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DANIEL ATULA: MY AGRICULTURE JOURNEY AND SUCCESS FORMULA

In a hearty conversation with Ms. Jedidah Oduori, the Chief Officer, Finance, she explains her memorable childhood experiences, relationship with education and experience working at the National Irrigation Authority.
How would you describe yourself?

I am happily married to one husband with whom I have three children; all boys. I am quiet and reserved. Actually, I don’t recall ever going to a disco; maybe the campus house parties. I love calm places and staying at home with my family. My favorite TV programmes have to be all things revolving around nature, animals and educative documentaries.

I am also a career woman with over 25 years of experience working in audit and finance. I have served in various capacities within the Finance and Audit departments in the Authority both at the Head Office and in the Western Kenya Irrigation Schemes.

How was it growing up?

I grew up in Buringala village in Busia County. I was the sixth born in a family of eight. The girls would do all the house chores including cooking, fetching water and firewood while the boys would herd the goats. Right now, I prefer my boys helping with the cooking rather than them doing the dishes. The eldest can cook while the rest are still learning.
I spent most of my childhood days with my mother because my father worked in Nairobi and would only come during the holidays.

My parents were very strict when it came to matters education. A quality that I emulated and apply while raising my children. Whereas my mother had a passion for education, she never went to school. Regardless, she could read and write and saw it very important for her children to get education. Not going to school was out of question and it did not matter whether you were unwell or not. For her, education was the only key. In fact, I recall of a day when I refused to go to school and she caned me from home to school; a distance of about 3 kilometers. I don’t want to shock you with the fact that I was only but a class one pupil.

I am a Nangina Girls High school alumnus; where I did my KCSE examinations and got 63 points. I later got a degree in Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting option) from Punjab University and a Master’s degree in Business Administration and Strategic Management from Daystar University, CPA II and I’m currently pursuing CPA III.

Did your mother’s strictness affect your school life in any way?

On the contrary, despite my mother’s strictness with my attending school, I never hated school. I came to terms with school being a necessity and something I could not opt out of. As a result, I resolved to loving school and that has not changed to date. In fact, if I meet any of my childhood friends today and they hear that I am still in school, it doesn’t surprise them at all. However, the one thing I have never loved about school is examinations. She smiles as she further says the reason is because of the fear of failing. I don’t like failing. Who does?
How do you handle failure?

I always want to achieve whatever I put my mind to. Despite this, I have learnt the art of pursuing what is attainable and is coming my way and letting go of that which is not. It is in vain to keep on chasing after something unattainable at the expense of what is already at hand. I believe that God plans our lives and that which is meant to be will surely be.

Was finance part of your childhood dream?

Not at all. I had no hand in this. It was all my father’s doing. He enrolled me for the Bachelor of Commerce in Punjab University, the only thing he told me was “My daughter, do not be deceived to take Arts”. I never disappointed him.

If taken back to your early years, do you think you would choose something different for a career?

I wouldn’t. This is definitely one of the best decisions my father made for me before his passing on three years into it. Currently, I enjoy my work.

How did you land your first job?

I thank God I never tarmacked. When I came back from India, my brother guided me through applying for jobs advertised in the piles of newspapers that he would religiously collect. I sent the applications with his help. From the applications sent, the National Irrigation Authority, by then National Irrigation Board called me for an interview. A few days later I was informed about landing the job as an accountant.

I started out as an accountant at the Head Office and with time was sent to the Audit Section before I was deployed to Ahero Irrigation Scheme to work as an Accountant. Through the experience and the growth, I am currently working as the Chief Officer, Finance.

How would you describe your experience through this?

When I started out, I would describe it as frustrating. The salary was small but I learnt how to live within my means. Currently, I wouldn’t trade this for anything else. The transitions have been challenging but I have loved the growth. I believe it was all ordained by God.

What are some of the challenges you have faced working with the Authority and how have you overcome them?

I remember being tasked to take up the office of the Chief Officer, Finance. Anyone would have loved such a promotion. In fact, many yearn to get promoted. However, I felt frustrated while starting out. I had a lot of accounting to do. Whenever auditors would come, Finance was the only point of focus (this has however changed since 2018). I would dread whenever it was time to prepare the Annual Financial Reports because it was too bulky and would drain me.

The help and guidance of our Chief Executive Officer Mr. Gitonga Mugambi has however helped me overcome this. Things have evolved. Preparation of Financial Statements is now a collective responsibility with all departments being represented in the Financial Statement preparation committee. It is no longer just a Finance issue. This has made it a whole lot easier for me and the Finance Department at large. Further, I have developed a deeper liking for finance and embraced a culture of people working together and growing each other.

Describe your typical day

I wake up to first ensure my children go to school by 6.00am and report to the office by 7:30am. I run office errands till 5:00pm when I leave in order to get back home in good time to help my children with their homework and ensure they get to bed early.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

When I took my current office, the Authority had a huge debt with KRA which we have managed to clear.

What is your motivation?

Transforming lives both directly and indirectly which I am achieving by serving my Country Kenya through the National Irrigation Authority.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting out on their career?

Purpose to grow, be patient, honest, and live within your means. Remember to save as much as you can in your early years.

Have you ever been found off-guard?

Yes, and I felt stupid and embarrassed! I remember a time, a little while into my sitting as the Ag. Chief Officer, Finance, the CEO called me to his office, stated the amount of funds we had received and asked for the balance of the funds. Not having the correct figures, I did not know what to say. He was mad. I took that positively and learned of what is expected of me. I wouldn’t want to be found so off-guard ever again.

How do you manage stress at the workplace?

I always work with a positive mind and plan my activities knowing what is expected of me in order to avoid the last minute rush.

Parting shot?

Be content with yourself and what you have while working towards achieving your goals. Keep on praying to God and your time will come.