Ivy Barley: With coding, I can create a powerful software that can transform Africa and the world

Ivy Barley is a social entrepreneur and currently shaping a world where more African women will be daring enough to lead in in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields.

She is the co-founder of Developers in Vogue, an organization that trains females in the latest technologies and connects them to real-time projects and jobs. In 2017, she was named as one the 50 Most Influential Young Ghanaians.

Ivy is also a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum and holds a Master’s Degree in Mathematical Statistics.


Tell us about yourself

Growing up, I always had a strong aptitude for Mathematics and Technology, and that has pretty much shaped my career path. I recently completed my MPhil. in Mathematical Statistics.

I believe that I have the potential to make a significant impact in Africa, and this is enough motivation for my work at Developers in Vogue. Aside from being a selfie freak, I enjoy hanging out with my best friend (my phone).

How did Dev in Vogue start?

About a year ago, I was working at an all-girls pre-university where my role included assisting the girls with Mathematics, Statistics, and Physics. I also taught the girls programming.

Before working in this school, I’d been hearing people say that women don’t like coding. However, I realized the contrary!

The girls were very enthusiastic about coding, they also had so many great ideas! My stay in the school was cut short but all the while after that, what never left me were the memories of the girls!

It dawned on me to start a sustainable initiative that will create the ideal environment for females to code, connect and collaborate.

What has been your biggest hurdle so far?

We pretty much didn’t have a lot of challenges getting our business off the ground. We’re glad we had support from interested stakeholders. A hurdle though is trying to create a community.

One of our unique value propositions is that we don’t only match our ladies to jobs, but also creating a community of women who support each other. It definitely requires a lot of time and effort to create such a sisterhood.

Coding and generally technology has so much untapped potential in Africa - Ivy Barley @devinvogue Click To Tweet

Has there ever been a time when you thought of giving up? What kept you going?

I think I have thoughts of giving up very often and I find that normal. I have however learned not to let my feelings dictate. If there is something that has to be done, I definitely need to do it and do it now!

My life is governed by one mantra: Pay Now; Play Later. That is, I would rather sacrifice now so that I can have a better future. Most importantly, I start my day with the word of God and listen to a lot of inspirational podcasts especially from Joel Osteen and Terri Savelle Foy.

 

What is your favorite thing about coding?

I particularly like that with my laptop and internet, I can create powerful software that can transform Africa and the world at large. Coding teaches you critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are very important skills for this era.

I won’t deny that it doesn’t get difficult. When coding, you’d realize the power of a ‘simple’ semi-colon because omitting that can sometimes cause you hours of no sleep.

 

Which season is the toughest for your job? How do you overcome this?

For now, it has been keeping the community engaged. Though it has been fun doing this, it definitely needs more time investment.

I’d like to call myself the cheerleader of the team, inspiring the ladies to dream big and work hard to make them happen.

What however serves as motivation in spite of the challenges are the stories of the impact we are making in the lives of these women.

 

What, in your opinion, is the future of coding especially for girls in Africa?

Coding and generally technology has so much untapped potential in Africa. For females, the future is even brighter. Day in and day out there are so many opportunities that come up to promote women in technology.

Relevant stakeholders are beginning to realize the gender gap in the tech ecosystem and are putting measures in place to bring more women into the room.

 

What advice would you give to any girl in Africa considering coding?

Keep at it, my girl! You need to work hard in order to stay relevant. You need to keep improving your skills.

Though it may get difficult at some points, think about the big picture. Also, make time to network with people in the industry to learn best practices that can make you world-class.

If coding is truly your passion, then you definitely need a lot of diligence and determination. In case you need some support with this, I’ll be glad to offer a helping hand!

Any advice for African women entrepreneurs?

I think one advice I’d always give to people is hard work. Also, have your visions and goals in writing and review them every single day.

As women, there are so many activities that are likely to take our attention from growing our businesses. This is the more reason why we need to stay focused. Let’s do this for Africa!


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Evelyn Ngugi: Hard Work Only Makes Things Better

The YouTube world has grown exponentially in the past few years thanks to more and more people using it as a platform for content creation.

YouTube has produced big names in the digital world such as Lily Singh, Patricia Bright, Jenna Marbles and the like. Kenyan-American YouTuber, Evelyn Ngugi is well on her way to the creme of the crop of content creators with her channel, Evelyn from the Internets which currently boasts 150k+ subscribers and even got the stamp of approval from the Queen bee herself, Beyonce.

Evelyn recently took a trip back to her home country for the first time in over a decade and spent some time meeting her internet cousins (her name for her subscribers) and discovering Kenya again as an adult.

SLA managed to get some time to chat with the hilarious Texas native on her growth in YouTube, her thoughts on the creative industry in Africa and what’s in store for her in the future.


You started making YouTube videos way before it became the IT thing to do. What got you interested in that medium of sharing?

Tinkering with different media has always been an interest of mine. As a child, I would dub my “radio show” over old cassette tapes.

As a teenager, I would enlist my little brother to record “TV shows” and burn them onto blank DVDs. YouTube/the Internet was just next up, in terms of accessible technology.

How has social media helped grow your brand?

I’m more interested to know what people think my brand is, to begin with! Social media changed the game because it makes people and their processes accessible. For example, we used to only be able to interact with musicians or actors when their work was released or they had a press interview.

