Cynthia Mwangi: Jeff Koinange's Boss Who is a Radio Host

Besides being the Head of Radio at Royal Media Services' Hot 96, a Radio host and a content producer, Cynthia 'Ythera' Mwangi is also a PR consultant and a Life coach.

Cynthia Mwangi: Jeff Koinange's Boss Who is a Radio Host

When Cynthia 'Ythera' Mwangi took over the airwaves at Hot 96 as a radio host under Royal Media Services (RMS) for the first time in November 2019, there was a wave of excitement amongst her fans, if not herself as she made an extra stride in her career that was raised above the bar by her time at the media company.

Mwangi hosts The Morning After show that airs on Saturday mornings from 6 am to 10 am, which is both informative, entertaining and relies on conversations and good music.

"A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. Here is my first step. Stepping out to a new challenge. Join me on my new journey, let's learn, laugh, dance, do it all on this journey," she wrote on her social media after the announcement then.

Mwangi also heads Hot 96 FM which has renowned media personalities such as Jeff Koinange, Willis Raburu among others. She is a content producer, PR consultant and a Life coach who has recently launched a ‘Living by Design’ template. 

Cynthia 'Ythera' Mwangi with media personality Jeff Koinange. /FILE

This week's #KenyaWomenSeries features a journalist doubling up as a content producer who is passionate about all things radio. Her expansive experience spans more than 10 years.

She has worked behind the scenes, producing great content, being on the mic and managed some of the best talents in the industry at Royal Media Services (RMS). During her career story, she took up the great belief that human beings are multifaceted. 

Unbeknownst to many, she has a voracious liking for sweets and chocolates, if she is not taking part in being a thoughtful gifter. Her sweet tooth had driven her to co-found Ythera gifts, an online-based gifts-cum-chocolate confectioneries company that has manifested into a chocolate club offering exclusive wine and chocolate pairings.

Like most pioneer media students in many learning institutions, Mwangi didn’t have much to go with except her theoretical training at the Multimedia University. This would however pay off as she scored a six-month internship training at Royal Media Services, with Hot 96 being the only station she had felt she could establish herself as an intern.

An image of Hot 96 station manager Cynthia Mwangi. /COURTESY

"I found myself behind the scenes as a producer for a Swahili radio station (Radio Citizen) and a vernacular station (Mulembe FM). At that point I had never been in a production studio, never had I seen a mixer or any of the editing software that was being used. 

"I hadn’t learnt or experienced anything Radio. However, I winged the heck out of it. My mentors Julian Macharia (then Deputy Programs Director) and Simaloi Dajom (then head of Production), were patient with me. In less than two months, I was one of the most promising interns," she revealed.

To date, working behind the scenes remains a pivotal job for Mwangi that she preciously treasures. At one time, as she was heading home, she passed by some Boda Boda guys who were listening to the news reports from across the country that she had just worked on.

"It gave me such a satisfying feeling to realize the kind of impact I was making. That incident confirmed that all the work pressure and the long hours make sense in the long run – I was doing all this for them (the listeners)," she added.

As a content producer, Mwangi has served as part of the best Swahili Afternoon Shows, Mambo Mseto with Willy M Tuva on Radio Citizen, produced one of the most listened/watched breakfast shows on English Radio, Hot Breakfast which was then hosted by Jeff and Jalas.

Cynthia Mwangi at Royal Media Services studios. /COURTESY

"What I love about content production is the ability to bring ideas to life which remains one of my biggest assets and strengths," she added.

Cynthia’s Career Factsheet: 

  • Head of Hot 96 Radio – I head and manage Hot 96, one of the 14 radio stations at Royal Media Services.
  • Audio and Content Producer.
  • Radio presenter/host – I host the Saturday morning show at Hot 96 – The Morning After.
  • I am a PR consultant and a life coach who has launched a Living by Design template, a vision guide on achieving all you were destined to be, besides being a staunch Manchester United Fan.

1. You have worked in the media industry for over a decade now, moving from various capacities within the radio industry and now as the Head of Radio at Hot 96. What makes media your career of choice

Besides Law, media was the only career I was going to venture into. For two reasons:

  1. The ability, the opportunity and the platform to speak for the voiceless shape opinions and influence for the people who are either scared to speak up or don’t have the opportunity to. With the confidence I have, it made me realise, I could use the same to impact the world.
  2. I was vocal, opinionated, and an entertainer from a very young age. I have to give credit to my dad for seeing it before we all did - for a long time, he kept calling me ‘Waithera Muitherania’ a veteran radio presenter formerly at Inooro FM. I couldn’t put three sentences together in Kikuyu, but I knew that’s what I was meant to do.

