Topyster Muga

Head of Airtel Money, Kenya

Celebrate Life

I was born in Mumias, a town in Western Kenya where I went to Mumias Central Primary School and then Alliance Girls High School. I did my undergraduate Degree Bachelor of Science in IT at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. I have done professional Courses at Strathmore University and won the Nelson Mandela scholarship award to undertake MBA at INSEAD Business School

Early influencers

My mother was my earliest influencer. She worked hard, long hours, never tiring to make sure we had school fees, wore Deacons clothes and had a good meal.

My Journey

I developed a liking for technology due its dynamism and perpetual opportunities for innovation. I started out as a systems support staff at Barclays Kenya in 2003, then moved to Uganda. During a church retreat, a friend told me of a programming job to develop a network budgeting tool for the then Chief Technology Officer at Airtel, I applied and got the job. I joined Airtel (then Celtel) as a programmer in 2005, rose through the ranks handling different roles until 2011 when I left for my MBA in France. At the end of 2014 I returned to Kenya to grow Airtel Money.

On mentorship

My women mentor and former boss – Lucille Aveva, the former Airtel Kenya Customer Service Director. She guided me on how to maneuver a male dominated industry when I became the youngest female IT manager at the age of 26. Claire Alexander – head of commercial and strategy at a company I worked for after MBA was extremely meticulous, very refined and professional in her approach. From a distance Sheryl Sandberg in her career journey in technology both at Google and Facebook.

My mentors have guided me on key turning points in my career. What academic courses to go for, what skills to develop, who to talk to etc. Also Airtel believed in my capabilities, provided opportunities to use my knowledge, skills and enabled me pursue by dreams.

Advice to Women

Life is not a rehearsal. Live each day like it’s the last. Take the time to discover your strengths and be more self-aware and play to your strengths.

To mothers I would say, ‘just go for it’. It is possible to achieve all you want. Trust yourself, test your limits, that’s the courage to succeed.