With social media, those barriers are gone. It’s scary and cool but mostly cool. Social media helps grow brands by putting creators directly in touch with consumers.

Focus on making an amazing product first. Social media algorithms will have changed 10 times by the time you’re ready to advertise - Evelyn Ngugi Click To Tweet

We love that you stan hard for various Black Girl Beauty Brands. What advice would you give to young women out there looking to start and/or build their own brand?

Focus on making an amazing product first. These social media algorithms will have changed 10 times by the time you’re ready to advertise anyway.

So many people want to be a “brand” but they don’t actually have a product yet.

 

You recently took a break from the daily routines of life as explained in your recent video. Why did that happen?

The break was the decision and goal I made for late 2017 and the rest of 2018! Something about being 27, girl… it makes you realize that you are in control of your time.

Do I want to spend the tail end of my precious twenties feeling stuck, or do I want to pivot into something greater? I chose greater.

What inspires you as a creative and what drives you as an entrepreneur?

I’m definitely a creative, but not an entrepreneur (yet). I think that’s just a misconception of being on the Internet. I’ve been #TeamHaveA9to5 my entire adulthood (which isn’t long) and I’m only now figuring out if I want to work for myself.

What inspires me as a creative are how innate and infinite my imaginations are and how hard work only makes things better.

So toddlers are creative, but those toddlers eventually grow up and become Martin Scorsese or something and that’s just incredible to think about. Not even trying to be funny, but as an entrepreneur, I imagine not being homeless or hungry would be the biggest driver.

You cut your own check and that sounds stressful fam!

You recently visited Kenya for the first time in over a decade. What are your thoughts about the creative space in Kenya vs other African countries?

Hmmm – that’s such a huge question for a first generation kid-essentially-turned tourist! From my brief time there, I noticed creative folks were frustrated.

What does it mean for music to sound Kenyan? Fashion to look Kenyan? When we talk about Nigeria or South Africa or even neighboring Tanzania, some of those things are more clearly defined or accepted.

I think Kenyan artists need more financial, governmental, and societal support to elevate Kenyan creative works where they belong.

Who are your top 5 YouTubers?

I feel like these answers change every time – thanks to YouTube algorithm! So right now, in no particular order:

KickThePJ: He’s just fantastical and whimsical and embodies what I still admire about YouTube. Making stuff up. Making stuff with your hands. Combining the two. A multi-media filmmaker.

Beleaf In Fatherhood: As a single, child-free person, it is difficult to find a family channel that holds my attention. This family combines my love of dope music with an attention to detail and story that is unmatched.

Oh, and it’s #blacklove all the way.

Patricia Bright: She is OG YouTube. She is still here. And she’s killing it. I think she’s gorgeous and hilarious and if you can make someone who wears black 90% of the time (me) still be thoroughly entertained by a 30-minute video of you trying on clothes??! SUBSCRIBE.

F0XY: Jade has such a distinct comedic tone and voice and I just want her to win. Because if she wins, I feel like I can too. She’s relatable like that. Inappropriate and so, so relatable.

Lavendaire: She is a sweet whisper of lavender essential oil infused vapor that calms me down and helps me be productive all at the same time. Gorgeously branded channel and impactful content.

Do you plan on moving on from YouTube to mainstream television or the big screen?

My plan for 2018 is to do more screenwriting and share more stories – both my own and those of my fellow earthlings.

Where those stories end up for your viewing pleasure isn’t necessarily the most important part of my plan. But if a TV show or movie wants to holla, I’ll definitely clear my google calendar!! Shoot!

What would you be if you weren’t a YouTuber?

YouTube is just a platform. I’d be doing the same thing I’m doing now, just on whatever website ended up popping off instead of YouTube. I’m a journalist, storyteller, funny girl, and hopefully, a friend in your head.

What is your mantra in life?

“Be thoughtful and silly.” That’s a quote from Hank Green about what it means to be an adult. Growing up and becoming boring/bored terrifies me, so I find comfort in that idea.

Being silly is still allowed – thank God. Stay childlike, not childish.


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Rinae Sikhwari: I want to be a change driver

Meet Rinae Sikhwari, a 26-year-old young woman from Tshikwarani Village in South Africa. She currently resides in Polokwane finishing off her BCom Economics and Business Management from UNISA whilst working at New Leaders Foundation.

She is a fan of reading African literature books, watching series, traveling and discovering new places. Her favorite pastimes include going to food markets, organizing activities for the children in her home church, as well as watching TED Talks and writing. 


Rinae describes herself as a change driver and a learner at heart. She is an advocate for providing quality education, especially for children in disadvantaged communities.

Education has always been one of Rinae`s biggest passions and she strives to gain a stronger understanding of the complexities, challenges, and milestones of the South African Education System.

Part of this is to not only be a solutions bringer but also a change agent to see the education system transformed to cater to the needs of all the children across the country.

 

The South African Education Government spends 6.4% of its GDP on education, however, performance levels are lower than many other countries in the region. Not all children have access to the same quality of education, a legacy left behind by the apartheid government.

Rinae is a consultant at New Leaders Foundation, a non- profit organization that is committed to transforming South African Education. The Organisation founded the Data Driven Districts Dashboard Programme, an approachable, highly intuitive dashboard that displays appropriate education-related information to education officials at all levels in the South African Schooling system.

