Charles Murito – Google Kenya country manager. PHOTO| COURTESY
My mother taught me about the importance of ambition
What does your job as Google’s country manager and Google Telco Strategic Partnership Lead in Africa entail?
As country manager, my role is to represent Google’s interests in Kenya and to ensure that we grow the digital skills of Kenyans through training. We pledged to train one million Africans, of which 100,000 would be from Kenya and so far, we are at more than 200,000 (in Kenya). I also lead the team that focuses in growing our revenues in Kenya. My second role is to ensure we partner with telcos across Africa to make access affordable, drive awareness of the value of the internet as a net contributor to economic growth and grow the use of Google’s products such as Search and YouTube to both existing and new internet users.
Where have you previously worked?
I was the managing director of Wananchi Programming (Zuku) for a short period in October 2013 when I moved back home. Prior to that, I spent most of my career at Time Warner’s content divisions (Turner Broadcasting, which owns CNN, Cartoon Network, Boomerang among others, as their head of strategy for Middle East & Africa. I also held various roles at Warner Bros. both in the UK & US). I was also part of the team that launched MTV Base in Africa in 2006/2007.
What character traits have propelled you to this level?
Passion, perseverance, humility and hard work have helped me achieve success. Passion is important because it gives you a laser focus on what you want to achieve. Perseverance and hard work are somewhat related in my view. They are critical because you will fail many times in life. However, if you stay driven and persevere through those challenges and failure (and learn from your failures), you will eventually achieve what you want. Humility binds all these values together.
What is your advice to young people who have just graduated and are embarking on job searches?
My mother taught me about the importance of ambition; that I should set myself a big enough ambition which would be the guiding star to what I wanted to achieve. However much luck plays into your success, you have to prepare yourself to take advantage of that luck. I therefore work very hard to build up the technical knowledge that gives me the ability to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. If you are not technically prepared to do things, then you cannot grow within an organisation, either yours or in employment. Always learn new skills and never stop learning. Your attitude makes people choose to either want to be with you or alienate themselves from you. With every bit of success, I continue to be humble and recognise that it is not just my hard work or abilities that have gotten me to where I am.
What’s your take on the technological landscape in Kenya?
Kenya is buzzing with many activities and events like start-up weekends, innovations meet-ups, accelerators and incubator events. It is great to see investors put their faith in start-ups in Kenya like Sendy and BitPesa. I am pleased with startups that we are mentoring as Google, which have cool apps on Google Play like ManyattaRent (a startup based in Kenya that enables tenants to pay their rent through USSD, SMS, WhatsApp Bot or Telegram Bot) and Bitsoko (an Android mobile wallet that implements Blockchain technology in a bid to both remove the cost of transferring money between two individuals and to increase access to payment services.
Are there career decisions that you regret? What are the lessons that you learnt?
I have made a conscious effort to learn key skills and lessons from every role that I have held. This includes the relationships that I have built over that time. I therefore do not have any regrets.
What is the wisest investment you have ever made?
Personal development in the form of my MBA. Back then, I had to struggle to pay for it while also juggling a fulltime and a very demanding job. At the time, I was the Head of Strategy and Business Development for Turner Broadcasting and was in the midst of crafting a Middle East strategy which included launching Cartoon Network Arabia channel in Dubai, Cartoon Network Animation Academy and a development studio in Abu Dhabi. I was therefore short on time. However, I knew I had to achieve this, and thankfully I did.
Have you worked with Kenyan youth? What did the experience teach you about their work ethic, discipline and motivation?
Yes. What I have learned is that they are no different from any other youth I have worked with in the US, UK, Middle East and other African countries. You find incredibly driven and motivated people, however, there are also those who want to achieve great things without putting in the hard work required. I would therefore urge everyone reading this to know there is no shortcut to long lasting success. We must work hard to build powerful companies and institutions that create value in the world. When we do that, we will achieve success in our personal capacities as well. This takes strong discipline and ethics.
How do you spend your free time?
Time is one of the rarest commodities that I have due to the nature of my job and the intense travel that it requires. I therefore cherish any free time and spend it with family and friends. I also like to learn new skills. For instance, this December, I have taken up motorcycle riding and I am also learning how to be a good barista.
What is the most fascinating movie that you’ve ever watched?
Having worked in the movie industry where I had to watch movies & TV content for a living, it is hard to refine this to just one film. But my favourite TV series is Suits. It is about a young genius, Mike Ross, who has been dealt both a gift and a curse. His gift is a photographic memory. However, he was cursed with the death of his parents at a young age and had to be raised by his grandmother. He drops out of university but eventually meets a lawyer who mentors him. It’s fascinating because you are always rooting for Mike to succeed.
What is the one book you read that changed your life?
The Alchemist. It is a story by Paulo Coelho about a young shepherd named Santiago who keeps dreaming of treasure. He then embarks on a journey to find this treasure. I love this story because I can relate to it. There is an inspiring line in the book where the old king tells Santiago, “When you really want something to happen, the whole universe will conspire so that your wish comes true.” I would recommend this book to everyone.
– Interview by James Kahongeh
SOURCE: DAILY NATION