From STEM To Marketing – Persis Atukunda Maina

Did you know that you could use your STEM background to transition to any other field and still fit perfectly in? Persis’ STEM to marketing journey is a clear example;

Hi Persis, it’s wonderful to speak with you today. Thank you for joining us for today’s session
Thank you, Winnie. And, I would also like to thank Linda for the recommendation. It was a surprise, to be honest.

Kindly introduce yourself to our audience
My name is Persis Atukunda Maina from Uganda. I am the Co-founder (Strategy and Execution) at Paladin Enterprise Solutions, a digital marketing agency for e-commerce, SAAS, apps, and fintech, specifically breaking out in the East African region.

I am also the Head of Marketing for Pulse Sportech.

Please walk us through your journey into Marketing from STEM
I had an amazing childhood – the last of five children to two amazing and patient people. My mum was a teacher early on and my dad was a trained engineer before they went into business. We had a fun Christian but firm way we were reared. I also spent the majority of that time in boarding school. Discipline and self-management were ingrained in me from the get-go. So I grew up reading, and those principles still live with me to date.

After school, I did have my mind set on becoming an Auditor. However, the creative part of me would have been buried. So I deferred to Statistics as numbers and data were already things I was curious about. While in school, I did two internships, one of which was with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in Uganda. Upon leaving school, I luckily got a job at the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.

A few months there a friend told me about recruitment at a company that was just entering the market and how it was an Amazon-like thing. I jumped in immediately because I was more curious than I had ever been before. By the end of my first year, I had found a new love – Marketing – and people that were willing to support the process for me to learn, test, make mistakes and try again. I worked up to leading marketing for Hellofood then through its transition to Jumia Food.

I was mentored by my then supervisor, Iliana, and went on to lead marketing for Jumia Food in the East African region. The curiosity bug bit again resulting in a project that saw the birth of grocery and alcohol delivery, which we rolled out in other 5 African countries in 2017. By then I had started thinking about specializing when, coincidentally, there was an opening on the performance marketing team and I took it. This led me to cement more technical areas and tools in digital marketing.

I then went on to work with an e-learning company Coderstrust and then with a customer experience SaaS provider, Ajua, in Kenya while concurrently building my Paladin.

We have witnessed you transition from STEM into Marketing; what challenges have you faced along the way?
Early on I was not sure where I would end up or what career I would take. I had no clear direction. One thing I was sure about was that I liked and found it easy to digest numbers, math, data.

Once I put in work under data and statistics as my first career choice, I found that there was a lot more; it was just a base. The question of career direction reared its head again.

How were you able to finally find a solution to this; what inspired you?
At different phases, people have walked into my life and influenced me but my parents and becoming a parent myself have been at the center of it all – a fostering of stewardship.

My husband has always been a steady champion and advisor.

Let’s talk about your prestigious moments of recognition while on your journey
One of my biggest achievements was the action to change careers – this was a big one for me and I am constantly reminded that there is room to be more than a qualification.

During my years at Jumia, I managed a project on grocery and alcohol delivery that went on to be adopted Africa-wide and ultimately became a permanent part of its on-demand arm. There was no manual no steps and it made for an interesting adventure, learning curve, and journey.

I also achieved a lot of my qualifications before 30 – which matched my experience.

Starting my marketing agency to help start-ups, e-commerce, fintech breakout into the East African market.

Getting recognized as one of the top contributing employees over a few years for my ethics, results, and integrity.

What do you enjoy doing outside marketing?
I am a Christian mother, wife, an avid consumer of books (The Who-done-it kinds are a major treat), literature, and I love to run, hike and walk.

I do enjoy spending time with my family, extended and immediate, especially my daughter. She is a constant reminder that I know nothing 😂 while my husband thinks I know enough.

What’s your favorite quote?
Psalms 25:4 Show me the right path O Lord, point out the road for me to follow

Life and every single time we live we are in a series of choices; so I do find comfort in knowing there is God that knows all the right directions and choices

Please give a word of encouragement to a young girl in STEM
STEM is not a confining road to take but rather a gate; a starting point onto which a lot of possibilities are waiting. It is okay to not have things completely figured out but having a strong foundation is a requirement for any tower to stand. STEM is a very strong foundation for a career, innovation, and even entrepreneurship

Thank you for this wonderful time, Persis. I am happy to learn about your unique journey into marketing. May you keep prospering.

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13 Responses

  1. Well done. 👏🏽👏🏽 So proud and encouraged by your story.
    Thank you for sharing your story and showing us that it is possible.

    1. Babirye, you might just win the most-supportive reader award from us. Thanks very much for always being supportive.

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