She emphasizes the importance of data – “Having accurate data ensures that informed decisions are being made, data determines all the decisions and interventions that need to be undertaken.”

Her work involves a lot of interaction with stakeholders from the department of education in driving data-driven conversations and decisions. Engagement with these stakeholders is based on data attained from schools through the South African School Management System.

“I’ve learned to understand how essential it is to have people skills and managing working relations with officials of different levels and rankings”. Her work ranges from assisting Department of Education officials from district directors to curriculum advisors and school principals attain data that will assist them to make informed decisions.Her work also takes her into the field where she can see firsthand how the policies of the Department of Education affect local communities.

“Working in the field has offered me the context to understand the data we extract from schools on a daily basis.” This has brought visibility of complexities of the department and an understanding of the massive gaps and inequalities in the education sector.

Central to her beliefs is the importance of advocating for the education of young women especially those that are growing up in areas where they are faced with so many socio-economic issues, who face so many challenges and a lot of the times education becomes a pillar and an enabler for them to defy the odds against them.

Her own upbringing in a rural village made her understand that it is through education that a woman becomes independent and attains opportunities.

“I am still such a firm believer that not only does education enable one to critically think and analyse but also education gives one the opportunity to be inquisitive, seek to explore and know more and the more you can do better, a learned/well-read/educated woman is able to challenge the status quo, I believe being educated gives one option and looking at how marginalized women are in society particularly black women it is imperative and essential for women to be educated.

Rinae established a reading club in the township of Seshego in 2015 for children aged between 4-14 years old, currently, the club has over 50 children and has strong support from the parents.

She describes the reading club as a platform for children to learn to read and write for enjoyment, it’s a space in which children learn mathematical, social and literacy skills.

“I’ve just observed how children enjoy our sessions and most of them have become avid readers, I love how they speak their minds and express their opinions that is actually what’s important for me.”

Rinae has always wanted to do work that has a meaning to her and her development as someone aspiring to be a change driver. What does this mean? Being a change driver means doing more to better her community whether it be through mentoring and tutoring or supporting community development initiatives started by her peers or young people from her village.

It also means giving a voice and a platform to those who need the change most- raising awareness about initiatives and shinning the spotlight on the developments in the community.


Know of anyone impacting your community? Share their story with us here.

Emeline Nsingi Nkosi: Never sell yourself out – stand up for what you believe in

Emeline  Nsingi Nkosi is a confident and experienced bi-lingual actor and presenter based Accra, Ghana presenting for GHOne TV. She is currently presenting and producing a lifestyle and entertainment show called ‘The Core’.

She has interviewed the likes of Asamoah Gyan, Ozwald Boateng, Abedi Pele, Azumah Nelson, Sarkodie, M.Anifest and many others.

 Emeline has a background in Fashion Textiles. She was named Hilary Alexander’s “Secret Seven to Watch” and nominated for the Ethical Award at Graduate Fashion Week 2012. 

During her final year in the university, she created a visual dissertation on natural hair which awakened her love for presenting and producing.

 Emeline founded M about Town, a London based Lifestyle show in 2015.  Highlights include interviewing Rosario Dawson, Ian Taylor and documenting the Ethical Fashion Forum Summit and Fashion Africa Conference 2015.

Emeline has been writing and interviewing celebrities for ThandieKay.com since early2016, concentrating mostly on inspiring individuals, she has interviewed Angela Bassett, Ade Hassan, and Zuriel Oduwole.

She has joined Alexander Amosu’s prestigious LuxAfrique and covers Art exhibitions, Luxury Travel, Restaurants and Fashion in London and internationally.

Emeline Nsingi Nkosi makes us proud to spell our name W-O-M-A-N!


Pace is better than haste - @emelinenn Click To Tweet

What things have you learned about life from being a media personality?

Everything is about great PR and image, it’s no coincidence when you see more of an artist or actor in the media, it’s all carefully curated, and nothing is random.

Your mood can really impact your work, if I have an argument with someone I care about, I can’t leave it to linger, otherwise, my day just feels dark and negative and you need to able to put on a happy face for TV.

Life can sometimes feel lonely especially when knowing who to trust, surround yourself with people who really have your best interest at heart.

 

Tell us about an interview you conducted that taught you the most?

My interview with the boxing legend Azumah Nelson. He shared that his ill wife had found out that she wouldn’t survive just before he was about to have one of the biggest fights of his life.

Although he didn’t want to fight, he felt he couldn’t cancel it as it was sold out.

It taught me that sometimes you have to put your work before your own needs but also that at the end of the day, what really matters the most is those you care about, without them life feels meaningless.

What’s the one question you wish you’d asked someone you’ve interviewed but never did?

When I meet key personalities I have an idea of what I would like to ask but if it’s not possible, I tend not to dwell on it.

The only person I wish I could have probably gone for a coffee, drink or dinner or maybe all three was Angela Bassett.

I interviewed her for ThandieKay at a beauty brand launch that she had collaborated with. When I went to sit next to her, I felt such warmth and love. We spoke skincare and American Horror Story.

 

What should every woman try at least once in her life?

Travelling alone. It gives you such self-confidence and belief in your strengths. Before visiting my cousin in the US, I spent the first 7 days alone in New York and at a Yoga ashram in Monroe.

It was both thrilling and petrifying. I’ve never relied on my senses and my gut as much as when traveling alone to various places.

