Journey Into UX Engineering – Wadzanayi Kim Bwanya

As a continent, we have few women succeeding in technology as product designers and software engineers. Words That Count is delighted to share the story of the woman who gave us an exquisite new home, as she narrates her experience in UX (User Experience) Engineering.

Hi Wadzanayi, thank you for joining us today. I love your name; Wadzanayi!
Haha, thank you, Winnie! You can call me Kim instead.

Haha, okay. Thank you. I know it’s the end of the day, most people are running home to rest but you chose to speak with me. Thank you so much for that.
Oh no, that’s okay. I hope you are fine though.

Kindly introduce yourself to our audience
Alright! I am Wadzanayi Kim Bwanya from Zimbabwe, the Founder of Beedesigned Studio, a UI/UX (User Interface/User Experience) design and web development agency based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I am also the Co-founder of Tea In 60, a social enterprise that provides virtual mentorship for Zimbabwean girls and women who are practicing or interested in STEM.

You guys are doing very well at Tea In 60! Picking up women who have once been on a STEM journey but have been thrown off because of one reason or another and intentionally helping them upskill to fit into the system again is admirable. Thank you very much!
Aw, thanks for the compliment. This was born out of our own experiences. Both my co-founder and I had an experience not so different from what you went through as a young girl in high school and university. We (the girls studying STEM-related degrees) were a minority. While we are happy that the numbers are slowly improving, we know there’s still a huge gap and we’re actively playing our part in filling it.

You are the second person we are hosting with a UI/UX experience. How has this journey been like for you?
Well, I have a degree qualification in Computer Science but I also have years of experience doing visual design. So I’m somewhat of a ‘unicorn’. I only discovered the UX field whilst I was still in my second year of university and I immediately knew I wanted to pursue a career in this field because it allowed me the opportunity to put both my programming and design skills to use as a UX engineer. Fast forward to today, I am running a UI/UX design agency that caters to clients spread all over the globe.

I must say, the UX industry is still young and with the rate at which technology is evolving, there is a constant demand to make the connection between great technology and human needs, hence the relevance of UX. While globally it is a growing industry, in my country the UX industry is still in its infancy. This is good in the sense that as Beedesigned Studio we have positioned ourselves for when the industry moves to the growth stage.

Being in the infancy stage is also a disadvantage because in Zimbabwe we have a lot of talent in terms of software developers and entrepreneurs. The only thing missing is UX practitioners to help complete the circle that connects the ideas, the products, and the people. This is what inspired a couple of friends and me to start the UXZim community – to drive the direction of UX and increase its adoption among corporates.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as an entrepreneur in STEM?
There are many, haha! Let me start with Tea In 60; so, what we are doing is different (at least in our country)! We are providing a virtual mentorship platform to connect Zimbabwean women across the globe with Zimbabwean girls interested in STEM. It’s new territory, which comes with new challenges. We are learning things as we go. Additionally, we are a social enterprise not a non-profit. That means that most if not all of our activities, have to generate income for the organisation to sustain itself. As a self-sufficient organisation, we always have to ask ourselves the question ‘How can we sustainably create impact?’

As for Beedesigned Studio; I am proud to say, for the greater part, it is growing. Just like any serious business, we constantly have to creatively think of ways of being innovative to stay relevant. Cliche as this sounds, as a woman running a business, the first impression people have is that you don’t know what you are talking about. I’m generally not one for many words, but my work is! It does the talking on my behalf and there is less and less need for me to prove my value in many business circles!

Another thing is the societal expectations of being a woman. Entrepreneurship is a risky path to choose and very few people can say I fulfilled my dream. So when I chose to take this road, not everyone believed in my vision. I got comments like it might be so hard since you’re fresh out of university,’ maybe you should first get a job and gain experience …. but I am glad I stood my ground and stuck to my decision.

What keeps you moving ahead in the middle of all these challenges?
I am generally a goal-driven person; so when I decide to engage in something, I give it my all. When I decided to work on Tea In 60, I knew that it was going to come with a lot of work but I was willing to put in everything because I knew we would see results at some point. It is starting to pay off; we are reaching Zimbabwean women all over the globe and we are getting more clients on the business side. So the fact that I am making a change in people’s lives while making money out of it is motivation enough for me.

Please tell us about some of the prestigious moments you have had along this journey
One of the things I am very proud of is how far I have come in my career. I decided to start my own business immediately after university and I have been onto that until now. We started Tea in 60 in June 2020 and we are already shaking things up in the STEM sector by creating space and opportunity for Zimbabwean girls and women. I have also been recognised by Nsesa foundation as the ‘STEM Woman of the Week’. In 2018, I was nominated for the Forbes ‘Africa 30 under 30’ list. I was featured on the Phase community, a Taipei based design company, as a leader in the UI/UX design field in Africa. I am also proud of starting the UXZim community!

How do you like spending your time outside work?
I love playing sports; I have always been a sporty person as far as I can remember. Games like tennis, swimming, hockey, softball, baseball, and rugby are my favourite. I represented Zimbabwe in softball and in university, I played for the hockey team. I know you expect me to have played cricket, haha, but I already had softball and it would have been challenging to play both at the same time.

What is your favourite quote?
I don’t know if I should call it a quote as such but a friend of mine once said, “talent is equally distributed but opportunities are not. As we look at developed countries, we shouldn’t think that people in those countries are more intelligent. If anything, Africans are equally talented but we lack opportunities to nurture those talents and put them to good use. This statement drives the work I do, I want to create opportunities and put all this dormant talent to use!

How would you encourage a young girl who is passionate about joining the STEM field?
Whatever you choose to do within STEM, make sure you are truly passionate about it. There’s nothing as frustrating as doing something you don’t love! You will hate going to work each day and you will be a bitter person. While trying to navigate your way through life and your career, there are a lot of obstacles you will face but you should never lose sight of your end goal. If you want to be a doctor, play your part, make sure your grades are good. Do the necessary research to help you reach that goal.

It’s also important to know when to say no to some requests from society. Truth is, many situations in this world are not in favour of us as women. Some people are more interested in when you are getting married than what you are interested in as a person. So sometimes you need to learn when to put that pressure down for your good.

Thank you very much, Kim, for speaking with me. I am one lucky person to know strong women like you. Thank you for your contribution to the development of our continent. We wish you the very best ahead.

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