Posts Tagged ‘Women in Technology’

When I started TechHer in August 2015, more than anything I was interested in some sort of convergence point for women working in or around or with technology. In the same way that the ‘boys club’ exists and men grab drinks after work and that’s where the proverbial big decisions are taken etc., I wanted a community where women would feel safe to ask anything, say anything, and feel confident to be (or at least dream of being) anything.

By the way, if you’re female, working in technology, interested in enhancing whatever it is you’re working on via digital, please find us online – @TechHerNG (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) or visit our website – http://www.techherng.com and stay in touch with us! Alternatively, you can join our whatsapp group; send a text to 09083041940 and someone will sort you out. Okay?

Back to the story. In the course of running TechHer I’ve been privileged to meet all sorts of women running similar or different initiatives all geared towards increasing digital literacy amongst women or enhancing already existing skills. I’ve been privileged to meet, chat with, sometimes share a stage with people like Oreoluwa Somolu-Lesi of W.TEC, Helen Anatogu of iDEA Hub, Aisha Bello of Jango Girls, Titilope Sonuga, Ambassador for the Intel She Will Connect programme, Simi Olusola of Abocoders, the wonderful crew at Women TechMakers, etc. I’m always excited to meet new people, listen to their stories, understand why and how they do the things they do, figure out how we can collaborate, and learn what mistakes they’ve made I can avoid.

One person I’ve been really fascinated by is Simi of AboCoders. Simi is a freelance project management consultant. AboCoders empowers young women from low-income families in Northern Nigeria with software development skills. They set up a training centre in Minna from which they have trained 23 girls and out of which they are training the next set of beneficiaries (40 ladies between 18 and 30), all on coding. They have also set up collaborations with 5 schools in Minna to establish and run coding clubs for girls in their schools. Exciting stuff!

Even more exciting is their Camp AboCoders, a one-week residential coding camp for girls that held in Abuja recently. It’s the camp I want to talk about though.

I was invited, with four other ladies to the closing day of their camp last Friday, and it was really nice to meet the 16 young ladies, wide-eyed, excited, and very interested in what we had to say. Something else I really enjoyed was the speed geeking session (which is the same thing as speed dating once you exchange geek for date).

So, I spoke to the ladies in different batches about TechHer, what we do, what the opportunities are, how they can fit into our community (after they cross 18, lol), and then all of us speakers had a panel session where we shared on our experiences from choosing careers, support (or not) from our parents/family for our work, to things we did we wouldn’t do again if we had the chance to go back in time.

I asked the ladies what they wanted to do with themselves post secondary/university education, and their responses were as diverse as they were interesting. I even learned something; someone wants to study mechatronics (be honest, did you know about that before now?) and she knew exactly why she wanted to do that.

Here’s the thing. Of the sixteen of them, only four have access to computers, and very indirect access at that. Whether it’s from business centers, their relatives, etc. I thought about it long and hard, and decided I would try to do something about it. Maybe not I, but we.

Here’s what we can do.

We can buy them computers. All 16 of them. We’ve searched, and a decent second-hand computer costs N50, 000. TechHer has committed to buying one, leaves us with 15 to purchase. Who’s in? Can we do this in 30 days? Please contact Simi (email – simi at abocoders dot org dot ng, Twitter – @SimiOlusola) and help us buy computers for these young girls. Please. We would hate to cater to some and not cater to the others.

My pledge on this:

I will do one update blog post when the money for the 16 laptops is complete, or when the 30 days are up (whichever comes first). I will also do a blog post when they’re handed over to the girls. One of the updates will include a receipt for the laptops purchased, photos of the devices, and photos of the handover.

Thank you for joining us on this. We’re so thankful!

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First off, two fingers in the air for period pain if you’re a lady reading this; it’s 4.40am and I’ve been up now for close to an hour because my belly is talking to me in ways I’m sure can be nicer and definitely less painful! In fact, can I get two fingers in the air from the guys as well, for obvious reasons? Done? Thank you very much.

Now that I’m awake, I started reflecting on a lot of things and first off is my round ups should be a lot more frequent! So I’ll work on that. A quick second is that I am blessed. Like, God has really crowned my year with good things, things money can buy, and the things money cannot buy. Especially the things money cannot buy! So grateful.

My niece turned six months old yesterday, and she’s an absolute beauty. Gosh! Just watching her grow, all the developments we’ve seen and continue to see, and her smiles. Sweet baby Jesus my niece’s smile can melt ice! Thank you God for such a gorgeous, healthy, happy baby!

