Before the routine run-up to deadlines when editors demand copy, the newsroom is a laid back place. Most of the ones I have worked in were not overly formal, but there is no hiding the energy, loud conversations, debates, humour and disagreements. There are no official lunch breaks where you huddle together to discuss current affairs or the latest gossip, because by the nature of their job, journalists are forever gossiping.
You don’t always start your day at 8 am, because working hours are fluid. Sometimes plenty of time is spent in the field following up stories and you are only relevant as long as you submit stories.
This is why being in Public Relations has been a very transitional journey for me.
First of all, my new workmates call me Silvia, with a twang. Not ‘Silivya’ or ‘Slyvia’ like most Ugandans. And when I insist my name is Nyambura, they still call me Silvia–with a twang!
It got to a point I stopped insisting lest they think I want to emphasize that I am Kenyan. Also, on the days they call me Nyambura, it’s with a real ‘R’; not Nyambula like most Ugandans.
In the second week of working here, three of us got the flu. I almost coughed my lungs out, so our Chief Operations Officer suggested I take the afternoon off to rest. I thought, “These people don’t like sick people. Or is it the flu?”
It was also within that first month when I sat for the first peer-to-peer discussion conducted by one of my colleagues and everyone had to make a contribution. Surprise isn’t even the word I want to use! At the end of that presentation, I asked aloud whether they always had such discussions and they said it was part of the company’s personal development program. I was shocked!
What was most baffling however was how there was little or no conversation in the office and when they spoke, it was in small, polite tones. I am generally a loud person with lots of energy. In that first month, a local musician passed on and there was this article in one of the local tabloids likening his death to that of Jesus. I laughed like a mad woman. The looks I got! I felt like a worm.
One time I got carried away by the music in my earphones and made dance moves on my chair while swinging my hands in the air and one my colleagues said it was unprofessional.
It’s been four months in this environment. A few days back, one of my colleagues said I have toned down. That when I first walked into the office he wasn’t sure we would get along, because I had too much energy. Now we actually have a very good relationship. People in my social circles have also said I am quieter. Is it a good thing? Can I attribute all of it to working in PR? I am not sure. All I know is sometimes it takes change to come to terms with your true self; to grow.