a long way in getting sponsorships during various tournaments.
Besides that, she remained plugged in with fellow professionals at the Public Relations Society of Kenya (PRSK), a professional society Patricia belongs to and is passionate about.
“I have been a member of the society for the past 11 years, and now as the society marks 50 years of existence, I have intentions to vie for the Vice President position. I believe I have the potential and capability to serve. I feel that my expertise and net worth will go a long way in delivering important milestones in the pipeline that my colleagues in the profession have put in so much work and dedication to tirelessly giving their professional input and energy. This will be my way of giving back to society after years of achievement within the industry,” she says.
In 2021, Patricia joined Rotary. “Having provided service to others both in the private sector and public service, I owed it to myself to continue serving humanity the best way possible. As John Bunyan puts it. You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you,” she says.
“The mission of Rotary is providing service to others, promoting integrity and advancing world understanding, goodwill and peace through fellowship of business, professional and community leaders. That spoke volumes to me, and I hopped in,” she adds.
We all have some nuggets of wisdom that keep us going. Please share with us your favorite.
• Sometimes what you don’t want is what you need.
• Tomorrow is never promised. Do the best you can right now…it is priceless and can never be bought.
• Do not let the fear of the unknown bring you down. When you are used to having a pay cheque for many years, for instance, and you’ve gone through the ranks in your career and look back and are happy with what you have achieved, you probably want to go on and on.
• In the public sector, it gets to the apex, and all that is left is routine. “One day I woke up and told myself, it’s never that serious. Those who have made it walking the tight rope alone are not any special than I am. For once, I, too, I was going to wake up and put in the energy for myself, not for anyone, and that led to the birth of Simori Communications in 2019.
• Do you and don’t ever let anyone dictate what your ideal scenario should be. You are in charge of your own happiness. Focus and make it happen for you.
• Consistency in your delivery and character goes hand in hand with reliability. You are reliable because you are consistent and always meet your end of the bargain.
You have a wealth of experience now, what is your advice to the youth and generation/youth coming behind you?
As the years go by, I realize fewer people visit libraries, and we struggle with creating a reliable reading culture amongst the younger generation.
The internet has changed the world in so many positive ways, but it has also made some people lazy. You will find people using search engines for things you’d never imagine can be searched for.
Reading books is beautiful. It builds your mind, helps you think constructively and, more so, sharpens your spoken and written word.
I encourage all young people to make reading books a daily habit. It makes them one creative thinker. And for those who want to climb the career ladder in Communications, reading and researching is a must skill to have.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day next week, what is your advice to women out there?
As a woman, you have to work three times as hard as a man because society is too critical of women. I am sure you have seen women who shatter the glass ceiling, and all of a sudden, there are questions and whispers of who her godfather/godmother is?
The only thing that will save you is merit; what you stand for, and the fact that you are a worker, even if they don’t like you. Work until your work introduces you. At all times, do you, the world will adjust.
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).
Esther Kiragu is a writer, editor and communication professional