Monday, August 8, 2016

African Women in Technology; Kenya Edition (#AWITKENYA)

On 21st July 2016, at exactly 8.00AM, Women in Technology from across East Africa sat at the Business and Student’s Service Centre in Kenyatta University ready to learn and network. They attentively listened to Anie Akpe the CEO and founder of IBOM LLC, the parent company of which was partly sponsoring the event. Other sponsors included Women in Technology, Google, Women Techmakers, TechMoran and DardenMBA.  I looked around the hall at the eager women full of enthusiasm as Anie gave a line-up of what to expect for the 2 days and I knew I was in the right place.

As Anie continued, I picked the below main points as what the conference was geared towards;
  • Sparking an interest in tech among young girls and motivating them to delve into tech
  • Bringing together professional women to act as role models to the aspiring female tech professionals
  • Providing a platform for sharing and asking questions on challenges women face within the tech space

Over and above that, #AwitKenya sought to provide a space of connection with women in various aspects and careers in technology. It also provided networking opportunities for professional women from both in and around Kenya as well as those from abroad.

In retrospect, I can confidently report that the agenda was met as women freely mingled and shared their experiences. What I loved most about this particular conference, (having attended many others before), was the fact that it provided the attendees with a unique combination of deep-dive, hands-on tech workshops, information and discussions about careers in tech space and how to pursue them. It brought together women from many different types of jobs in tech and at every level from students to senior executives.

Most events about women in tech tend to focus mainly on coding, but this event focused on all aspects of careers pertaining to technology. Be it as a developer, entrepreneur, analyst, programmer or venture capitalist. As the day progressed, so did the knowledge of attendees as well as those who were following the discussions on the twitter hashtag #AWITKENYA. You can view the recap of the event here.

Due to the success of the Kenya edition, part 2 of African Women in Tech Conference will be held in Ghana on Dec 15th to 17th 2016. Just like in Kenya, #AWITGhana will be one of its kind aimed at encouraging and mentoring young girls to pursue STEM-based education programs and careers. The conference will be made possible by the generous sponsorship of IBOM LLC, the parent company of in partnership with IMPACT Hub Accra,  VC 4 Africa, African Business Angel Network (ABAN), Levers in Heels, Leading Ladies Africa, and TechMoran For more information, click here and I hope to see some of you then. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Grit and Grace

This morning when I woke up, I purposed that I wanted something different to start off my month. God knows that the first quarter has been tough and hell-bent on destroying me. Different events replayed on my mind and that is how I found myself at Big Square café ordering their specials.
I know without a doubt that I am a dreamer. And above everything else, I am a believer. I am a hoper (sic) and I hope against all odds. But the months gone by have made me doubt if I am half of what I think I am.

Sometimes, life struggles overwhelm us and we forget to dream. They rip us apart and we stop believing. They take us in different directions and we doubt our hoping. This year has been such and I have found myself shaken to the very core. I have woken up in the middle of the night ready to give up but I have silently held on.

I have also seen events happen these first months that have made me feel unworthy, unwanted and a mess. Some days, I would feel as if I’m are surrounded by darkness, as if the days are short and the nights longer. Sometimes, I would feel as if I’m carrying a log on my shoulders and unending burdens on my back. . Many times, I wondered what would happen if I threw in the towel. But I quickly shelved that thought because I know I can’t forgive myself for giving up. I have many dreams and aspirations that I look forward to achieving.

So as April fades into the horizons, I am welcoming May in style. I have resolved to stay hopeful despite everything. I know now more than ever that there will be good and bad days. And we should learn to enjoy the easy days and just shake off the bad ones. We should also stay steadily on our track because a lifetime is composed of different days. Good days are there to give us happiness, bad days to give us experience and worst days to give us a lesson.

