Meet a Young HR Professional Who Refuses To Take a Bribe

By Tabitha Makumi,

He’s got his shit together. Young, driven and ambitious. What’s more, he loves what he does for a living. Yap, he is one of those chaps who are always happy to show up at work on a Monday morning while you are still struggling to get out bed at 8.00am.

Meet Martin Githaiga, a HR professional who has previously worked with a leading recruitment firm in Kenya, Jumia Kenya and currently working at Branch, a for-profit company based in San Francisco and Nairobi.

What was your first job and how much were you earning then?

I was working as a Supermarket Cashier earning Ksh 5,000 per month. This was slightly before I joined campus.

What's the most poignant professional advice you've ever received?

A Branch Manager of a college I attended after high school noticed I interacted well with people and enquired if I had considered a course in Human Resource Management. I did not know what that was
back then. I did my research and loved the course. I re-applied with the then Joint Administration Board for the degree course offered at Moi University.

What have you done differently to be successful in your field?

I like to believe I de-mystify HR and allow employees to see me as their friend, confidant and equal. This way I am able to implement my HR plans easily and employees are able to share feedback and their issues simply.

Have you ever been offered a bribe for a job placement?

(Laughs) Unfortunately this has happened. One time when working for a recruitment firm, a “rogue candidate” asked to see me aside and offered to give me a small cut if I secured him a final interview. If he got the job we would split his 1st salary. Of course I was shocked and the guy used the usual line “hii ni Kenya boss”

What did you do?

I asked him to leave the interview room and would not want to see him again. We also blacklisted him in the company database and flagged his profile as fraudulent to caution other people in the industry. Such a candidate would be a disaster to any employer.

Echoing the candidate’s sentiments… “hii ni Kenya boss”, were you tempted though?

Honestly, not at all. You see, in recruitment situations you anticipate all kinds of characters and personalities such that it does not cloud your judgement.

Are there parts of your job that make you want to pull your hair out?

Yes, definitely….. When dealing with people sometimes you want to pull your hair out… Luckily I cut my hair short (laughs) We have individuals who are naturally difficult to deal with. It is in their nature and they may not even realize it. Most are usually pessimist and will approach any situation with a negative angle, which kills me. However, it’s part of my training to appreciate all despite their quirks and flaws.

What gets you going in the morning?

I live for the joy of dealing with people. One time a candidate I interviewed managed to get a job and he later came to see me and revealed that the job had saved his marriage. His wife was losing patience at his lack of a job. He thanked me profusely holding back tears. A man does not cry easily that was a true moment.

Any other memorable moments?

Another candidate who passed my interviews and got a job later came and told me that the job had enabled him to take his last born brother back to school and repair his mothers home in up country.

These situations make me wake up early, I don’t even snooze my alarm, to change the world in my own small ways.

What’s your advice for people hoping to pursue HR?

One, HR is one of the lesser challenging courses in school but in real life managing people is one of the hardest jobs. Young graduates must be patient, humble and have a passion for people.

Two, HR is a very intimate role, you learn a lot about your people and it’s up to you as an individual to be considerate, and treat all information confidential. Even to your bosses. Meaning you must be a person of good moral standing and of integrity

Three, do not be too serious, strict or arrogant especially in today’s work environment where we hire Generation Y. Young people relate with individuals who are able to come down to their level and stay there.

How do you unwind after a long day?

Depends. I enjoy cooking my own meals, so I will happily make dinner as a way to unwind. I also love nature shows and informative TV. I will watch National Geographic documentaries and other times I hang out with friends and family. I am quite the social bee and will go out for adventures and meet new people.