CEO Nancy Muhoya is going the extra mile to back CFOs in East Africa


For Nancy Muhoya cluster leader of EY East Africa and the country managing partner for EY Kenya, success stems from the ability to handle anything that comes her way. Her own experience in a leadership role has taught her that success comes from seeking continuous improvement because comfort at any stage leads to stagnation.

A year ago, during a conversation in the workplace, Nancy Muhoya couldn't help but notice the radiant smile and infectious energy emanating from a colleague. Inquiring about the source of such high spirits, Nancy's colleague praised the virtues of yoga and urged her to attend the next class. Nancy decided to give it a try and found herself in a Bikram Yoga session set in a sweltering room. Within minutes, she felt on the brink of passing out and contemplated leaving. However, she persevered through the gruelling 90-minute session, and since then, she's become a regular attendee.

“I attend about three sessions each week and that first experience reminds me that everything is possible. You can handle anything with a resilient mind and body. Being a yogi is important to me because I believe my well-being is the core of everything I do; without it I am nothing,” she says.

For Nancy, success stems from the ability to handle anything that comes her way. She developed this perspective after witnessing the experiences of family, friends and colleagues. The most successful people are those who keep pushing regardless of what they are facing. Her own experience in a leadership role has taught her that success comes from seeking continuous improvement because comfort at any stage leads to stagnation.

Since 2019, Nancy has been serving as the managing partner of EY in Kenya. She is also the cluster leader for EY East Africa, a collection of the four EY firms in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. She is leading a professional services firm at a time when the world is changing rapidly with fast-paced technological disruption. EY has responded by investing heavily in technology by developing appropriate tools including, a unifying platform connecting EY’s diverse people, ecosystems and leading technology capabilities.

With an overarching responsibility for more than 600 professionals, Nancy’s leadership style lends itself to empowerment, constantly seeking to let her people feel valued and have extreme ownership over their work product.

“A wonderful thing about Nancy is that she is not intimidated by the strengths of team members,” notes Edith Osoro, EY Kenya communications manager. “As soon as she learns that you are good at something, she gives you the freedom to run with it. She is also inspirational; she once shared with me her mantra from the poem Invictus – ‘I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul’. It has shaped my perspective on life.”

Purpose and reason for being

Nancy is most comfortable in her role when others are speaking their minds and challenging her. She loves the Invictus poem because it is centred on taking ownership rather than blaming others for the things that happen in life.

“I was not born with my leadership perspective; it is something that I got over time. The world is full of people who seek scapegoats for their situation, which does not help progress in the right direction. My view is that things will happen that we have no control over; all we can control is how we respond to them,” Nancy says.

“A good example of this was the Covid-19 pandemic, which was the worst crisis of our time,” she continues. “The way the world shut down is indicative of how things can change in an instant. At EY, we worked well to support our clients and our people. Covid changed the way we do things and in a survey we conducted recently, staff indicated that work flexibility is important to them. We have adopted a hybrid model consequently, but given the need to maintain meaningful collaboration, I do not believe that we should work 100 percent remotely.”

Nancy counts the progression of people she has mentored to higher positions as one of the highlights of her ongoing career. These include people who have taken up CFO roles in East Africa.

“CFOs play a strategic role in the growth of an enterprise and support boards in many areas including risk management. At EY, we are a trusted advisor to many of them as they navigate the complexities that come with their role. Supporting CFO East Africa was a no-brainer for us because we want to be embedded in the community and avail ourselves for them to have seamless access to us. We are dedicated to their success and would go the extra mile to support them,” she says.

Nancy is the first female leader of a cluster of firms in Africa for EY. Her progression to this position is a product of hard work and having mentors who inspired her to consistency and authenticity.

“My focus has never been to focus on promotions,” she explains. “My worry has always been on how well I am executing my duties and having a clear understanding of my purpose and reason for being. My advice to other professionals is that they should know their ‘why’ because your ‘why’ is unique to you,” she concludes.

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