Trust God to keep doors that you shouldn’t be walking into closed!

The one thing I never want in my old age is regret. I try as much as I can to choose courage, to get out of my comfort zone and explore. As a woman of faith, I really trust that what is mine will come to me. It will not get lost in the mail or end up somewhere else. It comes to me. In the same way, the doors I shouldn’t be walking into remain closed because God already sees my end from my beginning and He will therefore order and direct my steps.

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A few years ago the office I worked for, in Nairobi Kenya was shut down. The business results the company was hoping for did not come in the time frame the business owners had expected. Most positions were made redundant. The company being a multinational company with branches in other countries, they offered relocation to other countries to some employees. Some were offered roles in different functions. I was on an expatriate assignment at that point. The first obvious option for those who were expatriates was to go back to your home country and take up a role there. I could therefore go back home to Zimbabwe. There was a role for me there. I was also offered several other options, one of which was to stay on in Kenya as an expatriate in a different role and function. This second option was conditional. It was dependent on me getting my work permit renewed.

Even with these options available, I still wanted to see what else was out there. Disruptions like these aren’t pleaseant, but they also present an opportunity to reimagine a different career life and future. With this in mind, I began my job search. I wasn’t desperate because I had my options available even though the other one came with conditions. I was carefully looking for a role that would offer growth but also allow me to make a difference. I wasn’t going to just take the first role that came up.

I found a role with a completely different company that ticked all my boxes. There was only one issue. It was in South Africa. This meant it was also subject to me getting a work permit. What a predicament! To make the situation even more dicey, I couldn’t apply for the work permit for my South African job offer from Kenya. I needed to go back home to Zimbabwe and make the South African work permit application from there. I could have easily done this, except my passport was required to be submitted to accompany my work permit application. If I did this, I would not be able to travel back to Kenya to continue working as I waited for my South African work permit. If I was going to take up the South African job offer, the only option was for me to resign from the role I had in Kenya, go back to Zimbabwe and apply for a South African work permit which wasn’t guaranteed.

I could have decided to stay with the job I had in Kenya. After all I already had excellent expatriate benefits. I however knew if I stayed, i would have regretted it and wondered what could have been all my life. With no guarantees that I would get a South African work permit, I still resigned. Left my comfortable expatriate job in Kenya, went back to Zimbabwe and began the process of applying for a work permit. It was a 3 months wait.

I was reflecting and thinking about that part of my life the other day. As they say, in hindsight, everything will make sense and the dots always connect. I wrote a few lessons from this experience that I would like to share today.

1. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s the ability to still do it even when you are afraid. I was afraid. My husband was worried too. We have three children to look after so this wasn’t any easy decision to make but we made it. In case you are wondering how we came to that decision, we prayed and we sought God. There was no explicit voice from Him to tell us exactly what to do. There were different signs that we were in the right direction. One was that my Kenya work permit wasn’t renewed. That door was closed and I was okay with that. Through it all, we had peace that we were in the right direction. Yes there was a certain fear, but there was also overwhelming peace through it all.

2. In the multitude of counsel, there is safety. My husband and I had people that we trusted that we could discuss what we were going through. Not only were they praying with and for us, they were also offering guidance and counsel.

3. Trust God to keep doors that you shouldn’t be walking into closed and locked and open the doors that you should be walking into. In my career, my faith has been an anchor. I do excellent work consistently but I also trust God to also order and direct by steps. I wasn’t disappointed at all when the Kenya work permit wasn’t renewed. For me, it was clear I was not being rejected but being redirected.

4. Don’t wait for the inevitable to happen in order to start applying for other roles. Even if you are happy with your current role, there is nothing wrong in exploring to see what else is out there. This removes desperation and gives you time to evaluate offers properly and not take the offers that might not be good for you.

5. Multiple streams of income are a must. Your job only determines your salary and not your income. In the 3 months that we were waiting for the South African work permit, we opened alternative streams of income that still help us as a family today. The pandemic in 2020 further highlighted to a lot of people the importance of alternative streams of income.

6. There are people whose opinions shouldn’t matter to you. I met former work colleagues during the 3 months in between jobs phase who could not understand my choices and the decisions I was making. I wasn’t worried about other people’s opinions. Not everyone should have a right and access to give their opinions on what you should or shouldn’t do. You need your own inner circle and “board of directors” who can determine and help you make decisions. In the same way corporates don’t take guidance from every Tom, Dick and Harry, neither should you. Be very clear on whom you allow to speak into your life and determine the direction you take.

The doors that were supposed to open did open for us. My work permit for the South African offer was issued and we have been here really enjoying this country which is only a 90 minute flight from home. You can trust God to order and direct your footsteps and get you where you need to be.

7 Ways To Build A Strong Network As A Working Mum.

We have all heard the saying “your network is your net worth”. This statement is very true. The people you surround yourself have a great impact on your success. I know as working women we have many roles to fulfill. We are wives, mothers, co-workers, line managers, friends, sisters, church leaders…….the list is endless . Trying to fit time for all these roles and still have time to build a strong professional network might not be easy. One thing is for sure, you aren’t going to make it alone. You need others. Today I would like to share these 7 simple ways that I personally use to build my professional network. Please note this is about genuine relationship building. Build your network before you actually need it. Networking should not be about what you can get. It’s about what is beneficial for everyone involved.

Image from Pexels

1. Make LinkedIn your best friend – When it comes to professional platforms, LinkedIn is one of the best out there. You have an opportunity to do different things on the platform including:

a) Connecting with others in your industry.

b) Getting access to job opportunities. I got my current role via LinkedIn, and I wasn’t even on the premium option.

c) Position yourself as an expert in your industry through sharing relevant content.

