Q&A Monday: Mugethi Gitau

Mugethi Gitau © Cyril Jazbec
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Mugethi Gitau is a creative techie. She has a background in ICT and varied career experience that includes teaching, mapping malaria in Kenya and running a governance project before returning to technology, her true love. She has worked to build and engage the technology community in Nairobi, first as the iHub Community Manager, then in the same capacity at Moringa School. She is a people’s person who enjoys linking techies with each other, and with movers and shakers in the industry. She is passionate about using technology to empower people. She recently joined the OkHi Mafia, the founding team of OkHi. A Kenyan startup on a mission to give a physical address to the 4 billion people in the world who do not have one.

She shares her thoughts and opinions on tech and gadgets on hergeekyness.com. She also writes fiction and poetry on missmugethi.com. She is excited that African techies are innovating to solve their own problems, turning them into businesses, applying them to other regions successfully, and that people are showing faith in these solutions by investing in them.

We had a few questions for her and this is what she had to say.

1. Your first phone?

A Samsung flip phone! In campus. I’m telling you when most peeps had those Siemens traffic light phones, sijui Nokia 3310. Me I was the bomb.com! It was tiny, sleek and I used to hang it around my neck.

2. Between Facebook and Twitter, which one do you prefer? Why?

I think they both serve very different purposes. Facebook is for people I know. I share pictures a lot and I’ve pictures of my son in there. Twitter is for a wider audience and for when I want to share content that will be live for a short time. It’s more low touch. Also 140 characters forces my every tweet to be “punchy”.

3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Umm… being a mom to a 12 year old boy? Hehe. Probably running my own hair and beauty company. I’m currently deciding if the growth direction I want to follow is running a company – ops, or go with a highly specialized design related skill (product design maybe) and just be a happy geek who doesn’t have to manage anybody *looks around*.

4. Any question for us? We’ll publish our answer as well

Mhhh. How long do you figure before we start having demos for first world problems, say, #BringusIKEA and #4GHakiyetu? #Sephoratooexpensive.

Give it a couple of years. Right now we are at the middle class problems phase where people complain about their croissants at Art Caffe and their fries at Big Square.

Wait, why do international consumer brands sell us lower quality stuff for higher prices as part of their “Africa strategy?” Who told them we have money to waste on crap?

We need to stop buying crap and start demanding quality.

5. What would you do if you were president for a day?

I thought you’d never ask! I’d come heavy and sort out public transport. I’d overturn the working and living conditions of the Kenya Police (if we are gonna get into some more debt, let it be for a worthy cause). Oh and I’d ban plastic bags!

6. What’s your favourite book & movie?

Mhhh. That’s a toughie coz I love to read. So I love a lot of authors and you will find me reading several books at at the same time. My favorite author has got to be Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She’s a badass, I love her writing style and in my head she sounds just like me! I’m less of a movie person and more of a series person. I love legal drama and I’m currently obsessed with The Good Wife.

7. Who or what inspired what you do now?

Mhh I took the scenic route to where I am now. I’ve done everything from teaching high school kids, running a club, being a business coach to what I’m currently doing. Operations at a tech startup. But my interaction with technology and seeing what it can do has been a big pull for me. Generally though, my dad raised me to never even notice that I’m a girl and therefore I can not do A, B or C. Which is a big reason why I’m in this male-dominated career.

8. If you were to change jobs, what profession would you get into? Why?

I’d be like the resident judge at a cool music audition show – Project Fame, Idols and the like. Music gives me life!!! OR I’d be a lawyer, the kind that goes to court and says, “your honour, I object!”. The legal gymnastics really get me going 🙂

9. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

All round badass, fight like Chuck Norris and shoot like the Recce Squad. I would also want to be like this chick called Bo who is a character in a TV series called Lost Girl. She can suck out your chi (life force) and become more powerful without even touching you. Also she’s immortal. How awesome is that!

10. Which 5 things would you want to have if you were deserted on an abandoned island?

Listen, I hope this island has plumbing. But seriously at the very least I’d require coconuts then figure out how to extract coconut oil without an oil press. Or wait, I’d want to have an

  • Oil press
  • Kindle
  • Notebook and pens
  • Drinking water
  • Lip balm

11. If you were a car, which one would you like to be? Why?

A Volkswagen Beetle maybe? A yellow one 😃 for my playful nature. Or a charcoal grey 2016 Mercedes S-Class convertible – for the adventurous side of me that enjoys the finer things in life 😉.

12. If you could be in any band in the world, which one would it be? Why?

Sia and Sean Paul. Does that qualify as a band? 😃 Or just form a band with Sean Paul, his ad-libs are too cool (with a bang bang!) Seriously though I think I’d be Just a Band – they are too cool for school. What, they have a Ted fellow in the band!

13a. What is the hardest thing about managing communities and people in general? How have you been able to surmount it?

There is a Kikuyu song that goes “Kíríndí, tigana nakío, kíríndí, kiaremire Mutha” (The crowd, leave it alone, the crowd, it defeated Moses) This is in reference to Moses of the Bible and how difficult it was for him to lead the Israelites.

People will always be people. Their interests, needs and desires change every day. This means shifting goalposts. Not easy. I’ve come to learn though that most people just want to be heard. Listen. You may not have the answers all the time, but listen. You learn and grow and work around it.

b. How is it like being a creative working and thriving in non-creative environments?

OMG! They want things on Slack, Google Docs and Asana all the time! I just want to do my thing! LOL! On the other hand most geeks are beautiful souls and very diverse. Sometimes they say things and I ask them, “why would you know that???” There is never a dull moment.

14. Share something interesting about yourself with our readers.

I like old whiskeys, cigars and guns 😃 How’s that for your non conventional lady? I also love religious humor! How fun is it to make fun of Christians? 😀

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