If there is one thing Agatha Gikunda understands it is technology. Put her in a room full of techies and she is right at home.
Upon finishing school, she got an opportunity to travel to Canada to pursue a degree in engineering.
When Nokia opened an office in Kenya she came back home, via South Africa to head the Ecosystems, Service and Applications (EDX) in East Africa.
When we meet for the interview at Nokia offices she walked in carrying her Nokia N9, and a tablet. From the onset she said there were things she was not willing to talk about including the car she drives.
“I drive a car just like anyone else. What I drive, where I live, brands I wear don’t define me.”
How long have you been with Nokia?
My whole life, practically, it’s like marriage (laughs).
So, are you married, other than to your job?
Yes I am and have three kids.
How do you juggle work and family life?
I think Nokia is a very good employer that allows me to have a balanced lifestyle.
My kids do wish I travel less, but as a rule I don’t travel on weekends so that I’m home with the children. My work even allows me to be home in time to do homework.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a shy introvert, who likes to listen and absorb stuff. But I would never sit back and agree to things that don’t make sense.
I can be opinionated and like my voice to be heard. I want to leave this world after making a difference. I am always looking for ways to do that.
Do you consider yourself a techie?
I guess a quasi-techie.
What is a quasi-techie?
I am not a traditional techie; I manage the business side of it. When I work here in the market, my role is not just to get the cool technology but to get cool technology that makes commercial sense.
So I am a techie with business acumen and I understand consumer insight.
Of all your gadgets, two of which I can see now, which ones can’t you do without?
My phone, a Nokia N9. I love it for its form - it’s slim and fits into my bag – and despite dropping it thousands of times it keeps ticking and keeping me connected. This is the one device I can’t leave the house without. I absolutely love it.
What is a typical work day for you?
I wake up at six, say my prayers, check my phone and go through my emails.
Because I work with people on different time zones I’m always eager to know what was happening when I was asleep.
Then, I get my kids ready for school, drop them off and head to work.
I have a rule once I get home in the evening I don’t check my emails, SMS or take voice calls as long as the kids are awake.
What is your daily motivator, especially at work?
(Laughs) My job has the ability to financially impact millions of individuals. I am motivated by the impact on Kenyans our ( OVI ) store has; I can enable Kenyans to be millionaires. That’s what drives me.
Why the telecom industry?
I like a place where change is happening really fast. I don’t want to wait five years to start seeing change. Telecom is that, it’s being able to give input and exchange ideas. Tech has the biggest capability to change lives rapidly because of innovation.
What is your favourite App so far?
That keeps changing. There is always a new app for anything, right?
Right now I would say Draw Something. I love it because it’s very basic, here I am at 36 and I am drawing things with my fingers and interacting, I never thought I would be.
When I need to unwind and do something mindless, I go into Draw Something. It just got acquired for $186 million, so I guess there are others, globally, who think it’s brilliant.
So you like to draw?
Actually, I was an artist in a different life (laughs). Art for me is a side passion.
Any future in art, we say after retirement?
I don’t know. I would do it for fun but then I like to do things that impact other people as well. I think I am really a techie.
Which app do you think we need to develop to make life easier, especially locally?
If there was an app that helps people, specifically Kenyans keep time, that’s an app I would pay a million dollars for.
Do you take yourself seriously?
I take what I do very seriously. Though I have my lighter side, work is work but outside I have a fun.
How do you unwind after a long day or week?
Long drives with my husband, a drink though I’m not a clubbing person, its not for me. I’m also not a gym person.
So where is the one place locally that you like to drive to, on those long-drives?
Not many people know about it but behind Zen Garden is a place called Lake View. It’s the most amazing place. I grew up there. I find it a small paradise in Kenya. I actually met my husband there.
Venice (Italy) blew my mind last year, it was amazing. There are no cars so you travel by boat it’s a very beautiful place.