How I Became Managing Director of Microsoft Africa Development Centre

August 29, 2022

Catherine Muraga is the managing director of Microsoft Africa Development Centre. She is an IT professional boasting over 15 years of experience.

Muraga is an alumna of Columbia Business School Digital Strategies for Business and Oxford University Fintech Programme.

She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Africa Nazarene University. Here’s her career path:

I am a product of Nairobi and Kajiado counties. My formative years were spent in Eastlands and the rest in Ongata Rongai. I am the eldest in a family of five and took to leadership naturally. Being the eldest, like in many homes, the sense of accountability and responsibility is instilled early.

My childhood was full of curiosities, fun and occasional dash of creativity. I have no recollection of being gifted with toys, so my creativity was honed from an early age. I made balls from polythene bags and stuffed them with green leaves. Life in Eastlands taught me grit, a sense of community (our neighbours represented the face of Kenya – different languages and experiences, and they were family), and simplicity of life (we lived on very little but were content). This built in me a deep sense of gratitude.

I took on leadership and technology certifications from notable universities in the UK and the US. I have had a great career in tech-related roles spanning about 15 years in technology services, manufacturing, aviation and banking sectors.

I am a lifelong learner, be it in the classroom, on the job or exchanging experiences with colleagues. Taking up stretch assignments at work, or volunteering for some roles, has also boosted my learning.

Trusted individuals

Also, I have learnt that it is key to invest in a group of trusted individuals, who continually challenge you to remain focused on goals, and another that is a sounding board for key decisions. One must, however, choose them carefully as wise counsel can only flow from a thriving well!

My progress has been self-driven and leader-led. Early in my career, I benefitted from forums where people shared their inspiring career journeys. Key things that stood out for me are: firstly, having a vision, documenting it and breaking it down into some roadmap and a defined timeline.

Secondly, having people or mentors to hold you accountable. I have been blessed to have leaders who saw the potential in me and took a chance on me, some who pushed me to the deep end, and I managed to navigate the choppy waters.

One of the key lessons I have learnt is the power of appreciating the seasons you are in—in life or career. There is a season to grind and gain as much knowledge as possible; this can be through self-learning or join classes.

“You learn grit and grow as an expert. This season calls for a lot of attention, sacrifice and judicious use of time. There is a season where you are the subject matter expert and get consulted on issues.

This season also calls for a giving heart, pouring into those looking up to you. And there is a season when you are perhaps the smartest in the room, and this is a sign that you need to exit this room and go to another that will take you back to learning.

When I graduated from university, I dreamt of being a top IT leader by age 30; I underestimated that getting to the top is a process that may require returning to school to acquire new knowledge, taking up new roles and stretching assignments. It is OK to dream but appreciate the process. 

For women in tech, confront the imposter syndrome voice with facts, the fact you can deliver on assigned roles. Remember to invest in soft skills too, not just hard skills. For instance, grow your communication muscle (written and spoken), especially as you grow into leadership.

To the youth, identify your passion, invest in it and pursue opportunities available locally and internationally. Sometimes we cage ourselves to what we see instead of what we could become. Where you have come from matters, but where you are going, or you can go is bigger and broader. Also, surround yourself with a network that grows you. Know when to give and when to take.

Lastly, have an interest in local and international affairs to understand the times we are living in and how it impacts or is likely to impact your environment.”

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