Natural Hair Chit Chat: On Women in Tech with My Silent Reader

It’s been a while since I did a random post and that is not such a good thing. So I have made a personal commitment that from this time henceforth when I get a minute, I will share with you what’s running through my mind, even if it’s a real snippet. By now you should know that the word ‘snippets’ in Kawi Snippets is a paradox. And it so happens that I have a minute right now.


Earlier in the day … Scratch that. Early this morning (after hitting the snooze button a couple of times), I found my way to Serena Hotel to attend an event that Intel Corporation and Global Peace Foundation in collaboration with Social Media Week independent Nairobi were hosting. It was a private and public sector consultative forum whose agenda was to address the technology gender gap in Kenya. It’s great that the conversation on how to increase the percentage of women in tech in corporations, both public and private, is getting fired up. It’s has been there, but there’s still a lot to be done. From figuring out how to continue empowering more women to be digitally literate, develop their skills, and gain that much needed confidence to be a part of this tech community.

After the event, I met this beautiful lady called Mbithe Nzomo. She has a bomb-ass fro (fellow kurlly dada), super funky cat-eyed spectacles with a happy-go-lucky infectious personality. I instantly crushed on her and forgot to take a selfie with her. If hers isn’t coolness, then I don’t know what coolness is. She’s a software developer at Andela. A tech firm I got to learn of today and it sounds like an amazing place to work because she talks about it with so much pride and enthusiasm. She approached me, said hi, and told me that she’s an avid reader of my blog Kawi Snippets *gasp*. Guys, you have no idea how much joy that little fact gives me. I have met a couple of my silent readers and what I feel after the pleasantries is an overwhelming sense of humbleness and indescribable joy. Then right after I’ve absorbed that little fact and my inner excitement has calmed down (because I try to conceal it), I want to know as much as I can about them in the few minutes we have together.

So we had a little chat about women in tech. It only made sense since that is what the forum was about anyway. And I was telling her that I am one of those women in tech who literally fled away from the tech community once I was done with school. I studied BBIT at Strathmore University. I enjoyed it while I was studying it, but after my final projects, which I slaved on developing – a clinic management system (for my Diploma) and an online shopping portal for Maasai Market vendors (for my Undergraduate Studies), I knew software development wasn’t for me. So I even did CCNA (networking), because my dad insisted that I needed to do a professional course as a complement to my degree. And I did it.

Then when I got into the job market, I freaked out. I just didn’t feel like the tech world matched my personality. I’m brilliant, but not in a nerdish way. And during our time (lol, I just had to though I am not that old), tech was made to look like it’s a geek/nerd thing. You know the full on black screen with colored code rolling down – and the emphasis was so much on the technical skill and very little on the soft skills, at least in my circles. And I didn’t see how I would spend my day sitting behind the computer coding or behind the scenes connecting networks or figuring out why the system is not running or working as it should. It was perceived as quite a quiet and structured profession, and it seemed like it suited people with an introverted personality.

If you’ve met me, you’d know or sense that I am more of an extroverted personality. I enjoy being in a setting where I can make a lot of (constructive) noise. You know talk without getting the “please tone down” stare, randomly ask questions or share opinions, kick off conversations on a topical issue in the middle of work, or just work without such strict rules in application. Reminds me, there’s once I missed a semi colon (;) and my system wouldn’t run. I had to read through all my code to try and figure out what was wrong. I didn’t. It’s one of my “geek” code-loving friends who spotted that error in a few minutes after I had struggled for hours on. And then I thought, “You mean I’m going to do this for a living?” “Nah son! I kennot.” That’s how I got absorbed into the digital space and more enjoyably, marcomm, strategy and content management.

Looking at tech today, and especially from a profession or work perspective, it’s different. It’s now more inclusive. It appreciates the fact that not everyone is a developer and it makes room for the innovators in other non-tech fields (writers, doctors, nurses, farmers, marketers, administrators, sales people,scientists, accountants, lawyers, auditors etc). It shows you that you can still have a tech mindset even if you’re not one of them. That you can come up with innovative solutions to solve the needs in the market or fill in the gaps in the market even if you’re not a software developer or worse yet, conversant with how say a certain hardware works – for instance the data centers or servers, you know it’s where your data is stored but not the intricate details of the database connections that get that data from your computer to the server. It praises the technical skills and in the same breadth, the soft skills. Basically, it’s now warmer and more accepting to people who are not experts in the tech space, but are experts in other areas.

To be honest though, I feel that studying a technology-based degree made me who I am today. That I am organized and meticulous in my presentation of work and a quick learner. I am able to grasp concepts much faster and I believe it’s because of that exposure. So many times I find that I can maneuver through any systems with ease – even new ones that I haven’t been trained on – because the fundamentals are the same. We’re in a digital era where everything you interact with is placed in a system. Whether it’s this blog editor, content management systems, customer relations management systems, enterprise resource planning systems among others. I am also able to present a problem in a more structured way and in a way that people can understand and be able to derive a solution for it.

Meeting with Mbithe today took me way back to the days when I was starting out, fresh out of campus and wondering how I’ll tackle this tech and work thing. It used to stress the hell out of me, because then, I felt that I just wasn’t good enough. I am so happy that first, she’s my silent reader and so she looks up to me in one way or another. Second, she’s a young woman who has decided to roll up her sleeves and do the tough job that some of us fled from (covers eyes). Developing software’s geared towards making our lives simpler every other day and still being such a cool person while at it. Hats off darling! And to the many other women in the industry like you too.

To all my other silent readers, please say hi to me when you see me. Let’s get to know each other. I have nothing but love for you, because you keep me company in my humble online abode.  Lots of love, light and peace your way.

Have a kickass weekend!

Signing Off ~~~ *Kawi*