She smashed the proverbial glass ceiling and established a firm niche for herself in the male-dominated industries of finance and technology. Currently sitting at the helm of BitPesa as the Chief Operations Officer, Teresia Kairu banks on her rich 10 years’ experience in finance management with special interest in audit and transfer pricing.
By Oroni Tendera
“I joined BitPesa 4 years ago, and my growth here has been astronomical,” she says.
In only 4 years, Teresia has witnessed the company growing in leaps and bounds. “I joined as a finance manager when we were just 10 people in one room. Right now, I am the COO, working collaboratively with a team of over 100 people, spread across 6 offices in 2 continents,” she reveals.
The COO attributes her success to the rich corporate culture of BitPesa and her core values. “My core values are excellence and reliability which I also look out for in other people. “
When Teresia joined BitPesa, she religiously focused on audits that her co-workers christened her ‘T-audit.’ “I had to go through many documents and data for different entities,” she adds, “I also had to source for auditors and ensure proper documentation.”
Her first challenge at the firm, she says, taught her an invaluable lesson in managing complex projects. “Through this type of work, I learnt the need to be clear and communicative about the status of projects by having a firm grasp of what is going on,’’ she avers.
Asked about her work philosophy, Teresia alludes to Mr. Adam Gouveia, BitPesa’s Chief Financial Officer. “When I was knee-deep executing my role, Adam always reminded me to look ahead to bigger things and never lose sight of why we are doing what we are doing. This is my leadership mantra to date.”
Teresia also looks up to their CEO, Elizabeth Rossiello, as her source of strength. “Our CEO has been a great inspiration to me. As a woman and a tech entrepreneur, she remains relevant and grounded. She is so committed to this company and also to my growth,’’ She says emphasizing every word.
Her journey to the top of the corporate ladder has not been a walk in the park. Teresia says many men in the industry still believe that talking about gender inequality is unnecessary and that if a woman is qualified, she would simply rise to the to the top just like a man without any additional support. “These men do not understand the implication of systemic privilege and bias that hold back even the most qualified women. We need to speak out and proactively pull women to the top.”
However, Teresia admits that the decentralized communities that exist across the space has made it easy to reach out and connect with women. “This decentralized support has been pivotal to pooling resources, sharing knowledge and helping women climb up faster.”
After an upcoming rebrand, the COO says that BitPesa is expanding its footprint in North and South Africa as well as the Middle East. The firm, collaborating with banking partners and corporate organizations also envisions reaching more customers in new segments. “We are in the process of building more innovative financial products that exist internationally for frontier markets.”
Having assumed the COO role 3 months ago, Teresia reveals that she is not only upbeat about capacity building but setting up everything from people to product.
“In the last quarter, we have been focusing on aggressive hiring to accelerate our growth. Next quarter, it might be product or liquidity. Being in this role really requires me to think strategically and with great foresight,” she concludes.