“I knew when I was growing up that I either wanted to be a lawyer, a journalist, or a business person,” – Rebecca Wanjiku told the Business Daily.
Ironically, Rebecca (now 38 years old) is the founder Fireside Group. An engineering infrastructure firm that serves big-time clients like Safaricom and Kenya Power. You see, Wanjiku hails from Kiambu, a part of Kenya that during her teenage years used to plant coffee. Her first source of earning (well, pocket change) was through picking coffee in the farms.
Rebecca was later employed as a journalist, she actually got to become one of the three things she had hoped for during her teen years, and during her career in journalism, she crossed paths with the tech world.
Her career in journalism can be traced to 1997 when during her high school commerce club made a trip to the Kenya Times office. Few weeks after the school trip, she sent a letter to the editor at Kenya Times, convincing him to hire her as a journalist.
Rebecca told the editor in the letter, “I believe I am a born journalist” among other convincing words. Long story short, come November 17th, 1997, that is four days after Rebecca sat for her Kenya national high school examination (KCSE), she got hired by Kenya Times as a journalist.
At the time, the journalism world was a male-dominated field, like many other professional fields at that time. To survive in that field, Rebecca had to develop some thick skin to put up with all the male chauvinism and discrimination against women trying to build their professional career.
Her journalism journey gravitated towards technology, and with time she became a journalist to reckon with within that space. In due course, international news agencies began sorting after her, but that is not when she got her big break.
Rebecca’s big break came during her interview with a senior government official in 2005, where she asked one question that changed her career from tech journalism to tech service provider.
“I asked him, what are the opportunities in tech for people who don’t have a lot of money?” Rebecca asked her interviewee.
The respondent told her, invest in ICT support services, and that was the beginning of everything. That gave Rebecca the bold idea of starting her own ICT support service company, and she turned to all her saving and joined it with some from her mother, and by 2008, she had an ICT support service company, Fireside Group, installing DStv.
Soon, telecom companies began outsourcing some of their work, and Rebecca’s firm was already well positioned to take up some of the contracts. As a matter of fact, Safaricom, the most successful telecom company in Kenya, was among her first clients. Other big-time clients Fireside serves include Kenya Power and Rural Electrification Authority among others.
Although she has faced her fair share of challenges, it will be fair to say she pulled through. Currently, Fireside Group has over 100 employees, owns the building where its headquarters is based; a four-story, 25,000 square-foot building located at Lower Kabete Road in Nairobi.
Rebecca Wanjiku serves as a role model of a businesswoman who is making it in the male-chauvinism-filled waters that is the tech space. She definitely inspires many young females who are thinking of taking that plunge into the tech space waters.