She is a media personality, strategic communicator, moderator, speaker and content curator with more than 10 years of experience in the media industry.

Joy Doreen Biira’s media career spanning more than a decade has seen her work on tv, radio as well as digital media and she says she is living her dream of telling stories.

Biira has both a Kenya and a Uganda heritage and hopes to one day author a book to share her story of growing up in a town in Uganda that was majorly guarded by the military due to the shared border with the volatile Democratic Republic of Congo.

She describes herself as charismatic, dreamer, doer, lover of simple things in life, risk-taker, family-oriented, mother of the fabulous boys, a spouse, a mentor and believer in God.

Those who are close to her describe her as intelligent, professional, and fun at the same time and she says she was brought up to stand up for what she believed in, no matter what.

Joy Doreen Biira. PHOTO/COURTESY

“Growing up, my parents taught my siblings and I to stand up for what we believe in, cherish the value of work, be independent, value integrity, guard our dignity and be as truthful as we could before anything else. You see, no matter how sweet the lie sounds, the truth is mostly regal. And when you think deep, that’s actually what a successful media career is about.

“While some people go to school to study so as to pursue a career, I was trained into my career. At age 16, during my form 4 vacation, I read my very first news bulletin at Messiah Radio, a local radio station in my home town: Kasese, Uganda. I was paid under a dollar a day. Should that count as a wage?”

Most of her high school education needs were met under a merit scholarship by the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE).

“I Got the scholarship at a time my parents were going through a financial recession. Without this scholarship, I possibly wouldn’t be where I am today.”

She launched her career in the television world while still in school in Kampala, Uganda.

Joy Doreen Biira. PHOTO/COURTESY

“As for my TV career began in my 2nd year at Makerere University in Uganda when I was a BSc. Information Technology undergraduate. I was trained on the job on the fundamentals of Journalism shortly before I was cast into the limelight on the country’s premier morning show as co-host and prime-time News Anchor at NBS TV.

“Nine months after I joined TV, I auditioned for a weekend radio job and got it. At 20, I was one of the ‘lucky youth’ walking about with two jobs! I did TV Monday to Friday and Radio Saturday and Sunday while still doing school. The knowledge I gained saw me grow into an events moderator and speaker and eventually a strategic Communicator in due time. In addition, I trained Members of Parliament on how to leverage technology and the media. After four years on TV and radio, I left Uganda for Kenya.”

During her transition period, Biira received two job offers; one at KTN Kenya and another at Ghana’s TV3.

Joy Doreen Biira. PHOTO/COURTESY

“I weighed my options - career growth, proximity to home, cost of living in the two countries and remuneration. I needed career growth, so I chose Kenya, and that’s the best decision I ever made.

“I started work in the media in Kenya in 2012. My employer and colleagues at the Standard Group were very receptive. I spread my wings from being a Prime-time anchor and reporter to curating, hosting and co-producing shows such as Africa Speaks, Business Focus and Business Today. I also hosted Deutsche Welle’s Eco-At-Africa magazine show that was a collaboration between DW & KTN.”

In 2017, she took a sabbatical from full-time broadcast media work.

“I had been through a near-death experience in 2016 so I made a deliberate decision to take a break for my mental well-being, intending to go back after I felt like myself again. However, months after I did, I was offered a role as Strategic Communications Advisor for an Extractives Facility Project run by DFID and UNDP linked to the new Ministry of Petroleum & Mining. The role allowed me to strengthen my abilities as a strategic communicator.”

Joy Doreen Biira. PHOTO/COURTESY

Together with the team at the ministry, they packaged and branded Kenya’s portfolio globally on its valuable mineral resources. The project terminated in 2018.

“Since then, I have continued to build my capacity as a strategic communicator at my consultancy Africa Speaks Limited, working with organizations across the globe. We help organizations, individuals and companies strategically communicate at an external level. From media correspondence to content curation, report writing, among others.

Biira also makes media appearances as a contributor for DW Business Africa.

She moderates Kenya’s edition of EdTech Mondays, a series of Mastercard Foundation’s conversations bringing together EdTech Stakeholders to leverage on education-technology to advance teaching and learning in the country.

Joy Doreen Biira. PHOTO/COURTESY

“It has taken a village – a mix of experienced journalists, media practitioners, mentors and life coaches, a supportive family to get me to where I am today. And I’m ever so grateful to everyone who’s played a part in my career growth. So, I’d say, as you build your career, you’re going to meet so many people – don’t just pile up your contact list; build a network pool of opportunity.”

