Technology like a lot of the other professional careers has historically been an XY saturated field. The further back you go in history, the more saturated the XY gets. While in recent decades women have made great strides in pushing up the numbers of XX within this field, more could still be done.
Our today’s interviewee shares this same dreams; to bridge the gender gap within tech. As a technologist herself, Wamide Egunjobi has taken it upon herself to increase the numbers of women in tech. She will be speaking at the Data, Data and more Data session of #AWITNigeria19 conference. Wamide has over 5 years’ experience in technology and business management. Inspired by her own experiences of not having female mentors when she started her career, she started CAWSTEM as an avenue to help young professionals collaborate.
Inno8vit had a little sit-down with her, and here is how it went:
What does technology represent to you in your chosen field?
With technology at the core, there is so much that can be done to improve efficiency, productivity and ultimately transform businesses – whether it’s in agriculture, financial services, banking, education, health, shopping, retail, logistics, the list goes on and on.
How long have you been exposed to the African tech field, and how has this influenced your knowledge of technological advancement in Africa?
As a Computer Engineering graduate and a tech/business management professional, I’ve been in tech for well over 6 years now and across different fields within the industry, ranging from front end development to business management to project management to data analytics to IT audit.
And while the socio-economic infrastructure hasn’t changed much especially in Nigeria (still no constant power or good roads) in my view, I think the technological landscape is constantly evolving.
Also, according to the “Digital in 2018” report by Hootsuite and We Are Social, internet use is up by an average of 20% across the continent. Thus creating opportunities for mobile technologies, especially in fintech. As of 2018, Nigeria was named the 4th fastest growing developer community on GitHub, right after Egypt (another African country). There are also a lot of community meetups, dev fests, and according to GSMA, there were 442 tech hubs on the continent as of early 2018. All of this is aimed at helping to create a more inclusive tech environment and the overall advancement of tech in Africa.
How important is Data in today’s world?
Data is literally the new gold. Data is important to identify trends, reveal facts, make decisions and in fact spot opportunities for improvement. With the vast volume, velocity and variety of data generated daily, data is a key component and “secret sauce” of many companies and countries alike. But with big data comes even bigger responsibilities, not just about storage or retrieval but related to security, privacy, and governance.
Data governance is a significant aspect because if data is not properly managed, value cannot be properly derived. A well planned ongoing data governance structure helps to define policies, standards, processes, metrics, and principles; and derive maximum value from their data-driven strategy. Indeed, when a company/country properly harnesses data (with a proper governance model/structure), they can consistently derive innovation for new products, revenue streams, and significant value.
As an African woman in tech, what is the most significant challenge you have faced professionally?
That would be gender parity, and while this has not affected me negatively in my career, as a growing African woman, I am often bothered by the dearth of female mentors and peers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
In 2013, my first job right after my undergraduate degree was at Jumia Group (formerly Africa Internet Holding) – an e-commerce startup, where I was an HTML programmer and the only female in a team of 8. For the first time, I noticed the gender differences in STEM fields in the work environment and looked out for like-minded female professionals to connect with. After a year, I became a technology consultant at PwC Nigeria and even there, there were only 7 females in a team of 35 from entry level to senior management level. I constantly sought out networking opportunities to connect with other female professionals, especially in tech.
Over the years, I’ve since realized that to truly combat gender and promote more women in STEM and especially in leadership, the importance of networking and mentorship cannot be under-emphasized. In light of this, I started CAWSTEM (Connecting African Women in STEM) – a community that helps female African professionals in STEM careers find support, peer mentors, and collaborate. Through CAWSTEM, we are inspiring, promoting, and fostering a community that provides access to online and offline female role models and peers in STEM careers, thereby helping more women stay in STEM.
In your experience, how has strategic networking influenced your career?
Networking isn’t all about take, take, take; it’s a give and take relationship. Sometimes you nurture some relationships before you can start demanding and other times, you do the giving/helping. But most importantly, it’s about being your best self. For me strategic networking has been very pivotal to my career advancement, especially in finding out about an opportunity at PwC Nigeria, and very recently in my role as a General Manager, Operations of a budding tech startup.
Needless to say, it’s not always all about networking upwards only, networking across and within one’s immediate sphere of influence is also strategically important, sometimes you’re one person away from an opportunity. So, network, network, network!!!