Considering a Career in the Start-Up Space? What to Know and Consider

Considering a Career in the Start-Up Space? What to Know and Consider


There’s a new type of employer in town: Meet the high-potential fast-growing start-up business. It is not your typical SME and also not someone’s ‘biashara’.

They might be committed to finding a business answer to a social cause by finding innovative solutions for low-income populations, others make life more comfortable and fun for the growing middle and upper class. Key sectors where these innovators play include Financial Services, Education, Health, Water and Sanitation, Clean Energy, Agri Innovation, Transport, among others.

There are many perks of working in this space i.e. the purposeful work, the casual dressing, and ‘room for rapid growth’, but there are important factors you should keep in mind before you send that job application. This article explores what makes start-up jobs attractive and to who, tackles some common misperceptions, and will offer food for thought as to why you may or may not want to work in this space.


Benefits toian-schneider-66374-unsplash Working in a Start-Up

  • Career Growth: When working in a start-up, you can hugely contribute to the growth and the success of the company with your role. You can be a part of strategic conversations, bringing and directly handling key clients and partnerships, important decision-making, and even taking on leadership opportunities. Your position can accelerate fast in a small and growing company.
  • Purpose: Start-ups are particularly attractive when you are entry-level, as you will take on a lot more responsibilities than in many other entry-level jobs in larger firms (you know, making coffee and filing papers, yawn!). This helps you build valuable skills.
  • Exposure: You are likely to be in an open work environment where your boss can be your mentor. The CEO and other highly experienced individuals will be more accessible to you than if you worked for a big company. You can use this chance to learn from them and gain as much expert knowledge as you can.
  • Flexibility: You work in an untraditional work environment void of hierarchy, and with fewer office rules such as dress codes; your creativity and your individuality are encouraged.
  • Community: There is often a strong sense of teamwork and ‘being together in it’ in a small company that is trying to achieve ambitious targets. As you will be working with a small team, you will develop strong relationships with them.
  • Entrepreneurial Journey: You will learn what it takes to build an organization from the ground up. This especially beneficial if you aspire to run your own start-up one day. You can learn from the start-up’s failures and successes and apply what you have learned in your own business one day.


What to Consider

  • Most start-ups pay in a different currency than you are used to from other jobs. Do you calculate your benefits mostly in Shillings? A start-up offers benefits in currencies of exposure, fulfilment, growth and a humane culture (and possibly Employee Stock Options, but as the saying goes, 1% of zero is zero). So consider how important pension, health cover and allowances are to you.
  • If you’re not used to working in a company that is constantly changing, then you may find yourself getting frustrated in a start-up. Things that might change are job titles, roles and responsibilities, product, pricing and market approach, office location, and the team itself. If you enjoy change, embrace uncertainty, can deal with chaos, and can deliver results in a space with few structures provided, then you are likely to be successful in a start-up environment.
  • It will be all hands on deck in a start-up environment, and if you don’t have a ‘can do attitude’, you might be left behind. You will have to undertake tasks that you may think aren’t ‘part of your job description’. You will have to take on a range of responsibilities which are new, challenging, and sometimes mundane but you have to be willing and flexible to do them.
  • In addition to the above, the work-life balance can be tenuous. You will find yourself sacrificing a lot of your personal time and you have to be willing to put the company and the clients first. This means that you will put in more hours, work from home, and put your weekends on the line. There are never enough hours in a day and you will have to be more efficient with your time, multi-task and work fast. If there’s a project deadline, for example, you will have to do all you can to make sure this deadline is met. If you prefer having time to yourself, or if you have personal projects outside of work, think twice. Start-ups have a high-stress environment where emotions run high as there’s a lot riding on the start-up’s success. If you’re worried about the state of your mental health when it comes to work pressure, then be careful and ask questions about expectations of the role before you’re on board.
  • Start-up founders have brilliant ideas and secure money to start their venture. But this alone does not make them great business leaders and team mentors. In some cases, a lack of strong leadership, professionalism and management skills may affect your job security and satisfaction. If you’re able to lead yourself, manage upwards effectively and engage your peers in building an effective office culture, then you’ll thrive here.
  • Assess the risks. The company can flourish and be very successful, or it can crash and burn. Think through your job security by being informed and conscious of the company’s potential future performance: Research the industry and market opportunity the company wants to tap into, ask leadership how they measure their success and ask details about their financial situation and runway. After putting in all your hard work, time, and energy you don’t want to be surprised when you longer have your job. You can’t always predict this outcome, but there are ways you can prepare so that you’re not caught off-guard when things go downhill. Be prudent about your own financial management, and start saving just in case things don’t work out and you find yourself back into job-hunting.



