Want to get into Africa tech?

A summary of my notes from the recent Women Techmakers Leads and Google Developers Groups (GDG) Summit held in Lagos, Nigeria.

I woke up on Monday morning to an invite to the Summit from my friend, Aniedi Udo-Ubong, Developer Ecosystem Manager at Google (Sub-Saharan Africa). It was to a two-day gathering of Women Techmakers Leads and Google Developer Experts and ecosystem builders from countries across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Of course, I said yes.

I left Ghana for Nigeria on Wednesday afternoon prepared to share my experience as a woman-in-technology who still feels like a woman-not-in-technology despite having been in the industry for over 3 years.

Before I get to the ‘piece de resistance’ of this post which is to provide tips on how to get into the tech industry and discover what works for you, here’s a little summary of my career in tech so far. 

If you clicked to read, you’d see that the above story portrays a professional well settled in her space and the industry as a whole, but this is not truthfully the case.

Every time I am invited to speak at a tech event, I wonder about my right to be there because my Github repo is an embarrassment, I don’t contribute to open source, can’t build Android, and still don’t understand jack about Bitcoin and Blockchain.

Anyways…

Back to you, the event and the tips I promised:

Here’s some of my most important notes from the Summit:

Technology and the change it brings is not going anywhere anytime soon.

The earlier, Africans – men and women – find their place in it, build businesses on it and find ways to leverage it creatively, the faster we can make significant progress in our economies. 

It would be really nice if we woke tf up and started creating more, and not only be a consumer market dump for the rest of the world.

We need to support our own – our builders, our technology, our solutions, our communities.

We need to get rid of the mentality that Instagram is better than Suba (which is dead now) or that Stripe is better than Paystack or Amplify (I have no idea if these fintech startups are directly supplementary  –  but that’s not my point).

It’s our responsibility, obligation even, to spread the message of technology.

Be willing to teach folks around you – old and young – the basics, evangelize and plant seeds that will grow to make us into a self-sustainable continent (in years to come, but still).

Imposter Syndrome doesn’t discriminate.

As a (wo)man in a fast-paced field like technology, imposter syndrome will be a part of your career. Acknowledge it, roll with it, and overcome it.

The more you stand your ground and fight through the fog, the earlier you’ll start to feel comfortable in your skin and in your place.

How you get into this space is not how you’ll stay in it. 

So be fearless. Don’t be so concerned with titles or roles. Start where you are, in whatever way you can contribute – could be as a digital marketer, then you take courses in web development, build an engaging community, and watch yourself become someone you never imagined you’d be. Just look at Zuck.

There are a lot of roles you can play in the industry without being a programmer yourself.

You do not ever have to learn to code if it’s not your thing. The tech industry needs communicators, sellers, designers, community managers, program managers, recruiters, launchers, managers, strategists, and so on. Do what you can with what you have until you figure out a structure, a brand, community or business model around it.

The quickest way to get into tech is to join a community close to you.

There are so many hubs and co-working spaces in almost every city in Africa now. You don’t have to start on your own or figure things out on your own. Walk into a space, talk to the first person you meet, ask what it takes to belong and I assure you, you’ll get a warm welcome.

It’s nice to chronicle your journey as you grow or some lessons will be lost along the way.

These lessons you’ll have to learn again and again, till they stick in your mind. Chronicling your journey has double benefit – it’s good for you and it’s good for your audience / generations coming afterwards. Even the most basic knowledge is worth being written down.

“The faintest ink is better than the best memory.”

– Giving back to the ecosystem and the society in general is a good way to get your foot in the door.

Do what you can with what you have until you figure out who you want to be or can be. You may even be called into a position you didn’t apply for.

Network, form relationships, don’t be a loner.

One of the biggest barriers to networking, at least in my experience, is wondering how to introduce yourself, wondering what you have to offer. Something I’ve learned recently is that, that’s not your job to figure out. It’s okay to meet people and have the focus all on them. It’s okay to meet your idols when you ain ready. Just be honest, be yourself, appreciate their work, and maybe get their contact… or not. Believe me, life works itself out on behalf of those who keep showing up.

“Some of the best things in my life happened (simply) because I showed up.”

Focus on your interests, your strengths.

You don’t have to be @unicodeveloper or @dftaiwo or @aniediudo or @ireaderinokun or @moyheen – these gentlemen and ladies have paid their dues and have their path set out for them. You have yours. And hey, who’s to say the last won’t be greater than the first? If that’s your deal… My point is be okay just to contribute, learn, grow and have new experiences.

Don’t be scared of ground zero.

A lot of us do not act because we don’t even know where to start because there’s so much to be done. Inertia. It’s the worst. Do the little you can everyday. It may be a tweet. It may be a blog post, it may be dinner with someone who can do nothing for you.

One more reason to create content or contribute in anyway you prefer.

It adds up as a portfolio for you, a curation of your creativity that you can use to show who you are to your idols when you do meet them.

It’s way easier to let your work speak for you than try to explain your passion with words.

How do you respond to stimuli? How do you handle your goals and aspirations? Fear, inertia, curiosity? Or hard proof, guts and evidence that you’re alive?

I do hope this post helps someone. I hope it gives you the guts to get started.

Like I said at the beginning, the technology and the digital space are not going anywhere, it’s only going to get more complicated and crowded, and you’d wish you started sooner.

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago and the second best time is now.

Join in. Apply yourself!

Like and follow my FB page for tips, resources and new opportunities in Africa tech industry.

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