Advice for aspiring media entrepreneurs?

  • Start: What can you do today that will impact your career positively?
  •  Look at how your favorite media entrepreneurs started and how can you replicate that for you?
  • Get onto casting websites such as Starnow and look for opportunities if you want to get into presenting.
  • Head to relevant networking events
  • Get onto Linkedin, build your network.
  • Hone your skills, can you do a part-time course? Check out Coursera or Masterclass

What app do you most often use?

Sleep Cycle. I’ve used it for around 983 nights as of today, I’m obsessed with my sleep and getting enough of it.

What can you not miss on TV?

I don’t watch TV at home but when I’m traveling I’ll put on the TV to see which channels are in that country and which programmes they watch.

At home, I’m more of a Netflix chick, I’m currently waiting for the new season of The 100.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

One of my uni teachers told me to slow down and remember that I have a long career ahead of me. For one project, I must have put about 5 different design ideas into one and she reminded me that if I am to have a long career ahead, then why use up all of my ideas in one go.

I want to achieve everything yesterday but actually, there is no need, pace is better than haste.

What’s the key to developing a successful personal brand?

1. Being authentic to yourself and your audience, I’m really not good at lying and then remembering that lie, so I can’t pretend to be something I’m not or will be found out. At the end of the day, there is only one you and those that like you will stick with you.

2. Knowing what you stand up for, so when opportunities arise you know if they fit.

For example, although I love red wine, I’m not a big drinker, so an alcohol brand sponsoring one of my shows wouldn’t really fit, it’s not me and I can’t stand there pretending to like something that I don’t.

3. Never sell yourself out – stand up for what you believe in, don’t be swayed easily but be flexible. Rooted in a tree but flexible like the branches.

What brings you the greatest joy?

Simple things in life, the sun, warmth, my partner, mum, brother, those close to me being happy and fulfilled.

When I see a project realized and it has impacted people positively, yoga, good smells, music, amazing food, and red wine.

What does sisterhood mean to you?

Sisterhood to me means genuine support for women, knowing that everyone has their own journey and there is enough space for everyone.

I see it over and over where women are catty towards each other but it’s so pointless and a waste of energy.

What song instantly gets you up and going?

Fabregas – Mascara – When I working as a Graphic Designer, I had many lunchtimes where I would go for a walk listening to this song to uplift my mood.

Anything by Koffi Olomide – Effrakata, Micko, Loi … it reminds me of my childhood and feeling carefree. It puts everything into perspective.

What’s next for you?

More seasons of “The Core”, starring in a film out later in the year, producing season 3 of Revealed with Bola Ray, more travel.
I have a good feeling for this year.

2018 is the year of ……?

Money, work, and sleep

I feel like this is the year to grow the finances and as women, being able to talk openly about it, being able to ask for what we are worth and then growing those finances by investing.

Work because I love what I do and want to create more entertaining but impactful content and sleep because I promised myself that I would take better care of myself this year.

Health = Wealth.


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Vaida Odongo: You can start a business anytime with the right mindset

Contrary to what many people and businesses might think, investing in your brand online is not just about spending money on the brand.

Instead, it’s about building an entity that will resonate with your customers and keep them coming back again and again—even when there’s no deal or promotion to entice them.

Who is Vaida?

Vaida Odongo is a young woman living in Nairobi who’s passionate about empowering women and leveraging on technology for sustainable development.

She studied Gender and development studies while in university but came to love marketing after a short stint working as a trainer in the Google Digify Bytes Program that was being implemented by Livity Africa, a youth-focused nonprofit based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Vaida loves seeing businesses grow and coming up with strategies to solve various business challenges. “You might be having a challenge with selling a product online, what I do is that I sit down and look at all the possible solutions that might help solve the problem then we choose one that works. I love the adrenaline rush that comes with brainstorming”. 

“I have always been interested in empowering women. When I was younger, my dream was to work in an NGO that would enable me directly work with women.

I hadn’t figured out yet what exactly I wanted to do when I actually landed the job, but I knew things would become clearer with time.

When you empower a woman, you empower the society - @vaida_odongo Click To Tweet

Fast forward almost ten years later, I have found myself working with women though not in an NGO.

I now help women brand and market their products and services online. I am very passionate about helping women grow and sustain their businesses because I believe that when you empower a woman, you empower the society.” 

Why Digital Marketing?

“The world is increasingly going digital. With more than half the population using online platforms such as social media, companies are now forced to look at how they can leverage these platforms.

The social space is set to grow and there’s a need for training so that the teams which are set on marketing online have the capacity to do so”. 

What does your work involve?

My work involves training women-led business and enterprises on branding online. This means creating a brand story that their online audience will be attracted to. I have been working on this for the last two years and I’m loving it every day.

My pieces of training are conducted over a one to two-day period and tailor-made to fit a customer’s needs.

I love the adrenaline rush that comes with brainstorming - @vaida_odongo Click To Tweet

Whether you are in beauty, fashion, construction or advocacy, I have the right curriculum to help you amplify your online voice. I also help companies come up with strategies that will help amplify their voices online.

I also offer mentorship sessions to my clients. Maybe along the road the strategy we picked might not work, I’ll come in again and we’ll come up with another one. I also offer refresher training to me customers for free. My aim is getting their businesses to grow so we do whatever it takes to make sure this happens.

