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I didn’t let my poor grades hold me back

Achieving Woman
 Lucy Chepkochei (Photo: Courtesy)

Lucy Chepkochei is the capacity development lead at SERVIR Eastern and Southern Africa:

My day starts 5 am with meditation and prayer. At 6 am I get my son ready for school and walk him there. His school is five minutes away from home.

I live close to my workplace so at 7.30 am I’m already in the office and responding to emails. Then I go through my diary and do my capacity building activities.

My day usually ends with me reading a chapter of a book in the family library.

My role involves designing, implementing and coordinating comprehensive capacity building and training programs.

This is applied in earth observation/remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and geo-information related fields in environmental disciplines.

Important to SERVIR/RCMRD is diversity and inclusion and so my role also includes emphasising capacity building for girls and women in this field as a ‚new‘ frontier and building resilience and opening pathways for future leaders and innovators in the field.

It was while studying at Kiptoim Secondary School that my interest in geography grew and I became eager to explore opportunities in geo-information science.

My geography teacher, Mr Eli Nyandiga, was so excellent in his teaching with diagrams, sketches and maps, that I purposed to have such a career in mapping.

My vision has always been to use my knowledge and skills to help in developing geo-information systems and solutions for the purposes of managing resources and boosting economic development.

I scored 390 out of 700 marks in K.C.P.E --about 275 out of 500 in the current system. Yet today I am pursuing a PhD research in Geospatial Engineering at the University of Nairobi.

It wasn’t that I was not bright. I had to be away from school so much because of lack of school fees. I scored a B grade in secondary school and was the first student to get a B grade since the school started.

I could not in my wildest dreams have imagined that in my 40s, I’d be contented, happily married and whole. In my 20s, when life was especially rough and painful, I wrote a letter to God asking for a good education and a good marriage. What surprises me to date is God honoured that exactly as written.



I am a planner. I have planned my life out in periods of 30 years. I then break down the 30-year periods into 10-year chunks, then further into five years, then a year. Over time, I revise the plan accordingly.

That way I’m in control of my life. Just as we do monitoring and evaluation at work, it’s important to have continuous personal evaluation.

I would tell my younger self not to be too hard on herself. Even with my meticulous planning, sometimes things don’t fall into place as desired. I’d also tell my younger self to take my career beyond the borders early on.

I was afraid of working beyond the borders of Kenya. For instance, I worried about leaving my family. It wasn’t until I worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Somalia that I got exposed to the international and regional arena and realised my fears were baseless.

They had modalities in place to support me in terms of spending time with family as well as safety regulations that addressed my safety concerns.

Self-care to me means taking lots of rests and breaks when necessary and having talks with my mentors, especially when I am burnt out.

My PhD supervisor, Prof Faith Karanja at the University of Nairobi, was the first Kenyan woman to get a PhD in geospatial engineering. She guides me on how to handle stress from studies and we also have face-to-face discussions to keep me balanced in work and studies.

I have a very supportive spouse who is also in the same field. He often reminds me that marriage and family should not stop me from achieving my goals.

Last year, I had an eight-month international GIS assignment. I was reluctant to take because I didn‘t want to leave our son. But he encouraged me to go, insisting that we were partners and he could parent too.

Outside work I love spending time with family and friends. I also volunteer in mentoring upcoming women in the geospatial field. I am currently mentoring 11 girls who graduated last from JKUAT with geomatic engineering degrees. 

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