I met Sharon during my employment as a tutor at AIMS in Rwanda. Here is our interview about her scientific journey:
Kindly state your name please.
My name is Sharon Okwomi.
What do you do currently?
I was previously a data scientist (I just resigned 😂) at Baobab Networks. My responsibilities included conducting research and analyzing data across Sub Saharan Africa on the role of technology in finance, health, agriculture and Education. I also aided in writing articles from the insights gathered.
What has your life’s journey been like?
I am the last born child in a family of three. We were raised by a single mother after losing my dad at the age of six. I went to St. Marys Primary School and emerged the best girl in public schools in Lugari district. This led to my admission into Kenya High School, where I scored an overall A-.
My good grades led me to Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) for a bachelors degree in mathematics and computer science. During my undergraduate, I served at various leadership forums such as; class representative, director of international relations, and finance personnel for the Rotaract Club.
I 2016, I received the MasterCard Foundation scholarship to pursue a masters in Mathematical Sciences at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Kigali, Rwanda.
At the end of my masters degree, I received another opportunity to join the AIMS industry immersion program in South Africa where I graduated with a certificate in Business Management. This program is organised as a partnership between AIMS and the European School of Management and Technology. Its aim is to place mathematicians into industry in order to apply the skills they have acquired.
I have had opportunities to work with prestigious companies like; PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Kenya, BBraun South Africa, Baobab Networks (A UK based organisation), Experiential Momentum, and Innovation for poverty action.
What have you found most challenging as a woman in STEM?
Having studied mathematics, most organization feel like they have no place for mathematicians in industry. It is until recently when the need for data analysts/mathematicians has taken a positive turn that organizations are realizing the importance of mathematicians in industry and clearly defining their roles.
What is your biggest source of inspiration?
My mother has always been my strongest inspiration. She was a key pillar in nurturing my passion for numbers. She wrote me a poem titled “Mathematics for Survival” which I recited to dignitaries during different functions. Because of her, I am always reminded to become better than who I was yesterday in whatever I set my mind to do. My love for numbers resulted into a passion for data mining, machine learning, natural language processing as well as artificial intelligence, which generalise my current career focus.
What should we know about you outside work?
I love to travel, swim and hang out with friend. If I was an animal, I would be a lion because of its resilience and tact.
Any achievements and awards?
I received the Principal academic excellence award for academic year 2013/2014 at Jomo Kenyatta university of Agriculture and Technology – Taita taveta campus.
I was also awarded an AIMS-NEI scholarship, through the MasterCard Foundation, for a masters in Mathematical Sciences in 2016/17.
I have co-founded an organization called Bridge The Gap, a free certification program in partnership with Taita Taveta University to mentor and train students in data science skills using python and R. The current pioneer cohort has 22 students.
What quote works for you most?
One has not truly lived until they transform someone’s life.
Please leave us with a word of encouragement.
For young girls reading this; you can achieve whatever you set your mind on. There is no limit to what you can be. Just work hard, have clear goals and go for them.
Thank you Sharon for taking your time to speak with me.