I woke up on Monday morning to an invite to the Summit from my friend, Aniedi Udo-Ubong, Developer Ecosystem Manager at Google (Sub-Saharan Africa). It was to a two-day gathering of Women Techmakers Leads and Google Developer Experts and ecosystem builders from countries across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Of course, I said yes.
I left Ghana for Nigeria on Wednesday afternoon prepared to share my experience as a woman-in-tech who still feels like a woman-not-in-tech despite having worked in the industry for over three years.
Before I get to the ‘piece de resistance’ of this post which is to provide tips on how to get into the Africa tech industry, here’s a summary of my career in the space so far.
If you clicked to view, you’d see that the above story portrays a professional well settled in her space and the industry as a whole, but this is not truthfully the case.
Every time I am invited to speak at a tech event, I wonder about my right to be there because my Github repo is an embarrassment and I don’t code as well as I’d like.
Back to the event and the tips I promised.
Here’s some of my notes from the summit:
Technology and the change it brings is not going anywhere anytime soon.
The earlier, Africans – men and women – find their place in it, build businesses on it and find ways to leverage it creatively, the faster we can make significant progress in our economies.
It would be really nice if we woke up and started creating and innovating more, and not only be consumers for the rest of the world.
We need to support our own – our builders, our technology, our solutions, our communities.
We need to get rid of the mentality that Instagram is better than Suba (which has shut down) or that Stripe is better than Paystack or Amplify (these fintechs may not be directly supplementary – but that’s not the point here).
It’s our responsibility, obligation even, to spread the message of technology.
Be willing to teach folks around you – old and young – the basics, evangelize and plant seeds that will grow to make us into a self-sustainable continent (in years to come, but still).
Imposter Syndrome doesn’t discriminate.
As a (wo)man in a fast-paced field like technology, imposter syndrome will be a part of your career. Acknowledge it, roll with it, and overcome it.
The more you stand your ground and fight through the fog, the earlier you’ll start to feel comfortable in your skin and in your place.
How you get into this space is not how you’ll stay in it.
It could be as a digital marketer, a community engagement manager, a business development professional or even as a newbie wed developer. In tech, you can never predict exactly where you’ll end up. Look at Zuck.
There are a lot of roles you can play in the industry without being a programmer.
You do not ever have to learn to code if it’s not your thing. The tech industry needs communicators, sellers, designers, community managers, program and project managers, recruiters, launchers, strategists, and many other roles.
The quickest way to get into tech is to join a community close to you.
There are so many hubs and co-working spaces in almost every city in Africa now. You don’t have to start on your own or figure things out all on your own. Walk into a co-working space, talk to the first person you meet, ask what it takes to belong and you are likely to get a warm welcome.
It’s nice to chronicle your journey as you grow or some lessons will be lost along the way.
These lessons you’ll have to learn again and again until they stick in your mind. Chronicling your journey has double benefits. It’s good for you and it’s good for your audience and generations coming afterward.
Giving to the ecosystem and the society, in general, is a good way to get your foot in the door.
Do what you can with what you have until you figure out who you want to be or can be. You may even be called into a position you didn’t apply for.
Network, form relationships, don’t be a loner.
One of the biggest barriers to networking, at least in my experience, is wondering how to introduce yourself, wondering what you have to offer.
Something I’ve learned recently is that that’s not your job to figure out. It’s okay to meet people and have the focus all on them. It’s okay to meet your idols when you’re not 100% ready. Just be honest, be yourself, appreciate their work, and maybe get their contact. Life often works itself out on behalf of those who keep showing up.
Focus on your interests, strengths and journey.
You don’t have to be @unicodeveloper or @dftaiwo or @aniediudo or @ireaderinokun or @moyheen – these gentlemen and ladies have paid their dues and have their path set out for them. You have yours.
Put in the work and continually apply the knowledge you gain. It may take longer than expected to become fluent in your chosen field; keep in mind that the journey is the reward.
Don’t be scared of ground zero.
A lot of us do not act because we don’t even know where to start because there’s so much to be done. Inertia can be debilitating. Do the little you can every single day.
One more reason to create content or contribute in any way you prefer.
It adds up as a portfolio for you, a curation of your creativity that you can use to show who you are to your idols when you do meet them.
How do you respond to stimuli? How do you handle your goals and aspirations? Fear, inertia, curiosity? Or hard proof, guts and evidence that you’re alive?
I hope this post gives you the guts to get started.
Like I wrote at the beginning, tech and the digital space are not going anywhere, it’s going to get more complicated, crowded and necessary, and you’d wish you started sooner.
The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago and the second best time is now.
Get started and apply yourself!