How I became a finance director of a blue-chip  company by 40

As published by on July 22nd 2023

Carole Nderitu, 40, is the finance director at Minet Kenya, a risk advisory and insurance brokerage firm.

The monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma was a perfect conversation starter. Perched atop Carole Nderitu’s office desk, the pages were gently ruffled, evidence that someone had recently flipped through it. “It’s my current read”, she says. “I enjoy reading books. My reading ranges from Michelle Obama’s to Sunny Bindra’s books”.

Carole, now 40, is the finance director at Minet Kenya, a risk advisory and insurance brokerage firm with hundreds of employees – and I am here to learn about how she got this corner office, surrounded by trophies and sculptures – gifted by her husband, also a finance practitioner, at barely 35.

Her journey starts in her early 20s. As she waited to join the university where she pursued Bachelor of Commerce and specialised in Finance, she worked as a cashier at the now defunct Uchumi supermarket. “Growing up, my late father used to fill me up that I would make a stellar judge. Then I became an acquaintance of a former neighbour, and her lifestyle was a definition of success. She was in finance and that fostered me along the same path”, she says.
As a university student, Carole tried out modelling and went all the way to gracing magazine pages. “See, I am not just lost in the labyrinth of numbers and Excel sheets. My colleagues might say otherwise, but I am outgoing”.

“I started my career working for a pension firm before I was headhunted to work at Minet Kenya more than a decade ago”, Carole tells me. Young and hungry for success, she learned very early in her career that her work had to stand out.

“I started asking questions, volunteering to take up assignments, and asking for feedback”, she says. It helped that Carole is the last born in a family of seven siblings. The big age gap between her and her first four siblings exposed her to mature conversations at an early age. “I matured very fast and even right now, most of my closest friends are in their 50s and 60s”, says the mother of two.

While the opportunities for growth in her sector were appealing, a sense of unsettling started to kick in. “I was at a place where I wanted a new challenge and something new. I expressed interest in moving to the finance department. I got the chance, but I had to start as a junior accountant. In less than a year, however, I was promoted to a chief accountant, through the recommendation of my then-boss. The in about three years, this role became vacant. I must admit that I was hesitant to express interest because I was just three years in, but my mentors and bosses encouraged me to go for it and I am glad I did”, Carole shares.

Carole says her daily routine starts with a morning mass, as she’s catholic, before going to the office. She’s an early bird. When she needs to take a break from work, she reads a chapter of the book to recharge. A study conducted early this year, “Why Perception Outpaces The Pipeline – And What To Do About It by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) and Chief, in cooperation with Oxford Economics found that the number of women at the C-suite level or executive-level managers within companies in Kenya was at a paltry 11 percent and Board level at 10 percent. This is below the global representation of 12percent for both C-suite and Board levels.

“I know quite a few women who are executive-level managers but only a handful of them are in my field. Thankfully, we support and grow each other. We talk about challenges at work, strategies, and new ideas. But it is a journey. For many women, you will hear stories like, “I had to work harder than my male counterparts. It is a reality that is still within us”, Carole says.

One of the biggest dilemmas faced by young leaders is finding the right balance between being amiable and approachable to their team members and exercising strong leadership qualities. “One challenge that I faced in hindsight is ensuring productivity and efficiency, communication with other departments on deliverables and expectations on both ends which would sometimes create conflict, but I have been very intentional on talent development and retention. I look at my team and I can’t help but smile because of the accomplishments they are making partly because of the positive impact that I added to their lives.

“Did turning 40 shift something in her?” I am eager to know. “I got a new perspective on life. I am in a season where I don’t compare myself with other people and I understand that life is too short to wait for the right moment. I am also deliberate to take care of my body and intentional about spending more time with my family”, she says, adding that retirement is another reality that has dawned on her.