Maureen Andalia is an Afrika Kommt! fellow at the SAP Headquarters in Germany. She is currently working in the office of the COO-HANA & Analytics, with a focus on business steering. Her work involves driving the adoption and execution of strategy by KPI management like goal planning, workforce strategy, budget preparation and forecasting, headcount management and total cost of ownership control.
Maureen is an alumnus of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology where she took a BSc. Degree in Telecommunications and Information Engineering. She has over 5 years experience working for Huawei Technology Kenya, where she took on roles in project control management, Supply Chain Management, Subcontractor management and finally PO fulfilment team lead in the Digitalization Operation Centre.
She is passionate about topics on Women in Technology and supporting girls to follow their dreams in this path that has so much potential. She is also an avid basketball player, after having been active in the sport for 19 years and accumulated a couple of championships.
She imagines a world where women are not held back to be one full of possibilities and promise.
How did you get into STEM?
I was always good at maths and science so when the time came to choose a university course, it was automatic that I would head that way. I thought of medicine; prestigious enough based on my reading of Think Big by Ben Carson and watching City of Angels, and ER (Famous medical dramas when I was growing up). One trip to the Kenyatta National Hospital and an interaction with blood quickly killed that idea. I settled for Biochemistry.
One and a half years later, having really enjoyed only one out of 28 courses and encountered serious challenges and it was time for some serious introspection. A chat with my very understanding father (understanding as long as I followed a science-based path) and we concluded that Telecommunication Engineering was the next best thing. In his defence, he really did have my best interests at heart.
5 years later and a degree in hand, I only applied to two companies; Safaricom and Huawei. I got into one and I never looked back. Now let me back track a little bit. During my university I took an internship with a fibre optics installation company. The boss, I thought, was the worst person I had ever met. He really pushed me and gave me a hard time. When I ended up acing my course in fiber optics the next semester and while working in a fiber optics installation project at the start of my career, I always looked back and appreciated that internship.
And my journey in STEM keeps growing. Right now, it is in the world of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning).
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
I am currently in Germany taking part in the Afrika Kommt! Program; an initiative by GIZ and the German industry for future leaders from Africa. I consider this a great achievement because of the amount of talent I encountered during the interview process. I had to beat extremely talented fellows to get here. I am now working in The Technology & Innovation Organization, specifically in Operations for the office of the COO, HANA& Analytics in SAP Germany.
While in Kenya, I was part of a group of inspirational women and men that worked together to set up what is now Women in Technology Huawei (WITH). I was proud to have a hand in an initiative that is now ensuring young ladies take an interest in STEM courses and careers, pushing for partnership with more women owned businesses, pushing for equal opportunity employment, involvement in CSR activities among other things. I was glad to work together with Maureen Mwaniki, who is now the head and someone I really admire both professionally and personally.
One major event that WITH was a part of was a mentorship session in conjunction with UNFPA and Safaricom. A platform was provided for girls to share their stories about how they survived FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and early marriages before being rescued by the Samburu Girls Foundation. The lessons I learned made me eternally grateful for my life and so proud to be part of that day.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
- Thinking I was not good enough. I have been in meetings where I felt intimidated and like I did not belong in there because I saw the weird looks (or imagined them) when I entered a room and I was the only woman. First, I made sure I knew what I was doing, and I let my work show. Second, I learned how to wear a serious and confident face, even though the butterflies inside me were the size of fully developed crows. Being in a male dominated field, it was hard to convince managers that women can take on actual Engineering tasks and courses.
- Second, I am learning to keep learning a continuous process and also to ask questions any time I am unsure. This was my motivation for getting into mentorship. I decided that I had to encourage those coming behind me to fight the system by being too good to ignore. Seeing other young women excel in a ‘male sector’ is my biggest source of strength. This tells me that I am not alone, and it gives me strength to keep going.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
- Celebrate your wins; big and small. You do have to be your biggest fan and you need to realise how powerful you are.
- Stay curious. It is easy to relax and be happy because of what we have achieved so far. Truth is, learning is continuous, and we must keep going and growing. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid because you think that people will think you are dumb. Trust me, people are too busy thinking about other problems to be worries about you being dumb. Raise your hand and speak up. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no.
- Allow people to know you. Give people the chance to find out just how awesome you are. You are an example of the excellence that is the female species
- When you have a platform, always pull your sisters up. If we all pull up one girl, that’s one more family that has exponentially improved.
- Never discount yourself.
- Build a network. Your net worth is equal to your network. Build a network of friends, colleagues, mentors…people that will push you, be there for you, pray with you, catch you when you fall, call you out when you make mistakes, give you something to look forward to and open doors on your behalf. In fact, this should be the first point.