Catherine Chepkong’a, 31

Financial Controller East African Markets Cluster

British American Tobacco (BAT)

Catherine has more to her name than sifting through financial accounts, internal controls, budgets, audits, and taxes for 15 British American Tobacco markets. The 31-year-old loves being outdoors, and gardening which complements the bookish side that has meteored her career.

“I read widely and never stop learning given education and curiosity are great equalizers in life.”

The first accountancy and finance class at Strathmore University sparked her interest leading her to her success at a very young age.

At just 26, Catherine became the third locally trained chartered accountant in Kenya with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

"I read widely and never stop learning given education and curiosity are great equalizers in life."

Two years later, she had been appointed Head of Finance for BAT Uganda Limited.

And after eight years of steady progression from an intern through several roles, she finally rose to finance controller and has set sights on chief finance officer and general management roles.

“This has been a journey enabled by working for a meritocracy-driven organisation that presents equal career opportunities. My growth has been supported immensely by present and past leaders and colleagues at BAT.”

Catherine wants to broaden her finance and business experience in bigger markets and new geographies.

Further, she has been championing diversity and inclusion for Women in BAT on a larger scale to get more women breaking the glass ceiling.

The MBA graduate from Durham University Business School has taken her success back to Strathmore University where she attained her first degree where she presently mentors several students.

She eventually wants to create a programme that will widen mentorship reach and partner with like-minded professionals who wish to give back to society.

Catherine says she has sacrificed a lot of social time to invest in both career and education but on the positive, she believes this has paid off.

She says for young women to grow through their careers they must always empower, train and recognise teams that deliver results.

“Young girls believe in yourselves and invest in your own development. Make reliability your brand in order to be entrusted with more responsibility.”

Otiato Guguyu