How I Rose From Sh500 a Day Job To Microsoft Country Manager for Kenya

March 22, 2021

Kendi Nderitu is the Microsoft Country Manager for Kenya. Before joining Microsoft, Kendi served as the General Manager of the East, West and Central Africa Cluster for Check Point Software.

With over 15 years of experience, Kendi Nderitu has held various positions at Oracle, HP, and Intel, where she was tasked with leading and implementing business strategies across sub-Saharan Africa.

She shared her career path story with Nation:

Briefly tell us about yourself

I’m a village girl who loves to have systems in place in order to simplify life. In all things I am involved in, it is important for me that they run in my absence as they would in my presence. I’m currently the Country Manager for Microsoft Kenya.

Tell us about your childhood and family life

I was born and raised in Embu then moved upcountry in my pre-teen years. This happens to be one of the toughest transitions I have had in life but also the one that informed a big part of the decisions I would make in life later; decisions that would ensure that I remain in control and not be confined to forced choices. This was my earliest exposure to grit, perseverance and persistence.

 Educational background

I went through the normal 8-4-4 system and studied Computer Science. I tried out communication but struggled through then decided to pursue International Business Management. It was very clear to me that I wanted to lead a business in the tech industry.

Your current role and scope of role?

As Kenya Country Leader at Microsoft, my primary role is to bring home the Microsoft mission of empowering every person and every organisation to achieve more by mapping out the strategy and leading the execution of the same. My ambition is to collaboration with public and private sector to help adopt and accelerate Kenya’s digital transformation agenda.

Share with us your career journey

My first paid job was in a marketing promotion company where I was responsible for handing out fliers at the Muthaiga roundabout. I was paid Sh500 a day, money I needed for my upkeep in the city.

But I later secured my first office job at the Kahama Group of Hotels (the K2 and K1 chain, yes, they had a head office) as an assistant IT manager. I earned Sh15,000 per month.

What do you remember most about your career journey? 

When I reflect, most times I took roles I never thought I was prepared for but luckily, each time, there was always someone who walked with me and believed that I was capable and helped me integrate. This means being able to take risks but also deciding to show up no matter what. What I can say is that it has been zigzag, not a straight line, but eventually, it makes sense.

What has been a key driver of your growth, lessons learnt, celebrations and failures? 

Looking back, my key driver has been to avoid situations where decisions are made on my behalf, like the one to move back to the village when I was a pre-teen. From an early age, I have known that I like to have options, and the only way one has options is if they take charge of their life and be on the driving seat. However, I have failed many times, but more importantly, this has taught me to have an open mind and to be agile enough to promptly re-group if plan A does not work.

Those who know me well like to say that I have the gift of foresight, which means that I commonly start from the end then work backwards, something that has worked for me in most areas of my life so far. Above everything else, I know each assignment I do is not about me and that I must be accountable to those around me but most importantly, to my maker.

Who are the people or relationships that you can single out that were useful in your career growth and how did they influence your trajectory?

It’s been a few key and consistent relationships that I have kept since childhood and as a young adult. First, my parents have been very instrumental for they made me believe that what my elder brother could do, I could do even better.

Secondly, from my young adult life, it’s a few close friends, and one in particular, (my sister from Kisii), who refuses to give me a break regardless of what I am engaged in. This one can see me in a way I don’t always see myself and it so happens that she is always often right.

Key decisions you might have taken along your career?

One of the key ones was to start a family while climbing the career ladder. For instance, I had to move away with my 3-month child while leaving behind my 2-year-old for six weeks to attend an exchange program at the Silicon Valley. This is one of the toughest life balance decisions I had to make.

What would you tell your younger self?

I have realised that the little cumulative steps in the right direction always add up in the end. Also, remain diligent and focused with the understanding that Rome was never built in a day.

What would you advise the youth in Kenya, especially girls and Africa today? 

You are first a person before you are grouped to a particular gender. Show up as a person first and deliver at that level. While stereotypes exist, who said they must exist for your disadvantage? Let us free our mind because people will align to your trade when you give them no other option.

Future plans?

I can say that I am still a work in progress, but my determination and ambition is to empower others to take charge of their lives, to get the solutions within, and to realise how resolve, focus, and drive can produce the best in us.

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