Want to learn more about the start-up movement?

  • Events are a great way to learn more and feel the vibe of innovators and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship spaces like Nairobi Garage, Metta, iHub, The Kijiji, and others host regular meet-ups, training and experience sharing sessions by entrepreneurs
  • Read up about the most promising businesses and start-ups.
  • Go through websites of incubators, accelerators, start-up and venture capital funds and impact investors around East Africa, which often provide a list of companies they’ve accelerated or invested in on their website.


If you thrive in the unpredictability of a day and lack of routines, then perhaps working in a small and dynamic company is suited to your personality and working style. Even though you may not have job security and a clear career path ahead, for some people this is the only place they can imagine working!

Thinking about switching careers and aspire to a career that creates meaning in your life? Our Career Masters Program will give you the skills and the confidence to take bolder steps towards your dreams. Sign up here for more details on the program.

Has this article convinced you that a career in the start-up space is for you? Then check out our exciting Jobs with Our Clients.

Boss Horror Stories and What We Can All Learn From Them

Boss Horror Stories and What We Can All Learn From Them

Why do people quit jobs? Many business leaders believe that “good people have options” or that “millennials don’t commit for long”.

To build a growing and performing organization, we need to dig deeper and understand why people leave. We asked over thirty Nairobi professionals about their experiences with bosses that made them quit. We were shocked hearing what people had to say – these are true horror stories:


The Blaming and Defensive Boss:

“I quit. It was the worst experience. My boss was a micro-manager, played the blame game, and overall there was a lack of leadership by management in the company.”

“My boss was very defensive of her actions and always blamed the other party”.

The Boss Who Held Me Back:

“She will not let me go for professional training! She has no college degree, she hates people with degrees”.

The Boss Who Expects Too Much:

“Being thrown into the deep end work with tasks that I had no knowledge of, yet my boss expected the best outcome or performance!”

“She would always delegate huge tasks last minute with important partners then would expect results without me having any experience”

“Very mean. Asked me to babysit for her autistic child with no prior idea of how.”

The “Bully” Boss (30% of the respondents’ bosses fall here!):

“Mood swings, she terrified everyone once she was having a bad day”

“I was called a ‘mental case’ after I challenged the opinion of my boss”

The ‘Sleep With Me and Get A Job’ Boss:

“I once had a boss who wanted to give me a job only if I accepted to sleep with him. I couldn’t believe it since he was a family friend”

“He asked me out and then didn’t call me for jobs after I stopped going out with him”


Dear bosses,

Are you one of the above?

Even if you’re not, it’s important for you to know what employees go through out there and to be empathetic. This means that you have to actively and consciously display the behaviours and values of a proper and humane boss. Some of your behaviours might be interpreted as abusive, even if you wouldn’t want to be called as such. So below our suggestions for being a well-meaning boss.

1) What does this mean for you as a boss when you handle job seekers?

  • Always hold interviews in an office and only during the day. Make no suggestive remarks, jokes and compliments, especially towards the opposite sex. Avoid looking ‘sleezy’ at all costs and remain professional at all times. If you can’t keep it together when hiring, have a second interviewer joining you. Also, strongly consider going for counselling, as this matter is likely to affect you in how you manage people as well.
  • With new hires, be very clear about certain expectations of the job that are beyond the typical work environment, for example: working hours, weekend work, travel and any specific physical and mental exposure the job brings: Is it especially hot or cold? Are there lots of failure situations based on the type of business you run? What type of pressure should they expect from clients, the team, investors and even you? New hires should be aware of this information when making their choice to accept your offer, to avoid any surprises in the future.

