Kenya’s Raynah Kamau has been named among the Top 40 under 40 geospatial professionals by XYHT. The list is a collection of profiles of motivated and noteworthy geospatial professionals under 40 years of age.
XYHT is a popular magazine for geospatial professionals
In recognition of Ms. Kamau, the magazine noted the following:
“WITH ABOUT 40% OF THE GLOBAL MARKET FOR GIS SOFT- WARE, Esri serves hundreds of thousands of customers—at all levels of skill and experience—who put pressure on technical support specialists. These specialists are the unsung heroes who often make the difference between your project’s success and failure. Chances are that the specialist on the other end of the support ticket has a wealth of education and experience, just like Raynah Kamau.
Earning her degree in geomatics and GIS from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya, Raynah served as a surveying intern for several private firms, then as a GIS intern for the Ministry of Finance—where she worked on a project to map various dis- tricts and their respective stimulus projects to enhance transparency and accountability in the use of public funds. She then took an internship and the positions of web-mapping developer and GIS analyst for Esri (Eastern Africa). Raynah later traveled to Redlands, California, to earn her MS and joined Esri as a support analyst.”
The journey for Raynah from Kenya to America forms a unique yet inspiring story. African Warrior Magazine talked to Raynah and this is what she had to say:
“Coming up from a very humble background and a family of 6, the United States sounded more like the name of a movie or the land where only the chosen few would go. With that in mind, I never thought that I would ever board a plane to anywhere, but Mombasa.
While in my second year of Geomatic Engineering at Jomo Kenyatta University, this mzungu (White) lady came to our school for a conference and her presentation about using technology to conserve our environment blew me away. I knew I had to speak to her as she had touched a raw nerve in me! I waited, patiently so, for her to finish addressing all the questions fielded by other students and faculty. That must have been the longest wait of my life back then. I was so nervous as I did not know how the best way to approach her. When it was finally my turn, I first complimented her great presentation. I then let her know that I had a soft spot for GIS and would like to explore the same in my future career.
She thanked me for my ambition, gave me her business card and requested that I send her an email in the near future. I was so excited! I was giddy! I ran to a cyber café outside the campus, paid KES 15 (browsing fees-Ha!) so that I could send my new network an email! As you would imagine I did not hear back from her. Two weeks later, I decided to send her another email and that went unanswered as well. As days turned into weeks and weeks to months, my hope for ever getting a response dwindled and eventually I gave up.
Fast forward, 2 years later and I am in fourth year of my studies. I remember vividly that Friday afternoon in the library where we could access the internet for free. I checked my email. She had finally written back to me. She informed me about an internship opportunity with Esri and asked me to apply for it. I was elated.
My parents were at first skeptical about the whole thing. I don’t blame them! Here was a random mzungu lady talking about an internship in the United States, at a globally recognized company? That must be a joke. Right! After verifying that this was legit invitation, 2 months later I was on my way to America.
The first thing I noticed when I landed at the Los Angeles Airport (LAX) was how much bigger everyone else was! Everyone was also walking very fast. No one could understand my English and the guy meant to pick me up had the name all wrong. Everything looked so different!
I settled in at the company interns’ apartment and completed my 6 months of internship. The experience was like no other. I learnt so much, took so many pictures to show family and friends and also did my fair share of traveling. After the 6 months I went back to Kenya, graduated with a Geomatic Engineering degree and got a with the ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Within a year or so, I was surprised to receive another email from the same lady who had helped me with the internship. This time the news was that I could pursue a graduate degree in the same field-in California!!
I relayed the good news to my parents and I remember that was the first time I saw a tear in my dad’s eye. After all the logistics and planning, I traveled to California where I did my Masters of Science in IT/GIS and later received a MBA. I wake up every day not thinking I am lucky but very blessed.”