A former work colleague invited me to attend a Data Science DC (DSDC) event sometime in the second quarter of 2014. To RSVP for the DSDC event, I had to download an app called Meetup. Later that evening, the Meetup app suggested Women Who Code DC (WWCode DC) to me. I attended my first WWCode DC event in June 2014.
On walking into the room, I immediately wished that I had something similar while growing up. I grew up in Ghana and moved to the United States a year after graduating from the University of Ghana (UG). While a student at UG, I pursued Mathematical Sciences and eventually majored in Computer Science and Statistics. I remember most of my classes in Ghana focused more on the theoretical aspects than the application aspects. I also recall that the females were outnumbered by the males in such classes.
Since moving to the United States, I have gained exposure to the application aspects of Programming and Statistics via the Dual Masters degree program I pursued at George Mason University. I have also added to this applied exposure, work experiences from Deloitte & Touche LLP, Mathematica Policy Research, Progressive Insurance Company and Nirschl Orthopedic Center. My educational experiences inspire me to provide an application environment for the next generation of women in developing countries like Ghana.
In November 2015, I travelled to Accra, Ghana to launch the first sub-saharan network for Women Who Code Inc. I led a team of a wonderful group of Ghanaian women to execute seven test events (Hack Night, SAS Studio Demo, Seminar, Excel in Your Career Workshop, Panel Discussion, Lightning Talks and Networking Night). As someone once put it, “we did seven months of work in a week”.
More importantly, beneficiaries of the Maiden Events have since replicated all events in the first three quarters of 2016. Really amazing what we have collectively achieved over these months.
Thank you for taking interest and helping out in our journey.
Director, Women Who Code Accra
I will like to thank the Research & Programming Group at Mathematica Policy Research for approving me to work far-flung. Without this approval, my trip to Ghana would have been impossible as I had exhausted my Paid Time Off following a short illness in May 2015. Additionally, a lot of stuffs that I now know like the importance of a Baseline Study came from my time with them.
I will also like to thank my former supervisor, Maria Cupples Hudson for showing me how to lead people. Even as I have had to lead all of us on this journey, I have sought to replicate the model she used with me which was by far the best in my opinion.
Another individual who I will like to thank is Christina Alva for the opportunity to help recruit talent for the Minority Internship Programme during my days at Mathematica. It has been the skills learnt from that exercise that has enabled me to recruit more than twenty talented leaders for the Accra network of Women Who Code.
A big thank you to Neal Brown, former Chief of Staff, at Women Who Code Inc. who following her year abroad study in Accra, Ghana was pumped up for a network in Ghana.
Thank you to Joey Rosenberg, Global Leadership Director at Women Who Code Inc., for being a firm leader. I like to have my way and it helps to have someone who keeps clear boundaries on where the lines ought to be drawn from time to time.
The support of the leadership of Statisticians Without Borders and some of the organization’s members provide great program evaluation, curriculum development and strategy guidance for the success of a sub-saharan African network that has its own unique quirks. I will like to say a big thank you to them (too many names to mention here).
It is also in order to thank the Deputy CITO and his team at University of Ghana who approved the usage of the University’s computer labs without charge. This helped us carry out a successful launch of the Maiden events.
I am grateful to the Director of Impact Hub Accra – Emmanuel Gamor- and his able team for believing in us and becoming our Venue Sponsors beyond our launch. Kudos to them for embracing us so warmly.
Words cannot express how grateful I am to the planning team for the Maiden Events and every member. Together we have all achieved something extraordinary. Breaking ground in Sub-Saharan Africa!
Shouts out to my mother for running many errands especially when I was in Ghana launching the events in my absence from the States.
Finally but most importantly, to God. 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose- Philippians 2.