2) What implications does this have for relationships and culture in your office?

  • Have an open door policy where people can come and ask you any questions or offer their opinions. Give coaching and advice on people’s work when they need or want it.
  • Steer clear of ‘Blame Games’ and ‘Guilt Tripping’ at all costs. I repeat, don’t look for culprits and who to blame if something goes wrong, at least not in the heat of the moment. Instead, be solution-oriented, if a project went off-track put all energy (your own and the team’s) towards getting it back on track. The time for feedback and a debrief is later, when people are more calm and everyone (including yourself) is less likely to be defensive and aggressive.

3) What does it mean for your ideal management approach?

  • Take care of your own physical health and mental well-being. Take time out if you feel that you are getting to the edge. Avoid anger outbursts and mood swings in the office.
  • Make performance expectations clear through conversations with each individual you manage, and put them in writing.
  • Give corrective feedback in private. Simply point out the behaviour you need to start or stop, but avoid passing judgement.
  • Do all you can to gather honest feedback from your team. If no-one gives you feedback or honest feedback, you might have a problem. Make sure to schedule these feedback mechanisms on a regular basis to elude tensions building up in the office.
  • For more tips on being an approachable boss and shaping your management approach, take a look at our blog post, “how to get your people to focus on their work”

Dear Job Seekers and Talent,

We were overwhelmed by hearing what you go through at work. In reality, many of you need the salary, so you might choose to stay even if you are truly unhappy in your job and with your manager. We encourage you to take charge of your own experience and prevent yourself from getting stuck in the victim mind-set as it can affect your performance, CV, and even your mental health.

Here are a few considerations:

  • Leave when you have to. In the end, your mental and physical well-being are very important and matters more than your job.
  • Know your rights when it comes to salary, sexual harassment, leave, working hours etc. Read the Employment Act and attend forums where you can learn more from seasoned HR professionals and labour lawyers. All HR policies need to be in compliance with current labour laws. If there are no HR policies in your organization, then the labour laws will prevail.
  • Despite your frustrations, ensure you stay professional. Focus on bringing results and ensure that people besides your boss see your performance, attitude and skills (clients, colleagues, partners, suppliers etc.). Once you apply for new jobs, you will need recommendations, references, and a CV listing your results and achievements.
  • In the same line, getting a new job might take time. As you’re in this impossible job and you feel that you are not growing professionally, remember that no interviewer will be impressed by hearing that your boss undermined you and therefore you had no results in a whole year. Think through how else you can position your profile towards potential employers. For example, you can run projects and build achievements in the volunteering space, or you can enrol onto online courses to sharpen your skills.
  • How can you manage upwards and possibly turn around you and your boss’s relationship? Schedule meetings with your boss, report to him about your work and achievements, prepare and run the agenda if your manager won’t do it, clarify your role and what is expected of you. Take minutes of what was discussed and share this via email with your boss to ensure there is a track record of conversations. Communicate upwards if projects are delayed in advance to avoid an angry blow-up. We have a lot more tips on our blog post ‘Scared of approaching your boss, 5 tips to make communicating with your boss easier’ read it here.
  • Always remember, you have options, you are not trapped! Stay positive, surround yourself with people with a ‘can do’ attitude. Think creatively through your options, whether it’s employment, self-employment or free-lancing. Consider how you can manage your personal budget better in order to save up money. Sometimes an extended leave can help you see your options more clearly. Think about what’s best for you not just professionally but also for your mental well-being and happiness.

If you are currently in a bad boss situation at work and you’re thinking of leaving or switching careers entirely, sign up for our Career Masters Program. This program will give you the skills and the confidence to take bolder steps towards your dreams in life.

We would love to hear your thoughts and opinions about these boss horror stories. If you’ve had an experience of your own with a bad boss, please share your story with us in the comments!

Handy methods to improve internal communication at the office

Handy methods to improve internal communication at the office


A well-functioning internal communication will improve your team’s performance, collaboration, and their productivity. The right mix of written and in-person conversations, of clear updates will reduce the likelihood of conflicts within the team, and as a manager it will save you valuable time. In this article, we will share with you our tried and tested internal communication tips to solve your team communication woes.


