I got to know Toluwani through mutual connections on LinkedIn. Here is our interview about her STEM journey:
Hi Toluwani, thank you for accepting to contribute to this cause
You are welcome, Winnie!
Who is Toluwani?
My name is Toluwani Boluwatife Adegoke from Nigeria. I was born into a family of 5 children – being the last born. It was an average-income family, so we didn’t really have much difficulty in getting the basic needs of a home. One thing I remember is my mom buying us a computer when I was very young. We used it for simple things but it made us fall in love with computers. Aside that, she would also buy us novels during school holidays and give us Bible verses to memorise with assignments. This was my foundation for education and computers.
I remember being an excellent student all through my senior high school – I was always in first position. The only time things went south was when I came second and that only happened once. I also enjoyed taking on leadership positions in school – class head, or something else but in leadership. In my final year, I was the senior prefect girl. I graduated from senior secondary school as the best student in science.
I wanted to study medicine because of an issue that I wanted to solve – I wanted to got to the root of sickle cells. I wasn’t really a fan of Biology and Chemistry, I just wanted to find something out! I reached university and didn’t really perform well in those courses. Before the end of my first year, I had a thorough conversation with God which made me change my mind. With the help of God, I discovered my love for Engineering. I realised my interest in joining those fields commonly tagged as “male fields” by the society. Engineering was a good option but I was specifically interested in electrical engineering which involved sitting in office some times – something I didn’t want. So, I let that option go.
I later decided to go back to my roots – computers. (Un)Fortunately, my school went on strike for almost a year during that time. I used that period to sharpen my programming skills, especially Python. My brother and his friend taught me Python from scratch. I went through the curriculum and syllabus of the computer science course and realised it was something I could fit into. I joined the course with full force until now. I am in level 500 and it has been a delightful journey so far. PS: The problem I wanted to solve with Medicine is the same one I want to use Computer Science to solve as my final year project. I believe God will give me a breakthrough.
What has been your biggest challenge?
There are a lot of challenges actually, haha. There was a period I had to deal with low self esteem. I am the kind of person that loves going all out on things termed “challenging” by many people. Some times when I find my male colleagues doing well in these fields; I mean doing better than me, it makes me wonder whether I am just dull or I don’t have enough brains to understand and do things the way they do! The good thing is, God has brought people in my life who have mentored me and made me believe that I can do more than what any of my male colleagues can. This has helped me beat that low self esteem many times.
The other challenge comes from society; when people see me do what I enjoy doing, there’s a common comment they make; “Toluwani stop trying to be a man, you can never be”! I am not trying to be a man, I am actually trying to be as female as I can be. I don’t want to be a man! Doing something I am passionate about, with everything in me has nothing to do with my gender. In fact, it’s a female character to put passion in everything we touch!
Also being in a male dominated field, some times people act like my opinion does not matter but that doesn’t stop me from giving it, haha. I fight to give myself a voice because I am not here to joke!
What have you found inspiring along this journey?
God is my number one inspiration! I am doing all I am doing because I want to make him proud.
Also, the fact that there are women ahead of me who have done what I am trying to do and have achieved a lot! Those ladies inspire me to work harder. When I see them creating a beautiful balance in their career, family and spiritual lives, I get very inspired. I see them taking long strides and winning at everything.
I also want to be a source of inspiration to the younger generation. If you see me striving for excellence and greater heights, I am not doing it entirely for myself. I know society is already making the younger generation believe that they aren’t meant to be in certain fields. I want to be that example for them.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy quiet moments when my spirit can freely connect with my creator. That’s my number one priority. I also enjoy spending time with my family(ies) at home and in school – Zion Family. I love to read novels, something instilled in me since childhood.
I am the kind of person who easily gets bored if I am not doing something productive. So, in my free time I also enjoy putting my hands to work; either reading or writing.
I also appreciate art; I enjoy reviewing art.
What are some of your prestigious achievements?
In 2020 during lock-down, I got to win a Data Science Nigeria Competition. It was an Algorithmic competition based on getting the Mathematics behind Logistic Regression. I solved that and topped the list. It was my very first achievement in the tech world and it inspired me to do more.
In 2021 I won the Women in STEM award. There are some other achievements but these two are the most notable ones for me at the moment.
What is your favourite quote?
My favourite quote was used in the “Akeelah and the spelling bee” movie.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others” ~ Marianne Williamson
How would you encourage a young girl in STEM?
Keep striving, keep going, making God your priority in life. He will guide your way and teach you what to do when you are lost. When society tags it impossible, you have to remember that it’s not about the society. It’s about what you believe concerning your own life. You should take nothing less than excellence. You need to always be above the standard.
Thank you, Toluwani! It has been an absolute pleasure to write about you. Thank you for giving me the honours. I wish you all the best with school.