Tech at a glance. Why I chose to pursue ICT as a career path

The saying “follow your passion” holds a significant meaning for Gloriah Mwendwa, a 23-year-old who has been passionate about pursuing a career in the tech industry since her childhood.

She shares her story with Africa Solutions Media Hub shedding light to her experience in the industry.Mwendwa is currently working as a software developer at Gloib Group Limited, gradually enhancing her skills to be a global leader in Tech, which is her dream.

Why pursue software engineering as a career path?

My father is a mechanical engineer and when I was young, he used to take me along on his engineering pursuits. Seeing him work, I was intrigued by how he came up with all these inventions sparking part of my interest in engineering. Though unlike, him my interest involved more of thought than the mechanical aspect he did. So, I ended up picking up a course that would intertwine my computer, physics and mathematical knowledge subjects I enjoyed doing in High School. I felt that software engineering would allow me to do that for when you Code you sort of invent and innovate both of which still count as implementing something different. The analytical part of it involves a lot of thinking and problem solving.  I love solving problems and so I ended up choosing software engineering as a course and career path.

How long have you been in the industry?

I’ve been in the industry for quite a while and I am actually headed towards my sixth year I started getting acquainted to the course at age 18 right after High School before heading to university. I did a short course first and started building my skills. By the time I got admitted at university I had already applied for jobs and actually worked as I studied. I did it for 4 years graduated with a Second Class Upper. My achievements made me happy as I got to work with a lot of people in the industry, create a lot of things and also get to learn in the process.

What has the experience been like so far?

Tech has its good and bad phase. With each phase you get to know what kind of Tech person you want to become. And my experience in the industry shed light to both as I’ve worked with people who are unethical and had to walk away so far. I’ve also worked with people who don’t know what they are doing taking people’s money out of their pockets. But either way I’ve also worked with great companies too, indulging with experts who have been in this field for over 10 years. There was even a time I got to contribute to a Google project. So, I feel like it has been an eye-opening experience for one and two a learning experience as well. Because as you continue to work with everyone else in the industry you get to learn a few things about yourself too. What you want and don’t want to do, how you want to establish your brand and how you want to be known in the Tech industry. So, I would say it’s interesting because it has been a bitter sweet experience.

The Tech industry is mostly perceived as male dominated. As a lady in the same industry how have you been able to cope in the 5 years you’ve worked there?

One thing about myself is that am really an introvert person. So, every other time I get to work in an environment where it’s male dominated, I try not to let that discourage me. Reason being that the expertise I hold has made me equally qualified to exist in the same space as them. For I usually   spend most of my time perfecting my skills indulging on different projects so that it doesn’t make me less than any other person in terms of service delivery. As a result of that I’ve grown in my confidence and courage to match up to the pressure in such spaces.

Besides the Tech industry is sort of different for as long as you are willing to learn they are willing to help. I have been fortunate for most of the companies I’ve worked in. The male figures have been the ones propelling me to succeed. And I believe it’s because I showed that attitude of learning, and they in turn helped me navigate through the industry. And with the experience I have had, I actually noticed that a lot of the male figures in Tech do yarn to have more females in the industry.

This year’s theme for women/Girls in ICT Day focused on Leadership looking into the  need for female role models in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic (STEM) careers. What are your thoughts on that?

I believe that’s a good move; we need a lot more females taking up Tech and STEM careers because we can solve our own problems with them. The further we get into the industry the more we get to understand the gaps that are there. Because I do believe we are building built ups that sometimes don’t even work for us as women. A good example would be for instance when you go to Play Store and search for an app that can help you track your menstrual cycle, its actually hard to find one that caters for your needs completely. But if you are a woman in STEM and you notice this is a problem while having the skills to implement that, you can actually create that app that is really tailored towards serving the females better. We as a women have the general knowledge of what we face in general the same goes for the males. So, I feel like if we have more females in the industry who are actually taking up these spaces, there will be a balance. And we will also be in a position to come up with better suited Solutions where every gender will be equally and effectively represented.

What are some of the challenges you have personally faced in the industry and also think limits women and Girls to venture into STEM careers?

Fear is one thing that hinders many people on venturing into Tech careers. People simply tend to fear what they don’t know thinking the industry is hard. I know this from personal experience as most of the time when I say am a Software engineer, people tend to gasp. When I add the other bit on coding with python, they’ll tend to give remarks on how hard it is. But once they get to experience coding as what it really is, it could actually be a game changer for them.

The second thing I’d say is societal teachings and norms. For most of us, while growing up we’ve been taught there’s a separate industry for men and women. Women were perceived to be delicate creatures so anything intensive we were not to indulge in. Fortunately, my parents did not raise me like that. My dad always kept on insisting there is no job for a man or woman. Like he used to say work is work and that anybody can do it. And I think that affects our decision making.

The third thing I think it’s societal too when it comes to relationships. Most of us ladies want to be in loving relationships with a view of growing families or maybe not but either way still want that experience. But some of us tend to believe that when you are in Tech you are showing masculinity, and that’s not really good. You’ll find they are being discouraged and segregated for doing something that is not termed as normal for woman to do. And unfortunately, it goes beyond relationships but friendships as well. I for instance didn’t use to have friends at school because of what my career path entailed.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to venture into STEM related career?

Just do it! Just do it! Tell yourself to do it and do it, get it done because at the end of the day the industry is going to pay people who are skilled and there’s no skill that is better than being in Tech. If you love challenges and to growing, honestly Tech is a really great place to be. For instance, I can’t stay like more than three months without improving my Tech skill from my designs, my coding and problem-solving skills. I just have to keep improving because with Tech there’s always that constant pressure of evolving as you’ll always be in a learning environment. And as you evolve in your career, as a person, and with your emotion you become more confident. For I tend to believe Tech is that trend you saw last week and probably in the next 8 months a new one has emerged. And the way I see it, if you truly want to be part of it don’t listen to anything that is discouraging you from actually pursuing it. Simply dive in and you will definitely figure it out as you go because that’s what I did.

Hypothetically, if you weren’t a Tech engineer, what would you choose as a career path instead?

I had a passion for law sometimes back, so I think I would have been a lawyer or investigative journalist. Because am good in English and debates.

 What would you want your legacy to be in the long run?

One thing I’ve always loved as a person is spearheading technological evolution. And I may not be in that position right now but that is something I’m always working towards. So, in the future though I don’t surely know what it holds, I want to be known as someone who led the Tech evolution in Africa and probably in the world. And my steps towards that start with me becoming better with my skills so I can be able to even empower others and teach them what I’ve learned in the industry.

And what would be your parting shot?

Always go where you can learn.

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