Citizen Digital’s Content Lead Joy Chelagat ventured into digital journalism in 2012 just as the digital space was opening up. Five years down the line, Joy talked to ESTHER KIRAGU about finding her niche, enjoying the learning curve and why she has learnt to seize the day.
Where did your interest in digital media stem from?
It is hard to pin it down exactly, but I would say curiosity and serendipity. I am a trained journalist and have always had an interest in story telling. During my last year in university, one of our lecturers, Dr. Rosemary Kowour, incorporated digital journalism elements to our classes. This roused my interest.
How did you nurture this interest?
Honestly? It wasn’t an overly structured plan. In retrospect, I think that following my curiosity led me here, bit by bit. For instance, after graduating in 2012, I went in search of internship and was keen about a place where I could interact with new ideas in a vibrant space. I landed at the Standard Group where I was accorded the opportunity to sample out different career paths, before plunging into a specific line of work. This helped me isolate my interest- social media and digital journalism.
Being an avid digital media consumer, the innovative and open environment fostered at Standard Digital gave me the perfect conditions to explore and grow. After my internship, the company hired me as a Social Media and Convergence Sub-Editor.
In the two years that I was with the Standard Group, I had opportunities to work with the digital, print and TV teams. My two most memorable experiences were launching Standard Digital Edition Campus Tours and covering the 2013 general elections.
If you had to choose your career again would you do differently?
Not really. I’ve learned that you can’t really plan your life too much. For instance in 2013, I was involved in a nasty car crash in Nairobi’s city centre.
A motorist was driving on the wrong side of the road when he hit me. I sustained a double compound fracture on my right leg, had to undergo three surgeries, was confined to bed rest for over a month and was on crutches for six months! This was a major life change — from the buzz of a newsroom to limited mobility.
After the first surgery, I had to fly to Eldoret as I needed support from my family. Just hours after being discharged from hospital, a local airline turned me away because I could not walk up the stairs to board the plane on account of my fractured leg.
Worse still, the airline officials were not apologetic about the inconvenience caused. Frustrated and infuriated by the inconsiderate treatment, I took to social media to complain about the airline’s service.
Fellow Twitter junkie, Phillip Ogolla, followed the conversation and reached out to offer support – despite the fact that we didn’t know each other. Through his help, Kenya Airports Authority intervened and things were eventually resolved.
This online interaction led to a friendship that inadvertently steered me to a path that led to the next chapter of my career a year down the line.
Moving to Stanbic Bank unlocked a deeper understanding of how commercial firms use the same digital media tools to meet marketing and business objectives.
While there I was privileged to work on the roll-out of the bank’s social media customer service. A year later, I transitioned to Citizen Digital.
What does your current role entail?
Long hours with a vibrant team of content creators: writers, editors, social media officers and digital production teams. Together, we create content for and manage Royal Media Services’ digital assets.
In addition to managing the Digital Content team, I interface with a few other teams in the media house. I count myself blessed to work with talented individuals, doing something I love in a dynamic environment – even if it gets demanding at times.
So what is this about seizing the day?
One of the greatest lessons I learnt from my accident was to live in the moment. I tend to overthink things, waiting for the ‘right conditions’ before venturing into out. After the crash, I realised life is unpredictable therefore I resolved to just be and do.
So when I stumbled on the AGCO Africa Ambassador content online, I jumped at the chance – especially since the 2014 theme, ‘Innovation in the Field’ was related to digital media and development. Several emails, two online videos, and a Skype interview later, the team informed me that I’d won.
A few months down the line, I was on stage in Berlin hosting the 2014 AGCO Africa Summit –an opportunity that opened my eyes to how small-scale innovations in the field have a global impact on food security.
From there, I represented AGCO in a number of events in countries – an experience that enabled me interact with many inspirational people.
Since then, I have made a point of trying out new things – no matter how outlandish they seem. It’s not always worked in my favour, but it has been an eventful ride!
Based on your life journey what advice would you give others?
Don’t be afraid to try new things, because there is no set path. Carve one for yourself. Finally, trust your journey – even the thorny and rocky patches. Every step is necessary, even if you don’t see it at the present moment.