To empower more businesses to grow, I also offer pro bono services to customers who are just venturing into business and need some advice.

I do this because at the beginning some people just need to know different ways they can market their products and services. 

When building your online brand, you need to:

  • Make sure you understand your audience, their needs, and why they interact with you.
  • Create an online persona that is fun and captivating at the same time.
  • Be consistent. Make sure you post when you are supposed to.
  • Take time to appreciate your customers e.g. through give away. 
  • Remember to have fun. Captivating your audience is trial and error. Have fun while at it.

How do you manage your business?

Being your own boss is a challenge because most of the time, you never know when to stop and take a break. I have learned to schedule myself so that I have enough time to catch my breath and relax.

Also, I enjoy reading and watching animated movies and cartoons.

I also love cooking and discovering how I can use different spices and herbs from all over the world in my food.

What is your advice for young women who are looking to venture into Digital Marketing?

My advice to young women out there is that you can start a business anytime and with the right mindset, you can take it to the next.

Becoming a digital marketing expert requires you to do a lot of research to know what’s happening in the online space. 

Remember that deciding to be your own boss doesn’t mean lots of free time on your hands.

You have to be willing work overtime because most of the time you will have to do everything on your own without a cheering squad. 


If you’d like to share a story with us at She Leads Africa, share your story us here.

Your very first steps to becoming a CEO

Life doesn’t get better by chance but by change!

We all know the job business goals aren’t the easiest feat to accomplish. We may feel as though we are simply just pawns in an older generation’s game of chess, but what we must learn is that it is truly about how you play the game.

Being able to control your own fate will ultimately lead you to what you want. Here are some things to realize and ways that you can market yourself to others.

Enough Excuses. Build your Image. Life is a business and you are your own CEO! Click To Tweet

Be your own brand


Be unique, create an image that identifies you and differentiates you from others. Over time, this image becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality, and satisfaction.

Know how to sell the best version of yourself and position your image that will be favorable to all.

Know yourself.

Get feedback from others and learn as much as you can about how you come across. Then you can accurately target how you appear in a crowd and what you need to work.

 

Stand Out From The Crowd

Our differences are what make us unique. How we discipline our self is very important, and those who understand and practice the art of discipline can channel impulses into something of substance.


Embrace Knowledge.

A wise man once said knowledge is power, more powerful than physical strength There is no end to knowledge. There is no limit to what a person can learn. Even big problems can be solved if we have the knowledge of solving it.


By knowledge, it opens us up to possibilities and you will learn to realize that those possibilities that once seemed so far away are actually attainable and endless.

Be confident.

Believe in yourself it boost, only when you believe it you can do it,

When you truly believe you can create what you envision, when you’re not afraid of the obstacles, that confidence will automatically make you stand out from the rest.Love yourself. It has nothing to do with ego, but a confidence within you that elevates your relationships with everything else. You’ll stand out by being modest but happy with who you are.

 

Try not to Fake it till you make it


Never disconnect with who you truly are. It is easy to do things when you are your true self. 

Most people know when someone is being fake, even from a first impression. It’s almost like speaking to a person and even though they’re wide-eyed and smiley, you know they’re not listening to one damn thing you say or care about what you have to offer and instead are only thinking about their own personal benefits.

Love yourself. It has nothing to do with ego, but a confidence within you that elevates your relationships with everything else. You’ll stand out by being modest but happy with who you are.


Cultivate emotional intelligence.

A lot of smart people don’t know how to manage their emotions or relate well to others.

Emotional intelligence attracts people who are looking to connect with someone who has their act together and who’s competent and capable.to work toward a deep understanding and hear what’s being said beyond the words.

You will stand out in any situation if you become a person who listens from the heart.

Take A Chance


Often, we know what it is we want to do, but we still don’t do it. Why?

We are innately risk averse and afraid of putting our vulnerability on the line. Risk-taking is the ultimate way that marketer achieves success. Products go through a life cycle and that first innovation stage is important and involves risk-taking.


Be prepared. When an opportunity turns up, the person who is ready and able to be part whatever needs to happen will always stand out.

 


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Timipre Wolo: My goal is to build a legacy that would transcend my lifetime

Timipre Wolo is that proud Elder Sister who has risen from depths and is paving the way for the ones coming after her.

She is a former Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) management staff, who has now moved on to pursue ‘her calling’ as she puts it – through Centre for Gender Equality, Education, and Empowerment (CGEEE).

Her empowerment initiative for vulnerable girls and women, and her energy company; TFN Energy. She attributes discovering her passion to working at PTDF, where she has created opportunities for about 400 young people.


To start out, and stay relevant in your career, identify your purpose - @timiprewolo Click To Tweet

The Humble Beginnings

Ms Timipre Wolo lost her mother at age 12. She recalls filling the mom gap for her family by taking a night shift job at age 16 while juggling her law diploma, and many other daring opportunities she created for herself.

In her determination to bring the light home to her people in Niger Delta, Nigeria, and make her mum proud, she maximized every open door. Working at PTDF was one of them. Timi recalls initially not being well-placed but she excelled when she changed her focus to delivering.

“When I joined the PTDF Legal Department, it was also the Management Secretariat. In addition to my schedule of duties at the department, I was the assigned the responsibility of attending Management meetings to take minutes.