Give meetings meaning

  • Each meeting needs a uniquely crafted agenda. Clarify the purpose and expected outcomes before and again, when starting the meeting. For management meetings, clarify the expected outcome for each agenda point.
  • Keep meetings short. People are then more likely to pay attention and remember important points and issues raised. Get a team member to sum up the next steps at the end.
  • Use apps or trackers for giving updates and tracking tasks instead of meetings.
  • Host communication spaces such as Monday or mid-week check-ins, or monthly/ quarterly reviews to see how the team is doing. Use these as opportunities to discover what people are happy or unhappy about in the workplace, and what they need in order to perform better. A start-up we know hosts monthly sessions where people bring their happy and sad moments on post-its. The team then discusses together how to create more happy moments and digest the sad moments. It’s a great idea and works wonderfully for them.

Use tools to stay organized

  • Create a (google) calendar for all office events including team sessions, activities, meetings, birthdays etc. Let people block their leave on the same calendar.
  • Put up flipcharts and cool posters or print-outs on the walls as daily reminders of previous meeting notes, future or current projects and to communicate goals.
  • For tracking projects and work, use apps like Asana, or create (google) spreadsheets so that everybody is constantly updated on what has been implemented or not, the results, who’s doing it and so forth.

Avoid death by email

  • Emails are not designed for discussion. For topics that require discussion, use a communication app like Slack instead of emails. Besides saving people time sitting in front of their inbox (which few people like anyways), it has other advantages. In a big organisation, the people ‘higher up’ are more reachable to everyone at the office and the rest of the team will feel more involved as they can easily access these people. It’s also a great technique to get people to share their ideas. This space can give people who are more introverted an opportunity to have their ideas at the forefront.

Make time for reviewing and planning (in workshop format)

  • As management, you’re thinking of strategy, structures, approaches and procedures all the time. Your team is not. Everyone is busy DOING. So from time to time, reserve a day or two on the calendar to take a bird’s eye view together with the team. External facilitators, like us, can lead these workshops. Every 1-2 months is a good rhythm to revisit and review tactics, every 1-2 quarters is a good rhythm to review strategy.

Help people help each other

  • Does the team know who to go to for help with graphics, spreadsheet hacks, and film editing just to name a few? Create a space where people can list their skills, knowledge, and competencies either in the form of an online folder or a ‘team skills collage’ poster. This encourages team collaboration where no one suffers in silence, as it’s easier to reach out to the team for help. Within this set-up, people’s strengths and passions will shine and be recognised at work.

Work on team spirit

  • Plan out-of-office events such as team buildings and hang-outs. These events will foster relationships, create a feeling of unity and can improve communication within the team. Make sure these activities are really outside of the office, to create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere for team members. Fun events will give people something to look forward to which increases engagement. Think about your own role at those events too. It’s a time for people to get to know each other, so don’t do most of the talking!

Be open and accessible to your team

  • If you are approachable to your team members, they will in turn be more open to you. Have an open door policy, host ‘Ask Me Anything Hours’, or reserve slots on the calendar where the team can just reach out to you when they need you. If you are a caring and available manager, your team will be encouraged to share their issues with you and they are more comfortable to present their solutions to you as well.

If you have any internal communication tips that you feel we’ve missed, please share your comments with us!

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How to Retain Talent in a Start-up

How to Retain Talent in a Start-up

Retaining talent is of utmost importance to your organization’s growth. After you have invested in hiring and developing your people, you want them to stay and help your start-up take off!

Perhaps you can’t offer a great salary package, health insurance, pension, a company car etc. so what value will they derive so that they stay in your organization? Other than work experience and a salary, what can you offer your employees? What can you offer them that the big players can’t or don’t?

If retaining talent in your organisation is a serious problem, it is imperative to be open to change. Figure out why your employees are leaving, and discern what it is you need to change or implement in order to keep them. After all, why should you replace great talent when you can easily retain them instead? Here are our tips to help you attract and retain talent.


