I know Agnes through her sister Juliana Talai – another strong woman in STEM. Here is our interview about Agnes’ scientific journey:
Good to have you today. Can I call your Aggie?
Yes you can, but my full name is Agnes Talai.
Thank you Aggie. Please tell us about what you do currently.
I am a Program Coordinator at Assent Compliance, a global company that provides cloud-based SaaS solutions that help companies manage their supply chain data, facilitate stakeholder and supply chain education on regulatory and program requirements, and increase transparency between businesses. My job in a nutshell is ensuring we deliver Best-In-Class programs, designed to meet our customers’ desired business outcomes, while providing an excellent customer experience.
Apart from work, I volunteer at my local tech community, Facebook Developer circles Nairobi, where I am tasked with running the mentorship unit of the community’s more than 7.5k members
Wow! That sounds fancy! LOL. How did you end up doing what you do?
I would attribute my career journey to the right guidance by great humans who came my way and sheer determination. I always wanted to be a lawyer but instead enrolled for a degree in Informatics after my father advised me that technology is the way to go. In school I assumed the normal student life cycle then: class, movies, eat, sleep. I was the quiet introvert student whose only mission was to pass time and graduate. During 2nd year, I did an Internship at Serianu Limited, an IT security firm in Nairobi. I was lucky to be mentored directly by the CEO Mr. William Makatiani. He observed my unproductive introvert tendencies and pointed it out. He told me I needed to change otherwise that would be my life routine. School, marriage, kids, death. He advised me to do more with my life especially being in tech. That was my turning point. I went back to school energized, joined tech clubs, applied to be a Microsoft Student Partner and interacted with students. I practically had less than two years to re-live my campus life and turn everything around. The outcome was a huge transformation into a very different girl, very outspoken, articulate and confident. My grades improved too.
Having led a tech community at university, I had built the work-right skills, ethics and networks that came in handy in the job market. After campus, I needed a job like most people at that stage would. I tried my hands on different things. I did web design & development, social media management, supplier, ….. I would say the need of solving problems has always guided my journey.
My curiosity is at peak and am still discovering. One wise man by the name of JF told me, the question of taking the right path is not always obvious to us before we start going down it. My advice to those in school is that the technology field is diverse with lots of careers and opportunities one can dive into. Maximize them.
What challenges have you have faced on this journey?
When I started off in my STEM career, I had to figure out stuff my own way mostly through research, but I got lucky along the way as I stumbled along a mentor during my internship. I believe mentorship is one of the best ways to support and empower students especially girls in exploring and pursuing STEM careers. The interest should be planted in the minds as early as possible in their education so as to provide the right foundation and help break existing stereotypes. Seeing more women excelling in their various STEM careers and serving as role models will go a long way in inspiring and retaining girls in this field. At my career stage, I still have a mentor to guide me on my journey and it never ends.
Fear of celebrating achievements in the workplace and beyond is an issue that most of us as women struggle with mostly due to cultural and gender modesty norms as well as impostor syndrome. We thus fail to harness the benefits of self-promotion such as taking control of how you’re perceived by others and making them understand the unique contribution you can make. To help me check this I joined the #IamRemarkable movement by Google and it has been a great place to help me handle this.
What inspires you?
Dreams of a better today and tomorrow work for me. Seeing people go after their dreams and realizing them inspires me to do and be better.
What have been some of your achievements in life?
Mentoring a tech community in campus and currently leading the mentorship unit of Facebook Developer Circles Nairobi crowns this. Seeing people, you encouraged and motivated improve, shine and make it in life does it for me. I try to impact lives positively no matter the stage and place in life I am in..
I have a keen interest in problem solving and one of my major achievements was implementing a successful work intranet project at Eldotec Consultancy in 2017 that greatly helped in information storage, dissemination, process improvements and collaboration.
In campus, I was runner’s up – CODEFEST2016 and Africa representative – International women’s hackathon, Kenya, Team Shiners. The experience made me realize with passion the sky is not even the limit.
How do you spend your out-of-work time?
Learning a new skill and morning runs help me stay put. I enjoy dancing and listening to music, currently afro pop is on my play list.
With my passion for Corporate Social Resistibility, I am working on an internship project at the same company (Eldotec Consultancy) to help reduce youth unemployment in my community and help them gain work skills that will enable them kick start their careers.
A word of encouragement from you please
My advice to students is to start working on their passion and skills early. Work on personal and pro-bono projects and have them uploaded in online repositories such as Github as they form proof of your expertise. Volunteer in communities that will help you build on and acquire diverse skill sets. Don’t wait until you are done with campus to start working on gaining experience, create it for yourself and always work on continuously improving yourself . Identify the right mentors to guide you on your journey as they will provide the right insights to enable you achieve your goals.
Always remember a candle losses nothing by lighting another candle and if it’s based on facts, it is not bragging.
A favourite quote: “Every great achiever is inspired by a great mentor.” Lailah Gifty Akita
Thank you Aggie for sharing with us and inspiring us to reach for more