Evelyn Nyarega: Board Member, Globetrotter, and Die-hard rugby supporter

July 28, 2023 · 9 min read

Evelyn Nyarega is a real dynamo. At the tender age of 53 she refuses to sit around and amble towards retirement. Instead, she recently elected to do an MBA with Nexford and realized her dream of sitting on the board of a renowned advertising leading Kenyan company. The latter is something that she attributes to her MBA.

They say that age is just a number and that saying really rings true when you meet with Evelyn Nyarega. A proud Kenyan/British citizen, adventurous globetrotter to boot, and somebody that has so much to still to achieve, it won’t surprise to discover that, even at 53, she is always on the go and achieving pretty much all that she sets her mind to.

The Woman. The Kenyan legend!

So, who is this dynamic go-getter you may ask? Permit us to enlighten you. Evelyn is the Head of Customer Service and Compliance for TSG. A company that has two arms, Real Estate and Hospitality. The latter is where Evelyn has the most work and influence. Other than the role she already holds, most recently she has been given an additional responsibility as the Project Liaison for a new multi-million project. The POD surrounding a co-working space, the new future of workspace which will be one of its kind in Africa and the Middle East in partnership with IWG. Talk about responsibility!

You would assume that all that would be enough responsibility for a mere mortal to take on, but not for Evelyn. She is also a non-executive board member of a leading Kenyan advertising agency (Big Little). Evelyn is awaiting confirmation to two other board appointments which at this stage she is giving consideration.

Of all this Evelyn is quite pragmatic when she tells us, “It's all coming around so quickly, but I'm also trying to keep it to a maximum of two because I'm still in very active employment. I can’t let all of this overwhelm me and dominate my time at the other companies. I also have lots of important things on my plate, the most important of which is completing my Nexford MBA.”

Divine Intervention

Evelyn is a woman of great faith, and although she knows that hard work and determination have gotten her to where she is now, there have been other forces at work. Like her encountering Nexford. She tells us that her desire was to do the MBA Program at other universities such as Salford University, and universities in South Africa, Australia, or Scotland.

She says, “I looked at a lot of universities worldwide, but none of them offered a full-time online program. With my mega-busy schedule, there was no chance that I was going to be able to sit physical classes. The University of Cape Town in South Africa came close to what I was looking for when it came to online learning, but even though our HR Manager was also pursuing her MBA there, it did not have the speciality and flexibility that I was looking for. And then hey presto, when I was doing the browsing at the time, this ad for Nexford University kept popping up on LinkedIn. I thought I'm just going to click on this and see what it’s all about.”

The first thing that struck Evelyn about Nexford was the messaging, which talked about getting an American degree in a very affordable way thanks to the payment terms and the flexible way that she could go about earning her MBA.

“The flexibility of learning and most importantly, the fees, just made it attractive. So, once I logged on, and I read about it, that was it, I didn't even look back. Plus, I must say that the turnaround time for the response to my query really impressed me. It was almost instantaneous, which I can’t say the same for when it came to any of the other universities that I applied to. It was so quick that I thought it was an automated response but realized it wasn’t when I started speaking to Christine who was able to answer all my queries.”

Time is always ticking

As we mentioned before, Evelyn has her hands full with other businesses, but she also has a busy family life taking care of and supporting her family.

As she tells us, no day is ever a normal day, but if pressed she tells us that a typical day entails her waking up at 5am with a stiff cup of coffee. One would need that at that unsocial time of day. By quarter past seven Evelyn is out the door, and ready to take on the nine-to-five grind. However, she is quick to stress that because she is in a senior management position, there is no typical nine-to-five day for her. Far from it actually! So, a day could be 12 hours or at the worst-case scenario, 14 hours. But Evelyn is quick to point is that the hours are flexible, which helps with fitting in her MBA studies.

“Sometimes I am lucky to be able to fit in two hours of study time whilst at work, she says.” “So that has sort of helped me manage my study hours, because then I don't have to do too much extra after work. Once I get home, it's time for my family.”

