The day was finally here.
With girls from over 20 schools within Nairobi and its environs in attendance, it was clear, that aspiring and existing women in tech in Nairobi had eagerly awaited this day.
Vice President Linda Kamau kicked off the event, introducing our attendees to the work AkiraChix does, and the focus of the day’s event, which was to introduce young girls in high school to career opportunities available in the tech industry. Linda then proceeded to moderate a panel consisting of recent high school graduates pursuing careers in tech as a result of interaction with AkiraChix through it’s programs.
Wangechi Mwangi met AkiraChix while she was still in high school at Precious Blood in 2011. This was when AkiraChix began piloting the mentorship program for High schools. During this time, Wangechi and a few of her friends co- founded a social network known as AZMA, and she also began work as an intern at iHub Research. By the time her results were announced, Wangechi had co-authored a research paper, and switched from wanting to do Economics(much to the surprise of all who expected her to do Medicine), and pursuing a degree in Business Information Technology at Strathmore University.
Cynthia Abura wasn’t a member of the computer club in High school. She was a Music student. This is why she didn’t understand why her friends were bothering her about participating in a Google Code-In contest. Nevertheless, she took up the challenge. Cynthia moved from wanting to pursue Medicine to a computer science degree through interaction and mentorship from Linda Kamau, who helped her and her friends during the google Code In contest. So determined she was, that she would even work remotely, while in Uganda, just to make sure that her tasks were completed on time. Precious Blood Riruta ended up being one of the top 5 schools with the most students completing tasks in the contest. Cynthia helped put not only her school, but Kenya on the map of tech. She plans on merging her computer science knowledge with Aviation in future.
Fridah Oyaro is one of the students slated to graduate from the AkiraChix training program, class of 2012, this coming weekend. She talked of her persistence to join the program, through frantic phone calls to Marie right before interviews were to be conducted. She spoke of her journey within the program, and the discovery of her passion for design through interaction with her teacher and mentor, Nyandia Kamawe. Fridah has moved from little technical skill, to designing posters and publications, including the one used for the Girls in ICT event.
After a short break, the girls got a taste of what work in the different fields of tech entailed, through a speed-geeking session. Attendees got to walk through six stations within the room, in 10 minute rotations. These stations focused on design, entrepreneurship, software development, UX research, Tech writing and Robotics. This session was extremely informative, as per feedback received from the girls, who felt that they had now gained a better understanding of what each of these different fields involved.
Attendees then got to watch Sheryl Sandberg’s famous TED talk, “Why we have too few women leaders”
In the spirit of global collaboration, we sought to gain insights on what it means to be a woman in tech, from a global perspective. Nivi Murkhejee, of Elimu Kenya moderated a G+ hangout, featuring Asikana Network in Zambia, Maureen Agena of Girl Geek Kampala in Uganda, Ronda Zelezny Green in Germany and female Googlers Shikoh Gitau in Paris, Beryl Nelson in Poland, Jacqueline Rajuai in Nigeria, and Sonny Franckel in Germany. These ladies shared their personal journies into the tech industry and what drives them to keep at it.
Judith Owigar then led a panel discussion featuring female leaders in the tech industry, including:-
- Jessica Colaco, iHub Research Lead.
- Maureen Wangechi Maina, a Senior IP transport Planning engineer at Safaricom.
- Margaret Ndisha Mwakala, a system analyst and an upcoming, training statistician.
- Margaret Mwaura, current CTO at Adwest Communication LTD.
- Miriam Jemeli Kosgei, one of the Safaricom Women in Technology.
- Wambura Kimunyu, CEO of The technology monitoring Institute
- Catherine Mahugu, Co-founder and CTO of Shop Soko, formerly known as Sasa Africa
With that, the event came to a close, with an amazing group shot of attendees.
Some of the key points of advice that emerged through out the day included women believing in themselves, not being afraid to try something different, and exposing themselves to STEM subjects and embracing collaboration, as working together creates a much more powerful force.
AkiraChix would like to thank all the panelists and participants for helping us make the event the success that it was. A big thank you also goes out to Google Kenya and ITU for all their financial support of the event, Pete’s coffee for the fantastic food, Mateeshoh for the great quality T-shirt designs, and iHub for their continued support through use of their space. We are grateful. Special thanks to Marie Githinji, Angela Oduor and Wangechi Mwangi for their hard work on putting this event together.
It is our hope that all the information shared this past weekend will have a positive impact for both aspiring and existent women in the tech industry. We aimed to inspire, and were truly inspired as well!
Pictures from the event can be found on our G+ Page.