Bonnie Okumu, 39

Director Legal Services and Company Secretary

KCB Group

Coming from a humble background, Bonnie learnt to work early to pay her way through high school at Precious Blood — Riruta.

She also had to finance her law degree.

Her rise to the top has been gradual but steady and has seen her work for Nestle Kenya as legal manager, Unilever as company secretary, Orange Kenya as company secretary and now she is at Kenya Commercial Bank, one of the three biggest lenders in Kenya.

“There is no magic,” she says of her journey to the top.

"On getting to the top: “There is no magic”"

“It’s good old hard work. You have to want to better yourself. You have to compete with yourself. I hear people talk about working smart, but you can’t work smart before you work hard.”

Always accustomed to be in the corner office, she is aware of the challenges that come with making her way through what she calls “a largely patriarchal landscape.”

“When you play in a patriarchal society, men will always put themselves out there even when they only have 20 percent of the requirements,” she says.

“For women, for some reason, we keep thinking we have to have 110 per cent for us to put ourselves forward.”

Leadership did not come easy for Bonnie. She has had to grow into it deliberately through education programmes but also by living it and learning from it. She is honest about her faults in this journey.

“Empathy is something that doesn’t come naturally,” she says.

“I think it may be because I’ve struggled through my journey; it’s not easy for me to recognise that there are people who will not be open to struggle like I did.”

For now she is mulling on the big “why?” question of her life, trying to shine a torch into her soul to find her bigger purpose.

“It’s a journey of honesty,” she says.

Mentorship keeps coming up as one of the options that she is open to pursuing.

–Jackson Biko