2. Do not ignore your high school, college/ university alumni associations – former school mates are great way to network. I am in one alumni association where we only discuss business opportunities. We don’t talk about anything else. No politics or trending topics, just opportunities only. Through this group I have received several business referrals and opportunities. There isn’t any time commitment needed for this one because we are all scattered all over the world and only engage through our WhatsApp group.

3. Join your professional association – Most professions have a body that represents the interests of individuals in that industry or profession. Professional associations assist their members through learning programs, networking opportunities and sometimes job opportunities that are are only accessible to members. A simple internet search of your profession, location and the word association should bring up all the options available near you. Take up a role in your professional association to enhance your visibility and get access to the movers and shakers in your profession. Beyond just being a member, connect with others personally. Ask for a virtual coffee meeting and make sure you come prepared to ask the right questions as well as to add value. If your professional association has a magazine, make an effort to be a regular contributor to the magazine so you build yourself as an expert in your industry. Even as a mom, you can create time for your professional development without overloading your already full plate.

4. Participate in other volunteer organisations – you network doesn’t have to only be made of people who are in your industry or profession. That is a blinkered way to approach your career. Cast your net wide and join or participate in volunteer organisations. Your weekly church cell group not only builds you up spiritually, it exposes you to people to build genuine relationships with. During lockdown in 2020, I joined Toastmasters a global organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Meetings happen twice a month so that isn’t too demanding. Each meeting usually runs for a maximum of 2 hours. In the month of August and September alone I attended meetings in Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia without actually leaving the comfort of my home. I have met so many people that I now communicate with beyond Toastmasters business.

5. Search for events near you on Facebook– the pandemic has brought events that were normally in-person online. Without leaving your children or struggling to arrange a baby sitter, you can join events that are relevant for you virtually.

6. Join a Lean In Circle near you or create one if there isn’t any near you. Lean In is an organisation that was founded by Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook. The Lean In mission is to help women achieve their dreams and create an equal world. A Lean In circles is a group of 8-12 women who meet regularly, in person or virtually to support one another and learn new skills. When our family relocated to Johannesburg in 2019, building a professional network was a top priority for me. I reached out to a friend and together we created a Lean In Circle. We currently meet once a month to discuss various topics that affect us as women in corporate. We share our experiences and sometimes bring in expert speakers. Through the Circle we have unlocked opportunities for each other. If there is no Lean In Circle near you, create one. The Lean In website has guidelines on how to get a Circle going.

7. Register for the MumInStilettos Roadmap To Career Success Group Coaching Program – if you have tried to navigate your career on your own without much success, then this 6 week group coaching program is for you. In the program, you are going to meet other ambitious women who are looking to take their careers to the next level. Whether you are just starting out or you are a seasoned professional, I will hold your hand hand help up you accomplish the following:

a) Set clear and actionable career goals.

b) Clear actions on the steps you need to take to achieve your career goals.

c) Work on your personal brand and build brand YOU.

d) Introduce you to the Power of 3 Framework.

e) The art of self promotion.

At the end of 6 weeks, you will have a clear roadmap with step by step guidance on how to take your career to the next level. Register for the program on the link below and I will get in touch with you. https://vb3l7g3vfl3.typeform.com/to/x4JKBO04

Dear tired and sleep deprived mum…

I am a mum of three. Our oldest daughter is nine years old. We have twins that turned seven end of August. There is a 28 months gap between the children. This means there was a time all three of our children were below three years old. Yesterday I was reminded of those days when I was a sleep deprived tired mama. It started raining around midnight and our eldest daughter woke me up because she was scared of the thunder and lightning. She was awake till three am so I hardly slept the whole night. I therefore decided to write this post to encourage all sleep deprived tired mommas out there.

When the twins were born, my mum came to stay with us to help with the children. I took four months maternity leave from work. For my readers in the West, in most African countries, maternity leave is paid if you are employed ( just thought I would throw that in there. Africa isn’t backward after all. We have our challenges but in some areas we get it right). My husband was able to get about a month of paternity leave. We also had a live-in helper. That means for the first month, there were four of us looking after the three children. Guess what, it went a long way to relieve the exhaustion, but it wasn’t enough.

I was always tired. During the first month after the twins were born, the night shift was reserved for me and my hubby. The day shift belonged to my mom and our helper, but since I was also breastfeeding, it meant even during the day, I needed to be available to breastfeed two babies on demand.

When hubby went back to work, my mom joined me in the night shift. During the day we scheduled our napping and resting around the babies. If I needed to rest, mom and the nanny would look after the babies and if she needed to rest, i and the nanny would look after the babies.

After two months, my mom also had to go back to her home. I still had two more months of maternity leave. My husband rejoined the night feeding shift again. It was really a lot to manage so we decided to get a second maid to assist with the house chores during the day. She didn’t live with us, but she worked three days a week. I am grateful to God that we had the resources to do this.

Eventually my maternity leave ended and I also I had to go back to work. Thankfully my mother came back for another month just to ease the transition for both me and the babies. The other thing I appreciate about the Zimbabwean law, is that once a mother returns back  to work from maternity leave, she is entitled to an hour of breastfeeding per day. She can choose to go to the office an hour later or leave the office an hour early. In hindsight, this was a real blessing for which I am grateful.

I have to acknowledge and admit that I had a lot of family support as well. My sisters, sisters in law, nieces and nephews were all a phone call away. Most weekends I would call someone to relieve me for about three hours in the afternoon, just so I could get some sleep.

