Andrew Osundwa is the National Chairman for the Kenya National Secretaries Association (KENASA)
Can we start with a little background information? Where are you from and what is your current role?
“Your dreams are valid no matter where you come from” – the words of Oscar-winning star Lupita Nyong’o – are my driving force. I am on a mission to demystify the myths people have about the secretarial profession.
Every one of us has come from somewhere and we carry different kinds of history. When I look at my past, regrets and despair cover me. Pain can make me shut my mind and heart, it makes me angry, jealous, bitter, frustrated and envious but how I handle this determines how far I can go.
I was born fourth in a family of seven and raised in Western Kenya. My father was a polygamist and that meant the struggle for the basic needs and space was a reality. There was too little to share and too much to persevere. Prayers, dedication and determination are my shield.
I am the current chairperson of Kenya National Secretaries Association (KENASA), and also work as an Office Administrator in the Executive Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kenya.
What is your background?
I hold a Master of Science degree in Human Resource Management and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Jomo Kenyatta University, Kenya, as well as several certifications in secretarial studies. I am one of the few men in Kenya who is proud to be working as an Assistant. It is a noble career with many opportunities for all genders.
I recently won the Personal Assistant of the Year Award – Africa (2018). I received the Award in a ceremony held in Lesotho in September 2018 for my exemplary performance in professional practice and professional achievements. The Award, organised by the International Renaissance Centre (IRC), also recognizes my transformative role at the helm of KENASA.
How did you become involved with Assistants?
My sister was a secretary and I admired her demeanour. She sent me a typed letter encouraging me to work hard whilst I was in my primary school, and I wondered at the kind of good handwriting she had, only to find out that it was typed.
I developed an interest in typing articles to make them look better. After I had finished my O levels, I joined the Kenya National Youth Service, a paramilitary training where I was introduced to secretarial class. I was hesitant to take up the class. My college mates teased me “who will accept you as a secretary, where there are beautiful ladies at the front office.”
It was not easy initially, as the atmosphere dictated that it was a feminine job. 13 out of 15 men who joined the class over a period of two years joined other careers due to the stigma and other opportunities that came their way. I also tried to escape the class, but I did not get a safe landing. I failed to be admitted in the National Police Service because I could not close one eye alternatively. Whenever I came to secretarial class, I found peace and even made the leader in the same class.
You are the National Chairman for the Kenya National Secretaries Association (KENASA). Tell us a bit about the association.
The main objective of the Association is to create a forum for secretarial professionals to interact and deliberate on emerging issues affecting the secretarial profession regarding the standards, ethics and professionalism.
Other objectives are as follows:
To identify and lead on areas and issues that affect secretaries both negatively and positively and take up initiatives aimed at ensuring continued growth and development of the secretarial profession in the country.
To foster and maintain a high level of professionalism, effectiveness and status of the secretarial profession by;
- Establishing a code of conduct for the secretarial profession and its members and to enforce observance of the code of conduct for its
- Encouraging and assisting members to develop their careers within and beyond the secretarial profession
- Setting professional standards and to confer national recognition upon the practitioners who meet the
- Helping in formation of bodies and institutes affiliated to the Association which would provide formal training, and where applicable
- Carrying researches on secretarial profession for the purpose of improving and optimizing service delivery to the
To exchange knowledge, ideas and experience amongst members, affiliated organizations and any other individuals, on the role of the secretarial profession and the well-being of the members through:
- Publishing and distribution of newsletters and
- Organization and conducting conferences, workshops, seminars and trainings on issues relating to the
To represent the secretarial professionals nationally and internationally by;
- Promoting better communication and closer links between the secretarial professionals and other management functions.
- To perform any other functions in the furtherance and promotion of the objectives of the association.
The association draws its membership from both public and private sector. It currently has a membership base of 5,500 members countrywide. The membership is voluntary as provided in the constitution of the association.
The association has its membership spread all over the country and for that reason, it has a leadership structure stretched to the county levels. Each county has its representatives elected every three years by the members in the respective counties.
At ministerial level, every ministry has representatives elected after every three years by the members in the respective ministry headquarters. The same applies to the state corporations/ government departments/agencies. Members from the private organizations also elect their own representatives after the stipulated period of three years.
The association elects its National Office Bearers after every three years during the Annual General Meetings (AGM). The current National officials were elected during the 7thAGC held on 30th June 2017.
The association occasionally organizes visits to the less fortunate in society. At different places in the country, the association has visited children’s homes, GK prisons, homes for the elderly, orphanages and other places that are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
Talent promotion: amongst our members we have gospel artists and authors who have written very inspirational books in the secretarial field.
What lessons have you learned in your time as National Chairman?
Today’s office administrators need to be strategic to contribute more effectively and efficiently to the organization. They are expected to offer solutions, ideas and make judgements and decisions in the absence of the executive. To do so one needs to be knowledgeable about the organization, its objectives and what their executive is trying to achieve.
Stretching in life is mandatory for one to achieve greater heights
How important do you think Associations and networks are to the career of an Assistant and why?
The office administrators’ role is here to stay and it requires some fine-tuning by the administrator and the executive for it to add more value to the executive and the organization.
While executives are the most visible members of an organization, their ability to function efficiently – and fulfill the many responsibilities that come with being executives – would be nearly impossible without the assistance of office administrators. Therefore, networks help to engage with the best minds in the industry and unleash the potential within.
Tell us about the Secretarial Professionals Bill
In the new dispensation of the Kenya Constitution 2010, a profession is defined by an Act of Parliament.
I have spearheaded the drive to create a regulatory framework to guide the conduct and practice of professional secretaries in the management of secretarial profession. This was necessitated by the fact that secretaries play a critical central role in the delivery of services and overall development and success of any organization and nation.
A Bill that seeks to regulate the professional secretaries has been developed. The Bill outlines provisions in relation to the registration of professional secretaries, registration and licensing, development, training, and capacity building, categorization of secretaries, curriculum development and accreditation of training institutions and regulates the conduct and practice of professional secretaries among others. The Bill has also established a Board and The Kenya Secretarial College to advance professionalism in secretarial sector.
Professional bodies are there to ensure public safety, set standards, regulate the conduct of members and training providers as well as safeguard the rights of the practitioners. Many professionals in Kenya have a regulatory framework that guide in the issue of standardization.
There is therefore need for the government to establish a legal framework that will regulate the human resource rendering professional secretarial services as a best practice.
What inspires and motivates you?
My motivation in all I do is seeing people happy about their work and contribution to humanity. I am writing a motivational book to actualize my dream in life which is to continue touching positively on people’s lives.
At KENASA, I continue to put a smile on over 5,000 members through conferences, workshops, trainings and corporate social investment activities, and by linking KENASA to the outside world. I have held radio talk shows, TV interviews and symposiums to create awareness about secretarial profession across the region.
What advice would you give someone just starting out as an Assistant?
It calls for patience and humility to actualize in life.
So, what’s next for Andrew Osundwa? Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
I pray to have finished my PhD degree.