Would I have made a good advocate? Maybe. I might just pick it up.

2. What are some of the lessons you have picked along the journey? What do you know now that you wish you knew before moving into your current role? 

Being a manager can be both challenging and fulfilling in equal measure. People are different, their passions and what drives them are varied. It takes a lot of wisdom and patience to mould and morph the different personalities into a productive and motivated team. The ability to manage a team that delivers and seeing its impact on the community and the people around makes it all worth it.

Cynthia Mwangi outside Universal Studios in Hollywood, USA. /COURTESY

You cannot control all situations, and one has to adjust the sails with the wind. I have worked in different departments with different expectations and deliverables; often, you find curveballs thrust in your way, but you have to learn how and when to swing as they are thrown at you.

3. Given an opportunity to reimagine the media industry, is there is anything you would change? If yes, what will it be and why? 

Not change but improvement. 

Media organizations need to adapt and embrace opportunities that will enable the media industry to flourish. The media industry also needs to be agile in taking full advantage of digital spaces and innovations through audience/listenership/ readers data that will shape future decisions of the industry.

4. There are many young female journalists within the media industry. Soon, they will be where you are today. Any tips for younger women media professionals still trying to find themselves within the industry?

  • Learn to look for opportunities in the position you are in. A couple of years ago, when producing Jeff & Jalas Show, a young intern called Dickson approached me. He wasn’t assigned to Hot 96, but he was passionate about camera work and digital growth. He wanted an opportunity to show what he can do. I got him a camera and allowed him access to the studio. He transformed the show into one of the most successful online content the station has ever had. It wasn’t a surprise when he moved to a different media house and is doing quite well. 
  • Don’t limit yourself to just one role. Try out as many departments as you can. The more multifaceted you are, the more valuable you become. The industry isn’t kind to lazy people. It tends to swallow you and spit you out in minutes.
  • Your hard work will pay off, keep working- Both on yourself and with the assignments given. Who would have predicted an intern at Radio Citizen would become the Station Manager at Hot 96? In between there, I produced for five radio stations; worked six days a week, and put in some long hours while at it. 

5. Organizational culture and politics affect one’s career development. How have you managed to navigate through it? Any lessons for women?

I work in one of the best media houses and biggest at that. Just like any other organization, it has its culture and politics. I learnt to understand and align myself strategically than just watch as the culture and politics work for me.

Don’t shy away from either but embrace and learn to use them to your advantage. Culture and politics in an organization will shape who you are and cause a ripple effect on your career, so you might as well use them to propel you in the right direction. Also, learn to use both or either to position yourself strategically.

Cynthia Mwangi during a past forum. /COURTESY

6. What do you say is the role of media in amplifying women’s space, promoting their inclusion and diversity in the 21st century? Is the media doing enough? If not, what should be done?

Telling their stories, creating spaces/ platforms where these stories can be told and giving women either through leadership opportunities or featuring them are a few of the things media can amplify and include women. More can always be done.

Media is making significant strides in showcasing, creating platforms and amplifying the spaces of women in society. The increase in women who are breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings has also made this easier. More women can now be included in the decision making tables, and their stories and accomplishments featured. 

7. If you were to choose the two most important values that shape the way you live and work and keep you grounded, what would they be and why? 

  1. Patience and Resilience. My position has exposed me to learn that when things seem to be whirl winding, I need to pause, take a breather and try to see the situation from another perspective before responding.
  2. Courage. I have learnt that in life, you just need to keep moving despite the noise around you. It is about having the courage to do what needs to be done, period.

8. If you were to write a letter to your 25-year-old self, what are the top three lessons will you share with your younger self?  

9. As we wind up, how do you describe yourself, and how do others describe you?

I tell people I’m an introvert with extrovert streaks. Ambitious, self-driven and brutally honest. I am passionate about what I do, a team player with a penchant to see and experience the world in 6-inch heels. When the beat drops, I’m the first on the dance floor. 

What others think of me – I am a risk-taker, daring. When I walk into a room, heads turn because of my personality. Loyal, kind and committed to the people that I care about. And hilarious! I kid you not. 

Any parting shot?

Enjoy life, take risks, learn, unlearn, experience what life has to offer. This is not a rehearsal, this is it- LIFE. You get to do it only once, so make it memorable. Don’t let people’s opinion of you override yours. Leave a mark in the world, so everyone will know you were here. 

Cynthia Mwangi during a past photo shoot. /COURTESY

Additional report by Patience Nyange and Esther Kiragu