Taking Bolt’s ride-hailing service to the next level — meet Linda Ndungu, Bolt Kenya

January 12, 2023

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Kenya’s famous for its rich biodiversity, great safari destinations, and being home to the world’s best long-distance runners. 

It’s also where Bolt launched ride-hailing in 2017. And as of 2022, Bolt’s available in over ten cities across Kenya and serves over 4 million customers.

Today, Linda Ndungu (Country Manager, Kenya) shares what it’s like to be a female leader, to continuously lead the market to success, and about her previous experience. Continue reading to hear Linda’s story!

Joining Bolt

During her career, Linda’s managed to gain a variety of experiences: from an NGO, where she was responsible for developing financial strategies, to spending nine years in a consulting agency where, within this time, she worked in several departments — marketing, business development and, finally, strategy and operations. 

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When it was time for a role switch, Linda heard about Bolt’s open Country Manager position through a friend who thought she’d be a great fit for the role. 

“Before applying, I looked through Bolt’s mission, vision, and ambitious plans to revolutionalise the transportation sector. From my initial research, everything Bolt was working towards resonated with me, and as I went through the interview process, I became more and more sold by Bolt’s grand plans,” says Linda. 

In 2022, Linda joined the Bolt team in Kenya as a Country Manager for ride-hailing, and it’s been an exciting ride ever since. 

“At Bolt, you own your vertical — you get an opportunity to create your vision of where to take the business next. It’s a blank page, and you define what you must do to achieve your goals,” Linda shared.

Linda says she loves Bolt for two main reasons: a healthy challenge and supportive people.

There are no average days in Bolt. However, if there was a common thread in every day, that would be the passion and drive everyone at Bolt has to make a difference, see cities become greener, and put their best foot forward to make their markets work. 

“I love the energy I get from people,” Linda says. She added that in her everyday life, Linda always looks for “whys”. 

For Linda, the “why” is Bolt’s mission — what we’re trying to do in cities, how we’re changing the commuting habits and what we do for the environment is inspiring. “It’s not just something we hang on a wall,” Linda says, “you can actually see how people live by the company’s principles. That’s what makes me feel that I am exactly in the place where I want to be.”

Bolt in Kenya

Linda joined Bolt at an interesting and challenging time for the Kenyan market — when new regulations were being applied to ride-hailing services. The NTSA introduced a commission cap for ride-hailing platforms, which turned out to be higher (18%) than initially suggested (10%) and resulted in driver protests.  

Since launching in 2017 in Kenya, the service has expanded to over ten cities, allowing more than 50,000 active couriers and drivers to make extra income. And Bolt continues to provide significant earning opportunities in the country.

“In Kenya, there’s a large population that’s not able to earn easily. Having Bolt here and giving people the freedom to make money with us — if they want, how they want, and when they want — and directly contributing to the economy are some of my biggest motivators,” says Linda.

Since 2017, Kenya’s unemployment rate has grown significantly. Economists point to the greater adoption of technology that replaced human labour and slowed economic growth. The pandemic significantly contributed to the latter, leaving at least 740,000 people in Kenya without jobs.

Getting a job in Kenya can seem like a mission impossible. According to research, it takes a university graduate five years to find a job

Considering the demand for ride-hailing services, drivers can supplement their income. Some drivers drive with Bolt in addition to their day jobs, while some do it full-time and make a livable income.

In terms of environmental impact, Back in April 2022, Bolt partnered with Seedballs Kenya to plant 11 million trees to help the country tackle serious environmental issues such as deforestation, soil erosion, and pollution. By August 2022, the project passed the 11 million mark. This collaboration between Bolt and Seedballs Kenya aligns well with the new government’s plans to plant 5 billion trees within five years

Being a leader

Some people build their way towards their career goals — by making a detailed plan and sticking to it. In Linda’s case, it’s been different: “I see myself sometimes as a ‘reluctant’ leader,” Linda laughs. 

Linda shared that throughout her career, she’s often found herself in leadership roles, even when she wasn’t necessarily looking for them: “I want to get things moving, and I’d happily do that from the back,” she says.

However, it’s impossible not to notice her passion and drive — the things that always put her at the centre of the action. She’s also a true idea generator and experimentalist with solid attention to detail and the ability to see what and how it can be improved. 

