Flora Wakolo Kitao is the embodiment of the words: “A woman’s crown is her hair.” She looks bold in her white mane that belies the subtlety in which she walks into a room and speaks.
This is a woman comfortable in her skin. Her white hair has opened doors for her. Through it, she is also respected. After dyeing it for quite a while since it runs in the family genetics, she decided to leave it white, something that has ended up inspiring her other colleagues who are older than her.
She is one of the few women flying high in aviation, as the chief air traffic controller. She is in charge of operations in the country’s airspace. Her duties include managing a safe and efficient civil aviation system in Kenya.
Jackson Biko caught up with her and this is her story:
What do you find most challenging as a chief air traffic controller?
One is to maintain the tempo because I’ve grown up in the system. I’ve achieved quite a number of things including making sure that women are able to move up the ladder. But the most challenging thing right now is dealing with younger supervisors who tend to try and sideline you or lock you out.
Why do you they try to lock you out?
Because they look at me as an older person with old ideas. Someone who has been overtaken by events. They don’t appreciate that ideas are founded on the experience of 32 years. It’s a bit of a problem when younger people stop listening to their elder peers and I would hope that it changes.
Do you have to know how to fly to do this?
You don’t need to but you need to have the experience. It’s added value because you’ll not ask the pilot to do some impossible things. I was privileged to fly during our training at Wilson Airport. Flying is not part of the training now but we are trying to see how to get it back.
What have you failed in, in life?
I have failed to get to the top of my career, or my field and organization.
Why is getting to the top so important to you?
I wouldn’t say it’s been a failure, more like a strategy. When I realized that rising to the top was not going to be easy, I decided to go regional. Most of my work has been on a regional level, to improve the systems in the region. But of course, my wish would have been to either get to the topmost level or perhaps get into the United Nations.
How do you think getting to the top would have changed your life? Would it have been a financial or an ego thing?
No, it’s about impact. I think I would create a bigger impact in the industry in terms of improving the systems. For example, if I were to work with the International Civil Aviation Organisation today, whatever systems I’m trying to put in place would have a more global impact. I don’t look at the money element because I earn decent money and money is not everything. At the end of it, you don’t need 10 or five houses.
Source : careerpoint