I was always fascinated by these boardroom meetings and looked forward to it because it was a great opportunity to learn more about the organization. I could only be seen but not heard because I didn’t have a seat on the table. Everyone seemed pleased with my drafting skills and I was subsequently deployed as special assistant to the Executive Secretary with increased responsibilities.

Timipre Wolo and PTDF Management with the former Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria

Despite the stress that came with my new portfolio, I counted it a privilege to be developing so many skills at the same time.

In 2012, the Industry Collaboration Unit was established to formulate strategies for capacity development under the Fund’s Post Amnesty policy and to foster collaborations between the PTDF and relevant stakeholders. An Oil and Gas lawyer was needed to lead the team and by providence, I became the youngest member of management by at least 10years,” she explains.

One tool for a woman to have a seat at the table is education - @timiprewolo Click To Tweet

Her role in Mentorship and Female Education

Timipre’s leadership at the Fund’s Industry Collaboration Unit, led to the actualization of scholarship awards to about 400 young people from across Nigeria, to study at various institutions overseas.

She also led the first-ever Helicopter pilot training for the petroleum industry in Nigeria which discovered Ruqayat Suleiman – the first female helicopter pilot from Katsina state, along with 3 other young women from Ondo, Rivers and Bayelsa States.

For Timipre Wolo, one tool for a woman to have a seat at the table is education.

“I have assisted several young women in facilitating educational scholarships at undergraduate, Masters and PhD levels. I assisted a young lady from eastern Nigeria who walked into my office frustrated from trying to get a scholarship to study in UK.

She was told in confidence by the security at the PTDF gate ‘if only you can meet Aunty Timi, she would do everything within her power to assist you.’ I have made a conscious effort to ensure that women were given priority placement, to bridge the gender gap.”

I have the most amazing relationship with my mentees! I remember when the pilots were still in training school, I would personally take them out for dinner or we would visit a game reserve or amusement park with them. However, for obvious reasons, I created more time for the girls. On one visit, I got a hair stylist to come over to my hotel to get their hair done, then we went to see a movie together.”

“When it came flying with them, I was the only member of staff who dared to even before they obtained their Commercial Pilot Licenses. I knew it would mean a lot to them because if we didn’t show them that we believed in them, then how did we expect them to get hired by others?

That singular act boosted their confidence. I see the success of my mentees as my success too because they are a part of my journey just as much as I am part of theirs. That is the sort of unique relationship I have with the young women and girls I am privileged to mentor.

It makes it very easy for them to relate to some level of trust and mutual respect, knowing that even when I’m tough on them, it is because I want them to succeed. For me, mentorship is truly about laying the groundwork for others to succeed and then standing back and letting them soar and shine.

My goal is to build a legacy that would transcend my lifetime - @timiprewolo Click To Tweet

What does a legacy mean to Timipre Wolo?

The CGEEE is committed to ensuring that internally displaced girls have access to education, whilst also empowering women through skills development and entrepreneurship.

Through Timipre Wolo’s organizations; CGEEE and TFN Energy, 5 girls from an Internally Displaced Camp (IDP) have been awarded scholarships to cover fees, school supplies, feeding and living stipend in 2017.

“At CGEEE we actually go beyond just sponsoring them to school to actually taking care of their welfare and mentoring them so we can get the best out of them. I know this is part of my calling because of the kind of joy and satisfaction I derive from seeing the eyes of these young girls light up with hope! This is not a one-time thing, it is a life-long commitment.

Timipre Wolo and her Girls at the IDP Camp

There is so much to be done, not only in northern Nigeria but also in every other part of the country, including the Niger Delta region where I come from.

I left PTDF to start my own company because most of the scholarship programs I initiated were discontinued in 2016 due to the economic recession. I figured that if I had the courage to pursue my dream of owning an energy company, I would someday be able to fund my passion.

Barely 1 year after, we have awarded 5 full scholarships already. A lot of the teenage girls in the IDP camps are either impregnated, married off as child brides and most recently, taken to work in farms for a fee of 400 Naira per day just so they can survive. That is why giving them scholarships is not enough.

They must be taken care of in terms of providing welfare packages; showing them love and mentoring them because of the traumatic experience they had been exposed to.

My goal is to build a legacy that would transcend my lifetime and that is only achievable through strategic partnerships. We are setting up a trust fund and as TFN Energy grows by God’s special grace, the broader the opportunities we would be able to make available for women and girls in Nigeria and across the sub-Saharan African region.

We are structuring the scholarships in such a way that it will be sustainable, recession or no recession. My dream is for every girl to have access to education and to see more women in leadership in Nigeria and across the sub-Saharan African region.

Three takeaways from Timipre:

  • To start out, and stay relevant in your career, identify your purpose. Then this should be followed by a plan
  • As a woman, define what success means to you and don’t live your life by the standards set by others, then and only then, can you be undefined by societal norms and expectations.
  • From my climbing the ladder experience, I have learnt that no matter what task or responsibility you are assigned, go the extra mile to ensure that you surpass expectations, you never know who is watching you.”

AFRICAN WOMEN IN STEM Making Lemonade out of Lemons

The field of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) has a significant disparity quota of men to women. UNESCO reports that less than a third of researchers are women in African countries such as Mali, Nigeria, Angola, and Ethiopia.

This is certainly not due to (in)ability. Rather, other factors such as social conditioning or opportunity may be responsible. For a lot of women, getting into the field requires extra grit, push and determination; even when the odds are stacked against them.