In other baby news, our flu has cleared! So for three weeks or more Talia and I were coughing, runny noses, etc. Like cough syrup after cough syrup, one antibiotics course after the other, the flu refused to clear. At some point it occurred to me we were probably just re-infecting ourselves, lol. Glad to announce that we’re both fine now (the devil is put to shame once again, whoop)!

At the end of July I was invited to #TechPlus2016 to speak; had been pencilled down for two panels – one on cyberbullying, internet security in the age of social media, and the other one on increasing digital literacy for women. Both panels featured very interesting panelists, and I enjoyed speaking about TechHer, things we do, lessons we’ve learned and how they intersect with the topics.

So my friend Nana was a panelist as well, and so we were in Lagos together. I’ll attempt to chronicle the trip.

First off, that morning our flight was scheduled for 9.30am, and I had a prior engagement for 7.15am on NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) to talk about social media, entrepreneurship, etc. As you can imagine I had to be up really early to pack, head to the station to say my piece, and then sped off to the airport… Found a really nice, safe, but quick cabbie to drive me, and of course we’d detailed one of our friends working at the airport to check us in.

He calls and says that our tickets were for the 22nd of August, not the 22nd of July. W-H-A-T? And so the calls began to the organizers, they called the travel agents who booked the flight, we spoke to the airline, plenty talk. From no seats on any flight that day, to none for our class of ticket, to rescheduling us to a 10am flight that got delayed till 1pm.

We went into a restaurant to wait and encountered a very rude, uncouth man. Fathers and mothers, train your sons. Some things are unacceptable, including raising your voice or trading insults. Am I perfect? No, but in the last few days I’ve met some very uncultured young men. It is shameful.

Anyway, we finally took off about 1pm, and got into Lagos safely (praise God for that). Soon as we touched down, we were in the able hands and care of the #TechPlus2016 team, and I must take a full moment to appreciate the warmth and stellar logistics ground team they had in place to cater to us.

Got to the hotel, checked in, and barely had enough time to freshen up and head to my first panel. Interesting, intimate, just the way I liked it. Was nice to bump into my brother Chude on the way in…always a joy to see that man.

Panel done, we explored the exhibition area and I was so impressed! As a child of God planning an exhibition for TechHer myself, there was so much to be impressed by! We will get there, and very soon! I copped a ring, some bangles, and some gorgeous fabric, and I can’t wait to see what my designer #NitazCouture does with it! Been a long time since a designer/seamstress/tailor excited me, and it’s so refreshing that Francesca, head honcho at #Nitaz not only knows her craft, she knows my body and what works. So great!

Next day was easy. My session was about 4pm but we went to Nana’s session at 2pm and wandered off into the exhibition area again. We attended a few other sessions, including one with Teju Ajani, Frank Donga, and a few other people. Interesting how content is so dynamic but totally reliant on the principle of relatability. Can people relate with what you’re going to put out as a producer or curator? If it’s a yes, you’re on the road to doing well!

Sunday morning I worshipped with Pastor Ituah Ighodalo’s church, Trinity House. Amazing! It was the sixth anniversary of the church, and I remember the prayer his wife led, both in thanksgiving and committing the rest of the year into God’s hands. God is amazing I tell you. I had a great time, and I must visit again. By the way, their choir is amazing! Something the choir sang resonated with me so much, “my status is changing, no more decline, I’m on my way to better days”. In Jesus name!

Then, it was a dash back to the hotel to grab our bags and head to the airport. Airline? Arik. And that means that is a totally different article by itself. I’ll write it!

I’d like to tell a story (one that is long overdue); one that I hope will inspire you, confuse you (like it did me at some point), and more importantly open you up to do things even you thought you were unable to do. Ready?

So, I studied social media for a Master’s Degree, knew as soon as I was done that much as I loved my job at the BBC World Service Trust (now Media Action) producing the award-winning Story Story, I wanted to start a consultancy, teach people to communicate with their audiences using social media. And I did. I’ve been privileged to work for the best of the best since then.

While I was outside Nigeria, I benefited from a host of events, support groups, picked up tips and tricks, and generally enjoyed the opportunity to share knowledge, learn new stuff, stay on top. Some of these events were as particular as ‘black women in tech’, ‘black women who code’, etc.

