Muthoni Maingi: Glass ceilings are the biggest problem that women face

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?.

 If you’d like to get featured on our Facebook page, click here to share your story with us.

Is your personal growth stunted? 5 signs that it might be

Sometimes we get stuck because we haven’t learned anything new, these tips should help Click To Tweet

What to do when you’ve lost your mojo

We all want to become the best we can be. But what happens when you’ve lost your mojo? There’s a chance that your personal growth might be stunted. There’s no shame in that, it happens to the best of us: sometimes you just get stuck and it feels gross.

Here are some signs to help you tell, and some quick simple ways to overcome it.

personal growth for she leads africa - self improvement and personal development
Source: theclassywoman

1. You’re really comfortable right now

Life is fine. Like, just fine. Everything is just okay. You’ve got a good steady rhythm at home, at work and in your relationships but it’s been steady like that for A WHILE… to the point of standing still.

You look around you and feel the buzz around you, but you’re on the outside. While being in this position isn’t necessarily bad, it’s not amazing either. It’s just —you guessed it— fine. You’ve stopped growing.

Ask yourself: When did I last get excited about creating something new and of real value?

If you’re struggling to find an answer, it’s time to change. Why not take on a new challenge? Join a society at university, or a network at work. Volunteer at a local charity that your care about or look for opportunities to give your skills to budding entrepreneurs. All you have to do is reach out and ask —over the phone, in person or using social media. It’s all there ready and waiting for you.



2. You’re bored at work

Even when we’re in our dream jobs, work can sometimes be less than glamorous. There’s always that one activity that you’d rather skip. When you face this boredom or frustration you need to….

Ask yourself: Is it time to move on, or do I just need to do something different where I am?

Next, have a conversation. With your boss, your manager or your team (if you are the boss/manager) about new opportunities or projects that you can try out. Of course, the way you ask depends on your role at work, so take that into consideration.

Once you’ve identified these new personal growth goals you can set monthly or weekly goals to drive your progress. Many of us make great 1-5 year plans but struggle to translate them into our daily hustles.

3. You don’t leave conversations feeling inspired, motivated or energized

You can’t remember the last time you learned anything of value, every conversation feels the same. I get it, it’s happened to me before. But too many people blame others, they claim that there aren’t ‘enough people to have intelligent conversation’ with.

Well, before you blame others for anything in life, always look at yourself. Be the change you want to see in the world.

tiffany pollard yawn

Ask yourself: What do I bring to the table?

If you’ve followed personal growth steps 1 & 2 above, you may eventually have something new to bring to your conversations. Once you’ve done that, you can start planning how you expand your horizons and your network.

The age-old saying goes, ‘your network is your networth’ and if you haven’t made any new friends lately, maybe it’s time to go to an event, #SheHive or conference to get the conversational juices flowing again.

Before you blame others for anything in life, always look at yourself Click To Tweet

4. You know as much as you did yesterday, and the day before that… and the day before that

Sometimes we get stuck because we haven’t learned anything new. Personal growth involves your body AND your brain. We all have our niche —whether it’s fashion, tech, finance, politics or anything in between. But we can all benefit from knowing a little bit of everything across the board.

Some employers call this being a ‘t-shaped’ person, someone who has deep knowledge in a few areas and broad knowledge across many others. These types of people can work well in many situations and are typically more employable.

Ask yourself: When was the last time I learned anything new?

The good news is that in the age of Google, a lot of information is $free.99 – shout out to SLA for this free guide right here. You can learn most of the basics on a shoestring budget, or no budget at all. What have you got to lose?


t-shaped person personal growth for she leads africa - self improvement and personal development

5. You lack energy and feel sluggish

Sluggish. What a word, sounds horrible right? You might feel chronically tired, or that you’re living life in slow motion. Sometimes this is because you’ve been working too damn hard, but other times it’s caused by the fact that you aren’t doing much at all. If it’s the latter, the final thing you can do to boost your personal growth is actually get moving.

Ask yourself: How can I shake up my routine in some way?

This might be something really small like changing the route you take to work or your night-time beauty routine. It could also mean becoming more active. YES, I do mean going to the gym, joining a sports team or doing a class.

A little sweat never hurt anyone! It sounds kind of crazy, but the more you work out, the more energy you have for other areas in your life. So, no excuses.

running gifTry these recommendations out and let us know how they work for you.

Doing something new is scary, but life begins outside of your comfort zone. So does personal growth. You’ll be challenged in a new way, and you’ll develop into a more well-rounded person in the process.


More than business: Having a life outside the office

shehive lagos she leads africa
How do you keep your life in check when it feels like work is the only life you know? Click To Tweet

Work can be overwhelming especially if you work long hours. It takes a lot to get up in the morning and when you get home, you drag yourself to bed. So how do you keep your life in check when it feels like work is the only life you know?

stolen-moments-arent-life-gifIt is so important to have an active life outside of work as our lives outside the office do effect our careers. All our facets of life are intertwined and it is important to make sure that we do things outside of work continue to bring positivity into our lives.

Be organized

get-your-life-together-gifAfter a long day at work you don’t want to go home to have to clean, do errands or go shopping. You just want to get home and relax. Being organised definitely makes life easier.

One of the best ways to stay organised and to monitor and track your activities is to use a bullet journal. Setting aside a particular day to do your weekly grocery shopping and housecleaning take away the stresses of having to run around during the week worrying about small things.

Leave work at the office

It is important to distance your work life from home life. This means you have to be as efficient as you can be at work so you aren’t tempted or required to take any work home. If you have to work from home, then try make sure that you work until a certain time and then take a break.

That way you create an area that’s just for you that isn’t filled with the stresses of work. Make your home a place you won’t dread to come back to after a long day.

Perfect the art of keeping your work life and your home life far apart Click To Tweet

Keep motivated

At the start of the year create a vision board setting out what you would love to see yourself achieve in the year. It may be planning for a girl’s trip away or setting career goals. Vision boards are a great way to stay inspired because you are reminded of what you want when you see it.

Keeping a coin jar can help you have something to look forward to such as a trip or those shoes that you wanted for the longest time. Empty your handbag at the end of each day and whatever change you have in there put it in your coin jar and you can add up and you have something to look forward to.

We all need a creative outlet to stay vitalised and motivated in life and at work. One of the best ways to spend your time could be to take get active or pick up a new hobby. This give you something to look forward to outside of work.

Be social


A lot of people struggle with making friends outside work because they spend a lot of time at the office and just go home. So how do you build up your social life when you feel isolated?  Get out of the house! If you are a sporty person join a gym and go to classes or find park runs where you could meet people with similar interests.

Joining a book club can also be a great way to meet new people. Volunteering is also a great way to do something good with the potential to meet new people. Make time for friends and family if you live near them, even if it is just for a few hours. They will keep you sane.

Treat yo’ self

treat yo selfMake the most of your weekends! What you do in your spare time and the attitude you have will impact your overall character and attitude. You have to make time to make sure all the facets of your life are enriched especially keeping an active social life. Schedule self- love appointments even if it is only for an hour or two.

Set aside time to reflect, journal, get a haircut or read a book. Spending a day or weekend with family or friends is very important for making sure you stay positive. Make time to do the things that make you happy. So set aside a day when you do exactly what you want. TREAT YO’ SELF!