Outside of work, our lives revolved around the children.(it’s still kinda like that nine years later). The only place that we went outside of our home was church. Friends that needed to see us had to come visit us. It’s pointless trying to socialize with three kids all under three years. We tried it and failed dismally.

I got a lot of unsolicited advice, even from those whose circumstances were very different from mine. Some would say sleep when the babies sleep i.e follow their schedule….but they were two different babies and they had two different sleeping patterns so whose schedule was I supposed to follow? Twin girl ( Joanna) was and still is a late sleeper so I would stay awake with her until close to midnight. Twin boy (Isaiah) was and still is an early riser together with older sister (Mimi). That meant I was awake by 5 am. Honestly, I think I only started getting a full night after the twins turned two years.

So what is the purpose of this post? To tell all tired and sleep deprived moms to hang in there. It does get better with time. They grow up so fast and before you know it, the sleeplessness nights will be a distant memory.

Get all the help and support that you can, from your partner, from family and from friends. That’s the only way you can maintain your sanity. I wish you well and I promise, you will be able to sleep again.

Photo by William Fortunato from Pexels

How to make your Line Manager your biggest cheerleader…

There are many strategies out there on how to get ahead in your career. Whilst it is obvious that you are responsible for driving your own career and putting in most of the work, there are other key allies that are critical to your career success. These may include a mentor, a coach and a sponsor. One strategic ally that is often ignored is the Line Manager. Today I would like to focus on how to make your Line Manager your biggest cheerleader so you can achieve your career goals.

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A Line Manager is the person that you directly report to. He/she would be responsible for deliverables of his/her team whilst reporting to a higher level manager. Other duties will also include setting objectives for his/her team, evaluating performance, providing on the job training and mentoring.

It is in your best interests to have a good working relationship with your Line Manager. Your salary increases, your bonuses ,your visibility within the organisation and overall growth prospects within your organisation are all tied to your relationship with your Line Manager and how he/she perceives you. I know it will not always be possible to get along well with your Line Manager. For the purposes of this post, I am going to assume that your Line Manager is a normal human being who is committed to supporting your growth and development. In a different future post I will also share how to navigate when your relationship with your Line Manager is not so great.

I started my career as a graduate trainee in the marketing department of a well known global food company. After 18 months I was promoted to Brand Manager. Even though I was a manager, I did not have anyone reporting time directly. I had a few other promotions that still did not include managing others. My people management responsibilities only came 8 years later. I had a team of three Brand Managers reporting directly to me, sitting in three different countries. Today I still lead a team of managers all based in different countries. I will share my perspectives as a leader and what I believe is the best way to impress your Line Manager. I will also share what has worked for me as a subordinate over the years.

Your Line Manager can be your biggest cheerleader and advocate if you are strategic about it. Please note I am not talking about bootlicking and back biting your team mates in order to win favours. I am referring to proper ethical behaviour that you would not be embarrassed to share publicly.

1. Make your boss look good. The best way to do that is to deliver great results consistently. I remember having to share my monthly team results with the senior leadership in one of my previous roles. Team members who had great results made me look good. They made meetings easier and it was also easier to advocate for and push forward such team members when opportunities arose. When you consistently fail to meet agreed targets and you continuously give excuses even for things within your control, you make it difficult for your Line Manager to help you advance in your career.

2. Be reliable and deliver on your promises. There is nothing as frustrating as a team member who is not reliable. Missing deadlines and showing up late for important meetings aren’t ways to behave if you are trying to get ahead. And that would surely not win you any points with your Line Manager. When you make promises, fulfil them. Manage expectations and do your job well.

3. Know your Line Manager – each line Manager that you have is going to be different. I am currently on my nineth Line Manager. They have all been different. Some preferred to be updated on projects more often. Others didn’t want to be involved in the details. Some preferred when I stood up to them and voiced my opinions fearlessly. Others would take that as being challenged and did not like it. You have to know your Line Manager’s preferences and what appeals to them in different scenarios. Knowing your Line Manager helps you navigate appropriately and avoid stepping on each other’s toes and creating unnecessary animosity.

4. Adopt a growth mindset– as a Line Manager myself, nothing is as off putting as a team member who has a negative attitude and has all the reasons why something cannot be done. Be open to continous learning and trying out new things to solve business challenges. When you face challenges, do not wait until it’s too late to ask for help.

5. Understand your Line Manager’s KPIs and how you can help him/her achieve those – At some point in my career I was a Key Accounts Manager, looking after one of the biggest retail chain in the country. My then Manager taught me a lesson one day as we were driving for a business review with this customer. He told me if I wanted to deliver our sales targets as a business, i had to fully understand the KPIs of the buyers that I was meeting with. If I helped retail buyers achieve their own KPIs, they would also help me achieve my own. Understand what KPIs your Line Manager is measured on and play your part in helping him/her delivering those. An open discussion is always best. Do not make assumptions, ask directly what his/her priorities are and how you can help.

6. Be a team player– I really do not trust team members who sacrifice other team members in order to get ahead or out of trouble. It’s called “throwing others under the bus”. If my direct report can do that to one of their team members, I would not be surprised that they can do the same to me if the situation presented itself. In most organisations, teamwork is critical to delivering overall business goals. The “lone ranger” mentality doesn’t work in a corporate setting. Show some level of maturity and avoid being “that person ” who is always complaining about other team members to the manager. Only escalate issues that you genuinely cannot resolve on your own.

