Written by 11:13 am Features, News, Startups, Tech Views: 13

How She Code Africa Is Building Communities For African Women In Tech – Ada Nduka Oyom

 In this interview with Ada Nduka Oyom, the founder of She code Africa,  she tells Onyinye Okonkwo the importance of tech communities for women in tech, the benefits and some of her achievements so far. 

Ada Nduka Oyom, the founder of She code Africa

When you think of communities for women in the Nigerian, nay African tech space, She Code Africa quickly comes to mind, which is a no brainer as it is a community for African women in tech. It boasts of 17,000 members from different countries in Africa.

 In this interview with Ada Nduka Oyom, the founder of She code Africa,  she tells Onyinye Okonkwo the importance of tech communities for women in tech, the benefits and some of her achievements so far. 

 

For Ada, communities are of the utmost importance especially for women in the tech space which is still largely male dominated. She believes that having a community of women not only inspires a woman to attain heights but also gives her a much needed sense of belonging which many a time, sever women struggle to feel in the tech ecosystem.

 

“ I know what communities have done for me personally. Communities have had a huge impact on my career growth.

“I know that without the different committees that I was involved in while starting, I wouldn’t be where I am today, which is one of the reasons that I decided to start She Code Africa.

“I studied microbiology and while transitioning into tech, community was instrumental in helping me grow in my role.

“For women getting into tech, communities are important because you get to meet other women in tech.

“It’s [tech industry] a diverse ecosystem that is largely dominated by men, and it’s common to feel intimidated or overwhelmed with all the resources, tools, and platforms.

“It’s not uncommon to feel like you don’t belong, because you can’t relate to certain things just because there aren’t as many women.

“Even in communities where there are women, it’s mostly women of other races and as a Black or African woman in tech, it can be difficult to thrive in an ecosystem like that.

“So, communities help, especially for African women.  It creates that sense of togetherness – a much-needed platform where you meet women like you, who can relate to most of the things you experience.

“One beautiful thing about being part of a community is that it spurs you towards growth because you’ve seen women do things that you never imagined were achievable.

“It plays a significant part in your sense of development in whatever field in tech you’re pursuing,” Ada shares.

 

What started off with a desire to tell the stories of women in the tech space which she did on medium after witnessing an international organization celebrate just one woman from the African tech space has now, since 2016, morphed into not just a strong community for women in tech, but also a non-profit organization that trains and equips women in the continent with not only skills but equipment and a supportive family that aids them thrive in the tech space.

 

“I got into tech in the University of Nigeria Nsukka where I was studying microbiology,” Ada tells me.

“I basically stumbled into tech as I attended a tech event while in my second year and even at the event, I noticed I was one of the only five girls at the event with over 20 men present and it was something I told myself I would do something about if I ever got the opportunity.”

 

Despite not studying a tech related course, Ada remained active in the campus tech community and was eventually chosen to lead the developer community in her third year which she did until she graduated.

 

While leading the university tech community, Ada also got the opportunity to become a Women Tech Maker Ambassador where she would be leading the women in tech in the university community.

This opportunity, she tells me, exposed her to work with various female community leaders and women in tech across various locations in Africa.

 

The idea that would eventually lead to what we know today as She Code Africa came about when a certain organization only promoted one female programmer out of the six which they were celebrating on a World Programmers Day.

This rubbed Ada in a certain way as she thought that such development wasn’t right. This was because, according to her, she knew that there were several unsung African female developers.

Consequently, she set out to out to create a platform where women could be given a floor to talk about what they were doing as well as give them the global visibility.

“She Code Africa actually started out as an initiative for me to just write and talk about women’s story but it morphed  into something bigger as other girls wanted to connect with these women whom I was writing about their stories and that’s how the community started and we officially launched on 13th September 2016.

What She Code Africa Also Does:

She code Africa is a non profit organization and also a community with the primary focus to spotlight, celebrate, and empower African women in tech with technical skills. While they also tell the stories of women, they also provide these women with training and career opportunities, so they can either get into tech or excel in whatever career they work in.

