Muthoni Maingi is a true renaissance woman. She uses the power of digital innovation to transform lives.
Being the Head of Digital Campaigns at Oxfam is just the latest place she is flexing her muscles. She is also the founding director of the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE). Muthoni was also an integral team member in Safaricom projects like BLAZE and Little Cab.
In this insightful chat with SLA, she shares some insights on her career journey and growing with the new digital trends.
At what point in your life did you first learn about your field of work? What called you to it?
As the Brand strategist at Creative Edge, the director would find my colleagues and me on Twitter fairly frequently.
Instead of reprimanding us, she challenged us to think through how we could begin to sell digital as a service for the agency as it was traditionally lead at the time.
From then I fell in love with digital as a marketing proposition and have never left since!
As the Head of Digital Campaigns, what exactly do you do?
My work at Oxfam really allows me to live true to my passion and purpose! I stay up at night thinking of initiatives that use the power of digital to connect people and amplify voices to influence decision makers.
With my team, we work to grow the brand to become a leading digital influencing organization. We use mobile, web and social media to drive, support, donations and offline participation of millions of people globally.
Does Oxfam still consider traditional media and offline campaigns in this digital age?
At Oxfam, I am constantly inspired by the amazing work that uses digital technology to influence and leverage the power of people to end poverty.
The organization’s inspiration and drive to achieve change for millions of people is embedded in the values, mission, and vision. It is the exact same whether applied to campaign offline or online, there is no separation from the core objective.
How has your current role changed your perception of how powerful technology can be in changing lives in Kenya & around the world?
I don’t necessarily feel like I am just now seeing that technology can and does have the potential to create change. What I can say has changed is that my approach has always been very Kenya and Africa based.
I think that it is great that organizations across the globe are increasingly making diversity a core strategic agenda and that means that varied expertise in the room allows for improved performance and efficiency.
Consequently, this experience has allowed me to exhibit our regional ingenuity on a platform that is hungry for fresh perspectives from this part of the world.
What advice can you give about personal growth and knowing when it’s time to leave a job even when it throws you out of your comfort zone?
Prior to working at Oxfam, I held major positions in the telecommunications sector. I have always had very specific objectives in terms of how I see my career going.
I look at what my objective is in terms of my career goal and what space is available for me to explore that as well as to build something of value for myself and the organization.
For example with Safaricom, I was really looking at how I could bring digitally lead segmented prepositions to life.
Being secure in that knowledge, I began to look for spaces where I could grow from a digital perspective and lead a team that actually creates digital products. The opportunity at Oxfam offered me that.When you have solid relationships then everything else always figures itself out - @NonieMG Click To Tweet
How important are mentors to you? Do you have any?
I try to avoid what can be termed as the ‘expert by proxy’ bias. Where we tend to listen to the loudest person in the room and assume that as a result, they are competent and capable.
I genuinely look deeper to find people who are ‘true experts’ in the aspect I am looking to grow towards, even if they are the quieter or less visible ones in the room. Or even if they are not in the room at all.
I consider different people mentors in different ways. Actually, I ensure that they are the actual people that I should be talking to.
Having been so successful in the famed ‘Silicon Sahara’, one of the most competitive tech industries in Africa. Does this mean women are getting better recognition for their contributions in the tech world?
It would not be accurate to look at my path and determine that the state of women is improved because of it. My success is not a beacon of change as a lot more should be done and a lot more can be done to ensure that no one is left behind.
Women have a long way to go to get their dues in this industry, not because of their lack of talent or capability but simply because we operate in a world with restrictive, discriminatory and in many cases violent social norms. This applies to all women regardless of class, race, gender and sexual orientation.I am my own cheerleader, and I am very comfortable with failure... - @NonieMG Click To Tweet
What do you think is the biggest misconception women have about how to become successful?
The fact that this question is only asked of women says it all. Women across the board put in the work, glass ceilings are the biggest problem that women face.
These ceilings appear in overt, micro-aggressive or in hidden values and norms that keep women consistently not only fighting to deliver results in their day job but also having to work around harmful social norms as another layer of labor.
The only work that women should be doing is working to deliver to the bottom line, the strategic objectives of an organization.
In moments of self-doubt, what do you tell yourself?
I really believe that I am my biggest cheerleader. I know myself, and I am very comfortable with failure. My self-doubt, as a result, is usually very short-lived.
I’m lucky that the only ‘right’ thing that I have done in my life is to surround myself with a fantastic network of cheerleaders and truth tellers.
They really keep me away from damaging self-doubt with great advise, recognition and validation.
What are your proudest career moments so far?
The Bloggers Association of Kenya is the baby that I am most proud of. Being a part of something that has helped so many people and grown an industry that otherwise did not exist as a Founding Director fills me with a lot of joy.
What advice can you give about being fearless and following your dreams?
Fearless? That isn’t me, I have a lot of fears. That said, the best advice that I have ever been given came from Sylvia Mulinge who was my Director while at Safaricom.
“Progress not perfection, believe that if you have been called into the room then your contribution is valuable. The people in that room want you to succeed.”
What is the one thing you will not be happy if you haven’t achieved when everything is said and done?
I am increasingly concerned about my relationships with people, friends, family, workmates and several others. I would not be happy if I did not achieve a real and authentic relationship with these people.
Personally, I think that when you have solid relationships, everything else will figure itself out. Without that, what are we really here for?.
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