You are the average of the five or ten people you spend your time with, so make sure you surround yourself with the right people. Also, keep an open mind and live life abundantly, take advantage of opportunities and remember that the worst thing that can ever happen is for someone to tell you no. Live your life like there are no obstacles to your potential, and remember that limitations only exist in your mind. The Earth will move wherever you tell it to.”
Hi there, what you’ve just read are her sentiments. The name’s Betty. Engineer Betty King’ori, and this is the story of her JKUAT Journey.
On a scale of 0-100, it is fairly accurate to state that Betty has absolutely zero tolerance to mediocrity. She is the kind of a lady that rarely gives second chances, she’s not the ‘I’ll cut you some slack’ kind of a person. You either get it right the first time or you’re out. She doesn’t stomach excuses either. Oh, and her time is precious, so you better attach value to it if you’re lucky enough to get a second. That’s why I don’t take it for granted that we’re having this interview despite being terribly late. And for the record, I’m never late. I hate when people don’t keep time. If you’re kidogo important to me, I may smile and say it’s okay, that I understand your reason for being late, but in my head I’d have killed you ten times over and buried you without ceremony. Which means the rest of the time we’ll be engaging, to me I’ll be talking to a ghost. However, this day is different. I’m late, and my reasons are solid, so Betty understands. I know because her usual smile is present, genuine. Her handshake is firm and her enthusiasm is authentic. And if Betty understands, you can covfefe all you want for all I care.
The day is at its prime when we settle down for the interview. We’re on the 8th floor of the ABC Place, at the KPMG offices where Betty has been working for two months now. Down below, Waiyaki way is busy and on the move, as always. Ever paused and just noticed that everything is always on the move? People, time, animals, cars, friendships, relationships, partnerships, businesses. Something is always moving, changing, re-inventing. Life goes on in spite of your existence, and with it we learn, we change, we redefine ourselves and form identities, personalities, and shape destinies.
When Ms. Betty King’ori joined the University on the September of 2012, she knew it would be a ride of a lifetime. She knew not where the winds would direct the sails, but she was determined to have a say on where the ship would eventually dock. She opines in her own words, “I believe that the experience you have wherever you are is entirely dependent on you. So while some students would choose to perennially complain, I decided to surround myself with people who would guide me towards the things I wanted to achieve.”
And on the 17th November, 2017, when the ship finally docked, it was at her desired destination, for when she stepped ashore, it was with her hat of accolades filled to the brim. In what has been perceived a male-dominated area, Betty graduated top of her class, with a First Class Honors in B.Sc Mechanical Engineering. Not just that, her final year project, done alongside her colleague Susan Njeri, emerged the best at the prestigious annual JKUAT Tech Expo. The ‘Domestic Avocado Oil Extractor’ aims at revolutionizing the avocado fruit farming industry, and Betty does not plan to stop at that point. She’s just getting started.
Have you always wanted to be an Engineer?
Honestly I was a bit biased towards Engineering since my dad is one, an Electrical and Computer Engineer to be precise. I wanted to be like him, and follow exactly in his footsteps, but he recommended I first undergo CISCO training to get the feel of where my interests really aligned. After further exposure, I settled for Civil Engineering, but the Joint Admissions Board had other plans, and I landed in Mechanical Engineering. In retrospect, I think it was a blessing in disguise. Looking back now, I don’t think I would have enjoyed doing anything other than Mechanical Engineering.
Do you plan to practice Engineering your entire professional life?
I will be yes, but my areas of interest are quite diverse so I will be doing much more than just Engineering. I am very passionate about people-centric fields and the aspect of touching communities. I see myself as a solutions provider, and actually that’s what Engineering is all about…the aspect of being creative and providing solutions. It’s the whole concept of ingenuity. So I believe I’m going to be an Engineer for life.
What are your most memorable experience in the University?
Can a strike count? Seriously, I had never seen a strike before so that was pretty memorable. I didn’t participate for the record, but I remember it was that 2014 strike where we had to pay 5200 damage. That was fun to experience. I also had never been to a boarding school before so University was a new nice experience. Being exposed to a lot of different personalities enabled me to learn a lot. And I had a lot of fun, especially with the different clubs I was involved in.
What did it take to get a First Class?
Honestly speaking, a part of me still doesn’t believe I got a First Class. I remember my orientation the first time I came to JKUAT, and the then Chairman of our Department, and current Dean, Dr. Eng. Hiram Ndiritu told us that getting a First Class is not hard, and all someone had to do was make sure you get ten As every year. And that’s exactly what I did.
What would you do differently if the clock took you back in time?
I would have joined the clubs earlier. You see I started being active in clubs at second year heading to third year, and that’s usually a very stressful time in Engineering.
Do you feel uniquely prepared to handle the tasks that lie ahead?
Absolutely yes. The University provides a platform for you to learn a lot. If a student fails to do that, then that’s squarely on him or her. All it takes is the correct attitude and mindset, then utilizing what the University has to offer for your advancement. That has been my story so far.
What drives you?
I hold myself to a certain standard, and that standard is influenced by people I aspire to be like. That pushes me towards a certain threshold. Also, I work towards being better, doing better and accomplishing more than those who have contributed to where I am today. I live to raise the bar higher.
What do you consider your purpose?
I believe that everything I touch can turn to gold, and that is central to my purpose which is being a solutions provider. In whichever setting I am in or capacity, I want to be able to place myself in that environment and provide a unique solution and to basically just add value to whatever space I find myself in.
If you were to advice the first year version of you, what would you tell her?
You are the average of the five or ten people you spend your time with, so make sure you surround yourself with the right people. Also, keep an open mind and live life abundantly, take advantage of opportunities and remember that the worst thing that can ever happen is for someone to tell you no. Live your life like there are no boundaries to your potential, and remember that limitations only exist in your mind. The Earth will move wherever you tell it to.
Tell me about Volunteers4Kenya
Volunteers4Kenya is an organization I set up with three other friends of mine, also from JKUAT. We are passionate about community development, and so we thought of how we could give back, but decided to approach it from a sustainability point of view. Other than just give for instance food stuffs to a school one time, how about set up a greenhouse for them and empower them into food production? Infrastructure and sustainability projects are some of our key areas of focus to build sustainability in children’s homes. This will ensure we have a long-lasting impact.
Final sentiments and greatest take home?
To own my experiences, that I am responsible for the kind of experiences I have wherever I am. I believe if you put a mediocre student with a bad attitude at MIT, they would still not do well. After all a log of wood doesn’t turn into a crocodile simply because it’s in water. The point is, having the right attitude matters a lot. If you put someone with the right attitude in the poorest of circumstances, they would still find a way to add value to themselves and to the space they’re in. Always know that you have to own your experiences. You’re responsible for how your life is. Despite external factors, you have a significant level of control as to the direction your life takes.
You know someone is serious when they use phrases like ‘In retrospect,’ and say crazy things like ‘So I made a decision to get at least 10 As per year…’ Well, you can catch up with her adventures through her social media accounts; @sheebkingori on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook. Congrats Madam Engineer!