Gladys Maina is the Founder and Lead Consultant of Panda Consulting Kenya. Panda Consulting Kenya is an IT consultancy firm that specializes in IT Service Management, Service Delivery, Project Management, Governance and Compliance. Panda drives transformational change to deliver innovative solutions that bridge the gap between businesses and technology by adopting IT industry’s frameworks such as ITIL, PRINCE2 and COBIT. The vision of Panda Consulting Kenya is to redefine day to day IT operations by providing effective IT service management solutions to organizations by streamlining and benchmarking their processes under best practice frameworks and standards.
Prior to this, Gladys worked with Jhpiego Corporation in IT Service Management responsible for continuous service improvements to align business needs with changing technological advancements. Jhpiego Corporation is an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University and a global leader in the creation and delivery of transformative healthcare solutions for the developing world. Jhpiego’s main aim is revolutionizing health care for the planet’s most disadvantaged people.
Gladys holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Management of Information Systems and certifications in ITIL Intermediate, PRINCE2, PMD Pro, CCNA and A+. Gladys is a registered member of African Women in Technology (AWIT), Google Women TechMakers and Women in Tech Africa (WiTA). Her passion is in seeing more women breaking barriers in the IT industry.
Why did you get into STEM?
I have a curious mind and so when I was growing up, I had hoped that the career I get into would fulfil this need and create a difference in society. I am glad that my career in STEM helps me achieve this by changing the way people work and live. I love the way technology has revolutionized our lives through the different life-changing mobile applications. It is all about solving problems by creating solutions and thereby bettering the society. The beauty of it all is that you can never run out of ideas and you can be as wildly creative as you wish. The mind is always on the lookout for the next best solution to offer the society.
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
My greatest achievement has been turning my dream into reality by founding a fully-fledged IT Service Management consultancy firm. There is a need in the market for such types of firms and I am glad to be a pioneer in that area. One of the visions of Panda Consulting Kenya is to offer assistance in career counselling and guidance and more specifically a job shadowing kind of prototype for female students pursuing STEM careers. This goes hand in hand with my passion for women mentorship and empowerment as this will give the female students exposure to the day-to-day work life and adequately prepare them for the real world.
Another greatest achievement was being nominated in the top 100 for the Afrika Kommt! Initiative programme. This was after a rigorous vetting of over 6,000 applicants from Sub-Saharan Africa for the year 2018-2020. Afrika Kommt is an initiative that was set-up in 2008 by leading DAX-listed enterprises and large family-run companies in Germany. The main idea behind the initiative is to provide young African managers from Sub-Saharan African countries with training opportunities. In this way, companies invest in expanding their cooperation with African countries and provide a framework for sustainable economic cooperation with Africa.
Even though I did not make it as a finalist, it was a great honour to be the only Kenyan in my fellowship placement category. I got to interact with brilliant minds and professionals from across Sub-Saharan Africa as well as connect and create networks.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
The shortage of female mentors has been quite a challenge. People like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are regularly talked about and idolized, yet there are fewer women in the spotlight. This is changing through the numerous #womenintech awareness programmes but we still need to do more.
Another challenge is the stereotypes that exist stating that STEM is a masculine field. Upbringing and background play a key role in discouraging women instead of nurturing the talent. It is because of such deep-rooted stereotypes that you find women being judged more on performance rather than potential.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
Dare to dream and then go for it with everything you’ve got. When mistakes and failures happen along the way, as they will, learn to pick up the pieces and swiftly move on. There is no male or female brain when it comes to getting into the STEM field.
Do not shy away from opportunities. As Richard Branson once said, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes; then learn how to do it later!