When Audrey Cherop, 24, quit her job as a teacher, she did it not knowing how she would pay her bills, neither where her next venture would come from. But she took the plunge anyway after realising that teaching wasn’t just her thing, a decision that at first many thought was risky, but has turned to be the best she has ever had to make in her young life.
Today, she is a product officer, making her not just the first woman, but the debutant holder of the position at Vehicle and Equipment Leasing Limited (VAELL).
“My current position as a product officer is different from what I did as a teacher. I now work with heavy machinery, where I am responsible for conducting market analysis, product development, and introduction to market. I also act as the company products ambassador.
At first, it frightened me that maybe I wouldn’t command the respect that the position requires, especially being a woman and young.
And honestly at first it seemed an uphill task, but along the way I gained support from sources that at first I thought wouldn’t be impossible, like my male older colleagues. Also, unlike the misconception about women being their enemies, I never experienced resentment from other women at work.
The main challenge of being in a leadership position at a young age and as a woman, has been working with staff and clients that are older and having to demonstrate that I am still capable of executing my duties.
All the same, being in a position where I am also leading older people sometimes makes me uncomfortable, given that we are still in an African setting where we look up to the older generation. However, that has not held me back from executing my duties to the level needed.
Another major challenge is that some of my duties bring me in direct contact with our clients.
But I learned to deal with issues as they come, and improve the processes to avoid future conflicts.
Despite the hiccups, I would say the gains have outdone the setbacks, one of them being tremendous exposure on how the business is run, as well as leadership skills.
Being young also means that I have great energy and drive that has been a big advantage to me, given the demands of the job.
I feel the decision to quit my job as a teacher was the most difficult one. I decided to stop teaching because I felt I was not passionate about what I was doing, and I was struggling with my job.
I left without knowing how I would pay my bills, and where my next job would come from. It was tough, and I had to depend on my family. The decision at the time seemed unwise, but retrospectively, I feel it was the right call and it pushed me to where I am today.
I would attribute my success to my parents and sisters, who encouraged me to follow my passion. They chipped in and helped pay for my education, always lent their support in ensuring that I had an easier time attending classes, staying late at work, and just focusing on my career. I was motivated to push and rise above the challenges.
I attribute my leadership skills to growing up with my sisters. Girls tend to be competitive and, at the same time, supportive. Also, having a mother who is a stickler for rules, given that her children were only girls, ensured that we were disciplined and taught us the value of hard work.
It was no surprise then that from a young age, I have been in leadership positions, starting as a prefect in lower and upper primary, as well as holding various leadership positions in high school and at the university.
I have a close circle of friends that we go way back; they have been supportive. We meet from time to time, discuss the challenges we are facing in our careers, personal lives, and then encourage one another. We also have a ‘Chama’ where we pool our funds and support one another, discuss business ideas and investment options.
I credit much of my achievement to patience, persistence and hard work and I’d advise the same to other young Kenyans who are starting in their careers.
Most people love taking the shorter route, but I have come to learn that nothing comes easy. I am a strong believer that hard work and determination will always bear fruits irrespective of your career choice or profession.”