I Quit Software Developer Job For Photography: The Mentalyst

July 4, 2022

 Trevor Maingi, 32, is a photographer and filmmaker popularly known as ‘the mentalyst’.

He holds a degree in aerospace engineering and software development but ditched the professions to pursue his passion in photography.

The Mentalyst shared his career journey with the Nation.


“I grew up in Nairobi West for a couple of years before moving to South C. I went to school in Bellevue Primary in my early years and later moved to Mutungoni Primary Board. I then proceeded to Senior Chief Secondary. For my undergraduate, I studied at the East African School of Aviation and later joined Strathmore University.

“My career journey started back in 2012. After graduating, I worked in the aviation industry for two years with different airlines as a technician, focussing on the electrical part of servicing airplanes. I worked with Kenya Airways, ALS Limited, Air Kenya and East African Safari Air Express Ltd.

“After being in the field for two years, the contract life wasn’t satisfying, so I decided to go back to school to pursue something different. I went to Strathmore University to major in software engineering.

“During my second year, I got a job offer at Creative Y&R and deferred school. On the side, I was focussing on photography as a hobby. Travelling to different locations in Kenya on the weekends and sharing the photos on social media. I remember getting my first brand partnership gig with Samsung in 2015 to shoot with their flagship phone. This was the wake-up call to take my photography to the next level. Through YouTube, I was able to teach myself the hacks of the game.

Software developer

“After three years of working as a software developer, I decided to quit my job to become a full-time photographer and later filmmaker. My skills have since opened some incredible opportunities. I have worked with brands such as VICE, Architectural Digest, Chloe, Safaricom, Shutterstock Customs, Samsung, Landrover Africa and Adobe and been on locations in Kenya, Madagascar, Jordan, South Africa, Cameroon, Hong Kong, Egypt among other areas. One of my fondest moments in my career journey is filming Naomi Campbell for Architectural Digest and working with high fashion brands like Chloe Fashion.

“Through my career journey, the key drives to my growth has been consistency. Every time things get tough, I remind myself why I started doing this.

“When I was starting off, I was happy to shoot for the sake of shooting. But when I look back at how far I have come and how much I have been able to achieve, that always sparks my passion and keeps me moving.

“My biggest principle is and will always be ‘know your worth.’ Clients will only respect you if you respect yourself. But also, it’s important to know that failure does not define who you are. How you handle that moment is what makes you. When you get hit, rise up.

Career growth

“Seven out of 10 times, people will not only want to work with you because your work is good but also how you treat others. People always remember how you make them feel. I have made relationships that have influenced my career growth and one of those people is Mutua Matheka, who is also a renowned photographer in Kenya. Having been in the industry longer than I have, I would reach out to him when I felt stuck and he would be of such great help.

“For me, there is no one particular accomplishment I am most proud of as every day is an accomplishment I am proud of. Just when I think I have finished decorating the cake, a new layer pops up. I get to work with different and interesting brands that I never thought I would work with.

“One of the key decisions was jumping right into the deep end and quitting my job in 2017. Scary as it seemed, I learnt to build a parachute on the way down. This pushes me to keep doing what I enjoy.

“To the youth, let opportunity find you ready. Find that one thing you enjoy doing and let that be your drive. Find a way to stand out from the crowd. Nothing is easy. I am now focussing on shooting films with a balance of mentorship that is my future plan.”

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