7. Keep the relationship professional – it is always advisable to keep your relationship with your Line Manager professional. Avoid oversharing unnecessary information that might make them see you in a negative light. Your weekend escapades are exactly that, for the weekend with your friends and not to be shared with your Line Manager. I am not in any way suggesting that you don’t share necessary personal challenges that impact on your ability to work in the name of keeping it professional. As a manager, I would want to know if a team member has challenges that impact their ability to work. A sick child, parent or relative are some examples. Whilst these might be personal issues, I am human enough to understand their impact on ability to work and put in place necessary support.

Showing yoursef as a reliable team member to your Line Manager is critical. As I mentioned at the beginning, I am making an assumption that your Line Manager is very secure in their capabilities and committed to helping you grow.

What other ways have worked for you to get your Manager to be your biggest cheerleader? Please share in the comments section.

Why I love working from home.

A year into the pandemic, I know for a fact that I prefer and love working from home. The flexibility that this has afforded me to have a more integrated life is something I wish to see continuing. I am not naive to the extent of presenting WFH as all rosy. In my case the benefits far outweigh the cons, so hear me out.

1. Working from home has eliminated a two hour commute to work. In order to avoid the traffic, I needed to leave home by 6:15am in order to be in the office by 7:00am. Some days there were issues on the highway and the 45 minute commute could end up being a 2 hour journey just to get to work. I am glad this wasn’t a frequent occurrence but the few times it happened, it interfered with the rest of my work day. On the way back, in order to avoid the end of day traffic, I also needed to leave the office by 3:30pm. If for any reason I couldn’t do this, the best option was to wait until the traffic had cleared and live the office after 5:30pm. The latter happened more often. I did miss several dinners with the family and other things that are important to me like helping my children with their homework.

2. Working from home means I am doing my own small part in reducing the overall carbon emissions that are caused by having so many cars on the road.

3. I am now able to take my children to school every morning and pick them after school, something I wasn’t able to do when I had to go to the office. The drive to school is less than ten minutes from home but affords me more opportunities to further bond with my children and hear about their school days. I just feel like I am more involved in their lives when I work from home. Children grow up so fast (it’s feels like yesterday when we brought them home from the hospital) and being part of this journey is super important for me as I am sure it is for most parents.

4. Besides participating in the school run, I am now able to plan my work days in order to participate in some of the school activities that are sometimes planned during the working day. Before the pandemic, unless a school activity was planned for the weekend, there was close to hundred percent chance that I was going to miss it. I am that mother who was always missing in action. How could I, when my office was an hour away? Now with WFH, I am less than ten minutes away from the school and I can plan my schedule to attend most activities.

5. WFH has afforded me the flexibility to encorporate other activities in my life that I was really only able to do during weekends. A good example is physcical exercise. When you leave home at 6:15am every weekday and only get home by 7:00pm, there is very little time left for exercise. With WFH, I have my daily exercise most days after work. I am even able to squeeze a brisk walk in between virtual meetings in order to just refresh my mind.

So is there any downside in my case to WFH? Of course there is. I don’t see my work colleagues as often. I don’t see this as a big deal. Besides the business virtual meetings, in person social meetings as well as the virtual coffee chats (tea in my case) can easily be arranged.

Another downside is that there is always an important dynamic that is missing when team meetings are virtual. I find that even things that one could walk to a colleague’s desk to chat about in five minutes now require a fifteen minute virtual meeting that seems to always run over. The workday is now filled with continuous virtual meetings, leaving no room for focused work and proper thinking time. I have found a solution to this. I block chunks of time for focused work with no meetings daily. I also intentionally make use of my mobile phone instead of scheduling a virtual meeting for every discussion.

Another downside I have heard friends complain about blurred boundaries between working time and family time. Unlike in the office where you shut your laptop and drive back home, for some, WFH has turned into fifteen hour work days. I also have days when work overspills into family time. It’s not a daily occurrence but there are definitely days and seasons when I have to put in more time at work. I am okay with this because it’s not a daily occurrence. To help me transition from work mode into home mode, I have my scheduled exercise time at the the end of the day that I try as much as possible to stick to.

Yes there are downsides to WFH. Based on my context and reality, I still prefer it versus going to the office.

Today I would have…

In loving remembrance of Simon Rambayi Dongonda Simende

21 December 1937- 4 March 2021.

Four weeks ago today we laid my father to rest. The past weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions, sadness, pain, guilt, fear, gratitude, and so many others that I can’t articulate. Even writing about Baba in the past tense still seems unreal. How do I write in the past tense about someone who was in my life for forty years, eight months and two weeks? How do I write in the past tense about the man who taught me so much and loved me and my siblings so much?

I had already gotten my COVID-19 test done by 9:30am on that fateful Thursday morning so I could fly to Harare from Johannesburg not only to see my father who wasn’t well. The plan was to fly out Friday the 5th of March, spend the whole week at home, have a special birthday “something ” for Mhayi on Sunday the 14th and then return to Johannesburg on Monday the 15th of March.

So on my way from Fourway Life Hospital where I had gotten my COVID-19 test, i tried to call Chiedza my young sister. I wanted her to give me a list of things they needed me to bring with from Johannesburg. She was not picking the phone. My conclusion was she was busy at work. I sent her a message and still she didn’t respond. So in typical Tendai style, I just kept on calling. Could it be something to do with what Baba told me about not giving up and trying and trying again? Eventually Chiedza answered my call. It was very brief and all she said was she was just busy sorting something and she would call me back in a short while.

