CEO Of The Month Influencing Business

In February, 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Mary Kimonye as the Principal Secretary for State Department of Public Service.

Mary W. Kimonye, MBS


If you are looking for a career public service honcho, who understands government, its systems and processes, yet effective, efficient and loyal to the country, look no further than Mary Wanjira Kimonye (Mrs).

Others who know her very well describes her as a committed public servant and management strategist, scholar and trainer with close to thirty years of experience of service in both public and private institutions.

To those who have worked with her, Mary possesses special competencies that include country marketing and branding, strategy development, public policy, project management, training and capacity building and organizational development (OD). Specifically, she is reputed to be excellent in networking both locally and internationally, with a passion, a positive attitude and good interpersonal skills that constitute her unique Mary Kimonye style.

As Principal Secretary for Public Service, Mary is driven on a daily basis to apply her extensive knowledge, skills and experience to bring positive and meaningful change to the socio-economic development of individuals, institutions, communities and the country and contribute to the achievement of Kenya’s Development Agenda as expressed in Vision 2030, crystalized into The Big Four Agenda and other regional and international development frameworks to which Kenya is a signatory.

Mary talks of her journey, with an unparalled passion, ‘I started my professional life in the Banking Sector in 1986 after completing my Bachelor’s Degree at University of Nairobi (UoN), School of Business.  However, I soon realized banking was not for me, I felt underutilized and 8 months into the banking job I quit to pursue a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA).

After graduating, I joined the UoN School of Business (SoB) as a Lecturer in 1991. The teaching job is one of the most gratifying jobs in the world.   The wonder of imparting knowledge and transforming lives is truly amazing.  Besides, the constant interaction with young minds does not only keep you agile, it teaches you to give people latitude to express themselves in their different ways for indeed human beings are different.  It also teaches you to be sensitive and alert to the varied paces of learning in individual students, because, it’s your responsibility as the teacher not to leave anyone behind. The highlights of my career as a Lecturer are the many times, I encountered students who were willing to be “taught”. Needless to say, teaching at the University was extremely satisfying for me, I enjoyed it, I thrived in it.  It is an experience that is priceless!  It is while here that I perfected my consultancy and human relations skills.  The long hours of study as you prepare the lecture notes leaves one saturated with so much knowledge that the lecture room alone is not an adequate outlet or avenue for knowledge dissemination.  I craved a bigger stage. So, teaching outside of the University, public speaking, volunteering and writing articles became part of my life.

In 1994, I registered my consultancy firm and went on to become a renowned researcher, trainer and consultant in marketing, branding and corporate strategies. Among the companies I worked for were Caltex Oil, Uchumi Supermarket, ADB, Britam, PostBank, and National Council of Women of Kenya.

While at the School of Business, I was also Faculty Advisor for the Banking Students Association, the Marketing Students Association and the Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE).  The latter is an International Students Body supported by the Walmart Company, USA.  As a Faculty advisor I travelled to USA and France with my students for the SIFE global forums on numerous occasions.  To say I was passionate about my job at the University is an understatement.

In 2006, I joined the then Public Sector Reforms Secretariat as a Technical Advisor.  This was at the time when the country was embracing Results Based Management in the Public Service.  It was most gratifying to be part of the team that implemented transformative management approaches among them Performance Contracting, RRI and Strategic Planning in Government.  It is my involvement at the Secretariat that led me to my next major assignment – “Branding Kenya”.

In 2009, I became the founding CEO of the Brand Kenya Board.  The Board was set up to develop and implement programmes aimed at enhancing Kenya’s visibility and influence in the Continental and International Stage by managing and improving Kenya’s image and identity.  Brand Kenya remains a great success and we managed to develop a National Brand Master Plan with propositions for all the facets of Kenya’s image and identity.  These include:

  • The Citizens
  • The towns, cities and counties proposition
  • Export proposition
  • Tourism proposition
  • Diaspora proposition
  • Trade and Investment proposition and
  • The regional cooperation propositions

Under these propositions, the Brand Kenya implemented several high impact initiatives aimed at enhancing the inward flow of trade, tourism, multi-national corporate (MNCs) headquarters that we see today, foreign direct investments (FDI), global conferences and increased diaspora transfers in foreign exchange.

