In today’s corporate world, employees do whatever they can to get that dream promotion. One of the most common and obvious ways they do this is by pursuing vocational courses to boost their credentials and thus increase their chances of getting to the top of the corporate world. But for Churchill Winstones Ochieng, the current Head of Retail at Faulu Bank Kenya, his career journey is quite different and unique. In fact, it sounds rather far-fetched and unrealistic for a mere janitor to get promoted to a regional manager without having had any higher education credentials to his name. So how did that happen?
Being a bright student, Churchill was one of the lucky few kenyan high school graduates to be enrolled in 1996 to a government subsidized degree programme at the University of Nairobi. Unfortunately for Churchill, his parents couldn’t afford the fees since they were already burdened with his elder sister’s university fees at Egerton University. Churchill had no option but to drop out and try any business he could in a bid to get back to campus. He resulted to starting a vegetable kiosk, a make-shift car wash and a shoe shining business in Nairobi. But that didn’t turn his fortunes around.
Countless Job Application Rejections
In 1997, Churchill began sending job applications to countless bank addresses. Unfortunately for Churchill, a carton full of rejection letters was the discouraging result. However, this didn’t stop Collins from applying. At one point, he decided to do something different. He sent a personal letter to the MD of Barclays Bank Kenya back then who was none other than Dr Gareth George.
In the personal letter, Churchill Ochieng recalled all the hurdles he had faced in his life and urged the Barclays Bank MD not to dismiss the letter without reading it to the end. To Churchill’s surprise, the MD responded by saying that if anything came up, Churchill would be informed.
Churchill was quite ecstatic since a top Kenyan Bank CEO had taken time to write in an official embossed beige paper. Churchill went ahead and wrote more letters to the Barclays Bank CEO. His persistence finally paid off when he was offered a contractual job as a janitor.
Skyrocketing Job Promotions
A month into his janitor job at Barclays Bank Kenya Head Office, Collins was promoted to a supervisory role as a senior cleaner for three months. Once his contract was over, the Bank couldn’t let him go because of his exemplary track record. He was then elevated to become a messenger on a six months contract. Once again, just as his six months contract was about to expire, an office assistant had missed work on Monday due to heavy drinking the previous weekend and the Bank was desperate for someone to finish a certain task urgently.
Churchill offered to handle the task since he had been keenly observing how the office assistant worked during his tenure as an office messenger. To everyone’s surprise, Churchill finished the job and was thus assigned to the direct sales department. At that point, Churchill turned the Bank’s profits around and consequently got four promotions in a single year.
During his final tenure at Barclays Bank, he was a Regional Manager for Barclays Bank at Nyanza and Western Kenya respectively. He was then employed by CFC Stanbic Bank where he was bestowed a senior supervisory role as the head of direct sales in Africa. At this point, he had enough money to study for a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce.
Giving Back to the Community
Churchill decided in 2008 to inspire Kenyan youth who felt downtrodden by their poor backgrounds. He did this by starting a group called A+ and launched a book called “From Hawker to Banker” to share a more intricate story of the obstacles he faced and the achievements that kept him soldiering on. Churchill Ochieng has also toured over 200 schools in Kenya mentoring high school youths to focus on what they aim to achieve despite the hurdles they face.
According to Churchill, there is no perfect and guaranteed way to achieve career success. Everyone at the top has a different and unique story to tell and there is no monopolistic or guaranteed mechanism that propelled them to the top. While some need degrees and papers to get to the top, others need experience and connections for career advancement. In the end, Churchill says that it’s attitude that counts. He believes that with prayer, persistence, patience and determination, nothing can stand in your way to become the next career success story. For now, Churchill Winstones Ochieng is currently pursuing an MBA in Strategic Management.