Data Management Lead – Daphne Phillipah Nakabugo

In the rapidly evolving landscape of data-driven decision-making, having a skilled and visionary leader at the helm is essential. Today, we are hosting a Data Management Lead, whose insights and experiences have shaped her remarkable career. From her innovative approaches to data collection and storage to her visionary leadership in leveraging data for strategic decision-making, Daphne is contributing to a brighter and more data-driven future;

Hello Daphne, thank you for volunteering to share your STEM journey through Words That Count. We are honored to write about you!
Thank you for giving me this opportunity! I am happy to be here.

Give our audience a brief introduction about yourself
My name is Daphne Phillipah Nakabugo from Uganda. I am the Data Management Lead and Technology Officer at DefendDefenders. My main responsibility is to lead the capacity-building project for Human Rights Defenders in digital tools and knowledge. I also oversee the implementation of data management tools and technology solutions to support individuals and organizations in their work in defending human rights.

My role involves ensuring that organizations have the necessary skills and resources to effectively utilize technology in their advocacy efforts. Advocacy tools and data are our specialty. However, we are also interested in digital security, misinformation, critical thinking skills, and internet rights and policy. We strive to provide comprehensive training and support in these areas to empower Human Rights Defenders. This helps them navigate the digital landscape safely and effectively.

Walk us through your journey into Data Management
I was always interested in presenting solutions from a young age, especially as a first-born. Perhaps this is because we are almost like the second parent! My parents, like most others, intended me to become a doctor. But, by the age of nine, I already knew that medicine was not my calling. And once I told them, it was a never-ending journey to figure out what I wanted to do, which always went back and forth. I remember at one point thinking I would be in accounting, but it didn’t seem right for me. The closest thing that provided any intrigue was probably architecture. Anyway, during the process of filling out our university forms, a teacher brought up a fascinating new course called Software Engineering that immediately piqued my interest. I knew right then that I wanted to pursue that subject of study. And that is what I did.

Fast forward three or four years, when a friend published a post on their WhatsApp status about an exciting position that combined digital campaigning, data analysis, and design to improve the lives of people. It was perfect! I knew it was destined for me because I had the necessary skills, but more importantly, I was very enthusiastic about the cause and making a difference in people’s lives. I immediately applied for the position and after a rigorous interview process, I was offered the job. It was a perfect blend of my skills, passion, and desire to make a positive impact in the world. And it has allowed me to uncover other aspects of myself that I want to improve, such as my leadership skills, which is where I now focus my further education.

Let us talk about some of the challenges you have faced on this journey into Data Management
Huh! Where to begin? For the most part, I was the only girl in my Software Engineering class. A few girls joined at the beginning but dropped out within weeks. I had to constantly prove myself and work even harder to gain the respect of my peers. That wasn’t easy! I had to push myself beyond my limits to succeed in that environment.

Recently, it has been more difficult to strike a work-life balance, particularly as a mother of two who still wants to advance in my job. I strive to focus on accomplishing my goals while also committing to my obligations outside of work. It is important for me to be present for my family while still progressing professionally. I honestly believe it is feasible to wear all hats. It is not simple, but I am confident that with focus and perseverance, I can make it work.

With these challenges around you, how are you able to stay focused and motivated in life?
I draw inspiration from several sources including the human rights defenders whom I work with. They fight for their rights, and mine too, risking their livelihoods and those of their families. Their courage and resilience in the face of adversity motivate me to push forward and continue working towards positive change in my own life and the lives of others. It’s a reminder that no matter how challenging the journey may be, progress is always possible with perseverance and a strong sense of purpose.

I am also motivated by strong women like Michelle Obama and Neema Iyer who has been a trailblazer for the digital space in Africa for women, and so many others. Their dedication to breaking barriers and creating opportunities for themselves and others serves as a constant source of inspiration for me to strive for excellence and make a difference in the world. Their stories remind me that with determination and hard work, anything is achievable, no matter the obstacles faced.

I also had some pretty strong women to look up to growing up. My grandmother and mother inspired me daily and ensured I did not settle for less. But I think the person who helps me keep going even more, someone who knows just how to edge me on is my husband, and I’ll be forever grateful for his constant encouragement to keep going. He believes in me even when I doubt myself, and his unwavering support motivates me to push past my limits and reach for my goals. Having such a strong support system has been instrumental in my journey towards success.

Tell us about some of your most prestigious moments while walking this Data Management journey
Through the advocacy and data capacity-building program called Ttaala, I have trained numerous human rights defenders within East Africa and the Horn of Africa on data and digital tools. This has led to increased efficiency in their work, and, improved documentation and reporting of human rights violations in the region, ultimately contributing to greater accountability and justice.

I am proud to have played a role in empowering individuals to use technology for social good and positive change. Some of the organizations and individuals have also gone on to do remarkable work in their fields, for example, Sandra Aceng of WOUGNET who is now making a mark in the digital and gender equality space. I have witnessed first-hand the transformative impact that access to technology and digital tools can have on human rights advocacy efforts in the region. It is inspiring to see how these tools have enabled individuals and organizations to amplify their voices and push for positive change in their communities.

I am also a co-founder of Engero, a digital storytelling company that is currently focused on documenting humanitarian work in the region. It began as a modest after-school project, but it has had a profound impact on my life. I owe my current job to the project I started, as finding employment is no simple task. However, we crafted our own unique experiences that ultimately propelled us toward various paths in our professional journeys. I am grateful for the enriching experience and the numerous opportunities and connections that Engero has brought into my life in the field of digital storytelling. Our work has allowed us to bring attention to crucial humanitarian issues and have a positive impact on our community.

Who is Daphne outside the walls of Data Management?
I am a mother and a wife. In my free time, I enjoy spending quality time with my family and friends. I am also a fan of exploring new places and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. Self-care is a priority for me as well. So, I exercise regularly and practice mindfulness, to maintain a healthy work-life balance. I have a deep love for God, and I highly value my faith.

What is your favorite quote?
It actually is a verse! “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

I find solace in this verse as it encourages me to have faith in God’s divine plan and instills a sense of optimism for what lies ahead. This text provides a sense of solace and encouragement during difficult moments.

What is your word of encouragement for a young African girl interested in pursuing a career in Data Management?
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald. These words serve as a powerful reminder that you can become anything you desire at any stage of your life. You have complete control over the narrative of your life. And it’s important to remember that the journey is not over until you decide it is. Keep pushing forward until you are confident that you have reached the finish line.

Thank you, once again, Daphne, for sharing your story with the world. Today we have learned of another way we can incorporate technology in different fields – Human Rights for example! Thank you for teaching us about data management as well.

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