I first connected with Mburu when he applied for a position posted on ReRouting. When viewing his profile, I was inspired to see that at such a young age he has accomplished so much.
In 2016 Mburu completed his BSc in Dryland Agriculture, Sustainable Agriculture, and Enterprise Development from Kenyatta University in Kenya, Africa. He has a passion for Agribusiness which led Mburu to co-found ConviFarm in 2015 through an incubation program via the Waterloo- Strathmore Mobile Technology Challenge. In August 2018 Mburu moved to Waterloo, Ontario to begin a Master’s Degree after being awarded with a scholarship provided by Mastercard.
Mburu is an aspiring young talent with interest in the Internet of Things (IOT), Product Research, and Digital Marketing. Join ReRouting in learning more about Mburu, his journey, and career aspirations through this informal interview.
Tell me about your first job. What was your job title and what were your responsibilities? What were the transferable skills that you learned that you think have helped you excel?
“Well, my very first paid job was when I was 17. I was just done with high school and had about 8 months before starting university. There was a school upcountry and I was friends with the managers. They asked me to do some bookkeeping for them. The school had been running for four years – but had never analyzed it’s cash flow. Long story short, there were huge discrepancies that were discovered and the management took action to turn the school’s accounting practices around. While working in this position, I learned the importance of using data in making managerial decisions.”
Tell me about your inspiration around Agribusiness and what contributions you have made to the industry.
“I grew up on a farm back home and went on to pursue an undergraduate degree in Dry Land Agriculture and Enterprise Development. Africa in general faces lots of challenges pertaining to food security. Without food security, it’s very hard for communities to develop. One of the ways to spur food security, as I learned during my coursework, is to apply research and adopt new technologies. This remains a challenge for many African agricultural communities yet applying this research will do them a lot of good. I made an application dubbed ConviFarm which is kind of a “Google Maps” that works on non-smart phones to enable farmers to identify demo plots where research and new technologies were being applied in their areas.
This was in my second year of university and it was very hard supporting my startup which has slowed down since then.
However, I moved on to serve as a product developer for Usomi as a technical services provider. This includes a decision support platform for farmers as well as a last mile input fulfillment platform. My roles included, prototyping, user experience mapping, customer onboarding, and representing the company at various events. Usomi was fortunate to bag a contract that will see the platform evaluate the performance of up to 61 million chickens being distributed in East and West Africa. Which I think is a great way of putting ag research into practice. I was in this role until I moved to Waterloo, Ontario.
I have also done private papers digging into the role of ICT in agriculture across Africa and have been fortunate to present it at two conferences to date.”
In 2018 you started the Masters in Business Entrepreneurship and Technology program at the University of Waterloo. Tell me a bit about the program, your expected date of graduation, and what you hope to learn and accomplish through your studies.
“The MBET program at Waterloo is one of a kind. There are students from all corners of the world who have experience running different ventures. Unlike an MBA program, no one is competing with the other so people are very free in sharing information and expanding on each other’s ideas. The program is well rounded and covers material ranging from leadership, accounting, marketing, strategy, and idea validation in a very practical manner. For example, learning accounting using financial statements of real operating companies as opposed to the traditional text book method. So I am learning a lot of skills that I can apply in my own venture one day. Upon the completion of the program, add-ons include completing the educational requirements for Certified Management Consulting (CMC) as well as a Sales Certificate. When I complete my studies in fall 2019, I will be looking for full-time employment. One day in the future, I hope to set up my own ventures here in Canada as well as back in Africa.”
Are you currently looking for a part-time job or internship while working on your Master’s Degree? If so, what type of position and within what industry?
“I am currently looking for a part-time job. I’m mostly interested in tech-related fields such as Ag-tech, wearable tech, Internet of things (IOT) – but I am not limiting my options and I am open to anything that can put my management consulting skills to use. I am open to working in various positions – but I am keen on those related to product research or digital marketing.”
What skills do you have to offer employers?
“I offer analytical skills, digital marketing strategy – specifically Search Engine Optimization and App Store Optimization, prototyping, and UX research. I also have excellent verbal and written communication skills.”
Now as a Masters student who has an undergraduate degree, what words of advice (regarding education and career choices) can you give to first year students who are just beginning on their paths?
“Most students don’t really figure things out until they get to their senior years. So it’s okay to feel lost and unsettled. A good way to find your bearings is to take courses that are aligned with how you perform in various subjects. It’s also important to expose yourself to as many fields as possible in your junior years. That way, you can narrow down to what fields you enjoy by the time you are halfway through your undergrad program.
A good way to keep your classroom education interesting is by applying what you learn outside class. (This will keep you excited throughout your degree).
Lastly, do fun stuff with your college mates, it’s possibly the best chance you’ll get to really socialize. And… remember, the nerds mostly end up with the good jobs after school. So be nice to everyone.”