It took Chiedza another twenty minutes to call me back. Somehow I missed this call. I called her back as soon as I saw the missed call and the words from her mouth changed my life, our lives forever….. “aaaa Tendai, Humba vatungamira…” Humba is our totem and what Chiedza was telling me directly translated was “our beloved father has led the way…”

Indeed Baba led the way, not only on the 4th of March 2021 but throughout my life.

I saw him lead our family. I saw him lead in the church. I saw him lead in the community. I saw him being a father to non-biological children. I saw him giving counsel. I saw him give opportunities. I saw him pray. I saw him not give up and I saw him walk the talk. He led the way!

I remember calling my father once as I was driving from work one night. I apologised for not having called in days telling him by the time I got home and put the children to bed, it would be too late. He then told me it wasn’t safe to drive and talk on the phone. I told him I was using a hands free kit but he still went on to drop the call and asked me to call him either on Saturday or Sunday. So from that day, Saturday or Sunday became the day I called Baba.

So today is Sunday, I would have called you, about this time (12midday Central African Time) . Your typical answer to the call would be Humba! and I would have said Humba Makombe. Your first question would have been ” Matopedza Church yere? ( Have you already finished church?) I would answer in the affirmative, and sometimes you would ask for a summary of what the preacher had spoken about. Without fail you would have asked about your grandchildren. I would call each of them to speak to you as you wanted to hear their voices as well.

Today is Sunday, I would have called you to say Makorokoto ( Congratulations) because yesterday 27th March was Sekuru Bonnie ( your oldest son, my oldest brother’s birthday). We would have joked a bit here and you would probably have said something that would have made me laugh silly.

Today is Sunday, i would have called you and you would have asked Kuri sei kubasa? (How is work). You would typically have said Ita kuti pau pau. I am not sure this particular word actually exists in the Manyika dialect but it’s our family way of saying give me all the juicy details. And I would give you all the details.

Today is Sunday, I would have called you and we would have talked about whatever was trending politically at home ( Zimbabwe) and wherever else especially the country I was living in.

Today is Sunday, I would have called you and you would have asked about the COVID-19 situation in Johannesburg and Cape Town. You were rather specific on this because those two cities are where other family members are. This particular part of the conversation would end with you telling me to be careful and to check on Nyasha and Takunda (grandchildren in Cape Town)

Today is Sunday, I would have called and we would have talked about soccer. We would have talked about stadiums opening for the CAF matches. All your children still supports Caps United. It’s no surprise green is really my favourite colour and I really don’t like blue. πŸ˜‰ (wink wink…if you know you know). We would have briefly talked about the English Football League. This is one area we agreed to disagree. You loved Manchester United. I love Liverpool. We still worked like that.

Today is Sunday, I would have called and you would have given me an update of what is happening kumusha, (Village) what this year’s harvest looked like, what you had planted in the “German Garden”, who was doing what and and….

Today is Sunday, I would have called and our call would have ended with you reminding me to work hard, to not worry about anything because you were always praying for us and to not take too long before calling again. I am not going to be able to call your number and hear your voice again. That hasn’t sunk in yet. I am taking it one day at a time.

My father was diagnosed with stage 3 prostrate cancer early in the year. We sought him medical care and we prayed for healing. God in His sovereign power had other plans for him.

Other than on Sunday the 7th March 2021 when I said I my final goodbyes to my father, I had last seen him in person on 1 September 2019. Along with my mother and 7 of my siblings and their families, they drove my husband and 3 children to the airport for our second relocation. We were moving just next door to South Africa but these are always significant occasions in our family. The first time we relocated to Kenya, my father, mother and siblings were all at the airport. Thats just how things work in my family.

In December 2019 i debated going home for Christmas but my father said we needed to settle down first, after all we were much closer home than before and visits will be easier. From experience I also knew my father preferred for us to always go home with the children. I remember the first time we relocated to Kenya in July 2016, I got so homesick my husband and I flew home in September. In my father’s exact words, Mauya kuno masiya wapwere wega kuKenya diko yere? ( Did the two of you really leave the children by themselves in Kenya?) Of course the children weren’t by themselves but my father wasn’t too amused. My plan was therefore to go home with the children sometime in 2020, most probably for Easter because that was kinda our ritual. Without fail from the time we had children, Easter we drove home to Nyanga. But COVID-19 happened and we couldn’t travel as a family.

I miss Baba daily and I am still processing all the emotions that come with loss, one day at a time. Rest in peace Humba Makombe. Thank you for EVERYTHING!

Finding your rhythm as a working mom…because well, balance doesn’t exist.

Monday the 18th of January was my first day back at work for 2021 after a three weeks break from the office. With the COVID-19 situation, we had planned a staycation, just being at home, no zoom meetings and no deadlines to worry about. Unlike our other family holidays which are packed with activities, this one was laid back. I read novels,something I hadn’t done in years. I slept in a lot and binge watched a lot of shows on Netflix.

So I came across a series that I felt resonated so much with me. The series is called Chesapeake Shores. It is actually originally a Hallmark Channel series from 2016. There are four seasons so far. Don’t worry i am not going to spoil it for you.

The theme is family and love

So this series is based on the O’Brien family who come from a small town called Chesapeake Shores. Abby (played by Meghan Ory) is the oldest daughter. She is a high-flying career woman who has made it big in New York. She struggles to balance her career and being present in the lives of her two daughters. This is probably made worse because she is recently divorced from her husband an equally high flying Wall Street banker. Following a visit to her hometown of Chesapeake Shores, Abbey decides to settle there and be more present in the lives of her daughters.