Some of the most successful marketing projects that I spearheaded were: –

  • The first ever Investment Conference in the United States and several others in Germany, Netherlands, Italy, England, Scotland and Belgium, Uganda, Burundi and South Africa.
  • The Kenya House Project during the London 2012 Olympics.
  • Several National Campaigns to entrench pride and patriotism in the Citizens, the most notable being the Mimi Ni Kenya and Kenya ni Mimi Campaign and the youth focused campaign.  “Zinduka run in partnership with Citizen T.V.

In February, 2020, HE the President appointed me into my current position as Principal Secretary for State Department of Public Service.  This is another extremely gratifying job.  For me, any job aimed at serving the citizen is a blessing.  As Principal Secretary for Public Service, I also oversee the operations of the Huduma Kenya Programme, the National Youth Service and the Public Service Performance Management and Monitoring Unit’, says Mary.

In her role as PS, Mary’s specific responsibilities include rendering informed and impartial advice to the CS consistent with the functions and responsibilities of the CS. As an Accounting Officer, Mary ensures that the resources of the state department are utilized in a way that is lawful and authorized, effective, efficient, economical and transparent.

Mary adds, ‘Looking into the future, my role is to lead thought processes in the refocusing of the Public Service for continued performance with the current challenges of COVID-19 Pandemic, rapid changes in technology and the increasing numbers of youthful workers entering the Service.  I wish to see a Public Service that is fit for purpose -well prepared to serve the needs of an increasing youthful nation and with the agility to respond to the highly dynamic globalized world.

In this regard, the Public Service Department is focusing on the digitization and automation of services, succession management, modernization of the Government Human Resource Information System and expansion of the Huduma Kenya Programme.

Mary postulates, ‘In terms of the “Public Servant” entrenching “comprehensive” professionalism is something that keeps me awake at night.  By this I mean that Public Servants must have an understanding that how they act outside of the office is as important as how they act in the office.  Public Servants serve a critical mass referred to in the Constitution as “we the people”.  We cannot be Citizen Centric Service if we do not have clarity on “who the people are”, their aspirations, fears, joys and their living conditions”.   This is in recognition of the centrality of public service in the political, economic and social economic development of the Nation.  Without a stable, non-partisan Public Service, development is not possible.  So, entrenching the principles and values of Public Service and observing the Constitutional provisions in Chapter 6 and Chapter 13 remains an integral part of my work day. I hope to entrench Public Service that every Kenyan can be proud of’.

Mary lists key lessons that she has learnt over the years that have helped in her growth in private and professional life as:

  • Academic qualifications are simply that and they are possessed by many people and therefore they are not a differentiator.  To succeed, one must cultivate other skills and competencies that will enable them navigate real life human interactions.
  • Humility, hard work, sensitivity to others and a positive attitude have never killed anyone.  Indeed, her guiding mantra is to “Always walk on the sunny side of the street expecting and anticipating both successes and failure, facing them with hope and gratitude because in either of them lies great lessons in life”.
  • People are the greatest resource at our disposal, however getting the best out of them is an art that leaders must learn and cultivate – rules, policies and regulations are not adequate tools to help people experience their full potential.  People working in a team need to be appreciated, encouraged, supported, counseled and defended.  However, this does not mean complicity or tolerance of poor performance or indiscipline.  It means finding a balance between reward and punishment and remaining firm, fair and objective.
  • Anything that you cannot find within yourself, you must be prepared to live without.  Without peace within yourself, you cannot create a peaceful environment for others.  Without hard work, you cannot demand hard work from others, without focus you cannot demand the same from others and so goes for other values in life.

As a leader you set the pace, tone, style and vision for your team.

Some special assignments Mary has undertaken include chairing the Selection Panel that recruited the Controller of Budget (2019) and the Chairperson of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (2018). In 2015, during the US President Barack Obama visit to Kenya, she chaired the Communication and Branding Sub Committee.

The Sacred Heart Girls High, Kyeni and Nyandarua High Schools alumnae holds a BCom and an MBA degree from the UoN. She is a Marketing Society of Kenya (MSK) Warrior and a Fellow of the Kenya Institute of Management. In 2010, she was conferred with the honour of the Moran of The Order of The Burning Spear (MBS) by the President of Kenya, for distinguished service to her country and building the image of Kenya.

Mary Kimonye is a two-time winner of the Trainer of the Year Award, whose hobbies include gardening and exotic cooking.


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Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Kenya’s Dr Hanningtone Gaya, holds a PhD in Commerce in Business Management from Nelson Mandela University (NMU), is viewed as an authority in country branding and is the founder chairman of the Brand Kenya Board.

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