Last month, the Amsterdam Trailblazer Community group gave the floor to two inspiring women who shared their journey from personal struggle to success through change. From changing perspective on what success is about to escape a destructive lifestyle, to giving oneself the means to rise and give back to the community, their stories were powerful and definitely worth sharing to those who couldn’t join the meeting.  


Karen Mangia, VP Customer & Market Insights at Salesforce: Redefining the formula to success

Karen shared her story of rapid success to a crossroads, triggered by an undiagnosed disease. She started progressing in her career following what she thought were the footsteps of other successful people: doing more. More work, more employees, more responsibilities. She thought the formula for success was based on please, perform and perfect.

When the Trail Blazes You

But it gets to the point where this formula is no longer sustainable. Karen’s routine was leading to a detrimental lifestyle. She had no time for herself and soon felt the physical backlash of neglecting herself. Lack of energy, loss of hair, change of skin color, weight gain. Karen was sick, and no doctor could tell what was wrong with her.

Finding a new path

The realization she had was that she needed to revise the formula for success to: pause, ponder, prioritize.

The pause for her meant saying NO. Stopping to accept more and focus on the one thing she needed the most: getting healthier. Though people often imagine that saying “no” is a setback on your career, to her surprise she got a lot of support. From colleagues to a group of friends (well needed to unwind), to a holistic doctor who didn’t give up on searching for a diagnosis.

So Karen started making time for her priority. She stopped adding responsibilities to her already busy schedule. She pondered about the choices she had to make from that time on. On her way to being healthy again, after a diagnosis of pesticide poisoning, she found a new balance to her life. It didn’t stop the progress on her career, she keeps on achieving growth while improving her quality of life and even found time to write a book about her journey, Success with Less


If you feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities you’re taking (not only career wise, but even on your personal life), remember that success does not happen one way. Taking a moment to prioritize what really matters will help you achieving your targets better than any extra hours or project stepping that steps on your well-being.

Peninah Nthenya Musyimi, Founder and Director of Safe Spaces Nairobi: Be your own change

Peninah learned early in life to dream big and take risks to achieve your goals. Her motto: “I Am The Change.” 

Persevering to Success

Peninah comes from the slums of Nairobi, and faced hard times as a child, without electricity, lack of water and food. Her confusion as to why some people had nice clothes, shoes and food, when she and her family didn’t, led her to ask at the local church how she could get these things. The answer she got was: go to school.

So she did, but she soon came to the realization that this was going to be a long term project. Determined, she faced a first wall when it came to pay for high school fees. She was able to raise funding for her studies, but it didn’t pay for her transportation. Nevertheless, after years of walking hours to the school, she completed her studies.

When it came to go to University, she was once again faced with the reality of lack of financial resources. Her only option was then get a scholarship for playing on the University’s basketball team, a game she had never played before. Within one month, she learned how to play and got the scholarship to follow higher education!

Back to the slums with a purpose

After completing her Law studies, she worked as a lawyer for a few years. But she soon felt she had to do something to help those who, like herself, had no means of getting out of the slums. That’s when she founded Safe Spaces Nairobi.

At Safe Spaces, Peninah and her team help over a thousand girls to get better education, engage in sports, learn computer skills and even follow an apprenticeship in car mechanics. Safe Spaces is empowering those girls, and setting the grounds for a new generation who can make a difference in their community.

With the help of Kathryn Chlosta, co-lead of the Amsterdam User Group, Safe Spaces has now been equipped with the set up of a non-profit Salesforce org. The tool allow the organization to gather data, manage and measure the impact of Safe Spaces on the girls they mentor. The programme is in constant development, helping Safe Spaces to always go further to raise funds and expand its reach.

Asante* Peninah and Kathryn!

To learn more about this amazing initiative, visit the Safe Spaces Nairobi website.


Don’t want to miss the next events and presentations from such inspiring people? Join the Amsterdam Trailblazer Community Group.

*Asante means Thank you in Swahili, official language of Kenya.