From Tinsel to Technology. Kelechi is changing the narrative of African women in the tech world.
Kelechi Udoagwu is an Accra-based Nigerian tech entrepreneur/consultant, presenter, advocate, student, and writer. Up until 2017, she was the full-time communications director at MEST Africa. She is also the co-founder of Skrife and produces and hosts the web series- Tech Roundup with Bitnode.
Her work revolves around empowering through mentorship, edutainment, speaking engagements, multimedia content, and connecting to new opportunities.
In this interview, she talks to us about her growing passion for technology and the need to empower more women and girls to venture into the tech industry.
You’ve switched your career many times. What inspired your journey?
It’s always interesting to be reminded of how varied my career has been. For me, it’s all been work, work, work – the different ways I earn money and contribute to the world. I started modeling while I was in the university. It was just for fun at first, then I graduated and focused on it full-time.
That was when I got the Tinsel gig and I was fortunate to work with other big brands as well – Samsung, MTN, Haier Thermocool, Lipton, Vitafoam, and others. These early experiences prepared me for “adulting” as I learned to manage my money, deal with people from all walks of life and build a professional persona.
After NYSC, I got my first 9-5 job as a Fashion Brand Manager but resigned after six months because it wasn’t very fulfilling. I then decided to explore a new industry. I was fascinated with tech entrepreneurship because it seemed like an easy way to make quick bucks.
I got into tech in 2014. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life yet. I love the industry, I love the variety and I love the fast pace. I worked as Head of Communications at MEST and founded my startup, Skrife in 2016. I also started creating multimedia – video and written – content – for brands, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders.African women are a special breed. We do so much with a little and stay strong even when the shit hits the fan - @kelechiudoagwu Click To Tweet
What part do African girls play in the next generation of technology, and how can they harness these potentials?
It’s time, however, that we stop limiting ourselves to manual labor and start working smarter. It’s time we leave what we’re used to and conquer new mountains.
They say “when you educate a woman, you educate a whole community,”. Imagine what we can do for Africa if we join in the global progression and conversation around technology. We don’t all have to be programmers but we can all be a part of the industry.
There are branding, marketing, HR, design, community management roles available. If we do this, the next generation of African women will have role models who look like them and they can build on what we started instead of starting from scratch like we are.
How has your journey been moving into the tech space?
My journey has been interesting. I’ve never been one to ask for permission to make a move and that has helped me navigate the various industries I’ve been in, especially tech where “move fast and break things” is a mantra.
Now is the best time for us to be involved. The industry is welcoming and there are a lot of opportunities directed at women specifically. It’s not always going to be like this so it’s wise to take advantage now.
What principles and work ethics have played a role in propelling you further in your career?
My ability shake off rejection easily greatly helped my career. Believe me, I’ve been rejected a lot of times. I believe getting ahead is a numbers game and for every 100 no’s, there’s one yes that makes it all worth it.
My entire life, not just career, revolves around keeping my word. If I say I’ll do it, I do it. If I’m not sure, I say I’ll get back to you and think about it some more. This has helped me a lot at work – keeps my mind clear, keeps me happy with the people I work with and also keeps them happy with me.
Tell us about your new book ‘Living Everyday like its Saturday’.
I’m super excited about it! I have had so many ideas for books to write but this is the most relevant to me and my audience at this time.
The book will chronicle the lessons I’ve learned being a freelancer from Africa – how I structure my day, deal with clients around the world, brand myself, use technology, etc.
I can promise everyone in advance there will be no fluff in this book; only hardcore, real life, actionable advice.
As a creative, what impact does quality content have in telling the African story for mainstream media?
When we started Skrife, our goal was to build a platform and writers’ community that is synonymous with quality. If a client ever complains about a job done via Skrife, we refund their money or rewrite it at no extra charge.
Creating content is like real-time documentation of our everyday experiences and it can be the difference between an economy that prospers and one that fails. Every time you read a book that was written ages ago, you step into the mind of that person.
With technology changing everything around us, it is very important that we document these early days so the next generation continues from where we stopped instead of starting all over. “To forget is to throw away.”
Also by creating more positive content, we can change the narrative of Africa. We can stop close-minded and sheltered foreigners from thinking we don’t read books or use the internet. Chimamanda Adichie was recently asked if there are libraries in her country.We stand on the shoulders of great men and women who have passed - @keleichiudoagwu Click To Tweet
Isolated from the rest of the world, headphones on, what’s your jam for days?
Haha, I love this question. I’m one of those people who can’t get anything done without earphones on. That one song that never gets old is All Things Go by Chiddy Bang. Go listen to it and think of me 🙂
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