Abbey and her sisters Jess and Bree

Most working mothers would relate to most of what Abbey goes through navigating motherhood and her career. When she was offered a promotion to Vice President it wasn’t an automatic yes as she had to consider how she would balance the increased demands on her time with being available for her daughters. Being in Chesapeake Shores makes this slightly easier as she has the rest of her family to help her with her daughters.

Lesson 1 – Find a support network to lean on.

When we were lived back home in Zimbabwe my sisters, mother, nieces and nephews knew to expect a call from me on any Saturday morning to watch my children just so I could catch up on some much needed sleep. It wasn’t easy. At some stage all three of our children were less than three years. I am definitely not complaining here. Infact I consider myself totally blessed. There are times when other family members who can help are actually not available or too far, as is our case now. It’s however important to find other families, mothers and friends who are going through a similar stage or have gone through the same stage and can offer help when needed. They can be mothers from your workplace, or they can be mothers at your children’s school or from church. There should be no shame in asking for help.

2. Get a good nanny and or maid

This isn’t really going to be easy. I went through six maids within a two year period. Decide what is a priority for you. Is it that the house is spotless clean or that the baby(ies) is well taken care of? If you find someone who can do both well, then keep her at all costs and pay her well. If you can afford to have someone to focus on the children and someone to do the house chores, that’s actually first prize. At some stage I had a live-in and another was coming once every week to clean the house thouroughly, doing the laundry and ironing. Once you have decided on what is important, find one that you are happy with and don’t be scared to get an inexperienced helper that you can train on your own.

When Abbey relocated back to Chesapeake Shores, she rekindled things with her high school sweetheart Trace ( played by Jesse Metcalfe). As Trace’s career as a country musician took off things got more complicated. Trace has to juggle between running his business, touring with his band and being there for Abbey and her girls. This is a common dilemma in many dual career households today. Most families are dual career families. We juggle families, careers and even side hustles and sometimes studying. Another truth is that most families need both parents incomes. So how do we mantain healthy family relationships, be available for our spouses, our children and still be the ambitious career women we want to be or build the successful businesses that we have always desired?

3. Delegate at work

Whether you are running your own business or are in the corporate world, delegating to capable others is something you will need to learn fast. I fully acknowledge that this is probably something that some will not be able to do as some do not have teams to delegate to or their businesses are not yet big enough to hire other people. If you have no one to delegate to, ensure you engage with with your line manager on delivery timelines that are more manageable without causing you burnout. If your business is still growing consider automating some tasks so that gain time.

4. You really don’t have to be online 24/7

One of the things I have learnt is that you teach people how to treat you. What you allow them to do they will keep doing and what you don’t they will not do. Before I changed employers, I had my work email on my mobile phone. This meant I was available whenever anyone looked for me and even responded to work emails on weekends and after work. I had taught my workmates how treat me. This meant even though I was with my family during weekends, I wasn’t fully present with them. When I changed employers two years ago, I took this as an opportunity to make some much needed changes. I don’t have my work email on my mobile phone anymore. I am therefore not tempted to check my email every now and again. It really also helps that my employer is committed to “employee wellness ” and has in place policies that allow me to be fully present with my family. Of course there are busy periods that will require more from me at work. In such times I do put on the extra time but I only do it when necessary.

5. Prioritize your selfcare

Selfcare will look different for each one of us. It’s about doing something for you, for your physical health, for your mental health and your overall wellbeing. Find out the things that help you switch off from your work and family demands. It could be exercising, reading a good book, having a massage, a walk in nature. Whatever it is you will feel rejuvenated afterwards. Don’t wait for the weekend to practice selfcare. Find a way to incorporate such activities into your daily routine.

I am looking forward to a good year ahead and wish the same for you.

Mum in Stilettos is a community for us mothers as we grow our families, grow our careers and grow our businesses.

Stay Safe – Muminstilettos

Seizing the moment…..did Zimbabwe’s big brand marketers miss an opportunity from the Advocate Mahere & Dr Gwaunza Date?

If you are a Zimbabwean on Twitter, you will know how on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th of April Advocate Mahere and Dr Gwaunza were trending. They literally set Twitter on fire for Zimbabweans. What started off as a guy shooting his shot, turned into a movement, a force for good and brought joy to us Zimbabweans during such trying times. By the way I have written about Shooting your shot, and you can read it here. So back to today’s story. The biggest lesson from all this for me was how brands, big or small can make use of moment marketing to drive reach and engagement. If you are not on Twitter, don’t worry I will bring you up to speed on what happened. I will share on brands that i think did well and those that i believe did extremely well.

The tweet that started it all!

So above is the tweet that started it all. In response, Fadzayi said she would go on a date with Lenon if he got 100 retweets. I am not sure how many followers Lenon had before he tweeted on Thursday the 23rd. When I checked on Friday the 24th around 11am, he had just over 1000 Twitter followers. At the time of writing this post ( Saturday 25th night), he is now close to 7000 followers on Twitter. Fadzayi has always been a “powerhouse” on Twitter and currently has close to 240 000 followers. I am sure there was significant follower growth for her too over the last two days.

Anyhow, it didn’t take a long time for Lenon to get the 100 retweets that Fadzayi had set as a condition for the date to happen. The goalposts were then shifted and Fadzayi said she would go for the date if the retweets got to 5000.

At that stage the responsive brands caught on to what was happening and immediately got into gear. Mambo’s Chicken was one of the first ones to respond with the tweet below.

From Fadzayi’s response, she had actually never tasted Mambo’s chicken. So not only did the brand get more exposure, they also have other potential customers. Other brands that responded at that stage were Cresta Hotels that promised to host the date post the lockdown. It wasn’t difficult for the Dr to get to the 5000 retweets that had been set. Who doesn’t like a good love story? Even some of Fadzayi’ s friends were on #teamLenon.

