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How I Discovered My Ikigai Through ALX

Joy Otieno is a Programme & Operations Specialist at The ROOM and a young leader who graduated from ALX. She shares how she discovered her ikigai — her “reason for being” — and how this set her on the right track to going after her dreams and ambitions.

Joy Otieno on finding her ikigai through ALX

I have always approached life from the perspective that to dare is to lose one’s footing once, but not to dare is to actually lose one’s footing forever! As a result, I’ve always tried to live with intentionality and purpose — in tune with my ikigai.

The first time I heard the word, I was unsure what it meant, and subconsciously assumed it was a person’s name. I later found that it is a Japanese concept centred around discovering your “reason for being”, often found at the intersection of your strengths, interests, professional skills and the causes you care about, to carve out a meaningful and holistic life path.

Discovering my ikigai helped me realise that I have the power to be the author of my destiny. Now I perceive every action I take as an investment for the future. Even when I’m unsure of the outcome, I rest in the surety that the universe is constantly aligning and conspiring for my good. As a result, I have adopted the practice of intentionally deciding which doors of opportunities to knock on and strategically position myself to ensure my voice is heard and presence is felt. This has continued to propel me forward as a young leader in The ROOM, where my ambitions have met extraordinary opportunities and networks.

Opportunity in Community

Why fit in when I can stand out?

We are often met with a calm voice rising from within the depths of our souls ushering us towards opportunities that align with our aspirations. In late 2020, I heeded the soft nudging of the calm voice in my head and enrolled in ALX’s then Young Professional Leaders and Nairobi Career Catalyst programmes. This marked the beginning of a journey that has transformed my personal and professional development.

During my time as a learner with ALX, the community opened many doors of opportunities to me and expanded my network in ways I could never have imagined. The events and resources I gained access to challenged me to fully tap into my potential and navigate life with a why-fit-in-when-I-can-stand-out mindset.

My experience led me to meeting and building relationships with remarkable personalities in the community including Jito Kayumba, Special Assistant to Zambia’s President; Niven Postma, world-renowned author and HBR contributor; Dolly Sagwe, Oracle’s Director of Global Finance and Mohaned Eltayeb, EMEA Chief Information Officer, GE Gas Power, just to name a few.

The network of exceptional peers I have built is inspiring and continues to provide a solid support system for me.

Today, I take every opportunity to pay it forward as an active young leader in the community — serving, inspiring and elevating others. The icing on the cake is that I landed a dream job with a multinational company within two months of graduating from the programmes I was a part of. It is indeed true that if we all give equally, we all receive equally!

The African Dream

“The continent has given us Dr Trebi-Ollennu, the Ghanaian scientist at NASA who developed the Mars Rover Robot and is pushing the frontiers of space science. It has given us Tidjane Thiam, the Ivorian CEO of Credit Suisse, one of the world’s largest banks, who was recently recognised by Euromoney as the 2018 Banker of the Year. It has given us Elon Musk, the South African entrepreneur who has revolutionised entire industries with companies like PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX. It has given us Lupita Nyongo, the Oscar-winning actress from Kenya. It has given us Dr Christiaan Barnard, the South African cardiac surgeon who performed the first heart transplant in the world in 1967…”

— An excerpt from How to Unlock the Talents of Young Africans by Fred Swaniker

As young Africans full of dreams and ambitions, we are familiar with the diverse talent that surrounds us and the limited opportunities available to grow it. But if the achievements of Elon Musk or Lupita Nyong’o are anything to go by, then we can rest assured that the greatness gene lies within us too. Armed with proactivity, we have the potential to achieve our wildest dreams.

At ALX, the rewards for staying the course and being diligent are magical and transformative.

My advice to other young leaders is to remain consistent and go the extra mile. Be confident in your abilities, and you will be shocked by the exceptional networks and opportunities that will chase after you. It will get tough; I have been there, so I know. But keep pushing and tapping into that calm voice that encouraged you to sign up for the program in the first place, because the rewards for staying the course and being diligent are magical and transformative. Cultivate a spirit of service by supporting peers, mentors and every other person you can within the ALX and The ROOM communities. Reflect on your Ikigai and think of all the impact you can make. And I assure you you will get the flowers and trophies you deserve at the end of the tunnel.

ALX and The ROOM are at the forefront of equipping young professionals with the most in-demand career skills that will power the future. Find out more about the world-class tech training programmes available at

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