At Shortlist, we love building our team almost as much as we love building yours!
We have some pretty amazing people across our three offices who have a real passion for what they do and for the Shortlist mission.
The Mehndi Project
The next chapter of our Shortlister Spotlights features Mehndi Shivdasani, a talent advisor for our executive search team based out of Mumbai. Besides channeling her inner Sherlock to hire high-potential talent for senior positions, Mehndi runs a blog on sustainable living called Conscious Chokri. Our environmentally-aware Shortlister shared some quirky anecdotes about her journey through life and more!
Tell us about your life at Shortlist
I am a Talent Advisor in the executive search team. We help our clients (social enterprises, non-profit, SMEs and start-ups amongst others) recruit leading talent for senior-level leadership positions within their organisations. Last year we helped 14 different organisations across India and Kenya hire some tremendous leadership talent across different jobs ranging from CEOs to VPs of various departments, a feat I’m very proud of 🙂
How has your current role impacted you?
Playing adviser to board members and senior leaders of so many diverse and high-impact organisations is a rare opportunity. It’s given me insight into how different organisations are set up, how they identify priorities and develop strategies, services, and products. Directly interacting with high-achieving entrepreneurs and picking up a thing or two from them on how to operate efficiently and be resilient and focused is helping to shape me into a better working professional.
I’m also slowly building up a strong network within the social impact space that I hope to leverage going forward in my career 😉
I’ve also made some fantastic friends! Interacting and working with an ambitious, efficient and warm team like ours inspires me to strive for better every single day.
What is your professional background and what made you join Shortlist?
I have a few years of experience in recruitment and talent management, and also hold a Masters in Social Entrepreneurship from Macquarie Graduate School of Management in Sydney, Australia.
I started looking out for my next job opportunity towards the end of 2017 and envisioned joining a social enterprise or a non-profit. I heard about Shortlist through my then-acquaintance, now close friend and fellow Shortlister, Pranay Merchant. I was looking to take on a role that would enable me to create some form of social impact, push me to pick up some new skills while building on my existing skills and areas of interest such as building high-value relationships with people.
What’s your professional superpower?
Over-communicating with people! I find that most of us are almost always distracted with so many things — emails, texts, calls etc. — so over-communicating my thoughts and ideas helps to make sure my communication is clear and consistent.
I’m also a master listener so if you need to vent about something, I’m your person!
What’s your favourite Shortlist memory?
I’ll always cherish the time I spent in Kenya with our team and meeting clients there. Also, almost every Pulse Check and team gathering is memorable in its own way.
What are three words you would use to describe Team Shortlist?
Fun! Supportive! Determined!
What’s your favourite Shortlist value and why?
I LOVE all of our values as they all hit home. If I have to pick one, I’d say that One Team is my favourite value. I admire how everyone on the team is always rooting for each other across offices and countries. We love sharing the credit for all of our wins, big and small, and don’t shy away from giving each other feedback. All of these reasons combined make me proud about being a Shortlister.
Why is the Shortlist mission important to you?
Being able to offer organisations a platform to find the right people to join their teams and scale their work is immense! In a world where we’re trying to automate almost everything in life, our effort to blend the use of technology with a human touch to unlock professional potential is super relevant!
Anything else you want the world to know about you, Shortlist, our team?
Working at Shortlist is rewarding on so many levels! I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with.
So Conscious Chokri, tell us about your life outside of Shortlist
I run a blog on low-waste living called Conscious Chokri. Using this blog, I’m trying to create awareness about the global waste crisis and encourage people to reduce the amount of waste they generate by making long-term yet convenient changes to their lives. I also deliver workshops for school and college students on this topic. I try to spend some of my time volunteering at beach cleanups and urban farms in the city as well.
And then there’s spending time with family and friends while gorging on some yummy food and cocktails 🙂
As you know, we like to give “high-fives” to recognize when our team members do something awesome. Now is your chance to make a public high five to a fellow Shortlister:
A BIG high-five to every single member of the team!