In my opinion gears shifted when Tawanda Nyambirai a well known Zimbabwean lawyer and businessman intervened to “save” Fadzayi from the date by offering a ventilator to a hospital in response to COVID-19. At that stage this moved from being a public pre-date exchange between two people to a citizen driven national initiative to meet the various challenges brought about by COVID-19 in Zimbabwe. Fadzayi and Lenon happened to be at the centre of the beautiful occurrence.

In my opinion, this is when gears shifted

Other well known people in the country put their support behind the “movement”. The British High Commissioner to Zimbabwe weighed in with the below tweet, and so did the leader of the opposition, Nelson Chamisa.

And the stakes were increased when Fadzayi responded with yet another change in goalposts.

The brands that did extremely well are those that elevated their responses beyond the Dr and the Advocate and responded to community needs especially given the wide range of challenges the country is facing. A few examples below.

Free CT Brain Scans for 3 medical outreach programs
Free eye screening for an old people’s home
Free rooftop solar to an old people’s home or orphanage
Another free solar installation

The one above got several enquiries after he posted his pledge. See below.

Enquiries for business

The pledges for #Zimagainstcovid19 are still coming in. The USD5000,00 was exceeded on Friday night. Donations to both the trust, the date and other worthy causes are still coming in. You can still make your donation.

Sponsor COVID-19 Testing in Zimbabwe

So let’s get to the marketing lessons. Did big brands in Zimbabwe miss an opportunity yesterday? Let’s start with a definition.

Moment marketing is the ability to take advantage of an event to deliver relevant and related, seemingly spontaneous, and often fleeting interactions with customers in real time.

Moment marketing isn’t and should not substitute the always- on digital campaigns. It should be employed to strategically complement core campaigns and drive more brand reach and engagement.

Most big brands are most likely to have their social media calendars for the month already set and signed off in advance. That is all good. It is however important to have a procedure in place that allows the Social Media Manager to quickly come up with content that is relevant to events as they happen and get the approvals before the momentum fizzles out.

There were big Zimbabwean brands I expected to see responding to the MahereGwaunza date and I think they might have missed an opportunity. What do you think? Do you think there are brands that missed an opportunity yesterday? Which ones? What should they have said? Share your views in the comments section.

Shoot your shot Sis, don’t wait for perfect conditions…building confidence and courage in women.

The Urban Dictionary defines ‘shooting your shot’ as taking a brave step towards something and not waiting for an opportunity to come to you. You have probably heard this statement in reference to a guy having the guts to slide into a girl’s DM on Twitter or Instagram and using some cheesy pick up line. Today that’s not what I am talking about. I am talking about shooting your shot in your career and in your business so please stay with me.

Photo byΒ Renato AbatiΒ fromΒ Pexels

Hewlett Packard wanted to find out why there were fewer women in their top management positions. They carried out a study. The findings have been quoted in several books and publications including Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. The finding was that “women working at HP applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job. On the other hand, men were applying even when they met 60% of the job requirements”.

Years back when I was still a Brand Manager, there was an opening for a Senior Brand Manager in my business unit. At that time I was managing a cluster of four countries and the role that was being advertised was a regional role which involved managing 22 countries and having the cluster brand teams reporting into that role. I didn’t doubt my qualifications to do the job. I knew I would totally ace it as I met most of the requirements. I was hesitant to apply because the role required a relocation to a different country. I was in the middle of doing my MBA and wanted to start a family with my beloved husband who had just pivoted from teaching into the corporate world. According to me, it just wasn’t the right time to apply for this role based on the plans we had as a family. So I decided I would not apply.

When I mentioned this to my husband, his advice surprised me. He encouraged me to apply for the role and also let my employer know at this stage I was not able to relocate. I was really scared of doing this. I felt my inability to relocate automatically disqualified me. In my mind I was better off not even trying rather than try and be disappointed. How could my husband just think I could go around asking for a promotion and going on to ask for concessions to be made to suit my circumstances?

Whether its perception that we are not qualified enough which points to lack of confidence or its lacking courage to push ourselves forward and asking our employers to consider our unique circumstances, we have to acknowledge that some of the work that needs to happen in order for more women to be in senior positions starts with us as well. Yes the system might be tilted against women but there are still steps we can take at an individual level.

Inspite of my fear I put forward my name for the role. I was scared but I applied. I shot my shot and was transparent during the interview process to mention that because of family reasons I wasn’t able to relocate but I was very much interested in the role. I am sure you can guess what happened……drum roll…….. I got the job and I aced it too. When our circumstances changed we eventually relocated this time with our three children and my MBA.

“You alway miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t shoot

Here is some advice

1. Take aim and shoot your shot.

2. Do it even when you are scared.

3. Have a trusted person to share your plans with. It can be your spouse, a friend, a mentor or a work colleague, as long as they have your best interests at heart and will hold you accountable.

4. Affirm yourself positively. I am always telling myself “you got this girl, you can do it girl….” Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. We tell ourselves things we would never say to our friends. Quit doing that. The same way you encourage your friends and cheer them on is the same way you should encourage yourself and be your own cheerleader.

5. Even if you miss the net, get the learnings and try again and again and again. Last month my young sister sent me a video of my nephew learning to walk. He was falling more than he was walking but he kept at it. Last week I got another video and our little boy is now walking. I bet in a few weeks he will be running. I don’t think my nephew ever thought walking isn’t for him just because he fell several times. He kept on trying. Learn from little children and keep trying until you get it. Success is for you too.