The talented journalist has worked in different local, regional and international media houses, including NBS TV in Uganda, Capital FM Radio in Uganda, KTN News in Kenya and Deutsche Welle.

She shares lessons she has learnt working as a woman in the media industry.

• Attitude is Everything: Understanding that your abilities are not necessarily dependent on your gender is important. It allows the mindset of maturity to work without limits. That is the attitude you need to manage a male-dominated workspace.

• Don’t settle for less: When I started my career in the media, I was the only female among male colleagues on the morning crew of the show we worked on. Then, it was evident that male colleagues did the big interviews. It took persistently proving beyond reasonable doubt that I, too, was capable of doing those same interviews. It took hard work, practice, widening the scope of knowledge and grabbing opportunities. Learn to negotiate.

• Guard your Integrity: There is so much expectation (or lack thereof) on females from both the audience and the media industry itself. The perception of women’s role at all levels is questioned. Did they deserve it? How did they get there? So, guard your focus and integrity. Keep rising with integrity.

• Upgrade your skills: The best thing you can do for your career is to learn something new every so often. Expand your knowledge meter. It is the best gift you can give to your future self. It is the obvious gateway way to better opportunities.

• Focus on the rewards, not the awards: Journalism and the media industry, in general, is about impact. When work is rewarding in terms of fulfilment, it is the beginning of success.

• Never burn bridges: The media is a large yet small space. Today you’re here and tomorrow, the transfer window takes you to another media house. How you navigate your transfers should not be at the cost of your reputation. Always leave a clean slate.

Joy Doreen Biira. PHOTO/COURTESY

We asked Biira how the following have principles have impacted her career life;

• Personal Branding: The world perceives us by how we introduce ourselves; the reputation we leave behind, and the inspiration we exude before entering a room. Meet and exceed those expectations when you step in or out of a room. Show up as a better version of who the world expects you to be. I’m still getting better at it as I advance in my career.

• Forging networks: Networks are the best way to build social capital. Be unashamed to say you don’t know how to network and open enough to learn and capitalize on your networks. Some of my best work ideas have come from listening to the most unusual stories in networking spaces. Having transitioned from media to Communication consultancy, I have learnt that one has to have a great pool of networks, social capital, dynamism and the right expertise.

• Taking up new challenges: I’ve never been the kind to shy away from new challenges. I take them on afraid (very afraid, I might add) and with an open mind. We are unaware of many of our abilities because of the fear of the unknown, and it isn’t until we are uprooted and planted elsewhere that we are forced to adjust. So bloom where you’re planted. Pack a bag, move to another town, city, country – start over, whatever it is, just do it. Your best achievements are stuck between you and being stuck in the same race.

• Mentorship: I’m honoured to have been mentored by people who have changed my mindset, reorganized my thoughts and raised confidence in my abilities.

Joy Doreen Biira. PHOTO/COURTESY

The big name in the media industry shared her vision for the world:

“The world is perfect as it is with imperfect humans in it. That said, I wish the creativity of young Africans would be harnessed better. Having practised as a broadcast business media personality for years, I would change how we treat our ageing population and our young population, which I consider the demographic dividend. It almost feels like African governments don’t quite know what to do with young people. Governments are caught between not knowing what to do with retirees at age 60 and above and young people below 35.”

She also shared what her two most important values that guide her life and work.

• Integrity. For my present self, my future self, and me in the future past. That when I’m old and grey, above and beyond all achievements, that I am & was a human of integrity before God and to humanity.

• Attitude. Attitude is altitude; it is a house of cards. I’m only ever going to be what I set my attitude to be. So I choose to stay positive most days.

Joy Doreen Biira. PHOTO/COURTESY

In conclusion, she appealed to career women to embrace taking career breaks.

“To fellow young career women; normalize taking career breaks to re-energize and even take care of your young family. Part of the reason I took fewer work hours was to spend more time with my very young family. Work has diversified; we can now do work online with flexible hours. We can study online while working and spend time with family. It’s not the hours you spend in the workspace. It’s more about the value and merit you bring to the table.

“Also, vehicles have engines, trees have roots, and human beings have dual power–the mind and the heart. So, may we learn to ignite our hearts to be full of the joys of life and our minds to go after what we are passionate about; this is the key to BEING.”