African women have made significant contributions to the tech industry and are increasingly becoming more prominent in the field. Despite facing numerous challenges such as a lack of access to education and funding, many African women are using technology to solve important problems in their communities, including healthcare, education, and financial inclusion. Carol is one of the notable examples;
Hi Carol, thanks for accepting to speak with us about your journey as one of the African women in tech that Africa has
Thank you for inviting me, Winnie! I am happy to share my journey with all aspiring and existing women in tech.
Kindly introduce yourself to our audience
My name is Carol Wambui Muchemi, from Kenya. Yes! I am a proud Wambui :). Currently, I wear many hats. In the tech field, it becomes a little challenging to be confined to one role. Mainly because you are required to have skills cutting across multiple roles. Narrowing it down to what I am currently doing, we can say I am a data scientist.
Tell us about your journey of becoming one of the African women in tech
As a kid, I grew up loving math, mainly because I was good at it. I remember sometime when I was 13, the math teacher, who was also the head teacher, came to class to give us our exam results. He gave everyone else their exam paper results back except for me. So I got extremely worried about it and wondered how poor my performance was that I am getting handed back my paper last. So when he got to my paper, he quickly dashed out of the class with it and then came back with a pack of pens. He asked me to stand and announced that I had gotten 100% on that exam. Something in me clicked about being extremely good at math as I was receiving my pens.
Going through high school was easy for me because I understood all the math concepts and was constantly selected to go to mathematics contests. Finally, after high school, I pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science (Statistics). This degree led me to the discovery of data science because the field merged both fields that I was always interested in.
Getting a job in the data science field was a little challenging for me. Especially because there was a surge of tech skills demand in the market. I got a couple of opportunities here and there some of which I had to let go of due to growth and my vision of my career trajectory. This journey led me to where I currently am with a market research company. It has unlocked a certain perspective when it comes to data science in the research space.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as an African woman in tech?
I have faced quite a number of challenges I must say! Challenges from dealing with imposter syndrome, gender bias, and toxic work environments. How I managed to navigate these challenges has actually been through meditation. I ground myself enough to see beyond the challenge. The way I maneuver imposter syndrome is by constantly trying to upskill and sitting in the discomfort that comes with learning. I also take an extra step beyond my comfort zone to increase my learning base.
When it comes to gender bias, I remind myself that I am more than my gender and always put my best foot forward. I live in the hope of being connected by the right employers who share the same value system. Finally, toxic work environments can be quite mentally detrimental. Well, at least to me it was. In order to work through such environments, you have to constantly be mindful of your mental health because this becomes a battle of the mind.
You have talked about how you overcome challenges but, what inspires you not to give up when those challenges come up?
What inspires me most is the fact that there is more to life than what meets the eye. Just because I am going through a challenging season doesn’t mean that it defines my future. Having this in mind, allows me to persevere through the challenges that come my way.
My family has also been a great source of inspiration because they go above and beyond to offer me support even when I am not aware that I actually need it. For this reason, they have also brought grounding in my life which has proven to stand the test of time. At the same time, just like I am watching people who are ahead of me, I believe that there are people doing the same. They are watching me and I have become a source of inspiration to them.
Let’s talk about some of your achievements and proud moments in the tech space
My biggest achievement so far is becoming the Co-founder of the AI Center of Excellence (AICE). I am working towards my awards and my moments of recognition. So, watch this space!
Who is Carol outside of the tech world and work?
Outside of work, I am a fun and fitness-loving person! I love exploring restaurants and trying out new foods. In a recent restaurant I have been to, I tried their Swahili coconut curry on either fish or chicken, and I can still feel the taste in my mouth!
Other than working out and eating :), my cousins and I have an initiative where we visit numerous children’s homes across the country and take donations to them. For anyone interested in injoining us, you can find us on social media under the name Helping Hands.
What’s your favorite quote?
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going” ~ Joseph P. Kennedy.
What is your word of encouragement for a young African girl who wants to join the tech world?
Hey, young girl in STEM! First of all, congratulations for believing in yourself to take a leap of faith in this male-dominated field. In this field, you will be experiencing a variety of challenges that will manifest differently between you and your peers. Accept them as part of the journey and strive to be better. Remember that talent without character isn’t sustainable. So also invest in your personal development and mental wellness. You are destined for greatness. You just need to show up every day!
Thank you, Carol, for sharing part of your life experience with our readers. What you, Claire, and the entire team are doing at AICE is amazing. May you keep it up.