Written by Bodunrin Akinola
A quick test for you: Name the first woman in tech that comes into your head.
What’s the chance that names like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Meyer came to mind? Yes, those are both tech leaders who are doing amazing things.
Now, how about the women leading Nigeria’s tech industry? You may mention Omobola Johnson, Funke Opeke, and Taiwo Judah-Ajayi (our very own), amongst other names.
But have you heard of Bukola Makinwa, Feyi Olabiyi, Victoria Offoma, Temidayo Yembra, and Omotayo Madein? If you haven’t, you’re sure to in the next few years. These are just a few of the women building the future of tech at Andela Nigeria.
We interview them below to learn about their journey into tech, challenges they’ve faced along the way, and advice they’d give to women who are pursuing technology roles in Nigeria.
My name is Feyi Olabiyi. I joined Andela in April 2017 as a Product Manager.
My journey into technology was out of curiosity. Post-secondary school, I took an Information Management course which was basically learning some Microsoft Office and some Corel Draw and it was possibly the most exciting thing I had done in my life at the time. I was introduced to the internet, and it was fascinating to be able to chat with someone in another location and have “real time” conversations with them. Then, mobile phones were fairly new – how is it that I can talk to someone in another location just by putting a small device to my ear? Consequently, my Dad and I convinced ourselves that this computer thing was going to change the world; so, I applied for a degree in Information and Communications Technology, abandoning my dreams to be a medical doctor. It’s a decision that has paid off.
I started out my career with a very brief stint in Software Development, as an intern managing a website. However, I quickly figured out that I was more interested in learning about the users, their needs, and the market – which at the time I did not know was called Product Management. I worked as an analyst for about 2 years and then moved fully into Product Management in 2014, where I have now spent most of my career.
I’m a Product Manager at Andela, and what this means is that I drive cross-functional engagements to continuously uncover business problems, prioritizing the most critical needs and working with engineering teams to continuously deliver value-adding solutions to these high-impact problems.
My job is a continuous cycle of need discovery, planning, and prioritization, finding solutions, executing, delivering, and measuring the impact of those solutions. The goal is to deliver solutions that enable the business scale, in order to ensure that we can continue to contribute to the continuous growth of African technology leaders.
There is no limit to the amount of discovery – continuously learning how to ask the right questions to understand people’s needs, being able to see and measure the impact of solutions delivered, and working with some of the smartest people in a safe, comfortable, yet fast-paced environment.
Coming up with creative solutions that improve people’s lives is central to my work and with technology, the opportunities are limitless.
Working at Andela provides me with an ever challenging work experience. Literally, every day is an opportunity to learn something and uncover new problems to solve for. The culture at Andela is like no other. People live out our EPIC values every day, and don’t think twice about doing the right things.
Andela is a fun place to work — having co-workers who are building amazing tech one minute, and bantering about football the next minute, or having a rooftop jam session, or challenging you to intelligent discourse, is really priceless.
Internally, Andela hires equally, irrespective of gender — from some of the best Software Developers to Facilitators, Product Managers, and so on. Everywhere you look, there are women who have the opportunity to excel and contribute meaningfully as anyone else would. With a commitment to inclusive language and overall consciousness about gender issues/differences, Andela provides a safe space devoid of harassment or gender bias.
More significantly, Andela walks the talk by having women in leadership roles — it’s easy to have a company verbally commit to equality until you look at their leadership.
Externally, Andela runs all-female boot camp cycles to ensure that more women are given the opportunity to join the fellowship — out of which we have seen some of the most outstanding Software Developers not just at Andela, but in the entire African tech ecosystem. Ladies-in-Tech, Tech-in-Pink; these are some of the organizations run by Andela women, supporting the larger community to bring more women into technology.
Earlier this year, Andela organized the inaugural Women in Tech Summit, to mark International Women’s Day and bring together women from various backgrounds to share experiences and build relationships.
Growing up, I wanted to be a medical doctor – partly inspired by the unspoken rule that as a Nigerian child, you either become a Doctor, Lawyer, Accountant or Engineer, but also because I knew older people who were doctors and I thought they were really cool.
That perception is reality – to be intentional about my story, brand, and presentation.
Perception is reality. If you are perceived to be something, you might as well be it because that’s the truth in people’s minds – Steve Young.