Linda calls her leadership style collaborative and inspiring: “Every team member has something unique to offer. I believe in collaboration, individual effort, and recognising this effort that leads to final gains.” 

Linda also mentioned that sometimes the best ideas come from the quietest in the room. As a manager, she wants her team to feel safe so they can be open and share their thoughts. 

Leading the team gets much easier when you work with strong professionals looking in the same direction. For this reason, Linda also finds it crucial to empower and support team members and demonstrate her vision to them so they understand the bigger picture.

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Working in a male-dominated industry

Linda describes herself as a soft and caring leader with traditionally undervalued qualities. 

“Everybody’s unique, and I don’t think anyone’s ways of working should be muted to fit others’ expectations,” Linda says.

Of course, in the workplace, sometimes there’s a need to frame things in a certain way and to be more direct. 

“There’s a way to change that situation in the future”, says Linda, “but it’s a collaborative effort between males and females. Women have to own their voice, and on the other end, males have to be open to understanding and accepting that point of view. Often, if you don’t address the issue, it stays with you forever.” 

“It’s like asking someone how their day’s going. If you don’t do that yourself, you can at least accept that in others — answer the question and move on with your agenda. No need to mute or ignore it.”

Managing imposter syndrome

When Linda got her first management job, she struggled with imposter syndrome

Technically, she knew she could do that job, but there’s a whole other dynamic when you’re the one in the front seat, and people are looking up to you. 

“Sometimes you don’t have the answer, but you think that people expect you to at least have a clue as to what the answer should look like,” Linda shared.

Here’s what helped Linda get a hold of feelings of inadequacy and imposter syndrome:

  • Looking for mentors, especially females also leading teams;
  • Being open with others and yourself, and looking for people who are as open and willing to share their challenges as you are. When you go through imposter syndrome episodes alone, it’s hard to tell if it’s just your mind playing tricks or if you’re not a good fit for a specific role;
  • Remember that you’re an expert because you have the required experience and knowledge. 

Time management tips and tricks from Linda Ndungu

Linda’s favourite productivity method is Eat the Frog — she starts her day by picking the most demanding task from her to-do list. 

“I keep a physical to-do list on my desk and organise tasks from the hardest to the more routine ones. As I feel the most energetic in the morning, I kick off my day with more challenging tasks. And as my energy levels slowly drop, I pick more routine tasks to finish my day. I feel good when I check them off at the end of the day,” Linda says.

We’re not robots, and not-so-productive days happen even to the best of us. On such days, Linda’s solution is to remember her ‘whys’ and what makes her happy. For example, when Linda reaches for her phone to scroll through pictures of her family and kids, it lifts her up and gives her the strength to tackle tasks. 

As a high performer, Linda used to judge herself when she hadn’t completed everything planned for the day. “We’re not sergeants — nobody’s going to die” — a saying that one of Linda’s former leads used to say. Some may use it as an excuse to be lazy, but in Linda’s case, it helps her to be less hard on herself and remember that even though everything’s not completed, she still did something. 

“I forgive myself 100% if I don’t complete my tasks. There’s always tomorrow — instead of 10 tasks, I can do 11 and balance it out,” says Linda. 

Linda’s piece of advice

“Be confident! You know what you know. One of my managers once told me, ‘You know your material better than the people you’re presenting it to. You put a lot of work and effort into whatever you bring to the table. So be confident!’” 

Linda added that sometimes the only advantage men have over women is confidence. 

Reading suggestions from Linda

Linda shared that there are too many books that inspire her, but here are the ones that she especially enjoyed:

  • “Becoming” by Michelle Obama: Michelle Obama’s story reminded Linda that every person has their path to follow, and through every season in life, we continue to grow and become the best version of ourselves;
  • “The Path Made Clear” by Oprah Winfrey: we’re all on this earth for a purpose, and it’s in finding and living out our purpose that we attain significance and meaning in our lives.

Speaking of more entertaining content, Linda enjoys watching sitcoms and comedies, especially older ones like Seinfeld and the Big Bang Theory. There’s nothing like having a good laugh at the end of a long day to reset and re-centre!

Interested in joining Bolt? 

If our mission to make cities for people, not cars, sounds like something you want to be a part of, visit our Careers Page to see our open vacancies.

We offer equal opportunities to men and women who want to join Bolt and contribute to our mission.

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