She is an engineer by passion, not by training. Wangechi Kamau, CEO Classic Steel Engineering is not your typical company founder and owner…
She is Layed back and at the same time hands on. She clads rubber shoes…and you can see her walking from corner to corner assessing ongoing projects, giving instructions, motivating the labourers and making calls to cater for her clients’ needs. It’s a busy day, but she has a few minutes for an interview.
The steel industry across Kenya is largely run by the male gender, not only in management but also in the manufacturing area. But 32year old Wangechi Kamau is fully immersed in this male dominated industry despite its challenges.
Her journey began 8 years ago when she began working in a steel manufacturing company in Nairobi as a sales person. Today, she spearheads a large manufacturing plant that produces a range of equipment in food processing, Bakery, Cooking, Commercial refrigeration, stainless steel fabrication, Servery equipment and staircase railings and balcony railings.
From the simple sink in your kitchen to the large Island kitchen in high end hotels, to kitchen equipment in schools, hospitals and refrigeration facilities in butcheries, medical centres, among other domestic and commercial equipment, Classic Steel Engineering is the go to company.
Wangechi Kamau’s climb to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) position has been through sweat, blood and tears. Starting with an Ksh 8,000 monthly salary, Wangechi was inspired to get into the steel industry as she went up positions. Though she admits it was through ‘baptism by fire’ climbing up the hierarchies, she says intimidation and harassment did not faze her… She knew she was made for this industry not through her training but the passion she hard.
“Nothing comes easy, My position today has a trail of stories and they add up to where am seated today. I don’t give up. I learnt the ropes of the business by seeing, listening and being curious beyond the roles given to me by my former bosses.” Says Wangeci Kamau
Wangechi began as a front office assistant to a sales personnel and finally a personal assistant in one of the largest steel manufacturing company. she says she would receive calls from clients placing enquiries, and she would diligently serve them as though it were her own firm.
With time, she became inquisitive of the manufacturing process. Today, Wangechi through her company Classic Steel Engineering, is able to deliver products in small and large scale across Kenya.
The company works with clients from design level. The team of technicians go to site for surveillance and measurements or the client could choose to share drawing of the idea. Each detail of the equipment is largely dependent on the clients preference, combined with the plant’s expertise. The company then cuts, bends, welds and polishes equipment to satisfaction, and fits it on the ground. CSE deals in mild and stainless steel.
“I would attentively listen to other CEOs during official meetings, calls and even forums, secretly taking notes of how I would run my own company. My vision was beyond the girl at the front desk, receiving calls and making tea for my seniors.”
Manufacturing is key among the Big 4 Agenda in the reigning government with prospects to grow exports by 20% annually and a target of providing 50,000 new jobs by 2022. Wangechi Kamau is among Kenyans highly contributing to this agenda by providing employment, locally manufactured goods and community development.
CEO, Classic Steel Engineering, Wangechi Kamau challenges the young people to step up from being lazy employees who expect to grow without putting in work. “Growth has to start from you, there is no gain without effort and aggressiveness. Even as a company head, I do not sit down and watch, I am still very active in the field. The other secret to success that people often dismiss is prayer. I am very prayerful, God is the pillar of all my success.” Concludes Ms Wangechi