Another angle of focus for us is highlighting African women in STEM who have taken on entrepreneurial paths. Today, Sheryl shares her journey as a female science innovator;
Hi Sheryl, thank you for joining us today. I read a sample of your story from a post shared by Dr. Musonda. Thanks for inspiring us and the future to come, especially about issues concerning our planet
Hello Winnie, thanks for reaching out. I had a look at the stories posted on your website and I have to say it’s perfectly fine to have my story covered.
Thank you! Briefly introduce yourself to our audience
My name is Sheryl Beryl Kemunto Mboya. I am the Managing Director and Chief Innovation Officer at GreenX Telemechanics Limited, an Eco-friendly technology and innovation developer in Kenya. Our core objective as a company is to develop innovative solutions to challenges mankind faces whilst also contributing to climate action and climate justice. I am also studying law at Mount Kenya University as well as a short course in Computer Science.
Most people pursue STEM for employment. How did you choose to go into entrepreneurship instead? Tell us about your journey as a science innovator
I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya to two amazing parents, as the eldest and only daughter with two younger brothers. To a greater extent, my parents molded me to be the person I am today. My mother, from whom I draw so much inspiration ambition and support, is a civil servant working with the Directorate of Children Services whilst my Dad is an Environmental Scientist.
As I grew up, my mother was particularly keen on ensuring that my brothers and I grew up to be all-rounded. She would encourage us to find purpose in what we loved and to engage in extra-curricular activities such as learning to play guitar, piano, and the recorder. I also modeled, and danced ballet and kizomba growing up. Before finally finding my passion for basketball, tennis, and skating, I had played almost all the games. I played basketball for my high school team (Pangani Girls), serving as an assistant Basket Ball Captain. This was instrumental to me as it enabled me to explore and tap into various activities and it also helped me develop an innovative mental mindset.
My mum introduced me to the children’s assembly, a structure established by the Government of Kenya. This is to provide children with an opportunity to participate in decisions affecting them under the principle of child participation as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, at the age of 8 years. I was unanimously elected the Secretary to the Cabinet and the Speaker of the Kajiado County Children Assembly at 13 years. I learned child protection issues and could assist my fellow children who experienced abuse.
While I was in Grade 5, I learned of the dangers of climate change and developed an interest in championing for the environment. I would ask questions, do supervised online research, and study emerging climatic issues. Consequently, I was appointed head of climate conservation and environment until I finished my primary studies. I recall then till now how I would get pissed off whenever I saw disposable cups. My biggest worry has always been that once you have a glass of water, you would throw the cup away only for you to pick a fresh one that would also be discarded. And where would a majority of these plastics end up? On land and in water bodies.
I began changes at home by discouraging plastic consumption. This didn’t solve the global challenge we are in. That is how my idea of a sustainable alternative to plastics came about.
We all know how hectic business is for a science innovator. What have some of your challenges been so far?
One of the challenges I have and still face is the lack of a more elaborate innovation ecosystem not only in Kenya but in the entire African continent. This includes the availability of a healthy financial, economic and political environment that would in turn boost innovation and inventions in Africa. We are aware that many Kenyans and Africans alike do not get to develop their inventions for mass production. It is hard to go through the prototyping phase because we simply have to do trial and error learning and correcting the mistakes identified. Else, we spend quite an enormous sum of money to pay a firm to do that for you. This is a gap, GreenX Telemechanics is seeking to fill.
The other challenge I have encountered and one that has seen so many innovators and inventors getting discouraged pertains to the theft of brilliant ideas these young minds develop. Many large corporations exploit them and end up taking the hard-earned work of their brains. To address this, I encourage innovators and inventors to exploit Intellectual Property Law to safeguard their intellectual work from any exploitation. I also share my knowledge, experience and contacts acquired to assist them as they apply for Intellectual Property protection.
What motivates you to keep pushing forward even when challenges arise?
I want to pioneer the change towards a stronger African innovation ecosystem. I want more innovators and inventors to see that aside from the tears and sweat, you can develop your innovations and inventions. That the African continent can be able to contain industrial production of brilliant ideas. That we are capable of propelling our beautiful continent to economic dominance and addressing the challenges we have inherited for a better future for coming generations.
Tell us about moments you received appreciation for your work, especially as a science innovator
I have received several local environmentalist recognition and was recently shortlisted for the Top 35 under 35 2021 (Environment Category) Award.
As a children-rights advocate, I have championed against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Early Child Brides. These two scenarios are prominent within the nomadic pastoralist communities of Kenya. My greatest joy and accomplishment was when I contributed to reporting, investigating, and prosecuting a child defiler. Despite being a long way toward halting FGM and early child marriages, I was able, with the assistance and direction of the Kajiado Children Officer at the time, to rescue several girls who would have been exposed to these ills. I also contributed as a stakeholder towards the Children’s Bill 2021 which is awaiting presidential assent.
Let’s talk about what you enjoy doing that’s not related to work
In my free time, I will often be caught either baking, playing basketball, or skating. During this time, I find some alone time to think better about my innovations. When an innovative idea pops up, I note it down on my phone. I then get back to digging deeper once I settle back at my desk.
I also love traveling. In my view, traveling opens a whole new world. It gives me so much exposure by engaging with different cultures and traditions. Finally, I love engaging in charity forums. Be it visiting the children’s cancer ward at a local hospital or participating in a charity rally. Giving back to society gives me purpose. It keeps me working harder as I want to be able to give back even more.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quotes are “The best way to predict the future is to invent it” ~ Alan Kay and “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears” ~ Les Brown
What are your words of encouragement for a young African girl who would like to become a science innovator?
I would like to urge young people to never limit their dreams and ambitions. Feel free to dream as large and as broadly as you can. But also, work extremely hard towards achieving those dreams.
Lastly, as Milton Berle said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”. Life is all about creating that right opportunity instead of just waiting for it to come to you. This applies to all aspects of life because if you keep on waiting then it will take you a while. You need to get up and create those opportunities that will lead to your goals and success. And if in the course of you working towards your goals you happen to fail, get up and dust yourself. Fail, get up, and dust yourself until you finally hit that breakthrough you have been yearning for.
Thank you very much, Sheryl! You have brought a whole new perspective to our coverage. We plan to invite more science innovators to discuss their use of STEM in entrepreneurship. Thank you once again.