Bertha Mvati, 33, was an average student and was categorised with those who would not amount to much in life.
A societal pressure that made her feel like she would never make the grade. She shares her story of diligence, resilience and hard work that saw her rise from an intern to the helm.
“My name is Bertha Mvati. Growing up, ours was pretty much an average family. My mother, who hails from Tanzania, was a Kiswahili teacher at State House Girls High School, while my father, a Kenyan, owned a small business.
My parents made sure we were comfortable. In as much as they had their own struggles, they didn’t want their children to know.
My mother had to do two jobs to supplement her income to ensure we were comfortable.
Recently, when I was named the Managing Director of Vehicle and Equipment Leasing Limited (VAELL) Kenya in March this year, all I could think of was my long and tedious journey towards heading the largest leasing firm in East and Central Africa.
It is a journey that at first was dominated by self-doubt and low expectations, but eventually changed for the better.
My appointment reminded me of my personal journey that saw me rise from a mere intern to one of the youngest women to ever hold such a senior position in the organisation.
To imagine that I was an average student in both primary and high school, coupled with my parents’ struggles to ensure that together with my siblings they gave us the best they could afford, was overwhelming.
We were fortunate that our parents ensured we had good education. My mother is hardworking and diligent; a value she has instilled in all of us.
Seeing how hard my parents worked, I was brought up only knowing that hard work pays. That fanned my zeal to work hard.
Besides, as the firstborn, this meant that I had to work hard to set a good example to my siblings; thus I really had to concentrate on my studies.
Unfortunately, that didn’t pay off at my high school level as I did not perform very well in my Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations.
In primary and high school, a lot of emphasis is put on top academic performance, and average students like myself had already been put in a box of non-achievers.
This only confirmed to me how unsuccessful I would be. I remembered how I wanted to be a journalist but this childhood dream was proving to be unattainable with my average results.
‘How could I ever amount to something?’ I found myself with no ambitions.
My parents suggested that I start off with a Diploma in Business Administration as I figured out what to do with my life.
That’s when I moved to Uganda and joined the Uganda Christian University, where I did a Diploma in Finance.
Soon, as I continued with my studies, things changed and I started falling in love with finance.
I started performing well in college, a fact that boosted my morale and passion for success.
My brilliant performance is one of the reasons why I got a position as an intern in 2009, at VAELL, where I worked for three months.
It was a new dawn for me as I got promotion after promotion, which was an indicator that I was headed somewhere.
I started writing goals that I could achieve. At VAELL, I was appointed as the Head of Finance, and this made me realise that I could now aim higher.
On the other hand, I knew if I were to continue climbing the corporate ladder, I had to advance myself academically.
So, I enrolled for a Bachelor of Business Administration (Finance option) at the Uganda Christian University. I am currently studying for my master’s degree in finance.
I attribute my success to my staunch faith. I come from a family with strict Christian values; thanks to my parents who instilled Christian values in us, which I believe have propelled me to where I am now.
I am passionate about my work and I’m always motivated. My ‘I can do it’ attitude and responsibility have greatly contributed to [get me to] where I am, something I learnt while growing up when my parents left me in charge of my siblings.
Currently, I am in charge of 10 branches and about 100 employees. I oversee the company’s operations and strategy implementation, offering financial solutions to a broad range of clients and managing their assets.
I also boast of close to 10 years experience in the leasing industry across Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda with specialisation in fund raising, credit risk, operations and asset management.
Previously, I was the Regional Head of Finance at VAELL, overseeing the group finance and operations across Africa.
The other day I was going through my journal and realised that I had jotted down I wanted to be an MD by December 2018.
This dream eventually materialised in March 2019. However, when I was writing it, I had no ambition of becoming an MD of such a prestigious organisation.
I just knew that I would become an MD, but wasn’t sure of which company. Being a strong believer, I believed God would make a way.
In the past, I have set some goals that I wanted to achieve by the age of 30, some of which have come to pass. Others haven’t, but I am not losing hope.
I have also set other goals that I want to achieve by the time I’m 35, and I am looking forward to seeing them becoming a reality.”