When you meet the smiley and soft-spoken Margaret Wariko, you would be forgiven to think that she is just any other ordinary woman trotting through the regular career path.
However, Wariko carries in her strides a story of struggle, determination, false starts, reinvention, hard falls, resilience and phoenix-esque rise back to the top.
The Mobius Motors Marketing and PR Manager sat down with Swala Nyeti and shared her inspiring story that reads like a movie and one that she was eager to share to inspire others.
Swala Nyeti: What is your education background and what did you always want to be when you grow up?
Margaret Wariko: I have a background in Mass Communication (Diploma) and a Degree in Leadership and Management. I always wanted to be a journalist, specifically a news anchor. I am glad I got a chance to be one for around five years before moving to the corporate world.
SN: What was your childhood and upbringing like?
MW: I come from a humble background, and being the first born, I had the pressure of trying to ensure that I, at least, make something of myself. I’ve always had a fighter spirit in me and since I knew we had no connections, I worked really hard as well as praying for God’s favour in the process. I am glad God has always heard my prayers, even when I think he’s taking too long (laughs).
SN: You started your career as a reporter at Goodnews Broadcasting System (GBS) TV. How did you land there and what was your experience like?
MW: It was 2009. This for me, is always a true testimony of resilience, hard work and God’s Grace. First of all, before landing that GBS job as a reporter, I had volunteered for almost one year as an intern in two other deferent organizations. Just when I thought I had a breakthrough, there was another condition to volunteer for six more months, which was referred to as training, before getting the job.
On hearing this, I reached out to four of my friends - Juliet, Mambo, Dennis, Rez. We used to call each other “Mguu Chuma”. whom we had gone to school together and told them about it and asked them to apply and if all goes well, we would be employed after the 6 months (they took the offer, and now, they are in the same field but in different areas).
The experience was tough, but now I am glad I did not give up, just when the training ended and was excited to get my first salary…. An offer of 6,000 ksh was given… I did not know whether to cry or laugh or be disappointed.
I had a goal to achieve so I accepted and continued to push and do my best. I tried to learn as much as possible because despite the challenges, there was a great opportunity of exploring my talent.
SN: Why did you leave the media and what drove you to the PR world?
MW: Leaving Media was never something I was looking forward to, circumstances pushed me (Glad they did). Three years after joining the first local station, I got a break through to join another local station, which was better than where I was, however, just before I got to enjoy it, we were told they station was changing and would no longer be airing news, that meant people in my department would be fired. Luckily, I was not, they retained two of us from the news department but even after being retained, we were moved to entertainment news (I had no clue how to work on entertainment news… I struggled but found my footing)
One day, while in the office, bumped in to a lady who looked lost, I reached out and asked her if she had been assisted. She said no. I asked her what she wanted so that I see how I can help her. She told me she was looking for Carol Mutoko… she was on the wrong floor, so I directed her to the correct office. It’s at that point she handed me her card (I did not look at it at the moment) I put it in my pocket.
Later on, when I was picking something from my pocket, came across the card and upon looking at it, it read “Tabitha Karanja – C.E.O Keroche Breweries” I did not pay much attention to it, till a colleague who was at my desk asked where I met the lady and if I knew how she was a big deal. Believe it or not, I did not know much about her, so my colleague asked if they could keep the card and I said yes. I only requested to take a photo of it.
Months later when I felt I was not fit for entertainment news, I started looking for jobs, then I remembered the photo I took of the card. I contemplated if I should call her or not… took me a few days but; later decided to reach out… told myself let me try and see how it goes….
I remember it was on a Friday evening, I called and she did not pick. A few mins later, she called back, my hands were shaking, I was nervous and I did not know what to or how to even react This was a C.E.O calling back! I composed myself, picked and started a conversation mentioning where and how we met. Funny enough she remembered. Told her I was reaching out because I wanted to make a career change from news room to Corporate. Asked if there was an opening in the comms office….
Her response, “…actually we were thinking of looking for one.” She asked me to call her on a Wednesday the following week. My God, I could not wait, it felt like months! So, I called her and she told me someone will call me.
The lady who reached out said there was a Personal Assistant (PA) position as I wait for the communications position. I told her that I had not done it before but I was willing to try it if they picked me. You should have seen me convincing them how my media skills will be an added advantage! Anyway, I did the interview. The second one was the most interesting, it was with John Nyongesa. The CEO‘s phone rang while in the interview room and Nyongesa asked me to pick the call, and the rest is history. Eventually I still got the Communication and Marketing Job.
SN: What has your experience in PR been like compared to the media?
MW: PR experience…. It’s a game of knowing how to deal with people, speed and accuracy. You have to be street smart and dynamic; I love it because it has continued to bring out the best in me. Mrs. Karanja taught me so much… she gave me an opportunity and pushed me beyond limits. I can say she’s the reason why I am this resilient.
SN: What are some of the key challenges you have faced in the media and PR world, as a woman and how have you overcome them?
MW: I would say balancing work, family, friends and school… one of it always suffers, you just have to try and balance. Age has been another factor; you’ll find people are fast to look down on you until they see what you bring to the table…
SN: You were recently hired as the Mobius Motors Marketing and Public Relations Manager. Tell us more about that and what it portends for you?