To ensure that they properly carry out their vision and mission, Ada and the She Code Africa team organize Bootcamps and have a laptop scholarship program where they provide laptops and other tools for women who need them. They have been actively doing these since 2018.

“So far, we have been able to train about 7,000 women via our programs free of charge, Ada tells me.

“This data is from our programs as a community and the programs organized by the different She Code Africa chapters across Africa as we have over 30 chapters across the continent,” she reveals.

 

Executing all the above as a non-profit organization definitely requires a lot of finance and this, Ada tells me, is one of the challenges she faces as the founder of the SCA community.

Being a non-profit organization with no income means that they largely rely on donations, sponsorships and grants to carry out their projects.

She said when ever the funds are not forth coming,  she would, sometimes, resort to funding some of the projects from her little personal savings as the organization isn’t yet profitable.

Meanwhile, She Code Africa has gotten sponsorships from organizations like Linux, Microsoft, Demos and other individuals and groups who wished to remain anonymous.

 

Doing all the above must be daunting and Ada tells me it definitely is as she runs She code Africa with a team of volunteers while also keeping her day Job as the community manager for the Google Developer Groups and the Women Tech-makers program for Sub-Saharan Africa at Google. She is also the co-founder of Open Source Community Africa.

 

“Getting sponsorships at first when we were still trying to make a name for ourselves was a bit daunting.”

“But I believe that my impact and work in the tech ecosystem made it easier to convince people to donate to our organization. So, at the beginning a large part was me funding programs with my own money but that didn’t faze me because I knew what I wanted.

“Another challenge was getting all the girls to take the programs seriously and see it to the end as sometimes people do not take things as seriously when they get it for free as they would if they have to pay for it.

“While trying to form a commitment to the programs offered was a challenge, it was minor compared to the challenge of raising funds to providing free resources to ensure these girls had a low entry barrier,” She said.

 

She has been able to build a team of committed volunteers, some of whom have been working with her for a bout three years. While this is great, the organization is aware that it cannot run without paid staff members for too long and hopes to remedy that situation in the nearest future.

 

While many people hear the name Ada and see the impact of her work with She Code Africa – being the largest women in tech community in Africa, this success comes at a price for Ada informs me that juggling the many roles she occupies in different international organizations with the numerous responsibilities attached, comes at a personal cost for her as she suffered a mental breakdown recently.

 

“ To be very honest, it has been very daunting. I barely have my own time and this has taken its toll on my health. I had a very serious breakdown a couple of months back just because I was doing many things.

Ada reveals that the exposure can also be a distraction because it comes with so much attention which can get to one’s head and then pride follows.

“So sometimes, the noise can be overwhelming but like I tell my team, regardless of the accolades, we get out there, we stay grounded and keep doing the work.”

 

Speaking on the question of how she handles the stress that comes with her work, she tells me “ I have learnt to prioritize the things I do. It is easy for me to get overwhelmed.

“So, I ensure I always find time to block everything out and rest even if it means forgoing some opportunities, that is actually fine as rest is a priority to me. So, having a priority list and sticking to it helps.”

 

Despite the challenges, there are victories and memorable moments which she tells me is mostly when the girls who have been trained by one of the SCA programs secures a job in tech which makes her really happy.

She said most of the girls who are trained are beginners and seeing them land jobs is very satisfying.

Also, really encouraging for Ada is hearing testimonials from women who tell her how much the SCA community has helped them and impacted their tech journeys. This, she tells me, encourages her and strengthens her resolve to continue, especially during challenging times when she may feel like quitting.

 

Meanwhile, for women and girls Looking to come into tech, Ada gives this piece of advice:

 

“ Just go for it. Nobody really cares about your age, what you studied or certificate or any of that to be very honest. Everyone only cares about the skills you bring to the table.

“While it is never too early or too late, when you go in, have a goal and focus so you do not waste your time. So, before going into tech, have an understanding of the field you want to go into, do your research and get started from there.”

 

In the future, Ada Nduka Oyom hopes to be completely focused on running She Code Africa full-time with full time employees and regional offices in strategic locations across Africa. She also wishes to have access to more grants to run the Non-profit organization.

 

 

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