Gladys Maina was not always going to be a STEM professional. She had initially pursued a medical laboratory certificate but realized rather quickly that a career in medicine was not meant for her. She quit and travelled 250Kms to Nairobi where her passion for technology started.
She never looked back and has gone ahead to excel in her career and studies. She recognizes the role technology continues to play in transforming lives and societies. Despite Kenya being a resource-constrained developing country, she believes that it offers her the opportunity to use technology to solve social-economic issues. It is for this reason that Gladys continues to seek international experiences that guide her in achieving these goals. In November 2019, she was named a 2020 finalist of the Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship in line with Adobe vision of creating the best products by bringing gender diversity into the technology industry. In 2018, she was one of the four finalists and the only Kenyan nominated in the category of IT Project Management for the 2018 Afrika Kommt! Initiative.
Gladys attributes her continuous success to the training she got at Emerging Leaders Foundation, an organization she came across as she was casually browsing the Internet. ELF helped her rediscover who she really was and her capabilities. She learnt how to align her passions with a successful living. As an aspiring leader, the session on leadership gave her lessons that she carries with her to date. She was taught that leaders have clarity, leaders take care of the company they keep, and leaders give back to the community.
It is for this reason that Gladys has continued to champion for gender diversity and inclusion in the STEM field. In June 2020, she was selected for the 2020-2021 TechWomen program from an incredibly competitive cycle with only 108 women selected to participate. TechWomen brings emerging women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East together with their professional counterparts in the United States for a mentorship and exchange program in the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, DC.
ELF taught her three crucial lessons which she has carries and shares with those around her:
- Never settle for less.
You should keep pursuing your goals and increasing your knowledge no matter what position or title you hold in life.
Steve Jobs said that we should never settle and we should never arrive.
- Be brave and take risks.
“We need to be brave and take risks to achieve our ambitions. We need to lose sight of the shores to discover new oceans. Taking risks means hurdling into the unknown and believing that we will make it to the other side, despite not yet knowing what the other side is going to look like. It is taking bold actions and forcing ourselves into unfamiliar territories.”
- Run your own race
“Sometimes we are tempted to look at others and compare ourselves. We evaluate ourselves by how much our colleagues, teammates, friends, and family members have accomplished forgetting that they are their own unique individual. One thing ELF taught me is that it does not matter when you start the race, what matters is that you eventually finish. Learn as much as you can as there is room at the finish line for all of us.”
Gladys hopes to continue inspiring the next generation of leaders. She believes that she stands on the sacrifices of a million women before her and is always thinking what she can do to make the mountain taller so the women after her can go even further.
“Looking back, joining ELF was the wisest decision that I have made in life.”
By: Gladys Maina, LDP Cohort 5