MW: Ha ha ha, this was another miracle for me through a lady called Madge a friend of Madge who spoke my name in a room of opportunities. Imagine being picked for a role that you have no history about (never worked for automotive, though I have a passion for bikes and cars) I just sold the ideas I had based on my ability and previous experience.
I have a very supportive and exceptional boss who believed my abilities and potential (based on my previous work and results) and decided to take a chance with me (In my 11 years’ experience, this was the best interview I ever had).
This role clearly means I have a chance to make history and be part of it. Mobius Motors is a local company that manufactures and assembles vehicles to fit not only the Kenya roads but Africa at large… we are redefining Kenya’s transport journey by offering new cars, fit for our roads at the price of used imported cars. We insist just because you buy local does not mean you compromise on quality.
SN: What have you learnt about the Kenya market after recently officially launching the Mobius 3 SUV and how is the penetration like? Lessons learnt?
MW: I must say the penetration is impressive and really thank Kenyans and our investors for supporting and believing in us. We must continue pushing the agenda of buying and building Kenya.
One of the most interesting lessons I am learning, people are willing to spend and support as long as you prove yourself.
SN: What is next for you at Mobius and career-wise?
MW: Growth…. And learning, I am at the peak of my career, it can only get better, watch this space.
SN: What career advice do you have for other women following your footsteps and wanting to make it in the media and your line of work?
MW: Consistency and resilience… be ready to put in a lot of work and sacrifices. If you want to achieve 100 you have to be ready to give in more than 200. Patience and ability to know your worth and potential, it really kelps.
SN: Who and what inspires you in your personal life and career?
MW: The way God has continued to use me for his Glory… manze he surprises me every single time. I am continually becoming a better version of myself in terms of Career and life.
I can honestly and confidently say God has always had my back in addition to disciple. It is not only about my education and my network, but his favour that has continued to put me in places I never expected to be. I can confirm that you do not need a Godfather you need God the Father to just guide you. (That doesn’t mean you just sit and wait, you have to do your part as well).
SN: What important thing don’t people know about Margaret Wariko?
MW: I am a risk taker. I am a church leader. I have been a tout before (In my college years) and secretly without my folks knowing about it (laughs cheekily). I have failed so many times, but I have been able to get up- better and stronger.
SN: Have you ever contemplated giving up? What kept you going?
Giving up…is a word that is so familiar to me. Not once or twice have I had that thought. But I thank God for a great support system from friends and family who have walked with me in this journey.
I got my first redundancy letter when I was in Keroche (2014) and I did not know how to deal at that point. I was broken and was in tears in my heart, but I could not let people know because to many I was their support system.
I remember when the HR was handing over the letter to me, she had a difficult time doing so, but I told her I would be fine, even when I wasn’t sure I would be.
I remember I went home, and I wasn’t sure what next. It is then I thought to myself that I would become a freelancer. Would it work? I wasn’t sure. I just pulled myself together and started to look for work.
It is in that process that I got call from a friend of mine, who told me there was a small project for four months and asked if I would be interested. Do you know what that “small” project was? The official opening of Two Rivers Mall! I did their publicity and got a chance to show what I was made of.
While at it, I got a contract to be part of the World under 18 Championships in 2017, and I got a chance to freelance and work on a project with the British Council. So, for three years I was a freelance and I can say God was good to me that I never lacked.
In 2018 I got a job with an agency and wasn’t so sure about it but told myself let me accept the offer as I figure out my next step. I did that but I wasn’t happy. Less than three or four months into my job, they had already started to frustrate me, but I always had a positive energy to give my best.
While working there, a thought came to my mind to reach out to Tabitha Karanja and just find out if there was an opening. We had not separated in bad terms when I left Keroche. One day, after so much humiliation at work, I sent her a message. It was on a Wednesday. I told myself if she doesn’t respond by Friday then that means I did not have a chance. So, I told myself I will be prepared just in case she calls and asks for a meeting. Remember opportunities come to those who are ready.
On Friday afternoon, I receive a call from her. You have no Idea how I felt! She gave me an appointment for the following Monday. Just like that, I got another opportunity, this time a better position. It was during that time that we did a very successful campaign (almost eight months) dubbed “Mugithi na Summit.” This was such a breakthrough for me. God had restored faith and hope, showing me He still had my back.
After a year, and based on the successful campaign, I was poached by Mediamax Limited, the company that owns and operated K24.
SN: What are some of the key highlights of your career and life that have left a lasting impact on your life and shaped the woman you are today?
To be very honest, every single job I have been to is a highlight in my career. Its not something I saw myself in, considering there are more qualified people that would have gotten them. But I have always believed in myself, I have always had a passion in what I do and I have always asked for God’s Grace.
About life, I have come to realise you are a profession first before being a woman or man. I have seen people riding on it, especially women. Let people give you respect because of what you can do but not because you are a woman or man.
I have also come to understand that I am an Alpha woman, not so many people know how to deal with us without serving disrespect. I am learning how to deal with these different people and their needs, accommodating them and not losing myself while at it.
Relationship-wise, no matter what type of an Alpha woman you are. You have to respect the head of the house. You leave your title at the door and pick it up when leaving the house, well, unless you want to end up single (she lets off another cheeky but reflective naughty).
I am whom I am because of my parents, they gave me good counsel and an amazing beating.
I am whom I am because church has been a priority to me.
I am whom I am because strangers gave me an opportunity and I am forever grateful.