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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14 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.

  2. This is the real you.All the times aiming to excel following up your God given purpose.God will be with you and make a way where there seems to be no way.

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