What does success look like? What is success? This is often a conflicting question because in most cases, wealth and social status is often the standard unit of measurement. In retrospect, you may have used these two attributes to determine your success status, how wealthy you are and the position you occupy in society. Lost in this definition though is the true meaning of success and the breaking of sweat that goes along with it. As Safaricom chief executive officer Peter Ndegwa attests, success is much more than just money or popularity. It’s about being yourself, overcoming challenges, working hard to achieve your dreams, learning lessons from your mistakes, and living your best life. Mr. Ndegwa knows this up close for he has been through the majority of stages that the battle to attaining success in life entails.
Throughout his life, Ndegwa has had to overcome challenges to be where he is today. Along the way, he has raked in multiple accolades and achieved many a firsts. “I went to Starehe Boys, so I was a great role model in the village,” he recently said.
His leading roles across the world have included leading top global brands such as Diageo, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the East African Breweries.
Ndegwa joined Safaricom from Diageo, a global leader in the alcoholic beverages business, where he was serving as Managing Director of Continental Europe.
In his previous role at Diageo, he oversaw business operations in 50 countries in Western and Eastern Europe, as well as Russia, the Middle East and North Africa region. Mr. Ndegwa was appointed to the role in July 2018, becoming the first African to run a large business for Diageo outside of Africa.
In his time in Continental Europe, Mr. Ndegwa energy to drive transformational change delivered significant results. Prior to this Peter led two of Diageo’s biggest businesses on the continent, Guinness Ghana Breweries Plc and Guinness Nigeria Plc. At Diageo Peter developed a reputation for cultivating a strong inclusive culture which was paramount in his leadership.
In an interview with renowned author Biko Zulu, Mr. Ndegwa recently revealed that one of his most challenging career moments was in Nigerian. “In Nigeria I had to cut off about 45 per cent of the organisation in the three years. It wasn’t easy. I had a union that had refused to approve it and there was some resistance within the company,” he said.
He said that the turn around came when he faced the union in a meeting and asked it to provide an alternative to the restructuring. “They told me, ‘you don’t have an alternative.’ So I did what I had to do, which was the right thing. This was a business risk but I was also taking a personal risk from a leadership perspective because it could have gone really wrong. So that was a bit scary,” he said.
Mr. Ndegwa said that this experience taught me to stand for what he believes in. “It’s not just in personal life but also in professional life. Don’t take the easy way out because there’s always some easy way,” he said.
Interestingly, Mr. Ndegwa revealed that through his career, he has been able to travel to many countries together with his wife and child, that they wouldn’t have thought possible to visit. “I travel with my family. We have experienced more European cities than we imagined possible in our lives,” he said. For instance, Mr, Ndegwa began his eleven-year career with global consulting firm PwC as a consultant, relocating to London, UK under the firm’s talent development programme in 1996. In 1999, he transitioned from the Accountancy practice to the Consulting & Corporate Finance Unit at PwC. After completing his MBA, Peter took on key assignments in corporate advisory and project management at leading European and American banks and insurance businesses.
Currently, Mr. Peter Ndegwa says that he would want to focus on using sports and education to transform lives. “If there’s one thing that I really want to support is education. Whether that is the school near my village or not. I also want to go into golfing so that I make it accessible to all children, regardless of their family background,” he said recently.
At Safaricom, Mr. Ndegwa is working to to empower every employee by creating an aura of freedom and space where every worker can innovate and tale their ideas without fear. “I want people to be free and know they can make a career regardless of where they come from or who they are. If there’s something I could do is collapse this structure so that people can feel free to innovate and deliver on their careers,” he told Biko.