Peris Wanjiru, 34

Pilot

My Story

Quitting a job in Kenya is never an easy decision. Close friends, parents, relatives, and mentors openly frown upon it while possible employers ask a plethora of questions.

But this is exactly what Peris did. She was working at Barclays Bank of Kenya (now Absa Kenya) in 2009 as a customer care representative.

Solving people’s problems on the ground was somewhat fulfilling, but her heart was never truly in it.

“I was convinced I was in the wrong job. I had to do some soul-searching which led me into the aviation world.”

"When I became a pilot, I felt the sense of excitement but when the reality of the responsibility that comes with the job hit me, I had to stay focused."

Peris, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Actuarial Science from the University of Nairobi decided to enroll in a Pilot Sponsorship Programme (AB Initio programme) sponsored by Kenya Airways (KQ) (from 2010-2011.

The sponsorship was on the condition that she would refund the carrier the amount spent to train her upon completing her studies.

Upon graduation and landing back into the country from South Africa, Peris was employed by Kenya Airways (KQ) in 2012.

She has risen from a second officer to a first officer enabling her to fly big ‘birds’ like Boeing 737, and Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

In 2018, she was promoted as a pilot on the Embraer 190. To date, she has flown for over 6,000 hours. Normally she flies five times a week, mainly within East, Central, and South Africa.

“When I became a pilot, I felt the sense of excitement but when the reality of the responsibility that comes with the job hit me, I had to stay focused.”

Peris, a health and fitness enthusiast, also doubles up as an executive council member at the Kenya Airline Pilots Association, adds that unlike in the early years of her career, today, the feeling of being a female pilot in a male-dominated space has changed. Gone are the days where men thought female colleagues cannot make it in the sector.

In the early years, a female pilot would “fight hard” to prove that she can make it and this meant that she had to work extra harder.

“I want to advise a young girl currently aspiring to be a pilot that she can make it. It all depends on how focused she is. Dedication, hard work, and discipline are key.”

Bonface Otieno