A recent graduate of the inaugural class at ALX, Sharon Murage is focused on empowering other young women through her work. Based in Nairobi, she is currently completing a Research Internship at Botho Emerging Markets. As a Young Leader starting out her career, Sharon shares with us some of the challenges and triumphs of her journey and how she aims to take her mission forward.
“I admire influential women in leadership and believe that young women such as myself should emulate their strengths, learning from those who have gone before us. We need more young women participating in policy making and decision-making, so it’s important that we become exposed to the issues that exist.”
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m an outgoing person and I get energized by meeting new people. I’ll always find opportunities to engage people in meaningful conversations. I admire influential women in leadership and believe that young women such as myself should emulate their strengths, learning from those who have gone before us. I also have a deep love of African literature and this in part has inspired some of the work I’m doing.
What’s your mission in life?
My mission is to help other young women pursue excellence in their careers. In Nairobi, I’ve started the She 4 She Book Club. The aim of the club is to empower young women by creating a supportive space where we can all grow and learn from each other. We read different books on women leaders in a variety of sectors, gaining insights on navigating the workspace and developing leadership skills. We have stimulating conversations around leadership, entrepreneurship and deepening our self-awareness as well as building self-confidence to take our ambitions forward. A strong focus of the club is on mentorship. We reach out to young women who may not have access to mentors, so that they can benefit from the club’s support network.
We also aim to understand some of the biggest development issues in Africa through the books we read, discovering how others have approached these problems. I believe that we need more young women participating in policy making and decision-making, so it’s important that we become exposed to the issues that exist.
We love the sound of that! What has been one of the most powerful experiences to have shaped your journey as a Young Leader?
I was studying a BA at the University of Nairobi in International Relations and became inspired by Fred Swaniker’s story. This sparked a desire to be part of the African Leadership community, and when an opportunity arose to join ALX, I didn’t hesitate to submit an application. I was overjoyed to have been accepted to the program and join its inaugural cohort. The experience exceeded my expectations in every way. The coaching and mentorship I received was incredible, accelerating my growth and giving me the confidence to start working in new environments. It was also wonderful to be in a group of likeminded people focused on building their skills in leadership and entrepreneurship on the continent.
How have you carried forward the lessons learned during your time at ALX?
Through ALX, I experienced the power of relationship building and what it means to be part of a connected group of people who share similar passions, especially when it comes to the shared desire to give back and support one another. This has certainly been carried forward, particularly in transitioning to The Room. There’s a high level of trust and honesty in this community, which I don’t think exists in most places. We’re faced with challenges on a daily basis, so to be in constant communication with other Young Leaders has been amazing; it motivates you to keep pushing on in pursuit of your goals. It’s also important for me to know that I can continue to access opportunities for learning and growth, since this doesn’t stop at graduation!
As someone starting out their career, have you found it difficult during the crisis of COVID-19?
It’s definitely a difficult time. The pandemic has made things hard, especially when you’re young and wanting to gain experience. Most companies aren’t hiring, and I think it’s been tough for people who are trying to get their ventures started. So many small businesses are in turmoil and there’s not as much support for small ventures. This is a huge challenge, because young people with startups need as much support as possible to build their enterprises. But what’s really impressed me is to see how other young people going through similar difficulties are persisting in their goals and not giving up. They’re embracing the journey of entrepreneurship, which comes with a lot of uphill battles!
What’s your biggest aspiration for the African continent?
My aspiration is to see more young women participating in governance, so that we can have more Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s on the continent!