Whether you are just getting started or at the peak of your career, insightful professional advice will not only help you excel in your day-to-day but also see you through career transition and advancement. At Shortlist, we are consistently inspired by our clients and partners who have made their mark in Kenya early on in their careers. We asked seven young business leaders in Nairobi to share the best career advice that has propelled them to rewarding and impactful careers.
Christopher Madison is CEO at Dentsu Aegis Network, a Marketing and Advertising company that innovates the way brands are built. Dentsu strives to make its clients’ brands win in a changing world. Chris shared the best career advice he’s gotten with us:
“The worst business advice I ever received was ‘do what you love’ at my New York University graduation-commencement. I have since learned “do what makes you money” works much better for me. I know, I know — it’s not exactly the stuff that makes a good Instagram post. And on one level, this approach goes against everything our culture tells us we should do with our careers. But there’s something to be said for financial stability.
To a greater extent than most of us want to admit, you’re only as principled and independent-minded as your bank account allows you to be. “Do what you love” is probably much better advice for someone who’s born rich, or holds a tenured academic position, than it is for the rest of us 99 percenters.
Besides, are we really so sure that the best thing to do with passion is attempting to monetise it, anyway? Why assume it’s easier to turn passion into money than it is to turn money into passion? Why not side hustle for love, and enjoy your career to make money?”
Lelo Koinange, Regional Operations Manager — Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (Hivos)
Lelo Koinange is the Kenya Regional Operations Manager at Hivos, an international organisation that seeks new solutions to persistent global issues. Hivos works on projects that are against discrimination, inequality, and abuse of power with the aim of moving to a world where all people have the same rights, irrespective of gender, beliefs or sexual orientation. Here’s the best career advice Lelo received:
“I had a great HR mentor earlier on in my career; she was both fire and wind on any given day. What resonates with me till today was her opening and closing statement at literally all meetings and that was, “Go the extra mile, never settle for what’s expected of you” by Nadya Salim.
I know you’ve heard it a million times, but the truth is if you want results you have to be willing to put in the work — and more. Develop a great personal brand that’s based on working harder than everyone around you. A few guidelines for this:
Get in early
Ask the questions no one wants to
Do more research than what’s requested
Understanding the business of the organisation no matter your position in the organisation
Take risks early on in your career
Identify your skills and utilise them
Acknowledge that mistakes are part of learning
…as long as you never ever settle for what’s expected.”
Wawira Njiru, Founder and Executive Director — Food for Education Foundation
Wawira Njiru is the Founder and Executive Director at Food for Education Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation in Kenya that provides heavily-subsidised meals to students in urban primary schools. The firm sources fresh food directly from farmers and uses a central kitchen model to deliver the nutritious meal. Here is the best career advice Wawira had to share:
“I was lucky to discover what I wanted to do early in life, but along the way, like any other young person, I found myself distracted by other interests I wanted to pursue. I started a Masters in Public Health thinking I wanted to get into the health system but discovered that I was not as passionate about that and decided to focus on building Food for Education and providing meals to more children.
It’s easy to get side-tracked especially if you’re talented (or think you are) in many things, but there’s a lot of value in mastering one thing and learning how to do it well.
There’s also a lot of value in consistency and learning how to do things excellently. It may sound boring but doing the same thing over and over will help you become better and a master in your field.”
Ariane Fisher, Managing Director, East Africa — Shortlist
Ariane Fisher is our Managing Director based at the Shortlist Nairobi office. Shortlist helps growing companies in Africa and India build and develop world-class teams. The Shortlist platform screens candidates using predictive chat-based interviews and online competency-based assessments, letting employers skip the most time-consuming and bias-prone phases of hiring. Here is the best career advice Ariane shared with us:
“Surround yourself with the right people — There is no single greater influence on who you are and who you will become than the people you spend time with. Surround yourself with people who you think are doing interesting and important work, who you can learn from, and who you can grow with.
Listen, listen, listen — Develop the ability to ask great questions, and truly listen to other perspectives. Build comfort with having your mind changed with new evidence, and for making everyone around you feel heard.