I have vowed to remember that my own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing. There is no manual to this life and as Elizabeth Taylor said, “You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why I No Longer Give a Damn About People

Not so long ago, I entertained and took a lot of crap; From people, From things, From situations and everything in between. In turn, those things would upset me and end up ruining my day. But as I have matured, I have learnt how to stand up for myself. I have learnt how to say No without explanations, I have learnt how to walk away from situations that no longer grow or serve me and the biggest of it all, I have learnt which battles to fight and which ones to ignore.
Over the years, I have mastered this art and I have had to learn how to become my own best friend. Not because I am selfish but because self-care and self-growth needed to become a priority. How else can we give others what we don’t have if we can't nurture it? There were many nights I spent doubting my decisions, but amidst all the chaos and confusion, here are key three lessons that I have learnt about people.  
1. People are for themselves
I used to be riled up when someone would say something mean to me. Or when they would cut me off on the queue or rudely interrupt me. 

However, I came to learn that people aren’t out to get you, they are just out for themselves. Nowadays, I couldn’t be bothered. Of course, I will call you out and let you know that what you have said or done is wrong, and that will be the end of it. I will not spend another minute trying to understand you or another second worrying about why you did what you did. I will only stare with some sort of detached amusement because I can’t control your behaviour, nor do I want that burden. Only you have the answer to your actions. And again, maturity is knowing that not every situation requires a reaction, a comment or a response. Sometimes you just gotta leave people to do the lame things they do.
2. People want to see you do good but never better than them
A few years ago, I used to share my dreams and goals with all and sundry. And then I would wonder why they never clapped when I achieved them. I didn’t know that they are in this life for competition purposes and they want to outdo you in every way. 

I therefore learnt that only a few people deserve a seat at my high table. The older I get, the more I realize the value of privacy, the value of cultivating my inner circle and only letting certain people in. Only a few deserve to know my innermost thoughts and desires. People aren’t interested in what’s going on with you and you wouldn't worry so much about them if you realized how seldom they think about you.

3. People will stab you and then ask why you are bleeding
We have all had such kind of people. They go behind your back and do unimaginable things and then they are the first to console you. People are no longer what they say they are and they don’t really care unless you are doing something for them. They don’t love you but just want to stay connected because they love the benefits. Their loyalty ends where the benefits stop. They are pretentious and lack the common decency of being honest. 

But once you learn that, you need to walk away. Don’t give them a second chance because they have shown you who they really are. Stop wanting to repaint them to your liking. Cut them off and don’t ever feel bad for making a decision for your own life that upsets them. You are not responsible for their happiness. You’re responsible for your own. Anyone who wants you to live in misery for their happiness should not be in your life in the first place. You deserve better.
Sometimes, I wish I would have learnt these lessons earlier in life. I would have avoided so many mistakes and so much heartache. But then again, I wouldn’t be who I am today. These experiences have moulded me for my journey and are exactly what I needed to grow. There is no short-cutting to life. It took each and every situation I have encountered to bring me to the here and now. And now is right on time and it is all that matters. What I do next is what will make all the difference.

Monday, October 19, 2015

It Has Been Great on This Other Side

Exactly two years ago today, on a cold and gloomy night, I packed my bags ready to move on to unfamiliar territories. We finished packing at around midnight and then I went to have dinner at the balcony as I listened to slow country music. Faith Hill was on replay because each time I listen to “I can’t do that anymore” I am reminded of the reasons that I need to stay true to myself. I was not sure if I would even have a wink to sleep seeing as it was the last night before I took that leap of faith I talked about here. My whole body ached even though I was excited; two things I never knew that they would go so well together.  

The other guys helping me pack were seated in the living room eating their dinner directly from the packaging. We had packed everything and someone joked that if we were not careful, we would even pack ourselves. And so, as they chatted away, I decided that I would sit in the balcony area and have my dinner there. I didn’t often sit or eat from there. Actually, thinking about it, I had never eaten from there before. But that day, I couldn't help it as I tried to relive the last three years of my life that had been spent in that house. 

One thing even my enemies agree with is that I like order, clean lines, crisp sounds and clear patterns of things. I have often wondered why, maybe it was my mother’s strict hand, or my elder sisters' need for pristine clean environments. Or maybe, it’s because of my rather elusive search for perfectionism. Either way, I have always sought some kind of order or near perfection in my surroundings. Before I move into a new flat, I like to check if the toilets and the bathroom tiles are stained and if the kitchen and surfaces are in a redeemable state. But most importantly, I check the walls in every room because of my unusual love of colour blocking. In my years of living alone, I have come to realize that colour white and off white are two different things even though they may look the same!