Adaptability. In fast-paced technology environments, each job or product or project or task will come with its own unique set of challenges, experiences, demands, and pressures and this will continue to evolve. It’s important to be able to navigate these changes, adapt, and re-adjust expectations and plans. The goal will most likely stay the same, but the process/journey will always change.
There’s no single way to be in tech. From UX researchers/designers to Product Managers, to Data Analysts and lots more, technology is much more than just coding. Be patient enough to figure out your own path then purposefully pursue it. And when you have figured it out, never be afraid to grab opportunities. Invest in yourself – learn and then learn some more. Learn about yourself, build your capability, and be able to prove your worth.
The idea that men are more likely to succeed in STEM fields is dangerous and harmful. There’s a general belief that women don’t have the stamina to stay the long haul in tech and don’t have the ability to strike a balance. This is a false narrative, which discourages women from even starting. Women are constantly succeeding in building, leading and running some of the most successful tech companies and pioneering technologies we cannot live without today.
There is still a long way to go in improving the number of women in tech roles everywhere, but the opportunities for challenging, yet extremely fulfilling work are endless.
Andela ratio: 21% female developers – good by global standards (average 6%), but we’re not satisfied yet.
Omotayo Madein, March 2018, I am a Senior Developer at Andela.
My parents encouraged me when I was younger and I was curious about tech. I studied Software Engineering for my undergrad degree. I had the options of Microbiology and Software Engineering and I realized I was more interested in tech.
As a Senior Developer at Andela, I work with a world-class software engineering team to build awesome web apps, provide support to team members to ensure that quality solutions are deployed, and manage a team of developers to ensure that we achieve personal and partner goals.
Designing solutions for challenges across different domains.
The Andela community gives me the opportunity to collaborate with brilliant people, which keeps me motivated.
By consciously creating an inclusive environment for women to succeed.
I wish I had known that working with people whose goals were aligned with mine makes it easier to fulfill my tasks and develop myself professionally.
I feel that the tech world provides the same opportunities to both men and women, however, the social realities of women prevent them from maximizing these opportunities.
My parents, because they have shown and taught me that learning is a lifelong goal.
I read a lot of tweets, articles, tutorials, and watch YouTube videos.
Ensure that you take on projects that improve your skills. Keep challenging yourself to be the best and do not settle for being mediocre. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
My name is Temidayo Yembra and I joined Andela in August 2018 as a Technical Success Manager.
I started out undergrad with no major, so in my first semester, I took various classes just to see what was out there. One of them was CPSC 1301 – Computer Science 1. I remember having to work on a program in Java and for some reason, my code didn’t compile. It took me about a day to figure out it was a semicolon missing; that feeling after fixing it was what made me realize this is what I wanted to do.
As a Technical Success Manager (TSM), I am responsible for the success of developers on the Partner engagements I manage, ensuring they have the right resources to succeed. I am also the escalation point for any technical and quality issues on those engagements to ensure our Partners are successful.
I love the fact that my job involves interacting with people in different roles, in various parts of the world, with diverse backgrounds.
The people and the culture! Everything you hear about Andela is true; the people are great and it really is the best place to work.
Andela supports women in tech in a number of ways, but most notably by occasionally having all-female Fellowship cycles and also the Women In Tech Summit hosted this year in celebration of International Women’s Day.
Honestly, I wanted to be a professional basketball player in the WNBA.
I wish I had realized early on the importance of building a strong network and developing relationships with people within and outside the tech industry; instead of believing that my technical expertise was all I needed to succeed.
I would say women do not have the same opportunities as men in the tech world, at least not yet. Right now, companies are being deliberate in hiring more women, we now have a lot of STEM programs being targeted to females, and there’s been a slight rise in female CEOs, so more women are definitely getting into tech, but we’re still not there yet.
I think my will to constantly learn has attributed to my success; identifying areas I need to improve on, both personally and professionally. Also, being organized has been helpful, be it planning my tasks for the day or setting goals for myself – having this outline helps me ensure I’m spending my time on the right things.
I would say promoting initiatives such as #MentorHer, which encourages male leaders to get more involved in coaching and mentoring women. Mentorship is important, however, this sort of mentorship would lead to an increase in the success of women, such as seeing more women rise into leadership positions.
I subscribe to a few tech blogs so I usually read articles that catch my attention. Engaging with and talking to my colleagues also helps.