Women Who Code- Accra is the first sub-saharan network of Women Who Code Inc. - a global US-based non-profit dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers. Like its parent organization, Women Who Code- Accra (WWCode Accra) aims to do the following:
(a) Produce free technical study groups for women around key programming languages
(b) Connect our members with influential tech leaders and investors
(c) Produce events around career and leadership events
(d) Increase the participation of women as both speakers and judges at tech events
(e) In addition, the network hopes to grow its data science wing through programming languages like SAS, R and STATA
(f) We are also very careful to collect data so as to measure the effectiveness of the programs we deliver to our members
Through a bit of networking, Afia got E-connected to Judith Agbotse somewhere in December, 2014. In September 2015, both got approved as Directors of the new network in Ghana. Afia conducted 13 interviews with Women in Technology who are based in Accra, Ghana and additionally interviewed 10 programming resources from Statisticians Without Borders (SWB). Judith pursued Business Development opportunities in Ghana as well as much needed errands delegated by Afia. Through these efforts, the planning team for the Maiden Events was formed.
Here are their names: Afia Owusu-Forfie, Judith Agbotse, Ida Heathcote-Fumador, Asabea Asare-Mintah, Ama Nyimah Eshun, Samantha Chiu, Loren Velasquez, Michael Kobena Phillips, Nana Kow Essuman, Aba Enyimayew and Patience Teiko-Tetteh.
We planned and successfully executed seven test events between November 28th, 2015 and December 11th, 2015:
SAS Studio Demo
Excel in Your Career Workshop
Panel Discussions : The value of Mentorship
Lightning Talks : My Favorite Programming Language
We met wonderful women at the Maiden Events and in-between Business Visits to companies (such as Impact Hub Accra and Dream Oval Limited). Together with the planning team, we are now leading the next leg of Women Who Code-Accra. Women like Anne Amuzu, Samantha Chiu, Chloe Acheampong, Winifred Quartey-Papafio, Eunice Obugyei, Awa Diop, Patience Teiko-Tetteh, Ida Heathcote-Fumador and Angela Alu have stepped up to be Programming LEADS and a Career Workshop LEAD respectively. Our newest members like Gloria Dogbey and Marina Aduhene have also taken some member roles. We are growing strategically! Our leadership is ready for more members and the network is ready for some much needed media attention and resources that will hopefully create more awareness. We hope such awareness will bring this opportunity to the door-step of Ghanaian women who are interested in coding.
In our young life, we are experiencing some challenges as is typical of any new venture. They are as follows:
RSVPs management on Meetup
Venue Sponsors (aside from Impact Hub Accra)
Very long commutes of members to events
Affordable telephone calls to collaborate with remote programming resources and US leadership
Loaner laptops for a few of our members
My name is Afia Owusu-Forfie. I first walked into a Women Who Code event in June 2014. I loved the concept immediately and really wished I had something similar when I grew up in Ghana. Thus begun what I now call the most self-sacrificing journey yet most fulfilling quest of my life. In other words, while I missed the opportunity I really wanted to make the same available to Ghanaian women; simply because I had walked in their shoes before.
The mere thought of traveling to Ghana to launch a network was very overwhelming in the beginning. Coincidentally, the former Chief of Staff at Women Who Code, Neal Brown, had visited Ghana on a study abroad program. It really helped that Neal was super excited to launch in Ghana and had great faith in me!
In September 2015, when Joey Rosenberg took over as the Global Leadership Director she approved me as Director of Women Who Code-Accra. I just could not wait to get to Ghana. I went to Ghana as fast as my work will allow and did not think twice. And together with a wonderful group of women and a few good men, Women Who Code-Accra exists and now thrives!
Someone has said that a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. Yet my leadership journey has been a mix-up of all three streams. It has also been very inspiring watching ordinary women (defined as talented women who are not famous for their skills) become extraordinary (defined as taking a bold step to teach other women what they know).
After twenty-three interviews that I conducted with women in technology in Ghana and US, their collective stories and mine drive me every day. My hope is that I do right by the stories they shared with me!
My experience at WWCode Accra Network
I had been a member of WWCode Accra even before its launch in November 2015. It’s been about a year and some months. Wow, how time flies!
When I graduated from my undergraduate studies in June 2014, reality immediately set in about what the next step would be. It had been on my mind for a while but not as real as it did after I finally graduated.