Value your team

  • Treat them well. Show them that you actually care about them. Ask them what would make their time there better, what do they need? How do they like to work? If it’s something you’re able to offer, then offer it! They will feel valued and trusted.
  • Empathise with your team. Working in start-ups generally comes with a lot of pressure and work-load. Have a good support system for your team to make sure they are not over-burdened and stressed. Care about the state of their mental health and general well-being. If they are taking on a lot of pressure and stress caused by work and there’s nothing or little you’re doing to support them, they can’t perform, and might eventually leave.
  • Are you recognising what your people contribute to your organisation? You should. Give your team a morale boost if they did a great job on a project, emphasise what an amazing job they did, what benefit it brought to the company and how it made you feel. Give credit where it’s due, show them they are a real asset to your organisation and they will, in turn, respond to you by staying and continuing their great work. And, if employees do overtime regularly, reward them with a day off.
  • Do ‘stay interviews’ in addition to ‘exit interviews’. If your people decide to leave, make time for a genuine exit interview and find out why by asking them if they had any expectations that weren’t met by the organisation. Is there anything you can do to change this? Otherwise, new hires will follow suit for the same reasons, and this adverse cycle will injure your employer brand. But you shouldn’t wait for someone to leave to find out how your company can improve. Talk to your best people and have regular conversations to find out any issues you are not aware of.

Avoid micro-managing and start trusting your people businessman-3036181_1920

  • This is crucial when you have a small office as start-ups often do: it’s easy for you to look over everyone’s shoulder. If you micro-manage your team, they will not only feel agitated, but they will believe that you don’t trust their capabilities, and nobody likes being seen as incompetent. Having autonomy and choices are a crucial psychological conditions for people to perform and stay. Trust that you hired the best talent (which you did!) and that they can handle it on their own, and you’re there for them should they need your help. This will also give you the chance to be more creative with your own time where you can find ways to innovate your company, for example, as you now have more time to do so.

Create opportunities which nurture their passions and strengths

  • Creating opportunities for growth will develop your team’s skills and fuel their passions. For example, if you notice an employee taking time to get to know new interns and hires and exhibits coaching skills and leadership skills, utilise this talent by creating this as a new role for them. By doing this, you are recognising their talent and elevating their position within the company. Your employee may not get this opportunity (as fast) in a larger organisation.
  • Take them along to events, meetings, and other learning opportunities which will allow them to grow and integrate more within the company.

Make work a fun place to be

  • Get to know your team personally and build bonds to strengthen relationships with them by incorporating activities such as team building and out-of-office hangouts. You can discover new things about them you didn’t know before. Creating a fun work culture disrupts the rigidity and monotony of everyday tasks as it gives people something exciting and different to look forward to. These fun activities will correspondingly boost your team’s creativity which is vital in a start-up.

Untraditional working structure

  • Be mindful about what enables people’s performance rather than creating traditional office behaviours that do not boost productivity or creativity. Have flexible work hours, remove unnecessary ‘corporate policies’ such as dress codes (within the limits of the work you do). Casual dressing inspires creativity and recognises individuality. Read more about the science of creating productive workplaces
  • Create an office ambience that enhances people’s moods. Have plants and flowers in the office which according to Psychology Today, reduces stress, promotes productivity and raises job satisfaction! Read more about this here
  • Remote working spaces is a huge perk for people if your business is located within a large city with terrible traffic, like Nairobi, Mombasa, Kampala, Dar er Salaam etc. With no commuting hours, people can be more productive with those valuable hours instead of wasting their time in traffic. For a lot of Kenyans, a company’s proximity to their home is very important to them in choosing where they want to work. According to ConnectSolution’s Remote Collaborative Worker Survey, “77 percent of respondents reported greater productivity while working offsite”. If you want to attract resourceful employees be ready for them to value geographical flexibility.