Learn how to give and receive difficult feedback — Developing the skill early to give critical and constructive feedback to those around you, as well as seek out and truly receive critical feedback yourself, will help you in your entire career.”
Christopher Mwirigi, Learning and Development Manager — I&M Bank
Christopher Mwirigi is the Learning & Development Manager at I&M Bank Ltd, a privately owned commercial bank. The bank is a dominant player in the Kenyan market and has been consistently growing by innovating the type and range of products and services it offers. Here is Christopher’s best career advice:
“For me, I remember being told that, ‘Always remember that integrity is something that nobody can ever take away from you. You always give it away willingly.’ That was from a professional mentor, and it is a lesson that has stuck with me for the rest of my career and life.
Another one I received from a very special leader I reported to called Hellen Akello was, ‘Never come to my desk with a problem only, always come with a problem and a solution.’
She was a brilliant leader I must add, and that lesson has been with me ever since and will follow me for the rest of my career.”
Isis Nyongo’ Madison, CEO — MumsVillage
Isis Nyongo is CEO at MumsVillage, a vibrant online village in Kenya that enables mothers to access and share locally relevant content and products through peer-to-peer communities. The parenting website provides resources, support and expert advice for pregnant women and parents for them to relax and express themselves among a community of like-minded friends. Isis shared her best career advice with us:
“As I reflect on the advice I’ve received over the years, I consider myself quite fortunate to have a diverse pool of people in my life to seek advice from. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way is to understand the perspective of the person giving the advice and how they perceive you.
For example, if your high school friend works in an industry completely different from yours, it may be more helpful to seek advice on navigating office politics (since they happen everywhere!) as opposed to advice on which graduate program to choose. The person giving the advice must be giving informed opinions and not just an opinion because you asked them for it or it was shared unsolicited.
That said, one of the best pieces of advice I received was from my brother almost a decade ago when I was deciding whether or not to accept an offer from a company for a senior role. He works in academia, and I work in tech so our fields and work environments couldn’t be more different. But this is what he said that helped me then and continues to help me to date:
“Know what people want you to do and if that is work you want to do.”
He shared examples of how when you get to a certain level of expertise, you’ll attract opportunities that want that expertise, but perhaps you no longer want to keep doing an aspect of what you’ve been doing so well.
For example, you may excel at building strategy documents but may get so tired of doing them that that’s the last thing you want to carry forward into a new role. This has helped me make so many decisions, big and small, about how I spend my time and also enabled me to open up opportunities to others.”
Fiona Mungai, Managing Director — Endeavour Kenya
Fiona Mungai is the Managing Director at Endeavour Africa Limited, a not-for-profit organisation that supports high-impact entrepreneurs around the world. Endeavour offers advice to entrepreneurs from a network of world-class business leaders with the aim of breaking down economic and cultural barriers to entrepreneurship. Here are the words of the best career advice that Fiona consciously tries to live by and have this far healthily manifested in her life as a young woman in corporate leadership:
“There is no truism or realism in the pursuit of WORK / LIFE BALANCE — it’s a myth. In order to thrive, we should strive to integrate what really matters into ONE LIFE with harmony — everything you do complements your life’s work.
I received this advice from a Harvard Business School Professor — Prof Lynda Applegate during an Executive Education Program. I initially thought this applies more to women as there’s a lot of discourse on working women trying to balance life and having it all together. As I reflect more upon it, it definitely applies across the board.
An example I can draw from is when I decided to go back to Graduate School — I had attempted to combine both school and work but found that at any given time there was always a casualty to my juggling and that tended to be school. And because I was aware that the networks and top tier education were integral to where my career was headed, I opted to enrol to a full-time program at the London School of Economics (LSE) and quit my job at a leading Private Equity firm.
Looking back, that was probably the best decision of my life as the LSE created amazing opportunities and ultimately turbo-charged my career in ways that I would’ve never imagined.”
Thanks to the seven leaders for invaluable advice!
What’s the best advice you have received in the pursuit of your career goals? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section or on Twitter @Shortlisthires.
For more career advice, Shortlist updates, and recruitment resources sign up for our newsletter here!