Rita Kavashe joined General Motors East Africa straight out of university as a sales representative, 17 years later, she is at the helm as the General Manager, looking after at least 20 markets from the Mombasa Road office.
She attributes her success to hard work, which sometimes included “going beyond what was expected of me.”
We sat in her office recently to learn more about this vivacious, poised lady to know more about her.
Dressed in a grey suit and matching pearls and armed with her Blackberry Bold she shared how she has learnt, and is still learning, to balance her demanding job, which involves constant travelling, and being there for her two-year-old daughter, the thrill of driving a Hummer, and her purple suitcase that is always on standby.
How many hours do you work? – I’m in the office from about 7am, sometimes earlier, till 4pm.
What gadget do you always have around you? – My Blackberry and iPad. My Blackberry has to be charged at all times to get into different conference calls in the various markets. A working Blackberry is important.
When does your Blackberry go off? (During the interview her phone kept vibrating? – Around 9 in the evening. I put it on silent until morning, when I catch up.
How often do you travel? And where? – At least once a month, mainly for business to different markets, especially to the markets that fall under me in Africa. Sometimes markets that supply us like Japan and the US.
Any leisure travel? – Sometimes I do, though not much. I sometimes mix my business travel with leisure, especially if I travel towards a weekend.
Your favourite destination? And why? – (Laughing) My village. Taveta at least once in a quarter. It is where I relax the most with the people I grew up with – family and friends. Its home.
Outside of your village, what other destination excites you? – Bangkok. It’s relaxing with a lot of things to see and do. I like the Thai Massage, they work on your stress points, and mine is not a stress-free job (as she shakes her head and laughs).
Do you have a suitcase always ready? – I enjoy travelling, you observe a lot and learn things that can help improve you or the business. I have learnt how to cope. My purple suitcase is always on standby, my girl has learnt to pack for me on short notice.
Of the over 20 markets that fall under your docket, which is the one market you find interesting? – Nigeria. It’s a challenging market, with very interesting, aggressive people.
With all your travelling, do you shop much? – Not for me, about 90 per cent of my shopping is for my daughter.
About your daughter, how do you manage to balance your work and being with her? – It has been challenging. I think I could spend more time with her but I make sure during the weekends, as long as I’m in town, we are together, I go with her everywhere even the salon. The time is never enough.
How do you deal with a ‘mother’s guilt’? – It’s not easy. You come after a week of travelling and you notice significant growth, you wish you were there. It’s something I have to deal with (shaking her head). That is why when I’m in town we are inseparable.
As a working mother how do you deal with the issue of house-help ? Any major issues of them walking out on you in a time of need? – I knew the nature of my job and the demands. I ensured from the beginning I got a family member who I can trust and who can make decisions, in the interest of my daughter and me. And it has worked so far.
When you travel what do you look forward to when you come home? – The evenings with my daughter, when she jumps into my bed and it’s story telling time. It’s the best moment!
What do you drive? – I have an entire range of cars and trucks in this compound; a different car for a different occasion (with a laugh she points towards the courtyard filled with pick-ups and trucks). Mostly, you can spot me in an orange Hummer.
Why the Hummer? – It’s a comfortable, beautiful, versatile car. It attracts different reactions when on the road. I love to watch the children’s reaction – they are thrilled by the vehicle.
Do you drive yourself? – Most of the time I have a driver. It allows me to get into the different conference calls and work through traffic.
How do you unwind, relax, if ever? – I jog at least three times a week in my neighbourhood (she lives in Karen). Or watch cartoons with my baby. Go to Osteria (her favourite restaurant).
Are you health conscious? – I’ve always been since my college days.
What keeps you awake at night? – Business. Thinking of how to grow GM’s business beyond where we are today.
Source: Business Daily