When Andrew Waititu appeared as a guest Deejay on CapitalFM’s morning show a few weeks ago, most people who know him as the East Africa Managing Director of SAP were surprised that the tech executive could put together a few songs together, let alone keep listeners bopping their heads.
His foray into Deejaying years ago was more of an extension of his love for good music rather than as a means to earn an extra coin but all the same characteristic of a mantra he has lived by – ‘driven by passion’.
“If you are not passionate about what you do, you won’t perform to your level best and it will be hard for you to sustain your efforts,” advises Waititu, who has worked for multinational tech companies in different capacities.
His interest in computers was ignited after his A levels studies at Strathmore School when he held a part-time job at his uncle’s clinic in Nairobi’s CBD.
“He bought a computer and that was the first computer I ever saw. There was this guy who used to come and run an accounting program and I got interested in it,” says Waititu.
The uncle saw Waititu’s interest and sent him to a computer college on Moi Avenue where he would go over lunch time to learn the basics.
“To cut the long story short, I ended up doing a Masters in Computer Science at University of Liverpool then came back to Kenya. My first job was with a local company known as the Kenya Business Machines who were IBM resellers at that time.”
It is at KBM that Waititu transitioned from a techie to management at a relatively young age of 25 years. From installing servers and planning networks, he moved quickly to project management. This was his first experience with managing resources, time and teams to ensure projects were implemented in accordance to best standards.
“A lot of learning came at this time. Not just in terms of dealing with people but more importantly to see that client’s got return on their investment within a certain time.”
“We had big clients at the time and one of the biggest projects I managed was Panafrican Insurance which involved an overhaul of their IT system; from networks, new computers and systems. I was young and inexperienced, so it was a steep learning curve for me but nevertheless critical for my career,” adds Waititu.
Waititu left KBM in 1998 and teamed up with a friend to start a company that provided small and medium companies with software and hardware solutions. Two years later, IBM knocked on his door with a job offer.
“I considered the position and seeing that our company was stable and I needed a new challenge, I took the position.”
Waititu left IBM for Microsoft when he was again head-hunted by a friend and offered a position. He stayed at Microsoft for 10 years, half of which based in South Africa in several capacities before his last position at as Business Manager in the Middle East Africa office.
It was while he was in South Africa that SAP approached him and asked him if he would take the lead position for their business in Kenya and the region.
Credit to mentors
Waititu acknowledges the influence mentors have had in his professional career.
“I had good mentors including my first employer, KBM CEO Dave Murathe, who we are still good friends. He probably saw my potential that I could do much more with a bit of guidance.”
Waititu is passionate about mentorship, no doubt, and sees this as one of the key pillars in building a successful career. He actively sought and engaged mentors even after leaving KBM.