When you think of communities for women in the Nigerian and the African tech space, She code Africa quickly comes to mind. And, this is a no-brainer as it is a community for African women in tech which boasts of 17,000 members from different countries in Africa.
Why do women in the tech space need a community? What goes on in these communities: is it just vibes or a place to kumbaya or do they make a real impact?
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 not only inspires women to attain heights but gives them the much-needed sense of belonging which many times many women struggle to feel even in the tech ecosystem.
“I know what communities have done for me personally. I studied microbiology and while transitioning into tech, the community was instrumental in helping me grow in my role. 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.”
“Communities help, especially 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”, She said.
What started with a desire to tell the stories of women in the tech space has now morphed into not just a strong community for women in tech on the continent. She Code Africa is also a non-profit organization that trains and equips women with skills, needed tools and a supportive community since 2016.
Getting into tech
“I got into tech in the University of Nigeria Nsukka where I was studying microbiology. I stumbled into tech as I attended a tech event while in my second year and I even ate the event. But, I noticed that I was one of only 5 girls at the event with over 20 men present. And, I told myself I would do something about that, if I ever got the opportunity.”– Ada Nduka Oyom
Despite not studying an engineering or computer-related course, Ada remained active in the campus tech community and was eventually chosen to lead the developer community in her third year. She held that role until she graduated.
While leading the university tech community, Ada got the opportunity to become a women tech maker ambassador. The opportunity exposed her to working with female community leaders and other women in tech across Africa
Starting She Code Africa
The idea that would eventually lead to what we know today to be She Code Africa came about when a particular organization only celebrated six programmers on world programmers day and only one is female. This rubbed Ada in a different way as she knew that there were several African female developers.
So, She set out to create a platform where women could be given a platform to talk about what they were doing and provide them with visibility as not all of them had access to that.
“She Code Africa started as an initiative for me to just write and share women’s stories. But, it morphed into something bigger as other girls wanted to connect with these women who I was writing about. That was how the community started and we officially launched on 13th September 2016″, she explained.
She Code Africa is a non-profit community with a primary focus to spotlight, celebrate and empower African women in tech with technical skills. The goal is to tell the stories of women as well as provide these women with training and career opportunities.
To achieve their mission of “building a community that embodies technical growth, networking, mentorship and visibility amongst all level career roles in Technology”, Ada and her team at She Code Africa Team organize Bootcamps to empower their community.
They also provide laptops and other tools for women who need them which they have been actively doing since 2018.
“So far we have been able to train about 7,000 women via our programs free of charge. And, this data is from our programmes as a community and the programs organized by the different She Code Africa chapters across Africa. Right now, we have over 30 chapters across the continent.” She told me.
Challenges of leading and helping
Achieving the above results is no mean feat.
Executing these as a non-profit requires significant financing. Ada tells me that this is one of the major challenges the team faces. Being a non-profit with no income means that they largely rely on donations, sponsorship and grants to execute projects; which might always be forthcoming.
Ada told me that she sometimes had to fund some projects out of her pocket as the organization isn’t yet profitable.
“Getting sponsorship, at first when we were still trying to make a name for ourselves, was a bit daunting. So in the beginning a large part of the funding for programs was with my own money but that did not discourage me because I knew what I wanted. But I believe that our impact and work in the tech ecosystem made it a tad easier to convince people to donate to our organization.”
They have gotten sponsorships from organizations like Linux, Microsoft, demos and other individuals and groups who wish to remain anonymous.
According to ADA, another challenge is that 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 (GDG) and the Women Tech-makers program for Sub-Saharan Africa at Google.
She is also the co-founder of Open Source Community Africa.
While many in the tech space are familiar with the name Ada Nduka Oyom and see the impact of her work with She code Africa, only a few know that this comes at a price. She told me that juggling the many roles comes at a personal cost for her.
“To be very honest, it can be very hectic, I barely have my own time and this can take its toll on my health. I had a very serious breakdown a couple of months back just because I was doing many things. The exposure can also be a distraction. 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”, she adds.
Another challenge is building a non-profit with a team of volunteers can be tasking for them as they work for no pay. But Ada told me that they have been able to build a team of committed volunteers, some of who have been working with her for about 3 years.
Another challenge the team faces sometimes is getting women to take the programmes seriously as some do not take them as seriously as they would have if they are paying.
Wins and looking ahead
Despite the challenges, there are victories and memorable moments.
She told me that one recurrent satisfying news is when they hear that the ladies who have been trained in one of the SCA programs secure a job in tech. This makes her happy as most of the girls who are trained are beginners and seeing them land jobs is very satisfying.
Another encouraging part of the job for Ada is getting testimonials from women who share how much the SCA community has helped them and impacted their tech journey. This, she tells me, encourages her and strengthens her resolve to continue especially during challenging times when she sometimes feels like quitting.
For women that are looking to begin a career in tech, Ada gives this piece of advice,
“Just go for it. Nobody cares about your age or what you studied, people only care about the skills you bring to the table. It is never too early or too late to start. Have a goal and be focused. 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.”
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 with access to more grants to run it as a Non-profit in the future.
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