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Angela Wamola: From 'E' student to top engineer

EVE WOMAN
By SYLVIA WAKHISI | September 28th 2013

By SYLVIA WAKHISI

There is more to Angela Wamola than just her striking beauty, and an afternoon chat with her at her residence reveals that good looks and wits do go hand in hand.

Angela, 38, is currently the Head of Strategy and Planning at Safaricom, one of the leading integrated communications companies in Africa and a specialist engineer who is giving men a run for their money. She is proof that women too, have what it takes to be engineers.

With a keen interest in technology, she has spent more than a decade in the engineering field within the telecommunications industry.

The journey though hasn’t been all rosy. Born and brought up in Nairobi, Angela describes herself as a ‘black sheep’ in her family education wise.

“I was a typical ‘E’ student when it came to performance. Subjects such as Math and Physics were my worst. I struggled a lot in school,” she says.

New turn

In Form Three, Angela says, her life took a different turn. She recalls they were given forms to fill in the courses they wished to pursue in university after high school.

“It triggered me and I asked myself what did I want to become? It was one of the hardest moments I had to go through in my life,” she says.

“I recalled that I had an uncle who was an engineer and to me, that sounded something cool. I chose that though I didn’t have an idea what it was all about,” she adds.

After high school, she joined the University of Nairobi where her Civil Engineering career took off.

“The first year at university proved to be crazy with intense classes running from 8am to 5pm. I envied some of my friends who were pursuing courses such as Bachelor of Arts, since they had a lot of free time. For the first two weeks, I struggled with thoughts of changing my course,” she says. “It was hard tackling pure Mathematics and Physics, and I felt like giving up.”

They were only six women in their class while the rest were men, which made it even more discouraging.

 “At some point, I sobered up and realised I made it to campus even though I was an ‘E’ student. I decided to work hard and focus all my attention to my degree. From then henceforth, I soldered on,” she recalls.

Determination

 Angela says her determination and fresh attitude towards her career compelled her to work harder.

“It was amazing that things seemed even easier than they were when I got into third year. From what I went through, I learnt that attitude could make or destroy you,” she says.

After five years of hard work and toil, in 1999, Angela graduated with a second upper class honours degree in Civil Engineering.

Though her passion was to be a roads engineer, she decided to venture into IT-related stuff due to limited opportunities in the sector. She joined Computech where she launched her technology career.

In February 2011, she joined Safaricom and has grown from just a graduate, to one of the few respected women engineers in the country.

“When you are young and wiser, you are open to greater opportunities,” she says.

Within four years at Safaricom, Angela had risen from one rank to another.

“When I joined Safaricom, I first did a lot of IT support work, which involved lifting and carrying heavy desktops and at some point, some male colleagues pitied me and would want to help me,” she recalls.

She was then promoted to head the core network planning and support department within the technology division, becoming the first most senior woman in the division’s leadership team. Here, she served for three years before taking on her new and current role last year, as the head of strategy and planning within the technology division. 

Design and support

She has been responsible for the design and support of the entire Safaricom core network, for voice (Circuit Switched and Access network), mobile Internet data (Packet Switched network) services, the Safaricom national backbone TDM and IP transmission, Space and Power planning and Enterprise solutions.

“I started seeing engineering more as a tool, which allows me to think about solving problems and not necessarily just to build roads or houses. Combined with the IT knowledge, it has allowed me to grow even more,” she says.

With a demanding work schedule and a family to take care of, Angela says she has had to balance her time wisely.

“In the corporate world, it is a tight rat race and it can be hectic on some days, but I try to balance my life. My typical day starts at 6am and ends at around midnight. By 7am, I walk my children to school before going to the office. I love walking to work, though when the day is so busy, I use my car,” she says.

In addressing the challenges faced in growing women talent in the technology domain in Kenya, Angela with other women at Safaricom, have embarked on a journey towards creating awareness on the opportunities for women in the field and empowering girls in the society through participation in mentorship programmes.

“I am a woman aspiring to grow higher and it is my hope that other women can do the same. Don’t see yourself as a minor. See yourself as someone of great value. Define yourself and don’t let someone define you. I am happy with what I do and the value I add in our society and I have learnt not to let people define me,” she says.

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