Kenyan CEO Who Quit US Job to Raise Family

  • The family is the test of freedom; because the family is the only thing that the free man makes for himself and by himself - these are the words of English writer-philosopher Gilbert K. Chesterton. 

    Raising a young family can be a daunting task for anyone seeking to advance in their careers in terms of finding a perfect balance between work and family.

    This was true for Jane Karuku, Kenya Breweries Limited managing director, who once quit a job in the US to focus on bringing up her children, in what she termed the best decision in her career.

    In a report published by Business Daily in April 2019, Karuku who has over 20 years of experience in the corporate world, said she found it easier to take the big step due to the enabling environment in the US.

    Kenyan CEO Who Quit US Job to Raise Family

    "Getting children, being a housewife and bringing them up is the best decision in my career. I stayed home for four and a half years to get children then went back to the corporate world when my youngest was three years old. 

    "I was in the US, which made it an easy decision," Karuku detailed adding that she would not probably have done so in Kenya.

    She, however, regretted not giving birth to more children who would keep her company as all of them grew up and started fending for themselves.

    "The only regret I have is I wish I had more children because now all of them are adults (28 and 30 years) and they have left home. I know, it’s selfish," she proclaimed. 

    In an interview with Jeff Koinange in July 2019, she disclosed that at KBL, women were given time to raise their families which in turn betters their careers. 

    "In my organisation, we have 6 months maternity leave for mothers because we believe women should not have to choose between work and family," she affirmed.

    Before being appointed as the MD of KBL, a subsidiary of East African Breweries in 2015, Karuku had been in EABL's board since September 2013. 

    She was also the president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra) and has served at Farmers' Choice and Barclays Bank of Kenya board.

    In the interview, she described herself as a humble person although some of her colleagues described her as assertive.

    "There should be something innate in you that has the propensity to be decisive, tough and assertive, and then the rest comes with experience. Experience teaches you when and how. Sometimes I can be very tough with my team, but they will walk out of the room laughing. That comes with experience," Karuku stated.

    Isuzu East Africa MD, Rita Kavashe, Mediacom MD, Serah Katusia, and KBL MD, Jane Karuku, with Jeff Koinange on JKLive in July 2019.

    One ideal virtue she affirmed that she upheld was accountability, stating that she was so strict on time.

    "I make myself accountable. If I tell you I’m going to do something, I will do it. If I tell you that I’m going to be there at 3 p.m. I must be there at 3 p.m. My colleagues know this, if you’re late for my meetings, I charge you Ksh2,000 and nobody likes to pay Ksh2,000 so they are always on time," the MD disclosed adding that the penalty is channelled towards charity or office work.

    In a world seemingly dominated by men, Karuku advised women to find a way to balance family and jobs if they wanted to scale the ladder in the corporate field.

    "First of all, define for yourself what you really want in life, especially as a woman; the balance between career and family. Once you determine what you want to be at 70 years old, work backwards to what you need to do. If you don’t want to be alone, the first thing you need to do is consider getting married.

    "If you want a child to be visiting you at 70, get a baby now. Most of these things are centred around loneliness and these conversations are great to have when you are younger. I will tell you one thing; the most successful women are the ones who are very well rounded," she advised.

    In a separate interview with She Leads Africa, she argued that it was not that easy as it seemed on paper.

    "In corporate businesses, in middle management to be exact – women are really starting to be significant. I think the challenge comes with breaking into the next level. Looking at boardrooms in Kenya, there’s a lot of change starting to happen. People are driving diversity and companies are finally realising that they have to have diversity in their businesses because diversity is strength," she detailed. 

    In September 2019, reports detailed that Karuku was one of the highest-paid managers in Kenya. That yeat she Business Daily reported she earned approximately Ksh46.4 million for 12 months and made a bonus of close to Ksh10.6 million.