Born to be a journalist: Julian Kamau’s story

Born to be a journalist: Julian Kamau’s story

A sassy and intelligent young lady, Julian Kamau’s story is one of inspiration and success. As one of AKU’s pioneer graduates of the Masters in Digital Journalism programme, she shows that it is possible to have a career, study and raise a family at the same time.

We spoke to Julian ahead of her convocation ceremony in February 2020.

Tell us about yourself.

I knew I wanted to be a journalist at the age of 10. I was fascinated by news anchors and how they read news and informed the public on current affairs. Later on in my studies, I realised that I had a love for the languages. Storytelling felt like a natural thing for me and it always aroused my imagination.

In primary and high school I joined journalism clubs that helped nurture my skills. Unlike many students who struggle in choosing a career path after high school, I was confident that journalism was my destined career. Despite my parents’ skepticism, I persisted and they agreed to let me take a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, specialising in electronic media and public relations.

After graduating, I worked at community radio station. Two years later, I resigned and took an internship at the Standard Group’s digital department. In four years, I rose up the ranks from an intern to a Digital Editor. I developed a love for new media and have continually grown my skills by doing online courses. In addition, I have written for the newspaper and volunteered to do a weekly TV show on KTN News that deals with conversations happening on the digital platform. I also did live reporting, features and news reporting during my free time to equip myself with the necessary skills required to becoming an all-round journalist.

Currently, I am the social media lead and citizen journalism editor at the Standard Group.

How did you know about AKU?

I knew about AKU from a work WhatsApp group where my supervisor posted about the opportunity and encouraged us to apply. For a long time, my desire was to pursue a master’s degree but due to my financial obligations at the time, it was impossible. I also saw this as an opportunity to learn more about digital media as there were very few universities in Kenya offering this course. My supervisor played a key role in encouraging me to apply to AKU. I also chose AKU because it is a credible institution.

How was the learning experience? 

I had a great student experience at AKU. I enjoyed the teaching modules. I particularly enjoyed the panel discussions with industry players such as practicing journalists from all media organisations, legal practitioners and international experts on media. The panel discussions were insightful and contributed greatly in helping me develop analytical skills and the ability to view the media world from different perspectives. The classes were also practical and I got to have a hands-on experience.

AKU provides a friendly learning environment for students, faculty members and administrators that is friendly and supportive. My classmates were also very supportive and made learning fun. I met new people from different backgrounds and beliefs who have now become friends. I also got to benefit from the extra-curricular activities at the AKU which enabled me to have work, school and life balance.

How did you balance work, motherhood and studying?

It was tough! I had good and bad days but I thank God I was able to attend all my classes albeit struggling through it.

This was made possible because I was lucky enough to have an extremely supportive family that made sure I never missed my classes when I was pregnant. My husband took it upon himself to drop me to school when I couldn’t drive myself and even picked me up after classes. My two mothers also took turns to take care of my newborn baby for the entire one year that I was in school. They are my greatest support system and I cannot thank them enough, only God can reward them for me. My classmates were also very supportive during the pregnancy and also after the birth of my son. Some adjusted their timetables, meeting times and venues to accommodate me in group assignments or projects. My lecturers were also understanding and they supported me during the entire period.

Finally, my supervisor and employer gave me flexi hours to enable me to deliver on all my obligations. I am eternally grateful. This experience has taught me that I am stronger than I thought, and that it is possible to build a career, study and have a family. Yes, as women we can have it all if only we believe in ourselves.

What impact has the course had on your life/career?

This course has helped open up my mind to the different possibilities in media. I have utilised the different skills acquired during the training and I am looking to better put what I have learned into practice upon graduating. As a result of valuable and unforgettable experiences I have had at AKU, I am now bolder, more refined and an intelligent version of myself.

You were named one of Kenya’s top women in digital in 2019, what did that mean to you?

It was such an honour to be nominated. I am delighted to know that the work I do is recognised beyond my workplace. The award means a lot to me and it has motivated me to go even harder in my career and to believe in my abilities. This MA in Digital Journalism will contribute immensely in helping me go to the next level.

Would you advise anyone to join AKU – specifically the MA in Digital Journalism programme?

I would encourage anyone wishing to grow their journalistic skills to becoming an all-round journalist to join the MA Digital journalism programme. The lessons are practical and they will benefit from the wealth of knowledge and experience from the faculty and guest lecturers.

What is next for Julian after graduation?

I am looking forward to taking up more responsibilities and utilising my acquired skills. I am also eager to use my media leadership skills in my place of work and to provide solutions to problems affecting the media industry in Kenya and in Africa.