Living in a country where the Tech Industry is dominated by men, Faiza Chenti is breaking stereotypes not just by pursuing IT as a profession, but using her skills to teach young Girls how to code.
Our team had a lengthy conversation with the founder of Girly Tech over the weekend.
In the conversation, the Tech genius gave us an insight about herself and how far she has come in the Tech industry .
Take a read…
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO READ TECH?
I believe I have not seen much of life. However, the little I have seen has been of profound interest to me. I grew up in a Zongo community in the Western region of Ghana. My community is bedeviled with issues that are germane to all Zongo communities; poverty, illiteracy, low self-esteem, false images and inadequate social amenities. One of the glaring issues that I got exposed to from a very tender age is gross discrimination against the girl-child specifically in Education.
The girl-child doesn’t have the necessary support and confidence from her parents in order for her to pursue her interests academically; especially in careers traditionally believed to be a preserve of the male. Parents quickly dash away the hopes of the girl-child when she want to go into the Sciences, Engineering, and much more of interest to me, Information Technology.
These are some of the reasons that inspired me to damn the consequences and take the bull by the horn. I therefore decided to go into Technology to at least become a reference point for the young and upcoming ones that “here is a lady that has done it and we can also do it.”Martin Luther King Jnr says “whatever things common to the human that the human has done, human can do.”
Growing up, I also realized I have the knack for assembling gadgets without supervision. I always end up breaking down gadgets and rebuild them from the scratch. This inborn skills and interest led me to enroll in a basic computer class at the age of 10. And since this period, I never relented on my dreams in the tech industry.
I have been exposed to many things and gathered a lot of experiences. This has given mean in-depth understanding on how relevant technology is in our social and economic development. It has also brought me to the realization that we Africans have not explored technology enough in solving some of our challenges. I then reaffirmed my interest and began to realize how people can use technology to solve our social and economic challenges, most especially girls.
The discrimination against the girl-child in most aspects of our professional lives is so glaring in our Ghanaian communities. And the perceived notion of girls not fit to compete and do better in the IT industry and other Men-dominated professions was a nightmare during my days at the University.
In a research interview I conducted during my first year in school, I realized about 99% of the women population applied to offer other programs and not ICT because they seethemselves not capable or perceive that area of profession to be for men only. In my first year, I had two other ladies in my class who laterdropped out because they found the program to be challenging and there wasn’t so much to inspire them amidst the challenges.
It was difficult for me as I was the only girl in the class and needed to prove a point and make a mark. Some male friends and mates were wondering why I still pursued my program whilst others believed I will also give up with time. But I stayed committed to my dreams and passion which I had right from childhood.
I was also fortunate to be introduced to the biggest Zongo community in Ghana which gave birth to other Zongo communities across the country. Nima has more but similar challenges as compared to my community in the western region. The dream to change the narration in my community and career path became more vivid and more important to me.
I founded Girly Tech in 2018 whilst in schoolsto help prevent the stifling of the potentialities of the upcoming young girls in the Technological space.
GirlyTech aims to transform Information Technology opportunities for girls in Zongo and deprived communities through training and mentorship programs and young women with technical computing and soft skillsdevelopment. Our ambition is to increase girls’exposure and participation in STEM studies and entrepreneurial mindset at an early stage as they begin to define their higher education and career journeys; to inspire and motivate girls to leverage technology and entrepreneurship as a creative tool, and to encourage girls to pursue wider Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) higher education and careers.
DO YOU FEEL INTIMIDATED BY YOUR MALE COUTERPARTS IN THE TECH SECTOR?
Not in the least. As I stated earlier, I sat in a class completely inundated by male classmates but that did not diminish my spirits not waver my resolve. I was one of the best students in class and also graduated leaving many trailing behind me.
To cut long matters short, I believe it challenges me to do more because most atimes the males feel you have nothing to offer since you’re female. And that’s exactly why I’m not intimidated. Because I always prove them wrong.
AS A MUSLIM WOMAN AND A FEMALE, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE IN THE IT WORLD
Working in the technology space hasn’t been easy because there’s no gender diversity. I have numerous examples of how I was debased and underrated at various meetings just because I am a lady and also in Hijab as a Muslim.
I used to feel special when someone says “wow, that’s a lady a lady in IT” until I went for a tech conference with my colleagues at work and there were few women in the hall out of the 100 participants. I realized there was zero diversity in tech. I realized the people that were telling me “oh wow, a lady in IT” were sending me a message which I didn’t know.
I also face the challenge of confidence from my community. Many people in our community are yet to come to terms with what I mean when I say I am in IT. I think it stems from the paucity of information on our part of the land about this wonderful field of study.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN NEXT FIVE YEARS?
I am a web developer, a network engineer; I recently went into Data protection. I train people on data protection practices even though I am not yet a Data protection practitioner. I am currently taking a course in Professional Project Management hoping to become and IT project manager. All these are preparation towards a future I want to have for myself.
Therefore, in the next 5 years, I should have a Masters in Cyber Security with focus in Internet of Things and Block Chain Technology.
In the next five years, I see myself supporting 500 girl-children to pursue a career in the Technology Industry.
In the next five years, I should have my own Consulting firm that handles IT Projects, consults on Cyber Security and also serve as a vanguard in providing massive enlightenment to the great number of Ghanaians who are ignorant or for a want of a better word, apathetic towards Information Technology.
ANY ADVICE TO GIRLS WHO WANT TO VENTURE IN THE TECH SECTOR?
My advice to girls who want to venture into the tech ecosystem is women are excelling in tech and contributing significantly to research. Thetech ecosystem is an interesting place to be and offers ample opportunities.
Find where your interest is, in the tech field there are various areas you can venture into. Find what interests you, networking, data science, web development, machine learning, artificial intelligence etc.
Make use of online resources, there are a lot of resources available on the internet which will make your journey easier, make use of them. They include, Udemy, free code camp, data camp etc.
The journey can be tough sometimes, join a tech community, these communities include beginners, intermediate and advance learners all willing to make your journey worth it. You are likely to find a like-minded person like you which gives you a sense of “I am not alone in this.” Girlytech is an example of a tech community.
Also practice whatever you learn, it will help you understand and enjoy your journey. Example if you learn about loops, push yourself to create simple project using loops. This will help you appreciate what you are learning.
I will also repeat what the poet Max Ehrmann stated in his Desiderata that “Be interested in your career, however humble, it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”