I got to know Hauwa through LinkedIn, after mutual connections shared part of her story about the amazing work she does in the tech world. In an effort to have her full story shared, we were able to have this interview;
Hi Hauwa, we are honoured to host you today on this episode of Words That Count
Hi Winnie! Thank you for inviting me. I admire what you’re doing; it’s very much needed. I am honoured to be a part of it.
Thank you for the kind words!
Kindly introduce yourself to the audience
My name is Hauwa Ibrahim Aminu from Nigeria. I am currently doing my National Service; it’s something people from some West African countries do as soon as they complete their first degree. In my case, I decided to do it after my masters degree because I felt like I needed to get that out of the way first. We are basically serving the country for a whole year. It’s required because if you want to work in Nigeria you must have a certificate for your National Service. We get sent to any part of the country and are required to stay there serving the country for the rest of the year. That’s what I am doing right now.
Please walk us through your journey from childhood to where you are now
For as long as I remember, I have always been someone who enjoys creating and innovating things. I always want to solve problems; they don’t have to be tech-related, just general problems. Most the things I do have to do with problem solving. One of the articles that featured me indicate that I worked on a Prototype for my project. I realised that there was a problem and I tried to be part of the solution to that problem.
I started school in Nigeria until 2013 when we moved to Ghana with my entire family. There, I went to Al-Rayan International School. I wrote IGCSE – the Cambridge exams – and joined Lancaster University, Ghana. This campus was opened in 2013 and I joined it in 2015. I did my foundation year before proceeding to my undergraduate.
I am naturally a person of so many interests; so, growing up I thought I would be an architect because I was taking a subject we called Technical Drawing in Nigeria but when I moved to Ghana, it wasn’t part of the school’s curriculum. I was somehow confused! You know that feeling of planning something for a very long time and finding yourself in a situation of knowing that it is now impossible! I had to re-evaluate and re-think everything.
Both my parents are Accountants and it’s what I grew up seeing. So, my next best option was to go for Accounting. Even when I went to Lancaster, I signed up as an Accounting student. However, that foundational year was very helpful; it made me realise what I really wanted to do. I saw what the computer science students were doing and started reading more about it. My interest in technology grew more each day. Lucky enough, Lancaster gives us an option to change courses at the end of the foundational year. I took that opportunity and signed up as a computer science student for my first year.
For someone like me who is interested in so many things, programming was the best option for me; I could use it to address all my interests in different fields. For example, the second app that I developed during my masters degree was birthed out of my interest in architecture. A part of me felt satisfied; in a way, I was that architect that I had wanted to be. With computer science, you are not restricted, you can do anything you want. It’s a whole new world of creativity with no restrictions. I just wanted to do that.
My parents have always been very supportive of my dreams. I remember the time I said I wanted to be an Accountant, my dad just said “if that’s what you want then go for it, but don’t feel pressured to do it just because it’s what we do”. They never forced me to do anything, it was always my choice because they knew it was my future. They however guided me through pretty much everything. They didn’t want me to do something I wasn’t happy with. So, I have always had that support and understanding from them. This definitely helped me in making many choices in my life.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a young African woman in STEM?
As for challenges, I would say, it would feel good to know that there are other women in the field. This is not something that stops anyone from going on but the fact that this is a male-dominated field, having a low percentage of women can sometimes be discouraging. There’s also that pressure of trying to prove your worth in this field.
Many times, people can and have expressed their doubts when you are doing something out of the ordinary. In most cases it is negative expressions and constant indications that you will give up at some point. I don’t know why it’s like that but as long as you have the right support from the right people and also the passion, all these negatives shouldn’t matter to you. You will honestly have moments of loneliness along your journey, and those are not funny, but you just have to keep going.
What has inspired your progress amidst these challenges?
My inspiration comes from my desire to show women that this is something they can also do. When I see a young girl dreaming, I want them to know that this can go beyond just a dream. I want to be that example for them to know that people like her can make it here. I want to be an example because I wish I had that while growing up. I never dreamed of things like this, or saw anything like this but I made it. Now imagine a girl who grows up knowing that such career paths exist and actually sees women like me achieving what we have achieved! They will do better than I have done. I just want these girls to know that regardless of anything, they can be what they want to be. This is added to the support I get from people around the world and my parents that inspire me to move forward.
Let’s talk about the Apps that you have developed 
Two of my latest projects from my undergraduate and postgraduate research, focused on developing solutions to some of the problems that certain groups in specific industries face, or people generally. I am still gathering more feedback from experts for my most recent project, and subsequently, I hope to put out the app on various platforms for general usage, but here’s a little information on JupiMart and ArchiScope:
JupiMart is an augmented reality-based mobile application that provides users with features that enable them to see a 3D representation of a product in real time, various colours, and from different angles. Click here for a video that discusses the app in detail, including its demonstration.
ArchiScope; I wanted to improve communication between architects and their clients because I realized that clients usually lacked technical knowledge on architectural designs and hence, blueprints were likely to not provide an adequate representation of what the finished project would look like. As a result of that, clients were not able to confidently visualize the finished building, making them potentially unhappy with the results. ArchiScope was developed utilizing the powerful Unreal Game Engine, and the mobile application provides a number of features, such as allowing clients to interact with buildings in a novel way, including taking off certain floors to have a closer view, or to focus more on another floor.
The integration of augmented reality into the architectural field brings about a form of visualization tool. This can result in a more efficient way of communication between architects and their clients.
Upon my return to Nigeria in January 2021, after completing my master’s degree, many architects and building professionals picked interest in my project work, which gave me the opportunity to demonstrate its details to experts. Most of the feedback I received was positive.
If it’s not about technology, what do you enjoy doing?
Outside work I love to cook and eat. I just love everything related to food. I also love sports; I have been part of track and field events since my childhood. I have also gotten awards for them. I recently got into boxing – this has been my passion for a very long time. So, I was very happy to get into it finally. I am also such a family person; there’s always something to sit and talk about with family. The memories created during such moments are irreplaceable. So, I love spending time with family. I also write poems sometimes and play games, plus watching anime. Those I would say are the things I do for fun.
What is your favourite quote?
My favourite quote of all times is, “be the change you want to be” ~ Mahatma Gandhi. This quote means a lot to me because many times we want that change but just sit and wait for it to happen. But how about we start being that and let the world emulate it too?
How would you encourage a young girl who is passionate about STEM but is struggling to find her place?
I would tell the young girls to keep pushing. It’s not easy, especially when it starts feeling lonely, like I mentioned under my challenges. My lesson from that is, even if they feel alone, they should know that they are actually not alone. There is a community of African women in STEM out there, cheering you on and waiting to celebrate all those amazing wins with you. We might not be as many as the men in this field but we are getting there.
Thank you very much, Hauwa for sharing your story with us! It’s a privilege to interact with amazing African women like you. We wish you the very best in everything you do.