If I could get my way, I would paint each room I inhabit in a different colour. But as tenants, we are not allowed to paint the walls or make any drastic adjustments. If you have some wall hangings, there are little bit-sized almost invisible nails on an wooden frame all around the house where you can hang them. Still, I’m not complaining, if not painting my colour extends the lifespan of the walls, then so be it.

Thinking back now, I was lucky when I moved there. The flat was in immaculate condition, and the walls were just the perfect shade of blue. It almost felt wrong to add anything on the walls as it would interfere with the clean expanse, but I needed to add a little of my own personality on them. It was going to be my home after all. 

Everything was perfect except for one little flaw. There was a long lonely crack that was shaped like a bolt of lightning in the bedroom. It wasn’t like an open wound, but it had been deliberately painted over, not fixed, but painted over. Not long after I moved in, I came to accept this crack on the wall, because for some reason, it looked like it belonged.

Seated there at the balcony on that rainy night, the crack on the wall reminded me of a love between this guy and myself that had ended abruptly. It reminded me of friendships borne in this neighbourhood but got broken along the way. It reminded me of the things that made me cry in my stay there, the things that made my heart feel wrenched and memories that made me soak my pillow with tears. The crack made me wonder how much deeper my own cracks ran. But one thing for sure is that I am stronger because of those cracks and I will repaint them over rather than have them fixed. After all, there is a crack in everything as that's how light gets in. 

As I locked the door to that house one more night, I smiled as tears freely trickled, because a day like that one never seemed possible. That night, I quietly thanked the Lord over and over for the end of that season and the beginning of anew. And I can confidently now say that it has been great on this other side. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Let’s Just Kiss And Say Goodbye

woke up this morning and headed straight to the balcony. Over time and since we started escaping to this new haven, I like to sit on the balcony and overlook the skies. I love the nature, the trees and the birds that chirp away gloriously. From time to time, I am able to catch the sunrise which is one of the most breathtaking moments and nature’s best wonders.

I left you snoring in bed, like many times before, but this time, I did not wake you up nor head to the kitchen to order for our usual breakfast apéritifs.  I instead went to listen to my thoughts and recollect our moments together. I wondered how we ended up in this place at this time. What did we do or didn’t do? I stared at the car that you had miraculously parked the night before taking all the available space. It seemed like it forever belonged there; and I could not believe it was the last time that it would enjoy the freedom and the space.

I remembered our first meeting where you made my heart and other things throb; all at once. And I smiled to myself as I remembered how it instantly became our joke. We’d tell it over and over again; and we’d laugh till our ribs ached.

The time has now come for me to do what we knew I had to do. We knew time was never right for us and we also knew I couldn't stay any longer. But that doesn’t make it easier to leave you. Please realize how hard it is to do this as I'm trying to say good-bye as gently as I can.

Thank you for making me feel so beautiful. I don’t know if I have ever felt as pretty as I did when I was with you. After meeting you, I went through so much stuff and I want to thank you for taking some of the weight off me, albeit unknowingly.

Thank you for the crazy and undivided attention that you gave me. It made me realize and learn that I am well worth someone’s time and attention, and only a person who is willing to give that to me deserves to have me. I now know that mediocrity is something I will never tolerate or settle for.

Thank you for the compliments you gave me. You made me feel completely beautiful on days when I felt least confident about myself. And because of that, I now know how to feel beautiful on my own, without someone having to remind me.

So, when you wake up and find me gone, don’t think I meant to hurt you because I just did what we knew I had to do from day one. You know I could never leave you if I saw you cry nor can I bear to see your heart break.

Allow me to go before your arms embrace me and consume me again, before your kisses take me over, and before your eyes can make me stay. Let me just kiss you softly one last time and say good-bye. I wanna remember you just like this.