After her Bachelors’ Degree in Mathematics and Statistics at Southern Methodist University, she got a job in the US, working in the country for over 3 years. But unlike those who settle and build both their careers and lives abroad after their studies, she knew deep down that her dream was to make a difference in the lives of young people in Africa. This led her to come back to Kenya and continue with (or begin) her career in the fintech space, joining Cellulant in early 2011. Over 7 years later, she’s now the Director of Pre-Fellowship at Andela, an organisation which connects global firms with gifted software developers and technical expertise from Africa. Here now is the story of Agnes Muthoni (pictured above) where she shares snippets of her work at Andela and what drives her in her life work and life…
QUESTION: Who is Agnes Muthoni?
AGNES MUTHONI: I started out my career 15 years ago and my career has evolved over the years from working at a pharmaceutical company as a project manager then moving into the fintech space to now working at Andela as the Director of Pre-Fellowship. My guiding light or True North that has influenced my career is my heart for human transformation. I am driven by the will to make a difference in the lives of people on our continent.
Q: As the Director of Talent Development Pre-Fellowships at Andela, what does your job entail?
AM: My role at Andela involves identifying and recruiting aspiring developers into our fellowship program. We have increased our in-take numbers this year to search for more aspiring developers in the Kenyan tech ecosystem and beyond. For example, earlier in the year we would hire about 10 developers in a month, but now we’re looking to have this number go up to 18 per month by the end of the year and even higher next year. I am therefore tasked with leading the teams across our locations in Nairobi, Lagos and Kampala looking for people who want to become global technologists.
I am also currently involved in our recruitment expansion plans in Kigali, where we recently launched our new location. This is particularly exciting news because it is Andela’s first Pan-African Hub – this means it will enable us to accelerate the growth of the developer tech eco-system on the continent, recruit tech talent from Rwanda and other feeder countries where we do not have an Andela presence.
Q: As a follow up to the above question, does Andela offer free training opportunities to students? If yes, what’s the selection criteria for trainees?
AM: Andela does not offer any training programs or courses. What we do is hire those interested in pursuing careers in technology into our program and they get on the job professional development. For this program, the selection criteria is passing our application process which includes a technical and values assessment. We hire regardless of one’s educational background.
Q: At what point in your life did you decide (or choose) to have a career in the tech space?
AM: I knew early on in my career that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people in Africa. I wasn’t really clear about what specific role I wanted to be in but I was crystal clear that I wanted to play a role in creating an equal playing field for people to become brilliant at what they do irrespective of their gender or financial status. At the time, mobile money was driving financial inclusiveness and I joined a start-up to drive more people who did not have bank accounts to get access to mobile wallets and mobile loans.
Q: Looking at your professional profile, I can see that you also hold the position of Strategic Advisor at the Presidential Digital Talent Program (PDTP). What’s your role there?
AM: I am an advisor and mentor at PDTP – I enjoy mentoring and providing guidance to young tech talent who have the vision and heart to challenge industrial norms and create solutions that solve real problems in the community. I would like to nurture leaders who become global leaders.
Q: Who has been your mentor(s) in both your personal and professional life and why?
AM: I have had different mentors spanning across my career and personal life. I pick out my mentor(s) based on the experience they have had in dealing with the specific challenge I need help in or the area I need to level-up in. More recently, my mentor has been a career and life coach who has helped me learn how to ‘lead from within’ by digging deeper within myself to cultivate more self-awareness in order to understand the underlying sentiments of people with different perspectives and respond with empathy.
Q: If you’re to offer advice to a young lady who’s willing to get into the tech space, what would you tell them and why?
AM: Looking back, when I first started my career in the tech space – I was crowded with self-doubt and I was afraid to fail. The best advice that I can give a young lady who is starting out her career in technology is to embrace the idea of failing forward. The singular most important lesson that I have learned in my life is that embracing my mistakes and taking responsibility on my part in erring is a sign of vulnerability and consequently, an act of courage.
Q: Apart from your work at Andela, do you create time to mentor girls and women keen to pursue STEM careers?
AM: Yes. I am a co-founder of The 254 network. This is a network of ladies from various industries who come together for opportunity sharing, wealth creation and helping others who are in need. I also am a co-founder at Fikiri impact which mentors women with female startups including tech startups.