Dear Mentor…

One of the biggest influences and mentors in my career was a gentleman called Ken.

When I remember Ken Wood, there is just so much to say. I can almost write a book about him. I learnt my work ethics from this guy.

He was actually my first boss when I started practicing HR. When we first met, he was interviewing me somewhere along Mombasa road. The guy spoke so fast I could barely understand what he was saying. He however understood that I was a bit ‘slow’ so he would repeat his questions slowly. He was English and Englishmen speak a bit fast, or maybe I’m just a bit village.

Ken was an atheist, he always wondered how I could possibly sit in holy Mass for two hours listening to a priest. So when I invited him to church one time, he asked me to find out from the priest if he was allowed to bring along his newspaper. According to him, his gods were discipline, hardwork and integrity.

He taught me the essence of time management. If a meeting was scheduled at 9am, he expected everyone to be seated by 8.50am. His meetings were short and to the point. If you wanted to tell stories, he would gladly buy you a drink after work. Otherwise, all he needed was a report indicating that the work had been done, not reasons why you couldn’t do it.

He had an Oxdometer, it’s the instrument used to measure bullshit. So if you brought him gossip, he would whip out his oxdometer and throw you out of his office. He was very forthright and would tell you off straight to your face.

Ken taught me integrity. ‘Ann, never let yourself be compromised with money’, he said to me. You needed to deliver on a promise you made to Ken, otherwise, it would not end well. And he had a note book to record every activity so it wouldn’t slip his mind. If it’s not written, it did not happen.

Physical fitness was his thing. He believed that overwheight people were slow so he paid gym membership fees for all of us and ‘forced’ us to work out. He checked the gym attendance book daily. He believed that a good employee needs to be fit and active. I still work out to date.

Listening to excuses was not one of his greatest attributes. If you ever came to Ken with a challenge, why you were incapable of doing your job, he expected you to provide him with a possible recommendation on how to solve it. Otherwise, if you expected him to solve all your problems, you had another thing coming.

When we last saw each other, it was at his farewell party. He had finally decided to leave Kenya for good. He was relocating to Portugal to learn how to ride a motorcycle.

Therefore, today I celebrate a great man. A man who trusted me very much. A man who gave me a chance to prove myself, he believed in me when I knew nothing about HR practise, a man who opened great doors for me and gave me an opportunity to shine. And most importantly, a man who held my hand with tough love and pointed me towards the right direction.

Long live Kennneth Allan Wood!!!


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