Hillary Onami, 39

Director, Public Policy and Research

Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya
My Story

There are two ways to get to the top. One, you could scale the ladder, fall off, and try again. Two, you could simply ride your luck. There is a third — combining the two.

“To wring every droplet of your career, you need to be diligent, climbing the steps through hard work, dedication, and bulldog determination. Then pray that the gods smile down on you,” Hillary says.

The 39-year-old is the director of public policy and research at the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK).

At the institute, he says, he managed to propel the research unit and increase cooperation with the international community and partners.

"To wring every droplet of your career, you need to be diligent, climbing the steps through hard work, dedication, and bulldog determination."

“However, having a voice and getting the institute heard in matters of public interest is the chef’s kiss in my accolades,” he says.

To him, money is simply an enabler. “Money helps you achieve things. The more you have, the more reasons to spend. Money has taught me that you can never have enough, we are hard-wired to aspire for more. The real trick is in living within your means.”

That was among the lessons he picked from his mentors.

Dedication to public policy issues and maintaining relationships with people factor in high on his list of how to remain on top.

“Do your stuff the best way you can,” he says. “That is the best way to endear yourself to people.”

But is there an aspect of his life he struggles to account for?

“Keeping my ducks in a row. The demands are quite many, from society to work and colleagues. It is hard to prioritise achieving what you have promised to everyone.”

Hillary is pursuing a post-graduate diploma in tax administration to add to his Master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration from Kenyatta University, and his Bachelor’s in Economics and Sociology from the University of Nairobi.

He defines success as, “When I can provide for my family, help in society and mentor others to achieve their goals.”

EB White is famously quoted as saying, “luck is not something you mention in the presence of self-made men.” Is he, Hillary, smart or lucky?

“A combination of both. Smart lucky,” he says.

“But I think I am lucky. The things I have achieved are not because of who I know. I do not have any godfathers, but somehow luck finds me, keeping me afloat. There are smarter people than me.”

How does he let the grass not grow under his feet?

“By continuously evaluating myself and making sure things that would drag me down do not get my attention. Self-evaluation. I live on the mantra of continuous improvement. The Japanese philosophy of Kaizen.”

Eddy Ashioya