I didn’t have that here in Nigeria, and after a while, I grumbled. And moved on. And grumbled, and moved on. I mentioned this need to my friends Fatu Ogwuche and Nana Nwachukwu once, talked about the need to hold an event/create a community of women, and still moved on. I even had a conversation with Iyin Aboyeji of Andela at Salamander Cafe and I remember him encouraging me to stick with women as against males and females for the event. Angel Adelaja of Zahara Spa popped into the cafe for a separate meeting but somehow joined our conversation and promised to support it!

One day in August 2015, I was in the office with Andy Madaki, and I said I was going to hold an event to see how many women were working in technology in Abuja, see what we could learn from each other, and how we could collaborate, and support each other. And while I was talking to him, I knew immediately that if I didn’t commit to it, I wouldn’t do it.

We talked about a name for it and for the sake of pride I won’t mention the names I came up with! By the time I was done with a concept note, Andy coined the name TechHer, and I loved it. And his designer created the logo, and I loved it too!

#TechHer

Then he showed me how to create a Google Form (I’d never had to create one before that day), and in minutes there were six questions and a link on Twitter. In 24 hours 45 women had signed up to attend. I thought, “huh? Where are we going to keep them?”

Our registration form!

At some point we had to close our registration form because we panicked! Then we opened it the next day for another 24 hours because I got inundated with emails. What a great problem to have!

I told my bestie Wumi and my sister Adaora about it; also spoke with Tolu Onile-Ere of PlayHouse Communications, my friend Blaze Otokpa of Blazing Images, etc; by this time I was looking for gifts for our fishbowl raffle. Tolu immediately said his organization would give us N20, 000 worth of data. Whoop! They were our first donors and a much-needed boost at a time when most people I’d spoken to had started disappointing me, stopped replying emails, that kind of thing. *Smile*

I was with my mom and sister in my sister’s office one day, almost pulling out my hair cos we didn’t have a venue. And then I thought, “I’ll just call Jackie Farris”. And I did, and soon as I mentioned what I wanted, she said, “sure, come have a look and tell me what room you want.” Boom! Tears of joy baby! They ended up giving us the gorgeous Exhibition Hall of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Center, and sound equipment too! Thank you!

My friend Nana paid the stipend for the photographer Blazing Images gave us for the day, and I’m so thankful to Nana, and to Blaze because we wouldn’t have been able to afford their services!

There were also people like Amplified Radio and HolyHill Church who livestreamed, Zahara Spa who gave us a voucher to give out, and every other group who gave us gifts to give away.

Let’s backtrack a bit now.

When by the third day of the link being out, we had over 90 people registered, it occurred to me that this was becoming a little bigger than I’d intended it to be. That meant I needed to think. We decided to build a site and get on social media formally, and here I must thank Dimgba Kalu of Learn Code who built us a pretty website in less than 72 hours. Check on it www.techherng.com. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram too.

Where was I? The day was glorious (there’s a roundup here) –  big thank you to my dad for flying my mom in and out of Abuja to support me, to my sister who ended up staying outside the hall to pack the refreshments we got into bags, to Wumi who kept calling to encourage me, to Fatu and Nana – you girls will rule the world I promise – thank you! And to God, who placed the idea in my heart, who keeps strengthening my team and opening doors, we’re so thankful!

Since then, we’ve started a Whatsapp group where we have periodic giveaways, vote on whether Chrome is better than Mozilla’s Firefox, share opportunities, interesting stuff! We also send out periodic newsletters.

What else? On Wednesdays, we profile women in technology who are doing great things, on Thursday we teach a tech-related topic across all our social media, and on Fridays we publicise female businesses across our social media.

TechHer is hinged on three things – support, learning, and collaboration; the idea is to enable whatever women are already doing via technology, and everyday we think of new ways to achieve that. We think of going beyond the call to get women into STEM and are focused on how to keep the ones who are here; how to help them be better at things they do.

We also have to events planned in Abuja this month of November. The first starts on the 17th of November (next week Tuesday), and is ten classes on coding. There’s an entire module prepared for that; please email hello@techherng.com if you’re interested. It’s free.

We also want to teach our women to design, develop, and manage their websites themselves. That’s on the 27th of November, and is also free. Please register here.

Also, we’re planning a TechHer event for Port Harcourt this December, which I am very excited (and worried) about. I know it will come to pass, despite the odds we seem to be facing now.

So, that’s where we are, what we’re doing, and what we plan to do! From a trickle to a roar! Are you female, curious about or working in technology? You should join us! We might come to your city next!