My name is Akinyi am a banker with the biggest bank in Kenya by asset and branch network. Growing up I didn’t even know what banks were and the only time I heard about accounts was during our Business Education class.I guess I just told you my age as well with that info . I’ll have you know that the first time I held a cheque was when I was joining the University.

Before we talk matters higher learning I want to tell you about how we grew back then. In that time life was pretty simple, boys could dream of becoming anything they wanted but girls had their options narrowed down, you either became a secretary, a nurse, a tailor or a teacher. It was however hoped that you’ll marry into a good family with a husband to cater for all your needs. Career ambitions were therefore not of concern to the parents nor a question in a girl’s mind.

I have always loved to read, not the intellectual kind of reading, reading storybooks and novels. It didn’t matter whether it was just my sister’s English textbook or a borrowed storybook from a classmate, all that I cared about is I had something to read. And it is here I developed an inkling of what it was for a girl or a woman to have a job, even though it meant changing my mind with every book. At some point I really wanted to be an air hostess, what with all the travelling and sight seeing associated with it. But alas, I would change my mind. In my upper primary and early years in high school I thought I could become a sleuth like the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, catching the bad guys. But this too didn’t last that long. 

By the time I was in form three I had narrowed down my ambition to either being a lawyer or a psychiatrist. The former was because I thought I could help argue out cases of the innocent who suffered for lack of representation and knowledge of the law. I also thought psychiatry was pretty cool, getting to know people’s thoughts and using hypnosis intrigued me. 

Several things would discourage me in my ambitious career goals. The first one was my teacher who told me that it was bad enough that I was bright, learning law would keep boys away from me and end up alone, how disturbing. Apparently men don’t like intelligent women who can challenge them, or so it was at the time. The other factor was my role model. Damaris had been the best pupil in my primary school and had gone through the same high school I was in. In my opinion Damaris was most intelligent and worked hard to keep her grades high.What did Damaris after high school? She joined the local polytechnic to pursue pharmacy. It was a big deal because we all know pharmacy isn’t for the faint hearted, but this to me meant that the best I could do is work hard as Damaris to join the polytechnic. Sigh. When sciences are not your strongholds you know things are thick, especially since they are the obvious combination. My other problem was finances, I kept asking myself who was going to cater for the college fees if at all my parents could not afford my high school fees.

In our fourth year our headmistress, now a Doctor having pursued higher learning, called some of the students into her office. You can not begin to imagine the kind of scary thoughts that were going through my mind. She was not the kind to ask you about the weather or upcoming music festival, which we were good in. No, it was always serious business.

So she went round everyone asking what marks you got to be admitted to her high school and what were you hoping to achieve in the national exams. My goal according to her was nonsensical and she challenged us to higher grades saying she had very high expectations of us. She believed we had it in us to break the school performance record. She organized for mentoring talks for us, from other teachers and mentors in other fields. She told us not to think of our unpaid fees, but focus on getting the prize because we might be lucky to get  scholarships or sponsorship if we got admission to the university. Those of us who could not afford the application fees for the university but were deemed potential material had the fee paid for by the school.

The following year when the results came out I was among the best students in the region with my name in the newspaper. I was in awe, I couldn’t believe I was a step closer to achieving my career ambitions. It was the last minute challenge that did it.

Last year I inherited responsibility of a young man named Amin who was a student in one of the national secondary schools. Amin is a bright student but from a needy background and this is why the bank had offered him and many others across the nation scholarships. For the last one year he had posting dismal performances and it was heartbreaking for me. Knowing that his whole family was looking up to him to move them to the next level I took up the challenge of mentoring him. I remember telling Amin that this was the final lap of a Marathon and he had to finish strong like our marathoners. We strategised on amalgamating his strengths while building on his opportunities in areas he could easily improve on.

To cut the long story short, Amin came to the branch to announce a strong Matiang’i B+, this was great news considering how poorly schools had performed. A Matiang’i C+  is no mean feat good people and all this done through determination and keeping your eyes on the goal.