Feature articles about Oxford University Press around the world
Meet our people: James Kiarie
25 July 2019
James is a Business Unit IT Manager at our Kenya office.
Tell us about your background and how you came to work at OUP
I was given the opportunity to work at OUP after finishing high school. We used OUP books at my school, but I didn’t ever think for one moment that I would work for the company who created them, let alone for 27 years! My first job was as a “picker” in the warehouse, preparing books for dispatch. Within just one month, my manager saw my skills and abilities, and offered me the role of General Clerk in the Trade and Distribution Department.
It was around this time that big organizations in Kenya were starting to embrace technology. I was always fascinated by technology and I just somehow knew that would be the path that my career followed. I completed a Diploma in IT and received another promotion to become a Data Entry and Processing Clerk. This was when the technology department really started to take shape, and with encouragement from managers, I studied various computing courses and completed my Business Information Systems studies at Middlesex University, UK. After achieving my degree, I continued to progress from a SAP Support Coordinator, to a Business Systems Analyst, to where I am today—a Business Unit IT Manager, responsible for Kenya and Tanzania. Soon I will also be responsible for Regional Africa, Eastern Africa.
Throughout my time at OUP, I’ve moved both vertically and horizontally in my career, and I’ve always felt supported and encouraged by my peers and managers to seek out new opportunities and try new things.
Tell us about your current role
Technology is a key driver for any business and OUP is no exception. I support technology projects in the Africa region, acting as the project manager in some instances. Another element of my role which I very much enjoy is providing training; this involves de-mystifying people’s technology fears and ensuring we have the right systems in place to support people in their work. Helping people is what brings me satisfaction, so interacting with our employees and answering their questions is really rewarding for me. When our people are well-supported and there are no barriers to them achieving their goals, we can really exploit our mission of bring knowledge and education to all.
How did you end up in your current role?
I’ve always been a go-getter. I believe in being proactive and making sure that I go over and above what’s required of me. I think that’s one of my real talents—putting my all into everything that I do. It’s fuelled by my passion for technology and my dedication to our mission. I’ve moved around the Press and progressed by networking across the business to seek out new opportunities, by looking for potential roles that I would be interested in, and by speaking to my manager to identify roles that draw on my skills. I also believe it’s important to have a good work ethic and positive mind-set.
What opportunities have you had while working here?
I’ve been extremely lucky to work on big projects over the years, both locally and globally, which has allowed me to develop my skills and interact with different people. It’s given me a broader understanding of exactly how a business like OUP operates and it means that I’m in a much better position to support different aspects of the organization.
I’ve also had some fantastic opportunities to develop by attending OUP’s leadership courses. These have enhanced my interpersonal skills as well as enabled me to become a more strategic thinker, which is extremely valuable.I’ve had the opportunity to travel in my career at OUP, which helped me learn about different cultures and think about the world in a completely different way. I’ve always been taken aback as to how welcoming everyone has been when I’ve visited their offices. OUP truly feels like one big family.
What do you like most about working for OUP - what inspires you?
I think for me it’s our mission. It’s not just a narrative, it’s a reality. Education changes lives. I know that the work I am doing to support the marketing, editorial, publishing and other teams enables them to do their jobs with more ease and efficiency—and this contributes to the best quality products being created. That really is rewarding for me; the knowledge that whatever we do will impact a child’s life through quality material.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about applying for a role with OUP?
OUP is an equal opportunity employer who does not discriminate. Also, really understand that working here is all about changing lives through education. There is room for career growth and development if you commit to hard work, passion, and giving the best that you can.
What advice would you give to someone at OUP thinking about their career next step?
Talk to your manager and colleagues about training opportunities, undertake the courses available on Lynda.com, find a mentor, or actively seek out new opportunities for growth. Also, build a network of people within the business who you could talk to about potential moves for your career.
Is there anything that has surprised you about working at OUP?
I would say that it’s the people. It’s the warm reception you get when you meet anyone, anywhere in the world. Everyone truly does treat each other like a big family, regardless of their race, education, or their position in the organization. There’s a willingness in people to show you anything and everything. It’s so valuable to work with encouraging and helpful people every day.