Two decades ago when the Internet was still an infant concept in Kenya, Joe Mucheru was already onto it. He co-founded Wananchi Online, in 1991, breaking new grounds in Kenya’s ICT industry.
Over time, he has worked as an ICT expert in different capacities, including successfully managing large, cross-functional and teams.
His role in the development of ICT in Kenya saw President Kibaki award him the Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear, in 2010.
But Joe is also a born-again Christian, 20 years now, and counting. He won’t necessarily say it but you will suspect it from his gentleness, the purity of his demeanour, and the warmth of his humility.
The people I asked about him, prior to this interview, described him as a “really nice guy.” And curiously, he’s the first guy I have interviewed for this column who, not for once, went off the record because, to quote him; “There is nothing you will find out there that I can’t say in this room.”
If you lived in the Biblical times, who do you think you would be?
(Thinks) Joseph. Yes, definitely Joseph. The one with the coloured gabs, the dreamer. This is because, like him, I have gone through hardships but emerged from them. Metaphorically, I have been in the wilderness because out of six siblings I was the only one who was sent to boarding school when I was only nine, after that I went to Lenana School, a boarding school, and then I went abroad, so really I’m still away from home.
Is your wife born again as well and how did you meet her because I can’t just picture you leaning into seduction with all your elbows?
(Smiles) Yes she is. I met her through my brother who was worried that I was working too hard and not socialising. So he sort of match made us. (Turns around to look at a picture of her on the wall). I mean, look at her, you wonder how a guy like me would get a woman like that.
If we stripped you down to your bare elements, what would we find standing?
Family. That’s all I’m made of; my wife and two children - Rubbi and Baraka. I call those two my RnB. Family keeps me anchored, before I got married I don’t remember ever making use of my money well as I do now.
Also I watch my health better now because I want to live to see my daughter get married. It’s all about what you are doing today for the future.
Are you a good or a great husband?
I’m a better husband now than I was before. My wife is happier now than before.
You think she is happier or you know? Women will surprise you with this happiness thing.
(Chuckles) I know she is happy because she tells me she is. There was a time, though, that she wasn’t, mainly because I was travelling too much.
I mean, I was only in town for a week in a month and she was frustrated that I wasn’t spending time with the kids or with her, but thankfully now I don’t travel as much and so we spend time together.
What do you guys do together?
Thankfully Google doesn’t mind if I carry my family along for business trips, so I would normally take advantage and carry her along whenever I can.
We have been all over. We also do a lot of movies, IMAX is my new thing. Hey come to think about it, we used to go dancing a lot together, not anymore. (Thoughtfully) That definitely is something to revive.
Do you think your spiritual convictions manifest in how you run Google?
(Thoughtfully) Well, you know the culture of Google is very open. What we try here is to change lives and the perceptions Google stands for are principles that further the Kingdom. I don’t know if that makes sense?
You lost me on perceptions.
(Laughs) Well, I think the decisions I make are based on my intuitions, which are informed by my value system. So in a way, you could remotely say that I run Google on principles that are grounded in my faith.
Who are your inspirations?
Well, the late Michuki (former Environment minister) was. I loved his ability to execute. His ability to execute things made everybody very comfortable, he was an action and results oriented man. I met him and it was a great honour.
Have you hit midlife crisis by the way? I’d love to know how yours would go.
(Laughs) I think my midlife is being manifested by my need to watch my health more closely. I wake up at 5:30 am daily to run with my personal trainer.
It’s created discipline in me because it’s hard to turn away someone who is already at the gate with an excuse. I want to watch my health to be here tomorrow for my kids.
What do you do for fun?
I play golf. I belong to three golf clubs; Muthaiga, Railways and Nyahururu. I also do a lot of farming in Nyeri.
Leave me with a good phrase from the Bible, one that you love.
A man plans his way but God directs his path.