No more dribbling the ball. Just shoot your shot already. Let me know in the comments what you are doing next now that you know even at 60 percent you should still take aim and shoot.

Please connect with me on my social pages on Facebook and Instagram. It’s a vibrant community of working moms and entrepreneur moms who are thriving together, sharing ideas, growing together and succeeding together. Feel free to slide into my DM and ask for career advice or how to drive the growth of your business πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚.

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Lessons for women owned businesses from Octavia Spencer’s Self Made Series: The Life of Madame C.J Walker.

Octavia Spencer plays Madame C.J Walker

Self Made is a Netflix four part movie series that was released towards the end of March this year. The lead role is played by Octavia Spencer, Blair Underwood plays her husband C.J and Tiffany Hardish plays Madame C.J ‘s daughter. I found the series so captivating when I watched it during the first weekend of lockdown that I finished all the episodes in one go…(don’t judge me yet). I was ready to do an immediate review as soon as I finished watching it but I decided to wait and have more people watch it so this post would be more contextual.

There are lessons to be learnt from Madame ‘s life that are relevant especially for women running their own businesses. Here are some of the lessons I gleaned. Feel free to add yours in the comments section of this post.

1. Start with your own story – Madame had been trying to sell the hair grower made by her friend Addie unsuccessfully. The day she shared her hair journey story and how the product she was selling had solved her hair loss problem is the day her sales picked off. The only thing customers are looking for are solutions to the problems they have. They will pay what they consider a fair price. Your focus should be on how your product or service solves the customer’s problem. If this is actually your own testimonial then you have hit the sweet spot.

2. Hard work pays – you will agree that Madame C.J worked hard,really hard. She put in the hours and the results were visible. She started off washing clothes, became a hairdresser and eventually she became the first black American female millionaire. Working hard is about not giving up, not taking no for an answer and refusing to be stereotyped because you are a woman.

3. Don’t give up– this lesson literally runs like a thread throughout the series. Madame tried her formula several times until she came up with a product that she was happy with. Even when she didn’t get the funding she needed from the people she first approached she didn’t give up. She just kept at it. She reminded me of the widow in the Bible from the book of Luke 18 vs 3-7 who kept on coming before the judge to get justice against someone who had wronged her. The widow was so persistent that she wearied the judge. By the way the Bible says this was an unrighteous judge. It doesn’t matter who you are dealing with. Keep at it sis. (I always try and find an opportunity to preach)

4. Build a network– you need a network of people around you to support your dreams. Dr Sam Chand calls these people ladder holders. They literally hold the ladder for you as you climb. Even though their relationship eventually ended, C.J, Madame’s husband was initially very supportive. Freeman was also very supportive of Madame. He believed in her dream so much he borrowed money from his cousin Sweetness to become the first investor in Madame’s business.

What would have happened if Madame and Addie had collaborated instead of competing?

4. Watch out for the weakest link in your team – Madame’s son in law almost cost her the whole business. It was his carelessness that caused a fire that set the business back. He then went on to share company information with Addie who was Madame’s biggest competitor. Identify who the weakest link is in your team and manage them from the onset.

5. Collaborate instead of competing – for a greater part of the series, Madame and her former friend Addie were fierce competitors. Even though they started out as friends, somewhere along the way things got ugly. Addie even tried to “steal” some of the women who were working for Madame. I can only imagine what would have happened if Madame and Addie had actually collaborated instead of competing. Ladies, I believe the sky is big enough for all the birds t fly so collaborations are actually beneficial especially for small businesses.

6. Take those closest to you along with you – my own view is that even though C.J was initially very supportive of Madame, I got the sense that the vision for the business was not really shared. C.J was happy with the level of success they had achieved and yet Madame still wanted more. As a woman business owner, it’s important that your significant other is fully onboard with the vision and plans for your business. He might not be involved in the day to day running of the business but his full support makes your success easier.

7. Empower others – Madame’s success wasn’t hers alone. She had a team of direct sales women who were part of her distribution network. Her success allowed her to make a difference to women who would not have been able to provide for their families.

Madame and her husband C.J played by Blair Underwood

8. Get time to rest – this lesson comes from what Madame failed to do. She worked so hard so didn’t give herself enough time to rest. Hard work is important but so is rest.

9. Build on firm foundations – towards the end of the series we actually learn that Madame had stolen her friend Addie’s formula. Whether this is true in real life or it was a twist for movie purposes only, the lesson is to make sure your business is built on firm foundations. I shudder to think what would have happened if Addie had decided to take legal action against Madame. All the years of hard work would have been completely lost.

10. Build a good brand– Madame’s success was a result of an excellent marketing strategy. Being a marketer myself, i was impressed. Her formula was excellent as it solved the problem the customer had. Her distribution strategy using other women as a type of direct sales force was spot on. She was clear what type of woman she wanted to appeal to and didn’t go with fads of what everyone else thought sold. Her brand name which she built very carefully and tied excellently to her as a person was a stroke of genius. Even when C.J married another wife and tried to use the same brand name, it just wasn’t going to succeed. The world already new “the real” Madame C.J Walker. Her name was actually Sarah but she insisted on being called Madame C.J Walker because she was building a brand. Don’t underestimate the power of building a great brand.

So what are some of the lessons that you learnt from Self Made? Do share them in the comments section.

Are you starting out on your own trying to build your business?

Are you looking for help crafting the marketing plan for your business?

Do you need help in establishing your business’s presence on social media?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions and you are ready to take your business to the next level send us an email at muminstilettos@gmail.com