Lucy Mutinda: Every opportunity is a chance for professional upskilling

Lucy Wanjiku Mutinda

Lucy Wanjiku Mutinda

Photo credit: Pool

Lucy Wanjiku Mutinda wears many hats. She is a hands-on mechanical engineer specialising in onsite waste water treatment and recycling; founder & CEO of Ecocycle Ltd; the first vice president of the Institution of Engineers of Kenya; 2021 Top 50 Africa Business Heroes, Ali Baba Foundation; 2021 Allianz Scholar & Fellow for MBA (Analytics, Innovation & Leadership) at the European School of Management & Technology, Berlin; 2019 Invest2Impact Award Winner on Climate Change Action & Environmental Protection; 2019 Environmental Conservation Champion Finalist DIAR Awards; Top 40 under 40 Women in Kenya, 2018, Business Daily Newspaper. Further, Eng. Lucy is a wife and mother of two.

She shares her career path with the Sunday Nation:

Tell us about your childhood and educational background.

I grew up in Mutheheni location, Machakos county. Village and countryside life is my kind of stuff. I went to Kaliambeu Primary School and Makutano Boarding School and later Muthetheni Girls High school, all within my locality.

I then proceeded to Moi University to study Mechanical Engineering, then known as Production Engineering. Upon graduation, I worked in the automotive industry for three years and got a full German scholarship through GIZ for the Afrika Kommt programme on leadership and management training for one year in Germany.

I have since taken more short-term trainings in the US and Sweden to sharpen my skills. Currently, I'm studying for an MBA (Analytics, Innovation and Leadership) at European School of Management & Technology (ESMT) Berlin, through an Allianz group Full scholarship.

Share with us your career journey.

Immediately upon leaving campus I joined DT Dobie as spare parts technical sales intern. After four I was hired by Toyota Kenya as a service advisor. The job was a baptism by fire for me since it required grasping customer service and management skills.

Apparently, when everyone checks in their cars for service they want them out immediately, yet car diagnosis, service and repairs can take quite some time. I quickly learnt that in addition to my technical engineering background, I needed to work on my soft skills to deliver in the workshop

I later moved on General Motors East Africa as a process engineer overseeing the car assembly line, quality control and managing a large team of technicians. But I unfulfilled with routine production line activities, and so I shifted interest to technical sales of Autodesk software at Gath Management Limited, where I discovered my potential and prowess in business development and technical sales.

It is while at Gath that I secured the German scholarship and relocated to Germany for one year and one month. While in Germany I discovered the waste water recycling technology to protect the environment from sewer pollution. By the time I returned to Kenya, I had developed an interest in this area, which is part of environmental engineering.

I was employed as a projects engineer for a period of four years overseeing design, installation, servicing and maintenance of Onsite waste water recycling systems. In 2014 I moved on to establish my own firm, Ecocycle Limited. I partnered with a German manufacturer to design, supply, install and maintain onsite waste water recycling systems, which is what I am fully engaged in to date.

I am currently the CEO and engineering director at Ecocycle Limited. My role and scope entails being the lead engineer & technical expert, overseeing designs, installation, service and maintenance, ensuring legal compliance, company mission execution, policy and planning, business development, management and administration, financial management, developing company policies, project management  and implementation, staffing & training, human resources affairs, technical Business development, marketing & sales management, leadership and reporting to board of directors.

What are the fondest memories of your career journey thus far?

When I took up technical sales of Autodesk software and raised the monthly sales fivefold I discovered my potential in technical sales. It was a dream come true for me when I was granted a full scholarship at the age of 28 years to hone my skills in Germany on leaders and management as well as project management. But my greatest career achievement was taking the bold step of establishing Ecocycle Limited in 2014.

What has been a key driver of your growth?

I put God first in everything I do, praying about everything and being thankful for every little thing. I also follow my dreams and ambitions with persistence and determination. Ambitions do come to fruition. Integrity and being ethical have been the foundation of my career trajectory, because when one is driven by doing the right thing, the amount of confidence it builds while one is pursuing their dreams is amazing.

I also like to mentor and develop teams around me as one cannot do it alone. I find great satisfaction in delegating task to people that I have trained and seeing them delivering excellently. By transferring knowledge and developing others professionally and socially, we achieve more together.

I keep off procrastination and do proper planning and optimal time management to ensure I tackle issues as they come up to closure. I write everything I need to do in a notebook every morning, faithfully like a child, grouped in different dockets of the business, and as the day progresses I tick off what I have completed. Anything pending is transferred to the next day’s list of tasks to do until it is closed.

I'm keen on open and honest communication. I am not bogged down by stereotypes or mob mentality. I pursue what I believe in of course with guidance from mentors. I also make time everyday to exercise and relax my mind. 
Who are some of the people who've been useful in your career growth?

My mother, a retired teacher, has been a strong pillar guiding me through everything, encouraging and reassuring me that I can be anything I want to be. She also influenced my care for the environment. Despite living in a semiarid area in Machakos, our homestead has always been filled with lots of trees.

My husband has been extremely supportive and allows me the space to prosper. 

I have also had mentors who believe in my abilities and keep guiding me, pointing out opportunities and encouraging me to grow. While I only got to have 12 years with my late father, a doctor, he greatly inspired and instilled ambitiousness in me. I also learnt from him the virtue of kindness, helpfulness and giving back to the society. He was a man with a big heart. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of in life?

Being a family woman, founding a company, mentoring and philanthropy.

Key decisions you might have taken along your career journey?

Quitting jobs without a second thought when I felt I needed greater challenges, relocating to a foreign country at a young age for further training and quitting employment to start my own company with very little capital.

What would you advise the youth in Kenya today?

There is no wasted opportunity. Every opportunity is a chance to develop skills, showcase your skills and use it to influence change, innovation, growth and ambitions. The youth should be bold enough to take on leadership and be part of the solution. Entrepreneurship and self-employment is also a worthwhile pursuit to be able to offer solutions to prevailing problems and challenges.

If there was one thing you could change about your past, what would that be?

Nothing. The unfolding of my life chapters has been awesome and I wouldn’t trade it for an alternative.

What do you do for fun?

Listening to music, dancing, travelling, outdoor activities, therapy shopping, cooking and trying out interesting new recipes. 

Future plans?

To register as an engineering consultant, being a board member in relevant organizations where I can influence policy towards prosperity in our country as well as set up a foundation with philanthropy around mentorship and environmental conservation.