To make sure that she does awake somewhat refreshed and ready to take on her hectic day, Evelyn makes sure that she is in bed by 9pm. Often she is up at 5am which again gives her an hour or so to do her learning for her MBA. Highly important time as she tells us that twice a month her weekends include a social group of girlfriends famously known as HOT MAMA’s and her professional investment group WIMO.

She says, “It's a balance because I'm also quite a nocturnal person. And I think this was from my yester years when I was at university. I feel like my brain is more active between 1am and 6am, so I probably get up at four in the morning and push till six, especially if I have a final assignment.

All work and no play!

Spending a while in her company you come to realize that Evelyn is not just a dedicated family woman, but also likes to let her hair down as and when she can.

With a twinkle in her eye she says, “I don’t really take myself very seriously. I enjoy a good laugh and a good party. Age is just a number, right? So, I believe life is for the living. But I'm a stickler for time management and I believe if you balance out your time, you will reap the rewards of a good work-life balance.”

Of her time away from her professional life, and to avoid burnout, Evelyn told us that besides her party side, she also likes to relax and get in touch with the rural side of her life.

“When I feel I'm burning out I take a timeout at least once a month to reenergize by spending some time at our farm home in the Mosocho-Kisii. It allows me to step away and just go and get myself back.”

The skills to succeed

Besides the flexible way of learning, support from the Nexford community, and affordable fees, what Evelyn is loving about Nexford is the skills that she is procuring as she goes about her learning. In the past she says that when she had to put together a business plan, proposal, or financial analysis, she had to employ someone to help her do it. Now that she can do all that herself, not only is she not having to shell out money on these tasks, but she has found that her newfound expertise is helping open more business doors for her. And the fact that she is able to tell people that she is learning at a prestigious American university.

Just one example of opportunities coming knocking is when Evelyn went along to a school meeting which she was invited to where she met a Motivational Speaker and connected with another guest, who actually runs his own private school. However, once the client found out what she did he asked her to send a proposal for how she could help them upgrade their training. Talk about the right place at the right time.

Something that Evelyn is hoping will help open even more doors for her is that she is hoping to attain her doctorate before she turns 60.

Looking forward but remembering the past

People sometimes say that success in life is 50% knowing where you have come from, and 50% knowing where you are going. Evelyn grew up in a typical nuclear family in Kenya with her late brother, sister, and parents.

“My father came from a peasant family, but my mom came from a well-off and elite one. My grandfather was a senior Chief in the days that came after the colonialists. My maternal grandfather was very senior in the local administration post-colonial so the blend of my mother and father really didn't quite fit in. And my grandfather didn't think he was a perfect match for my mom. But that did not stop them. My mom believed in love. And she followed her heart. So, they got married. But it was not out of defiance.”

Evelyn went on to tell us that after they got hitched her mom and dad then moved to a town called Nakuru, this is also where they officially solemnized their marriage. And that’s where her life began. As her father was becoming ever more successful in his career after graduating from Egerton College, now Egerton University. She was raised in a good home and her parents ensured they had a good life.

That said, even though she and her siblings had a great family life, by the age of 17 all of them had elected to fly the coup. Her brother left for the Netherlands, she left to go to India for just over 3 years, and her sister departed for Germany. In India, Evelyn finished her undergrad at the age of 21 years which people normally finish at 22 or 23 years. Her studies stopped there so she came back to Kenya to start work as a Personnel Officer in the Human Resources Department at the then-Kenya Posts and Telecommunication Corporation in 1992.

“I was a very young manager at 21, but I just threw myself into the job and excelled at it,” says Evelyn. Due to my love for sports, I became the team manager for the lady’s Hockey team, which later became the African Ladies' champions. So, they were called the POSTA ladies' hockey team. If you google them, they were the African champions for years to come. So that was my team. And I was very proud of that legacy for the time I served.”

As someone who is not happy settling with the status quo, whilst she was there Evelyn moved on to Germany in 1997 and ironically ended up in the same city as her sister. What a lovely coincidence.