I didn’t exactly have a definite plan neither did I have access to enough resources and guidance on the opportunities available to a tech newbie like me. All I could draw hope from were content from newsletters and opportunities online. It was all out of my reach, nothing local. You can imagine the joy that filled my heart when I first received a call from Afia O (as I affectionately call her in my head), speaking of Women Who Code and the entire concept behind it. After a couple of minutes of talk time, I knew I wanted to be part of this.
Fast forward to middle of 2015 when Afia and I reconnected after a period of silence. She had been feverishly doing underground works between our last communication and then. We quickly got to work together to make Women Who Code Accra a reality. There were many roadblocks (talk of the many internet challenges) and most of the time, we had to encourage each other…. we sure needed it.
During and after our maiden events in late November 2015, I felt so proud of myself (and the team) for pulling off a successful launch. It was nostalgic. The new things I learned, the new friends I made and most importantly, the fresh confidence I gained in myself were irreplaceable! Not forgetting, my newest mentor (and inspiration), Afia O.
8 months after the launch and after Afia’s return to the US, we are proud to say we have held about 12 meetups in the name of Women Who Code Accra. Efforts are also underway to establish a new network in Kumasi and our membership has grown steadily.
If there’s anything I really want to see, it’s the active show of interest and involvement of the parent organization (we’re the first sub-Saharan African network. When we succeed and succeed well, it’s a big deal!) and some more sponsorship to help turn things around in network administration.
It has been challenging but rewarding and on a daily basis we are being pushed out of our comfort zones as leaders of the network. My prayer is to keep the torch brightly lit by the time we’re ready to handover to the new set of leaders.
Judith Nayram Agbotse
Co-Director, WWCode Accra
EXCEL IN YOUR CAREER WORKSHOP: WOMEN WHO CODE ACCRA
Did you know that no matter what you studied or are studying in school, you can learn how to code?
I first heard of Women who Code when I chanced upon an announcement for one of their programmes on the University of Ghana website.
My name is Angela Azumah Alu, blogger and co-ordinator for Excel in your career workshops for Women who code Accra. I happen to be a PhD Finance Student at the University of Ghana.
I learnt Java after Senior High School and although I never practiced and have forgotten most of what I learnt, it does mean I have some appreciation of Programming and tend to click on links that relate to programming or coding☺ and of course things about women.
So seeing a link that combined Women and Coding naturally piqued my curiosity and I clicked on the link. I wondered whether it was open to Finance students since they were looking for females in Computer Science and other related courses. But an email to Afia, one of the names listed, quickly assured me that I could also join.
As directed, I registered for Meetup and joined Women who Code Accra. Naturally, I googled them and found some interesting details too. Unfortunately, it was close to exam time and so I couldn’t register for many of the events they had planned. I opted for the Excel in your career workshop since I tend to be HR and interview oriented.
So on the day, I dressed formally as requested and headed to the venue. I had the privilege of being interviewed by Afia and Ama Dadson (Guest Interviewer and Corporate IT Service Delivery Officer at the University of Ghana). They commented on my CV and asked very relevant questions about work. They did same for other interviewees: Judith, Patience and Henry (the only male). It was a refreshing interview and for once, the stakes were not as high as they usually are with interviews. There was no chance of me not getting the job since this was free prep☺. I enjoyed myself! And of course there was pizza and coke! Talk about work and happiness!
So, early this year, Afia, founder of Women who code Accra sent me a WhatsApp message asking that as a participant in the first ever Excel in your career workshop, I should organize another for the new members of Women who Code Accra. She also connected me to Samantha Chiu, a member of Women who code Accra in the U.S.A. I had some Skype conversations with Samantha to prepare for the programme. She was very helpful and offered many suggestions.
On the day of the Workshop, 20th February 2016, I woke up, got ready, printed out the CVs of the participants and the job descriptions and then set off with my cousin Eunice for the venue. Samantha had provided some job descriptions for actual jobs that participants could be considered for if they excelled in the workshop. That was very exciting! She had also agreed to help interview the participants via Skype.
