Dear African woman, What makes you remarkable? I am willing to bet you haven’t thought of it for a while.
I also came face to face with this realisation at the Women Techmakers event held at Andela-Kenya last Saturday, when Dorothy Ooko, a Kenyan activist and technology professional asked us to write down 3 reasons why we are remarkable.
The majority of attendees were beautiful, bright university students studying technology courses like Data Science and Software development with a view of solving Africa’s myriad of problems. You would have thought they would have plenty to tell. Yet, the exercise almost felt blasphemous- at least for me. Like I was bragging. Nonetheless, we scoured our minds for remarkable stories about ourselves and wrote them down. And as we did, we started to realise just what remarkable women we are.
I would love to tell you more about the interesting breathing exercise prescribed by Dorothy or the countless funny, interesting and determined women that I met and exchanged ideas with, but there’s only so much I can write.
In light of the upcoming African Women in Technology Conference on 28th-30th June, I will share 3 of the most remarkable stories from the panellists. My prayer is that as you read, you will find a piece of your remarkable nature in the narratives and muster enough courage to tell your story.
- Dorothy Ooko- Google communication manager for East and Francophone Africa.
When Dorothy walked in the room, everything about her communicated boldness and courage. Maybe it was the red dress she was wearing but nonetheless, her aura is captivating. Her story starts way back when she was a captain in High School and gets more interesting when she decides to shift from her career in academia to the corporate world. At the moment, she is one of the leading women personalities in Africa’s tech industry. One of her goals is to ensure that the world gets the right story about African women in tech. But it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. She faced opposition from friends and family when she decided to move from academia to the corporate world. She faced, even more, opposition when she decided to move from Nokia to Google. And ever since, he has had strangers constantly trying to fit her in a box but none of these ever stopped her. This is her advice for anyone aspiring to succeed and inspire as an African woman tech maker.
- Always take the time to listen to yourself, this will determine what you believe about yourself and ultimately what stories you tell about yourself
- Have the courage to tell your story, it may not be all roses but it will help someone go through similar challenges and that’s how you change the world
- Rejections are normal, never get demoralised, there’s always a better opportunity ahead, just keep knocking
- Never respond to negativity, stand still and it will all come to pass
As Dorothy left the stage, the reasons for her success were quite apparent. She is courageous, self-confident and understands the importance of sharing her story.
- Wangeci Mwangi- Co-founder and CEO of Valuraha
A wise man once said age is no barrier. It is a limitation you put in your mind. Quite true to these words, Wangeci won the Global Social Impact award 2015 at the age of 21 years while still a student in Strathmore. Yes, she didn’t wait until she got her ‘papers’ or was earning an income to start her venture, she just started with what she had. When asked how she managed to raise funds for the start-up she mentioned three skills that are most important for ensuring the success of your start-up idea:
- Research skills
Wangeci and her team researched on companies, individuals and markets that would benefit from her tech solution and approached them for help, for example, NSE allowed them to use their platform for 6 months free of charge. She also used her immediate network- family, teachers, schoolmates to raise funds- she borrowed 50,000 from family to register the company and procure necessary documentation. Still, she did confess that she wasn’t always confident, in fact, when she was invited for the Gala Dinner to receive her award, she had a laisse-fair attitude about it. But now she knows better and this is what she would like you to know;
- Always remember that you belong where you believe you belong
- Stop waiting for the right time, just start now
- Always believe in yourself, that’s the only time someone else will believe in you
At 23 years, Wangeci seems more confident than ever, she is awakening to her true nature, her remarkable nature.
“Have you had the opportunity to work overseas? Not yet? How do you imagine the experience?”
This is the question that opened Evelyne’s talk. She is concerned that most Kenyan Universities do not prepare students for the international job market. Using her own example, she narrated her experience at the Oxford University describing the fast-paced and thorough nature of the institution. Compared to our own Kenyan facilities, you cannot help but notice the massive gap in skills and attitude. With this in mind, she went ahead to create a mentorship program to help youth learn the basics of applying for scholarships, mentorships and even grants so that more Africans can experience international learning facilities and increase their chances in the competitive international job market. As you read this, Evelyne has been selected as one of the 100 Young Global Challengers to attend the G20 Think Tank Summit 2017. That’s not all, her list of achievements is endless. These are her tips for becoming a successful African woman in tech.
- Use every opportunity you get
- Polish your writing skills
- Invest in social capital
Humble and somewhat quiet, Evelyne is a testimony to the fact that telling your story can indeed open doors for others.
So let’s try this again. What makes you remarkable?
This article was written by Mercy Rop. Mercy is a business developer at Legibra, a creative studio dedicated to web solutions, branding, printing and outsourcing of infrastructure. She is passionate about writing and all things digital. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.