As the CEO of Sokowatch in Kenya, Angela Nzioki is equipping informal retailers with e-commerce tools to make stocking up on goods and managing finances much easier. She shares how she started her career and how she continues to lead the company during the pandemic.
- Current role: Kenya CEO at Sokowatch
- Location: Nairobi, Kenya
- Current computer: Macbook
- Current mobile device: iPhone
- Describe what working in this pandemic is like, in one word: Overcompensating
Tell us briefly how you started out in your career and how you got where you are today.
I graduated from Strathmore University with a business and IT degree which gave me the foundation to set up my first company in 2011 - Pluspeople Kenya. This was a fintech startup empowering SMEs in East Africa with simple business and financial management tools and we had over 5,000 active subscribers.
I was at the company for nine years as a co-founder and COO (chief operating officer) but when I was offered my role at Sokowatch last year, I saw it as a fresh challenge. I’ve always been passionate about helping underserved SMEs and Sokowatch gave me the chance to do this in a larger and completely different field - the informal retail sector.
Across the continent, there are over 10 million informal shops selling over $180 billion worth of goods every year. Despite their importance to local economies, these shops routinely stock-out, have limited access to financial services, and lack proper business management tools. At Sokowatch, we’re transforming the livelihood of these businesses and their communities and I’m proud to be leading our operations in Kenya.
Is this your first time fully working from home?
I used to work from home a lot in my previous role so I’m pretty comfortable with it. These are clearly unprecedented times but having these experiences definitely helped me adjust.
My day usually starts at 6:30 a.m. with a walk around my neighbourhood. Before I even start to think about work, I need my two essentials: a coffee and a good podcast (Jesus and Jollof is a personal favourite). Once work kicks off at 8:30, my day is pretty packed with meetings until 5:30 p.m. This means I pick up other main tasks in the evening.
What apps, gadgets, or tools have you been relying on to work from home, and how do you use them?
The obvious gadgets are my Mac and iPhone but like most professionals working from home, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and WhatsApp have been vital. It’d be a lot more difficult to work in this period without them and they’ve all been pretty reliable now that I need them the most.
Having to work from home, how do you allocate time for work and other things?
It’s pretty tough when you’re at home but I’ve always been strict with weekends. I think I need to be now more than ever otherwise, I won’t be able to recharge and catch up on other things.
Do you live/work alone? If not, what’s your living condition like and how do you avoid/cope with distractions
I live alone so there are not too many distractions. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of overworking as you’re caught up in your own world.
How do you recharge or take a break?
A walk around the neighbourhood is always a good way to clear my head.
What’s your biggest challenge with working from home and how are you trying to solve it?
I’d say overworking and setting aside time for your family and friends. When you’re at the office, it’s much easier to create those clear lines between your personal and work time. But when you’re at home, there’s always a temptation to do a little bit extra which sometimes comes at the expense of your leisure time.
What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to? What do you recommend?
I recently bought Children of Vengeance and Virtue by Tomi Adeyemi, as I loved the prequel (Children of Blood and Bone). If you’re a startup owner, I’d highly recommend Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Daniel Lyons, and Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World by Jennifer Palmieri.
I’ve got a pretty lengthy list (especially with the curfew) but two others which spring to mind are from From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership by Harry Kraemer, and Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling.
What piece of advice would you give someone trying to adapt to working from home?
Find a balance. Not everything is urgent and say no to some online meetings if possible.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Tonee Ndungu, Kytabu Founder and CEO.