Graduate Spotlight: Paul Mariwa – Grown-ish


What an old man can see sitting down, a child cannot see standing up.

If you’re African, this is likely a proverb you’ve heard before. As a group of people, we place a premium on the wisdom that comes with age and experience. We value the guidance of those who have come before us, even as we chart our own paths. And as we get older, we appreciate this wisdom all the more.

This may seem like a random way to start a story, but it is exactly how Paul’s story began. As a child, he found he had a natural affinity for gadgets – taking apart this and fixing that. His father, from his perch of wisdom and foresight, saw this and gently nudged Paul into the study of IT. When I say, gently nudged, I mean it in the African father’s way – so really more of a directive. “Technology is the future of everything,” he would say. Paul, however, felt his heart calling him towards business.

That is how Paul Mariwa found himself, over 400km away from his home town of Mombasa, in Strathmore University. Determined to merge his father’s vision with his own passion, he enrolled for a diploma in Business and IT. For anyone who knows about DBIT, you know it’s not an easy undertaking. A mix of both business and tech, and a precursor to the four-year undergraduate degree; BBIT, it takes grit to complete. But hearing Paul talk about it, it’s clear that his initial year in DBIT and the consequent three years as a BBIT student were a collective four-year stint that he thoroughly enjoyed.

Know who you are, where you’re coming from and where you’re going. 

Right off the bat, Paul remembers the culture shock him and his friends experienced coming into university. Alumni of his secondary school had filled the halls of Strathmore and they all hung out, feeling grown up. Or at least grown-ish. As we all do, they came in with preconceived notions about what the university experience would be like. One that stood out to Paul was that the dressing was not as official as he had originally anticipated. Where he had thought dress pants, he saw khakis and button ups were replaced by polo shirts. With relief, he found that the dress code would be one of the most manageable elements of the next four years.

As he lived and studied in Nairobi, Paul quickly learnt his way around sheng; the part English, part Kiswahili, and wholly unique language spoken by some of his peers, as well as the vibrant culture of the youth in Nairobi. He made new friends among people he’d never expected to even interact with, let alone befriend, and learnt how to interact with people from all sorts of backgrounds. And, from day one he interacted with amazing lecturers whose words he carried with him all the four years.

His explorative and outgoing nature pushed him far beyond classroom learning. In his wanderings around the Students’ Centre, he came across iLab and iBiz Africa, nestled in the upper floors of the building. In the course of the four years, he had the opportunity to work with the incubation center as an apprentice alongside the times he represented Strathmore as part of the chorale. And in his discoveries, he found his favorite chill spot – Kilimanjaro Cafeteria – at the rooftop, overlooking the entire Madaraka area.

Charismatic, open and affable, he became well known on campus. In fact, he says, he likely could have run for student council and won. He opted, however, to take a behind-the-scenes approach to student politics. If you were endorsed and recommended by Paul Mariwa, it would certainly improve your chances of winning. In time, he joined the Public Relations senate of the 14th Student Council. One to always take up opportunities, Paul worked hand in hand with the administration team at the Strathmore Institute of Management and Technology (SI) as a student representative in marketing.

As every story goes, Paul’s had its fair share of bumps and bruises. The pages of his journey are earmarked with loss. In the four years, he lost friends as dear to him as his own two sisters, his grandmother, and an uncle, who passed away right before his exams. His journey to the finish line has been hard fought, and won with the support of his mom and dad, siblings and friends and the Strathmore community of teachers, mentors and peers. As it comes to an end, he looks back with a sense of accomplishment.

While he awaits graduation, Paul is throwing his energy into getting things set up. At the moment, he is running a TikTok page and upcoming YouTube channel where he talks about life and shares his enthusiasm for cars, and let me tell you, he is very enthusiastic! To bring this story full circle (but not a close), Paul is now looking towards the future, finding his footing and bringing his mix of tech and entrepreneurship to life. It seems to me that his father was more right than even he could have known.

This article was written by Celia Kinuthia.

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