My name is Victoria Offoma. I joined Andela in April 2017 and I currently work as a Simulations Facilitator.
I studied Computer Science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I chose my course because I was interested in computers and I had grand visions where I saw myself punching away at the keyboard solving only God knows what (too many movies, I guess).
After school, I got into a training program organized by CCHUB and Microsoft. The program was focused on training people to use Microsoft technologies like C#, ASP.NET, Azure etc. Immediately after the training, I got an internship at a startup company as a Software Developer. That was how I got into tech.
Currently, my responsibilities as a Simulations Facilitator revolve around co-managing the Fellows-in-training in the simulations program of the Fellowship.
My day to day activities involve:
The constant self-improvement is the one thing I love the most about my job. You can not mentor someone on professionalism or communication if you are not doing well in either of those areas. This means that I have to improve myself to ensure that I set a good example and give quality feedback. My job also requires me to stay informed of recent trends in tech.
The African story has been one of sickness, poverty, backwardness, and deception. Here comes Andela telling a new story of hope and proving that brilliance is equally distributed. I am proud and excited to be part of those working to ensure that this story is heard loudly.
Andela is such an inclusive place for everyone, where everyone has a voice and is recognized for the value they bring. Male or Female, there is a place for you here. You can see how much Andela supports women through the programs organized and supported by Andela to encourage more women to get into tech.
As a kid, I dreamt of being a singer. I would organize singing competitions involving my sisters and friends where I would be both contestant and judge, simultaneously. I would always declare myself the winner which would lead to fights.
I wished I had learned about growth mindset when I was starting out. It would have helped me react better to situations where I failed or did not have enough technical proficiency. I would have stepped out of my comfort zone and tried out different things. I would have seen every seemingly hard task as a learning opportunity.
I believe we all have the same opportunities, but because there are a lot of wrong notions about women in the workplace, women have to work harder in order to be taken seriously.
I would say that finding the balance between self-reliance and seeking support has benefited me greatly. While it is important to know and think for yourself, it is also important to know when to ask for feedback or advice.
I read up tech articles on Media and follow tech accounts on Twitter that discuss recent trends.
I would tell them not be afraid to try. I would tell them that they have all it takes to follow their dreams. I would tell them that it is ok to fail but pick yourself up and keep trying. I would tell them to master the basics.
My name is Makinwa Olubukola. I joined Andela full-time in November 2015, although, worked as a volunteer in October 2015 as part of my interview process. I’m currently an Engineering Manager within the Apprenticeship Space.
I studied Computer Science at Babcock University. I originally wanted to study Mechanical or Petroleum engineering but circumstances didn’t allow that to happen. Hence, I chose Computer Science as a second option mainly because of the flexibility the field offered and based on advice from mentors.
As an Engineering Manager supporting Andela’s Apprenticeship Program, I’m responsible for supporting the Technical Team Leads in this space, ensuring quality apprenticing developer experience and ensuring quality products and engineering standards/practices are the norm.
I love that I can be all of an ideas hub, a project manager, a people manager, an implementer and a learner at the same time.
I see Andela as a movement and because of this movement, I’m most excited now more than ever that there’s hope for Africa on many fronts and we’re beginning to change the mindset and mental model the world has of us.
Andela continues to support women in tech by creating platforms/forums e.g. Ladies in Tech group, Andela Women Tech Leadership program, Andela’s all-female boot camp, etc. which are aimed at empowering and equipping women with the necessary skills.
My dream job was working at Chevron as a Petroleum Engineer.
I wish I was a little more aware of what women in the tech space face because of our gender. Maybe I’d have done things differently.
I don’t think so but we’re getting there, slowly but surely.
I guess it’d be caring only about the things that matter and keeping things in perspective.
I do a few things to keep myself informed;
My advice would be to start with the little opportunity, resource, etc. you have and always bear in mind that everyone’s running their own race, so, focus on yourself. It’s very easy to be weighed down by how far you have to go but always reflect on how far you’ve come and let that propel you.
We believe the future of software development is open, inclusive and everywhere. At Andela, we believe that work is more than a 9-5 – it is using our gifts and talents to work towards a goal that is bigger than all of us.
If you are interested in joining our tech team and would like to apply, please have a look at our job board here.
If you’re looking to hire Nigeria’s most talented developers, get in touch with us here.
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