Create a safety net and get your finger off the trigger rawpixel-658262-unsplash

  • If you fire people often and seemingly at random, people will think you don’t follow HR procedure, and it will also make you come across as unpredictable. Out of their concerns over job security, your people will start looking for a plan b. Clarify procedures in writing and follow them at all times.
  • Allow your team to grow and make a few mistakes. Mistakes do happen as after all, ‘mistakes are proof that you are trying’. Show your team there is a safety net for these times and they will not work in fear of being fired. They will be more forthcoming to you with their ideas and their ineptitude in certain tasks when they are not in fear of being fired. This will create an open and honest working relationship between you as a manager and your employee. To learn more about how to get rid of fear in the office, read our blog here

Get in touch with us, we would love to know about your experiences in applying these tips in your company! Contact us to find out how our innovative tools and approaches can boost your organization’s human capital.

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Scared of approaching your boss? 5 tips to make communicating with your boss easier

Scared of approaching your boss? 5 tips to make communicating with your boss easier


Have you ever had an uncomfortable or critical situation, either work-related or personal that you needed to inform your boss about?

How do you feel about taking your boss aside and asking for something you need?

You may feel scared to approach your boss because you’re just starting out in your career and you’re not sure how to communicate what you want to them. You may wonder, my boss looks so busy, how can I get their time and make the best of that time with them. Or perhaps you have a boss who is unapproachable, lacks empathy, or is quick-tempered. Whatever the situation might be, everybody wants their boss to be on their side as they can help you grow in your career. If you can build an open and positive relationship with your boss, you’re more likely to be involved and exposed into exciting situations at work, and less likely to face negative consequences if things don’t go well.

We have worked with bosses for a few years and have learned what makes them tick. Here are our five tips to yield positive results and a resolution to your communication worries.

Be solution-oriented

  • Ask yourself, is this really something I need to approach my boss about? If you can solve the issue on your own or with your colleagues’ help, then do so. Bosses are busy and if it’s an issue you can handle, don’t waste their time. Asking for your boss’s help on a matter you’re able to solve yourself can make you come across as being incompetent, and you want to avoid that.
  • If it’s an issue you have to approach your boss about, then come up with a few possible solutions on your own and present them to your boss. This will make their job easier. By coming up with your own solutions, you will make a good impression as you’re portraying that you are a problem solver, you have strong ownership, and you are responsible.

Prepare what you’re going to say before you say it.

  • If you’re nervous and not able articulate your thoughts coherently, your boss may get confused and will not understand your situation well. Bosses are busy, and you need to make the best of your few minutes with them. Write down what you need to say with your proposed solutions. Start with the big picture, give necessary details and end with a clear request. You should also write down their feedback to avoid any confusion later on.
  • If you’re making a request that you worry your boss may not be receptive to, then think of what concerns they may have. Can you address their concerns already in your request?

Seek extra support for the unapproachable bossafrica-anger-animal-55814

  • If you’re truly uncomfortable with approaching your boss, perhaps because you feel that they are not empathetic and understanding in their nature, then consider tagging someone along who you feel comfortable with. This person’s presence alone can help you gain that extra boost of confidence you need in order to approach your boss.
  • Ask your colleagues about their approach when they communicate with the boss – what do they do that works? If you’re new, this is especially helpful as your colleagues have become accustomed to your boss’s nature and may have some useful tips that can help you.

Timing is everything

  • Never wait until the last minute when the situation is critical. Approach your boss ahead of time with the matter to avoid surprising them and causing them unnecessary pressure and stress. Most bosses appreciate a heads-up of a potentially critical situation, especially if you tell them how you’re handling it.
  • With a personal matter, you want your boss to pay attention right? Ask the boss when they’re available in advance to ensure they have time for you, and specify that it’s a personal matter and how much of their time you may need.

  afraid-1299617_1280Just do it

  • Having hard conversations at work is necessary, just muster up the courage and do it. We promise, it gets easier with time so just keep practising and hang in there!


Practising your communication skills is necessary to strengthen relationships in the workplace and make them as constructive as possible. We hope our tips will help you out, and if you try them out with your boss, let us know how it went! If you are a boss yourself, would you add anything to the list? Do you disagree with any of the tips given? Let us know!

If you want to replace worry and blame in your career with new skills and awareness to be in charge of making your dreams come true, then join our career happiness coaching programme. Email Martha at to find out more. Also, subscribe to our newsletter for recent updates on exciting new roles, office updates, talent trends, and to read our feature blog post.