How was life in campus for you?
From first to third year, I was a bookworm. I crammed the book Introduction to Computers by Tannenbaum, and could recite whole pages of it. That was the learning style that I had been accustomed to since my days in high school. I was focused only on studying hard and passing my exams. However, things changed when I got an internship in a company that was launching a new online-based system. I was at a loss. We had not been taught anything about virtual systems. I was expected to apply the knowledge I had acquired in class, but here I was, being asked to support a system I knew nothing about. It is then that I realised that if I continued focusing only on reading books and staying on top of my class, I would end up losing out on good opportunities. I realised that I needed a lot more than just the degree.
Should we then disregard our studies?
Universities are just meant to help you lay the foundation of your career. You shouldn’t expect to come out of there with the required experience. It is your duty to develop the practical skills. Your degree will be important during the shortlisting phase of an interview because the recruiters can’t read through all applications. You need to aim to get good grades, but this is not enough. I think what helped me get my first job was the fact that I knew what my employer wanted because I had held basic jobs in campus and had created websites during my internships.
You studied computer science but you are in a completely different field. How come?
I like fixing problems regardless of where those problems are to be found. I take time to learn more about the problem and possible ways of solving it, whether I have the experience or not. I am always open to new opportunities, so it wasn’t hard for me to build a career in this field that was different from what I had studied in university.
I have advanced in my career by trying different leadership approaches, and by coming up with practical solutions. If you sit at home with your college degree, you will be just like the thousands of other applicants who are afraid of getting out of their comfort zones.
How has your career journey been?
After graduating, I started out as a software engineer whose job was to create applications. However, out of curiosity I got into a management trainee program in 2010 where I got to learn a lot from the company’s chief executive through observation. I worked there for eight years in different departments, and later joined Cytonn as a business manager for Information Technology before ending up as the brand manager. I am on an internship programme in my company to further develop my skills. This is part of my ultimate goal of getting into operations management, which requires that I understand my organisation fully.
I usually advise young people not to enroll for Master’s degrees immediately after getting their undergraduate certificates. It is important to get some experience and find out what works for you, and then align your graduate degree to it. You are more likely to discover your passion as you are working, and not in class.
What does your current job entail?
I am in charge of Cytonn’s branding and fintech business. We are trying to change how people spend, save and invest their money. My job is to help change the perception that Kenyans are borrowers and not savers, even though this will take time. We are trying to introduce new ways of investing to Kenyans, and to give them the necessary training.
What else do you do?
I am a member of Global Shapers Community, an organisation formed by the World Economic Forum that brings together youth from different cities and helps them find ways of transforming their societies. I also like skating, and keep fit by cycling to work every day. Exercising helps me relax whenever I feel overwhelmed by societal pressures.