A day in the life of a Programme Manager

Andrea Gamson, Kericho Programme Manager, 2014

7am. Alarm goes off.

7:30am. Second alarm goes off. I go to the bathroom, return to bed.

7.34am. Phone starts vibrating. This usually happens when one of the fellows have turned on their wifi, which means I sometimes get some emails or whatsapps coming through. I quickly check gmail before the day begins. I sneak a peak at the UK news headlines.

8am. My black casio wristwatch (only 199 shillings in the supermarkets out here – about £2) starts beeping. This is to let me know, wherever I am, whatever I am doing – that it’s time to get moving.

9am. It’s my first one to one meeting (like a mini consultancy session) of the day with one of my fellow pairs. Every week I try to see everyone at least once. We talk through each entrepreneur that they’re managing in turn, assessing progress and exploring how they could overcome any challenges they are facing with them. Sometimes we brainstorm ideas or think laterally about their sticking points. Usually by the end of each session we have a list of actions for fellows to accomplish with their entrepreneurs. It’ week 4 now, so we’re discussing which ones are going to pitch next Friday and for how much. I want to be able to go into the pitching day with a clear idea of what we’re dealing with. There’s only so much in the pot!

10am. Two other fellows wander over, wandering if I’m free for a catch up. I am just wrapping up my session. They join us and we casually brainstorm some ideas for the end of programme celebration event that we’re organising next Friday. We spend ten minutes or so thinking about how we can combine a party with the networking event we weren’t able to pull off this week. We come up with a solution that could encourage entrepreneurs to mingle with other like minded entrepreneurs. It turns out that most of our business owners fit into one of seven categories – Agriculture, Horticulture, Arts & Culture, Snacks & Drinks, Fashion & Beauty, Tech/Education & IT and Stationary/Printing. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if our entrepreneurs could find ways to strengthen their offering, or generate new business from within the group? Already two of our poultry farmers have joined forces, which I think is brilliant. Strength in numbers (and collective expertise) and all that. They gave up the chance to individually pitch for 50,000ksh, to jointly pitch for 50,000 after support from their fellows that helps them recognise they were stronger – and more sustainable – as a collaboration.

11am. I go back to my room to plug in my laptop.

12pm. My tummy rumbles. Have just spent a productive hour counting cash, ironing out any kinks in the expenses spreadsheet. For some reason in Kericho I have a different kind of altitude sickness, the kind that makes numbers and simple maths an almost impossibility. Luckily I have a good team.

12.15pm. I order my favourite lunch treat, it’s Friday after all. 1/4 Ken-Chick Capon. It’s a tasty roasted quarter of chicken, with surprisingly a lot of meat on it. I swap chips for Sakuma Wiki. Spinach. Kericho style.

1pm. It’s time to start working out how pitching is going to work. I dig out my entrepreneur database, plus the original SACCO lists and my diary. We are working with two SACCOs in Kericho, South Rift Sacco and the Youth Bunge Sacco. They are both great in equal measure, with different strengths and weaknesses. It’s interesting to evaluate which entrepreneurs came through which SACCO.

2.03pm. I’ve decided on how to run the pitching session – we have 40 entrepreneurs pitching, out of an original 48. Good efforts! A massive email goes out from me to fellows outlining the pitch process.

2.58pm. I quickly text my contact at Quick Service, the unassuming at first but immediately impressive secret garden style restaurant behind the petrol station at the bottom of town, to ensure our three straw huts are secured for pitch day. I have booked the Masai Mara Hut, Kilimajaro and Tsarvo. I managed to negotiate getting them free of charge in exchange for, well, that part I am not quite sure – but I am sure I will find out! Mr Lawrence texts me back apologising for not having contacted me sooner. I am also talking to him about potentially using his venue for our party. Or for our training week in August for the second programme.

3.07pm. I plug in my earphones to listen to some mixes on Soundcloud. Friday afternoon disco! Some habits never die. I catch up on emails – this is the first day I’ve had uninterrupted internet and boy does it feel good! I spend a little time thinking about how to manage the process of breaking the news to entrepreneurs post-pitch about whether they got the funding or not, and if so, how much.

4.25pm. Thunder claps as if directly above us, rain pours down noisily onto the concrete terrace outside our makeshift hot-desking hub, the roof next to me leaks with trickles that pool by my feet, and I crave a beer.

4.55pm One of our entrepreneurs comes over to me, fresh from a catch up with his fellows. He’s a sign artist and has kindly offered to create us a banner for our celebration event. He’s also going to make us a Balloon Kenya branded rubber stamp too so we can stamp everyone’s hands upon entry.

5.30pm We’re now discussing entertainment for the event. I’m excited.

7.30pm Time for dinner. We eat our evening meal every night at Tea Hotel together. It can range from simple local cuisine, stuff like lentils, beans and rice through to (on special occasions) a full on lamb choma (BBQ!). I get a glass of wine.

8:47pm Am sat in my room, it’s a Friday night, and i’m debating whether one of my fellows should go to a new local venue with one of her entrepreneurs. Who we all also knows has a crush on her. But they’re also friends.

12.19pm. I’m all talked out. Lights out. Earplugs in.