This piece centers on three African women who when faced with peculiar life challenges decided to transform them into opportunity. They managed to squeeze those lemons for all they were worth, making lemonade out of them.

The result? Amazing careers and ground-breaking contributions to the field of STEM.

 


Tebello was told not to follow her passion for the sciences, today she is one of the most influential women in STEM Click To Tweet

Professor Tebello Nyokong

Hers is literally the proverbial rags to riches tale that begets many lessons for the African woman aspiring to make something of herself. Born into a poor home, Tebello Nyokong grew up in the mountains tending to sheep. Her dream at the time was a simple one: to own a pair of shoes.

A certain hunger fuels one to achieve success when it’s obvious you have no safety net to fall back on. For Tebello, this meant no trust fund, no inheritance, no cushy job promised by her parents’ friends, no comfort zone. Thus, it was going hard or go home; because going hard was the only option.

The experience fueled her desire to succeed in life and apply doggedness to her future work. She reminded herself that she could achieve anything she put her mind to, especially anything a boy could.

Tebello Nyokong was told not to follow her natural passion for the sciences because it was considered too difficult a path. After spending two years in the arts, she eventually she completed a degree in Chemistry and Biology.

Today she is lauded as one of the most influential women in STEM. She has also received several awards and laurels for her outstanding contributions to science and technology. Her current work is focused on creating an alternative cancer treatment known as ‘photodynamic therapy’.

 

Evelyn Gitau

An accomplished woman, Evelyn Gitau is a cellular immunologist and currently a Programme Manager at the African Academy of Science – Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa.

She is also a Next Einstein Forum Fellow; a program which selects the brightest African scientists and technologists to provide sustainable solutions to pertinent problems, and to encourage young people to develop careers in the path as well.

Evelyn Gitau tells a story of how her young son’s illness exposed her to her area of current interest. After being taken to the hospital for a fever and trouble breathing, he was tested and subsequently diagnosed with severe malaria and bronchitis. He soon recovered and was able to thrive fully in the years that ensued.

Evelyn Gitau tells a story of how her young son’s illness exposed her to her area of current interest Click To Tweet

The experience made her realize something very important, a lot of other Africans weren’t as lucky. Communities continued to suffer from undiagnosed or misdiagnosed cases due to inadequate diagnostic facilities and funding for laboratory work.

Her findings indicated that between forty and fifty percent of infections affecting African children remained undiagnosed. As a result, medical personnel was forced to make educated guesses and children were building a resistance to antibiotics.

Her research work is centered on the development of alternative diagnostic methods and tools that are both more accurate and affordable to greatly reduce the mortality rate of children in Africa.

 

Blessing Kwomo

Growing up in a rural community in Kano State, Nigeria, Blessing Kwomo saw a lot of poverty and disease around her. All she wanted was to figure out a way to make practical changes to help the local people in her environment. She also had often recurring cases of typhoid fever.

Looking back, she realized a lot of those health challenges could have been prevented with better hygiene.

Blessing was particularly skilled in Mathematics while at school. She opted to become a nurse rather than follow her father’s path into engineering.

During her educational training, she observed that several patients were unable to achieve sustainable solutions to their illnesses. Some of these were simply as a result of low-economic standing and a poor understanding of healthcare.

Despite STEM being a path less followed by African women, it is one that holds opportunities for those who dare to dream. Click To Tweet

Taking a pragmatic approach to healthcare, Blessing Kwomo decided to start up De Rehoboths Therapeutic Studio. Through this business, she offered home consultations which tackled the root causes of the ailments afflicting her clients rather than merely providing a band-aid.

The benefit was that if her clients understood how to take better care of themselves and their environments, they would have fewer recurring cases of diseases such as typhoid fever and cholera. Blessing Kwomo also provided holistic services in addition to conventional medicine to help achieve a more seamless outcome.

Blessing has gained recognition as an Anzisha Fellow for her work and remarkable entrepreneurial drive. The young entrepreneur’s aspiration is to someday become the Minister of Health in her country.

Despite STEM being a path less followed by African women, it is one that holds immense opportunities and fulfillment for those who dare to dream. For the women profiled here, it was a challenging but rewarding path.

These women have shown us that setbacks or difficulties should not hold you back, but propel you to tap into the opportunities they presents.

 


Do you have an interest in this field?  What lemons can you exploit today? Share with us here.

South Africa’s Digital Womxnist – Owethu Makhathini

Owethu is beyond a force to be reckoned with. This incredible Google Certified genius is taking over the digital sphere by holding workshops and talks across the country through her consultancy, Makhathini Media – which provides innovative ways to show young women how they can advance their careers using digital marketing.

Owethu created her platform to upskill young business-minded women and show others how you can liberate women through social media. Let’s take a look at Owethu’s journey on how she is making a difference in empowering women while making her mark in the digital industry.


Tell us more about Makhathini Media?

Makhathini Media is a creative consultancy that specializes in offering tailored digital marketing and ICT training. We tailor the content depending on the needs of the client, not just for young people but for large corporates and government parastatals. We have a long way to go in terms of digital literacy. I want to ultimately be in a position to fund creative projects, upskill people in digital skills, facilitate networking events and help big brands and businesses create compelling, perception-shifting work.

What projects do you have up your sleeve?

