Choosing a career is a challenge because it’s a life-long commitment. Many people wade through the seas of life as they find what their heart really beats for. Well, the traditional careers (Law, Engineering, Medicine, Journalism etc) are all great but their net is not big enough to hold everyone. In addition, not everyone is gifted to pursue such careers.
This week on career advice, we catch up with a man who has defied odds to stand tall in the wine world. He is an expert wine trainer. He is also a wine expert. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get to hear more from Kelvin Irungu Wanjira.
Capital Campus (CC): So what do you do Mr Kelvin Wanjira?
Kelvin Wanjira (KW): I’m an account manager for a brand called Nederburg at the What’s good studios. I do wine training, wine pairing and I’m known as a wine master.
CC: What drove you into this career? Growing up, did you ever envision yourself being in this field?
KW: Honestly, I stumbled on it. I didn’t set out to be a wine master at all. Maybe destiny drove me to it.
CC: How did it all start then? Did you hear a call in your dream or did you just find yourself in a vineyard somewhere tending to grapes?
KW: A friend of mine called to inform me that there was a youth talk being given at an office along Elgeyo Marakwet road. When the event was over, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the recognised me. She then asked for my number then she told me that she needed some help with an account that was going to come on board. I didn’t even bother to ask her what specific thing she needed help with. Then the call came and I reported for duty.
CC: Did you have any experience in wine prior to the job? Or did you just find your footing once you got the job?
KW: I hadn’t managed any wine account before. I hadn’t managed any social media brand before but I managed to start anyway. I knew nothing about social media. The CEO encouraged me to just work on the brand.
CC: When was this? What was your first job with the wine brand?
KW: That was back in 2014 and my first gig was Blankets and wine.
CC: What did you say that made the CEO to notice you?
KW: I had just come off employment. I was trying to find my footing then I gave a talk about opportunities available. I was freelancing. The CEO told me that they saw something in me. A spark and a zeal to succeed.
CC: Which is the favourite book that you could read over and over?
KW: Les Brown is one of the people who influence me. Armed and dangerous is one of the best pieces I’ve read by Les Brown.
CC: Tell us your history with wine.
KW: I didn’t know much about wine. I would buy a whole bottle of wine then go and mix at home with lime juice. I was very shady. I went to blankets and wine then I requested for a sweet wine. The first wine I tasted was a Nederburg dessert wine. It was so sweet and it made me realise that there was something I needed to know about wine. But still, it looked like such a complex field that I fidgeted and doubted my ability to understand the whole thing. Then the name Nederbug is as complex as it gets and also they decided to drop names like Cabernet Sauvignon and I felt lost.
CC: Anyone could have given up in such a complex field. What inspired you to stay on?
KW: I insisted and decided to go for my first training, which happened at the parklands sports club. After the Blankets and wine event, I developed a passion for the brand. I said that I won’t be an ordinary account manager who only understands the basic parts of a brand. I wanted to delve deeper. It’s the drive that got me into training. I was asking so many questions so the trainer said that she liked my enthusiasm.
CC: So you went for more training to be a wine expert?
KW: Yes I did. I pushed my bosses and told them that I wanted more training. I went to South Africa for a proper wine class. In South Africa, I was taken through the ropes of knowing what makes a good wine.
CC: That’s quite a commendable achievement within 2 years. Which other trainings have your undertaken?
KW: Thank you for the kind words. I’ve actually done Italian, German and French classes here in Kenya. Right now, I’m currently taking a Spanish wine class.
CC: For a newbie who knows nothing about wine, what advice would you give especially when it comes to pairing?
KW: I would advise them to take what taste good for them. As they explore their palate, they would then choose which kind of pairing to do. But don’t stick too much to rules.
Kelvin Irungu Wanjira aka WineNjira is wine trainer, wine master and a former Account Manager of Nederbug.