I was really looking forward to the programme! When it was almost time, I set up the place with the assistance of Sule, one of the assistants at the ISpace Foundation where we were having the workshop. We were expecting about three participants: Marina, Gloria and Qudirat. Marina confirmed and I gave her directions to the venue. We started when she arrived.
I stood by her and we talked to Samantha via Skype Call. The internet was quite bad and when it went off, we switched to Skype text instead. We asked her questions she would normally hear in an interview and commented on her CV. Just as it was done for me when I was a participant. Afterwards, we did same for Eunice who opted to join Women who code though she wants to become a journalist. Both Marina and Eunice enjoyed the interview and the feedback they received.
Overall, I enjoyed organizing the programme and recommend it for everyone. It is a great way to prepare yourself for an interview. I look forward to organizing more Excel in your Career Workshops. :-)
I have also had the privilege of having my first lesson in Python through Women who code Accra and I invite all to join Women who Code Accra.
I am Ida Eyi Heathcote – Fumador, AKA webqueen. I love programming and Designing, My Passion for IT began from the University when I enrolled to study Information and Communications Technologies.
I have been in the Tech industry for about NINE(9) years and I specialize in Web Development. I always like to get things done; I am results oriented and a workaholic.
Programming has kept me alive and going, All these years, I have had the opportunity to solve all kinds of problems with Software. Problems like inefficiency, bureaucracy, theft and recently environmental issues, relating to climate and global warming. This had led me to a new love, green ICT for sustainable development.
I received an email from Afia concerning Women Who Code Accra, It is a network of women who code and care about coding, the maiden event and so on. I was so excited about the email so accepted to have a meeting with her online. After the meeting, I was ready to part of Women Who Code, to help with the planning and organizing the maiden event. And I also went to further the check on the possibility to start Women Who Code Kumasi later.
Through out the journey for the planning and organizing to the end of the event, I met so many Women in the industry, who inspired me with their passion and selflessness. I felt something new- we could relate with ease, it felt like family. Finally! I have found a group of women who speak my “language”.
There are similar tech groups for women, but I felt I could relate better with Women Who Code, because of their focus , their objectives and the target group. I am glad I found it and this group makes me know I am not alone and that I should strive for higher achievement and excel in my tech career.
I am now a senior software engineer at Origgin Ltd, And I will be pursuing higher education in Pervasive Computing and Communication for sustainable development in France later this year.
I love Women Who Code and I am glad I met Afia who took this “light” from USA and brought it to us in Ghana at her own cost.
I am always looking for an opportunity to get involved in causes that promote technology and STEM in general. My background and interest in science and technology is probably the reason for this. Joining Women Who Code Accra has been such an exciting and inspiring experience. The Women Who Code Accra network has given me the chance to learn from other women in Tech and also share with other women especially younger ones who have questions about careers in Tech beyond programming. I believe listening to other women in similar roles or on a similar path has boosted my confidence and that is the reason why one of my contributions to WWCode Accra was to connect all the women I know in my Tech space to WWCode.
One experience and realisation I had joining WWCode was meeting other women in other disciplines who are just interested in programming just to satisfy their curiosity or open themselves up to other challenges on their career paths - two of such women came from the Geography department of the University of Ghana and another, an Environmental Scientist, both women have no prior knowledge in programming.
Through WWCode Accra, I have also been introduced to two new programming languages SAS and R which I find extremely handy in various organisations that handle large data. My background in Knowledge and Information Systems Management leaves me with no choice but to work with data and information systems, that is why I am very grateful to have some basic knowledge of SAS and R which I can build on.
Best of all my experience so far is having the chance to share with younger women still in or just out of university my experiences as a woman in Tech to prepare them for what to expect in the professional world. I am also grateful for the chance to be part of such a prestigious and exciting global network as Women Who Code.
(Technology & Information Systems Enthusiast)
GALLERY FROM MAIDEN EVENTS