Women in Software Engineering – Jean Amukwatse

We believe that passion breeds determination which drives Jean’s career in software engineering;

Hi Jean, you are welcome to this episode of Words That Count. Thank you for accepting to have your story shared through our work
Thank you Winnie. I am very happy to have my STEM journey featured on your website.

Kindly introduce yourself to our audience
My name is Jean Amukwatse from Mbarara, Uganda. I am a Junior Software Engineer at Living Goods, Uganda, an independent contractor (Software Automation Engineer) at BPOseats in the Philippines and a data scientist, on a personal project basis.

Walk us through your journey from childhood into software engineering
I grew up from Mbarara district as the fifth born of seven children. About my school life, I went to Mbarara Preparatory school for my primary and Bweranyangi Girls’ Secondary School for both O and A’ levels. Growing up, I always aspired to become a medical doctor, so, I did Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, and ICT (BCM/ICT) during my A’ level to fulfil not only my dream, but my parents dream too.

Unfortunately, I did not pass Biology at my final A’ level national examinations, which is the core subject for the medical field. This demotivated me so much! But, while I was at the point of giving up on academics, my sister reached out for me to apply for Bachelors of Oil and Gas at Uganda Technology And Management University (UTAMU).

While applying in 2017, the Deputy Vice Chancellor of UTAMU advised me to apply for Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering. To be honest, I had no idea of what this course entailed. The little I knew was that it had everything to do with computers, which I didn’t like then.

My application to the software engineering program was successful. The first two years were not easy, but I managed to always top the class despite being the only female. At the end of my second year, I received an internship position for five months. The company promoted me to a consultant after the five months, and later retained me as a Junior Software Engineer, a year into the consultancy role.

At my graduation

After my graduation in 2021, I received an offer from another company to take up a Quality Assurance remote role. Six months later, I was promoted to the Software Automation Engineer role, as an independent contractor.

What have you found challenging along this career journey in software engineering?
One of my biggest challenges was overcoming the grief of failing at A ’level. Also, being the only female in my class while at university was a challenge. It made me feel like what I was studying didn’t favour women in any way. 

Another challenge was overcoming the fear of being unemployed. While at campus, I made sure I did my work differently. I engaged in more practical work other than what was taught in class to gain as many skills as possible. My mission was to become a more competent software engineer.

What keeps you insipired as a woman in software engineering?
My greatest inspiration is the word of God. I believe whatever answers I need, I will find and whatever God has promised, He surely fulfils.

My other sources of motivation are my past failures and disappointments because they are an assurance that there is nothing God permits in life when He knows there is no way out.

Let’s talk about your achievements and awards in software engineering
While still at campus, I got the opportunity to represent my university at the 4th Grand challenge competitions held at Nelson Mandela African institution of science and technology (NM-AIST). My tasks was to develop a solution addressing how emerging technology can improve food security and the resulting impact on the health of women and their families’.

I also represented Uganda in giving a spotlight talk about the project I was working on then called SoMIT lab. It was a simple soil sampling device at the Deep Learning Indaba Conference held at Jomo Kenyatta University in 2019.

Giving a spotlight talk at the Deep learning Indaba Conference in Kenya, 2019.

I was also invited to attend one of the biggest Artificial Intelligence and machine learning conferences in the world, NEURIPS for a poster presentation of my research work.

Lastly, I was also the best undergraduate student, school of computing and engineering and overall best undergraduate student with a CGPA of 4.5 at the 6th Graduation ceremony of Uganda Technology and management university.

How do you enjoy spending your out-of-office time?
I love travelling and meeting new people.

What is your favourite quote?
This is not a quote but scripture in Romans 8: 18 NKJV “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”

How do you encourage a young African girl who is interested in software engineering?
Always remind yourself that life is a journey. There may be detours, but that’s okay as long as you eventually reach your destination. The right road is often the most difficult one but keep fighting because you know in your heart that you’re doing what’s right for you. You might not realise it right now, but there are so many people watching and drawing inspiration from you. Do it for them.

With a friend at the NEURIPS conference in Vancouver, Canada

Thank you, Jean, for taking time to speak with me. We are proud of the work you are doing in software engineering. Thanks for representing Africa.

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