The Glass Ceiling….
I’ve been having this running conversation with a few friends about this elusive glass ceiling. The crux of the conversation really boiled down to whether or not it’s worth it to try and climb the corporate ladder in the west or whether you’d be better off moving back to Kenya and doing it from that end. In other words, would you rather be a big fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond?
If you are a black/African/immigrant…what are the chances of you making it to the top in the west? Getting to the top involves a lot more than just hard work. You’ve got to be able to network with the right people and you’ve got to be able to inundate yourself into the “culture”. That’s the problem Africans in the west have — if you have nothing in common with a typical mzungu, how are you going to network? what are you going to talk about after work? How are you going to get that crucial mentor who’ll “have your back”?
As I was having this conversation, I thought of someone like Adan Mohamed, the currrent Managing Director of Barclays bank Kenya. It looks like he made a very wise strategic career move. I don’t know him personally and I’ve never met him, but if he did put himself in a position to get that job IN Kenya, it was a brilliant move. Why hassle trying to innoculate yourself with mzungu’s that you have nothing in common with? I’m sure it’s much easier for someone like Mohamed to network with politicians and business people in Kenya than it would be in England or America. That cultural connection is crucial to establishing business links and opportunities. Can you imagine having to attend cocktail parties or other functions when you’re the lone African ALL the time? It can be a very isolating experience. You really don’t realize this until you leave the country and are confronted by this cultural divide.
Now, of course, if your thinking of going the entrepreneurial route, then you won’t have to worry about kissing someone’s matako everyday (maybe you’ll have to kiss your clients matako’s every now & then, but that’s always easier than kissing a bosses buttocks)