Female Data Engineer – Temitope Comfort Iroko

One of the new career paths cropping up in STEM is Data Engineering and our African women are not backing down from it. Meet today’s female Data Engineer from Nigeria;

Hi Comfort, good day to you. We are honoured to have you with us today
Hello Winnie, I am happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

We would like to know; who is Comfort?
My name is Temitope Comfort Iroko from Oyo state, Nigeria. I am a graduate student in Applied Mathematics at Wrocław University of Science and Technology, in Poland.

Let’s talk about your journey into STEM
I have been a smart girl ever since I was a child – I love sciences a lot! I had a strong affinity towards quantitative reasoning when I was in primary school and I also had a solid background in mathematics too.

When I got to high school, calculations seemed pretty easy and interesting to me, although I used to like technical drawing more. I wouldn’t say I loved mathematics when I was younger, I was just a hard-working girl who wanted to have good grades and so I had to study hard.

During that time, I had two professions in mind; Pharmacy and Architecture. So when I was in my final year in high school, I wrote UTME (Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination) and Post UTME. I passed very well and was so sure I was going to secure admission that year. Unfortunately, the reverse was the case. So I had to wait for another year to write the exams again.

After a while, admission lists came out. Well, I was admitted this time but was given a course I never dreamt about. I remember crying that evening when I saw Statistics near my name on the admission list. It was boldly written (lol). After much encouragement from my Dad, I decided to embark on the journey.

Haha, sorry about that! But how has the journey been like, so far?
My academic journey started in 2013 when I got admission into the University of Jos, Nigeria, to study Statistics in the Department of Mathematics. As at that time we had only one female mathematics/statistics lecturer (Professor Sirisena) in the department and two (2) records of first-class graduates in the department of statistics since inception (they were both guys). The journey was very tough, but God’s grace kept me going, plus the support from my amazing family. They have been my biggest fans!

Fast forward to 2018, I graduated as the first-ever female first-class graduate in my department and the overall best student. Immediately after graduation, I had to go for the mandatory National Youth Service program. While rounding that up, I got an email that I had been offered a master’s scholarship at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS). I was also awarded the Mastercard Foundation scholarship while at AIMS.

AIMS was an amazing and eye-opening experience as I met students from various countries with similar a vision, ambitions, and goals. I was also opportune to work with the African Data Initiative team while at AIMS during the 2020 pandemic. A few weeks to the end of my stay at AIMS, I got the Ignacy Lukasiewicz Scholarship and I am currently pursuing a master’s degree in Applied Mathematics with a specialization in Data Engineering.

What have you found inspiring and challenging along this journey?
From Ben Carson’s words, I have learned over the years that, “Through hard work, perseverance, and faith in God, you can live your dreams”. These words inspire me a lot because I have had my share of ups and downs as I journeyed through life. Simply put it as being a period of good, not-so-good, and best moments. And of course, my family is my biggest inspiration.

What do you enjoy doing outside work?
I am an introvert, I enjoy indoor activities. Most times spend time with my family and friends. I also enjoy taking a walk when I need to breathe (time away from school stress and other things).

Tell us about your achievements and awards
Most of these have been mentioned before but I will repeat them. First-ever female first-class graduate in the statistics department, overall best graduating student in my department, AIMS/MCF Scholarship, second runner up at Mastercard Foundation Entrepreneurship Competition (MCF-SIEF), Participant at the Scholars Entrepreneurship Fund (SEF) Digital Diaries Project, and the Ignacy Lukasiewiccz Scholarship.

What is your favourite quote?
Through hard work, perseverance, and faith in God, you can live your dreams” ~ Ben Carson.

Lastly, how would you encourage a young African girl in STEM?
Believe it or not, tough times often quickly dissolve into easier times. You’ve got what it takes to get past a tough time. Keep pushing and never give up.

It was wonderful writing about you, Comfort! We wish you more success on your journey ahead. Thank you for sparing time for us.

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