Whilst there Evelyn started planning her future studies, so she started looking for universities in England as she really wanted to go to the London School of Economics. It was a dream of hers which sadly never came to fruition, and she ended up in a College in Tottenham where she earned a Post Grad Diploma that got her into the hospitality industry, a vocation that has occupied a major chunk of her life ever since.

Everyone must have a hobby

We all need some downtime in our busy work and home lives, and Evelyn is no different. She loves to sing gospel as she tells us that she inherited the musical gene from her mother’s side of the family. She is also an ardent rugby fan and whenever they play, she gets fully behind the Kenyan Rugby 7’s side. Especially when they play at Twickenham Stadium in England, a country that she spent two decades in. But she also loves 15’s rugby too. She supports the All Blacks too.

Evelyn also loves to travel. “I'm quite extensively traveled, and I do a lot of traveling with the HOT MAMA’s which is fun. We are doing Qatar in October of this year and I would love to go to South Africa. That was a trip that we had planned to Durban but sadly COVID put paid to that.”

Other than traveling Evelyn loves to cook, and competitive cooking at that. She enjoys many different cuisines and so when she goes to her friends’ houses, a lot of the time she ends up spending time over the stove.

By her own admission Evelyn is just a social human being, and that comes out in her bubbly and vivacious disposition that one is quick to pick up on. She likes going to networking events, whether they're cocktail parties or just events where people are going to discuss different business ventures.

A career-oriented woman

After working in the hospitality industry for most of her tenure in the UK, Evelyn was head hunted to come back to Kenya by a friend Peter Nduati. But now it seems that she wants to put her hand to doing something else and work for herself. She tells us this is one of the major reasons she elected to do her MBA at Nexford University.

“I'm hoping to start building three self-contained fully furnished cottages on the farm that was left to us by my late parents that I will look to rent out,” she tells us. “I don't want to retire yet so this can be something new that I can really take on and make my own as I will be the sole person running them. And I think the MBA is going to really help with that, especially on the financial side and being able to do my own business plan.”

Her MBA is going very well so far, but even though she has not nearly graduated yet, Evelyn is looking to the future and tells us that one day she would like to specialize the MBA to include entrepreneurship as that is something that she really wants to focus on.

But even though she is a future-focused busy bee, Evelyn always makes time for her family. She’s got four kids, three daughters, and a son. Her eldest daughter works in Kigali, Rwanda, the second one work for See For All in Austria, and then the third born is studying at Daystar University. The son is much younger so is now in Grade seven. Of course, she has a better half who is a self-employed businessman. In fact, he has worked for himself practically all of his life Evelyn tells us.

Back to her career again, Evelyn tells us that although she is a proud dual citizen, her heart lies at her birth country Kenya and has her business interests rooted in African soil, she has never ruled out the possibility of working overseas again one day as she would love her younger son to be able to experience new cultures as she did.

Evelyn is quick to point out that although she is a self-made woman, she has always looked to people for inspiration to drive her on to greater things.

“In my earlier years I drew loads of inspiration from my mom, who was a very driven and aggressive businesswoman,” says Evelyn. “In my later life, my biggest inspiration was my cousin David. He may be younger than me, but I marvel at what he has accomplished, and I think he's also the driving force that has pushed me to achieve what I've achieved in the last six years. He has taught me a lot about real estate development, how to invest for later life, and that kind of thing, because he's just that person who's very clever and shrewd. His key expression is ‘keep the faith.’ Every time I walk into the office, he tells me to keep going and this time, this year, we're going to make so much more than we ever have, and this is how we're going to do it. He is amazing.”

Because of him and other motivators, Evelyn is doing her MBA because he said, “push yourself to play with numbers and always confront your fears.” And that's one thing that led Evelyn to say, “I'm going to do this MBA, and I am going to absolutely nail it.”

Based on her track record over the decades that she has walked this planet, we are sure that Evelyn is going to pass her Nexford MBA with flying colors and use the newfound skills to go on to bigger and better things in her career. We wish her luck.

Seeing is believing so check out Evelyn’s video below or on YouTube.

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