As a young female professional, it has been quite the ride to navigate through my own personal career journey. From having to deal with issues such as job dissatisfaction, gender bias, bullying, mental health to adapting to different work cultures, the corporate world has been nothing but a roller coaster for me.

In order to ensure that I don’t take too much time in finding my footing in this space, I constantly look out for stories on other people’s journeys, allowing me to learn that it is not only possible to overcome these barriers but also succeed and drive change in my environment. I had the lovely opportunity to interview Hon. Achie Ojany-Alai on the same.

Meet Achie

Working in the Kenyan public service sphere relatively known for its male dominance and gender barriers, Achie Ojany-Alai is breaking the ceiling and she has started at the county level. She is determined to achieve her goals and fulfill her purpose. She has been the County Minister for Tourism, Sports, Arts and Culture, in Kisumu for the past five years. “Don’t worry about being called bullish or noisy at work; ignore it and do the work“, The County Minister remarks. She shares her journey with us.


I grew up in a very close knit family. I’m the first born of 6 children. My father, Prof F. F. Ojany was a Geography professor and my mother, Mrs. Agnes G. Ojany was the first female CEO of the Catering Levy Trustees which is now known as the Tourism Finance Corporation. Growing up, our parents always encouraged us to ‘stretch’ in life. Whether in academics, relationships, career or life in general. They didn’t push us to pursue certain careers that seemed more marketable in the industry as was the norm in most Kenyan homes. They wanted us to get an education and be able to carve our own paths.

My parents were both travelers and they really wanted us to be aware of how much of the world there was. They wanted us to be exposed to the life beyond our four walls at home. To that end, my first trip abroad was when I was 10 years old and that just catapulted my drive for new experiences. That whole narrative is still what I follow till now and my favorite quote speaks to that.

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Education and Career

My background in Economics, which I studied for my undergraduate degree at the University of Nairobi has enabled me navigate through various roles in the business world. I spent 22 years working abroad, having started my journey at Gillette, Kenya. I later moved to McCann Erickson, Kenya and then headed to their branch in London. I decided to take a break for 18 months to pursue my master’s degree in Marketing Management at Kingstone in London. Thereafter, I rejoined the advertising world at Leo Burnett in London and then in Chicago. While there, I got the opportunity to work for some of the leading global brands like Delta Airlines and Lucent Technologies and for that, I shall forever be grateful.

I developed my passion for advertising there and finally got my career niche right. The advertising world was and still is very fast and having a tough boss like mine didn’t make it any easier. Nevertheless, I found Rose Kimotho, my first boss to be an amazing lady and who I am now, is majorly because of her and most certainly my mother. I watched both these strong and beautiful women navigate leadership with great gusto and this inspired me greatly.

How did you get to switch from a successful corporate career abroad for a job in public service here in Kenya?

To be honest, it was because of curiosity. I was intrigued to know how the government works and why sometimes it just doesn’t.

Having been in the corporate space both locally and internationally, and also having experience as a business coach, I decided to move back to Kenya to do something new. Remember Stretch! Always be open to the possibility of something new! While doing a bit of consultancy here and there, I was approached by Professor Anyang Nyong’o’s team in Kisumu to help with his campaign. I got interested because there were no women in his team and I believed that working with them was my opportunity to change things and make a huge impact. I said Yes and the rest is history. 

What do you like about your job?

At county level, I was appointed into the Tourism, Culture and Sports department and I have loved every bit of it. This is because it allows for creativity and that’s something that I ooze easily. I believe it’s very important to give Kisumu a distinct face and it has been my mission to build the Kisumu brand since I got into office.

While I was abroad, Kenya didn’t seem as vibrant as I think it should have been, particularly Kisumu. It was something that I had complained about and wished I could do something to rectify the situation. My job has allowed me to do that. When I heard about the opportunity, I thought to myself, “Get up and do it; apply for the job. If you get it, you have 5 years to change the narrative”. As soon as I got into those doors, I hit the ground running. I think I only stopped for breath in June 2022-5 years on the money.

Conference and Sports Tourism has been my major focus as I believe this is what will catapult the city into its glory. They will allow us to not only bring the local but also international market players into Kisumu. Conference or business tourism is a huge cash cow especially if you package your targeted destination right. Over the 5 years, my team and I have made it our mission to do the following;

  • To attract new airlines into Kisumu
  • Introduce new destinations flight routes e.g. the Kisumu-Mombasa return daily and Kisumu-Entebbe return daily
  • Attract an international hotel into the region i.e. Best Western Hotel
  • Set up the Lake Victoria Tourism Association (LVTA), the overarching body of all players in the tourism sector in the western region i.e. airlines, hotels, tour operations and travel agents.
  • Successful lobbying for setting up an international conference center to be built in Kisumu.
Reopening of Kenya Airways after 2 years of the Covid 19 pandemic
Hosting Eliud Kipchoge,the brand ambassador for Kenya,ahead of the Africities Conference

What advice can you give female professionals?

Firstly, I would say that the private sector is more open to female career professionals compared to public service. Nevertheless, I would advise women to be aggressive at their jobs regardless of any negative narratives put across by naysayers. Too pushy! Too noisy! Too aggressive! These are all descriptions going round about women who are trying to climb the corporate ladder. Most of them come from people who are inadequate themselves. Don’t sweat it! These people are just trying to deflect their own insecurities towards you. As long as you’re doing the right thing and being fair while at it, that’s all that matters. Don’t let them bring you down. They were nowhere in sight when you were building yourself.

Another tip is to not bring your family drama to the office. As blunt as it sounds, it is really important for women to learn this. Doing this only feeds into the perception that women are weak and cannot deliver. Do not give them the satisfaction of proving them right. Pull yourself together and hold your chin up high. Whatever happens at home, let it stay there. Revisit it once you get out of the office after work. I assure you that your male counterparts usually do exactly this.

Lastly, be cautious of what you post on social media. The half-naked pictures, inappropriate memes and  twerking videos; just keep them to yourself. The world is getting smaller and smaller thanks to technology and it is very easy for recruiters or potential business partners to get access to such material. Protect your brand!

Any relationship advice for the young folks out there

The only thing you can truly own is your education and your career. Armed with these two, never settle for average. An average job! An average relationship! Average dreams!

Don’t be in a rush to get into marriage. Sadly, our culture is a huge contributor to this rush. It’s quite baffling to be honest. Young people seem to be in a race to get married and have kids, despite not being able to sustain such lifestyles. Children are costly and if you’re not able to financially sustain yourself, it is ludicrous to bring in another human being into this world to suffer.

Pace yourself, live a little and pray. It will all work out in due time. However, brace yourself for some turbulence. Remember, a straight road never made a skillful driver. We only get one life so live it skillfully.

“Live and work, but do not forget to play,to have fun with this life.It is available only once.”-Eileen Caddy