I have 2 very special projects coming up and I couldn’t be more excited! One ties into the focus of the business which is the training aspect while the other ties into the secondary goal of the business which is creating a community underpinned by the restorative power of sisterhood.

We hope to create networks of women who inspire, uplift and collaborate with each other. 2018 is going to an exciting year for Makhathini Media!

The media industry has predominantly been male-dominated. How do you navigate this reality as a woman and leader in the digital industry?

If we are being honest, most industries are male-dominated. Patriarchy is maintained and is a tool of capitalism, that much is inescapable. I am fortunate that in the digital marketing space, one has the power to create a platform that can exist to challenge mainstream ideas.

Business is ruthless and as a young, black woman there are additional challenges we face to get into the room and be taken seriously, never mind having a seat at the table. As a businesswoman, you have to be able to stand in your truth and create an ecosystem of women that look like you to collaborate and make money with. There definitely is strength in numbers.

Young women are the most receptive to skills training- @owethumack Click To Tweet

How has the process and reception of educating the youth on the digital sphere been? 

Young women are the most receptive to skills training. They are often the ones that already have small-scale businesses running from home who just need a boost of knowledge. I have had mostly young women come up to me after my sessions to share their stories or to thank me for showing them that someone as young as them has found a niche and is making a business around it.

The project I am initiating in 2018 will attend to the needs of the young women who have attended one of my sessions. There is a need that must be met and I feel that I am the perfect position to facilitate it. It is very humbling, inspiring and truthfully, it is what keeps me going when I feel overwhelmed.

Can digital marketing play a role in liberating women, especially in South Africa?

Firstly, the internet is a borderless place, we are able to share ideas across the world in a matter of moments. This means that even if you feel isolated in your geographical area, you can find a community of like-minded individuals by simply searching for those people online.

Secondly, the information shared online can make people aware of the organizations that exist to help women out of situations where they feel helpless.

Thirdly, digital marketing is a business opportunity. If a woman is being financially abused, she is able to run a small business through WhatsApp or social media, therefore getting practical help.

The internet is a borderless place & digital marketing is a business opportunity Click To Tweet

As a mentor to other women, who do you go to for inspiration and why?

My great-grandmother, grandmothers, and my mother. Outside of my family, I look up to the Knowles sisters, Oprah Winfrey, Nunu Ntshingila, Zodwa Khumalo, Khanyi Dhlomo and Bonang Matheba.

I grew up in a matriarchal family with women who were equally strong and soft. They provided a firm foundation that I have built my version of womanhood on. The women in my family are not too different from women around the world. We are resilient because we must be. We are people who can get things done without disregarding our empathy.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into your line of work?

I would say take yourself on as a project. Critically assess where you fall short, unpack the ways you dishonor yourself and show yourself grace. As women, we are socialized to constantly give and made to feel selfish when we finally erect boundaries.

Make sure you have boundaries and a standard for your life, don’t ever compromise yourself for the comfort of another because you aren’t giving from a place of love but from a place of obligation which leads down a path of resentment.

 


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

How to Keep Motivated While Job Hunting

Looking for a job? We have all been there. At SLA, we are all about empowering women who are successful in their industries, but it’s just as important to empower those who are still trying to make it. Looking for a job is no easy feat, and a couple of rejections here and there can really get to you. Staying positive is not easy and sometimes you need make a few of changes to get you ahead.

We spoke to HR Specialist Sonia Hlahla, who has great tricks up her sleeve to give us for the perfect job hunt. Hailing from the Free State, Sonia majored in Industrial Psychology and has since then, used her skills and expertise to empower the youth in the professional environment. Take a look at Sonia’s tips on what you need to do to land your dream job.

Make sure your CV/Resume is detailed

The first thing the recruiter needs to see are your most recent qualifications and jobs . Your CV is meant to sell you to us, so make sure it is highly detailed according to the job spec you are currently looking at. We also take references very seriously, so eliminate your friends and family from that list. You would also be surprised at the amount of CV’s we get that do not even have contact details, so make sure we are able to reach you for an interview!

 

Volunteer if you have time

Volunteer at your local school, hospital or children’s home. Especially if you are not working. Even if it’s not in your field, it helps in building great communication and interpersonal skills outside of your expertise. Getting a job is not just about being good at it, recruiters also want to see that you are able to interact with people from different backgrounds, it shows you can be a great fit for any company.

 

Skills, skills and more skills

Take a short course online, especially if you want a job in a certain industry. This tells recruiters that while you were unemployed, you are still eager to learn and improve yourself. This looks amazing on a CV, especially as a young professional. Most online courses are free and easy to get through if you are dedicated.

 

Career Portals are important

Always keep your LinkedIn page professional. A great tip that I love to give to people is that you should use these portals as a way to apply directly with the company. This eliminates the middle man and gives you direct contact with the company you want to apply to.

 

Never give up

Keep looking! Make an effort to apply for at least one job a day. Looking for a job can be a job in difficult and as human to get lazy at times, but you may miss out a job post that could be perfect for you. Pushing past your frustration will probably become challenging, it’s important to stay positive when you’re in a difficult spot, and a positive you creates a much happier job seeker.

So use these tips to stay level-headed. Keep on pushing and praying until you find the job of your dreams.


How did you stay motivated when you were job hunting? We’d love to hear your story and tips.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more  here.