In honour of International Women’s Day 2023, we’re shining a spotlight on the amazing women of the ALX community – our learners, graduates, mentors, and the women working magic behind the scenes at ALX. While we continue to actively #EmbraceEquity, here’s a look at our top 20 Most Inspiring Women who are doing hard things and transforming the global tech landscape.
“Tech is not a male or female thing; it’s a human thing. As long as you’re smart and are willing to put in the work, the possibilities are endless.”
Mayen Kalu is a researcher from Nigeria, and one of the winners of the #ALXChallenge2022. Her winning image – “Mom Who Codes: The Untold Story” – depicted her inspiring experience as a wife, mother, university lecturer, and PhD candidate, going through the rigorous ALX Software Engineering programme. A biochemist by training, Mayen loves to explore the relationship between Artificial Intelligence and the human brain, and seeks opportunities to use technology to solve local and global problems.
“Failure has taught me that not rising after falling is the primary failure. Now, giving up is not even an option, but rising and persisting until I win is always my goal.”
Loise Okoro is an agritech degree holder turned customer support specialist. Her career began in the nonprofit sector and grew to include roles in sales, tech assistance and customer support, both in her home country of Nigeria and abroad in the United States. She is currently taking ALX’s Data Analytics programme – her second ALX programme so far – and is a Fellow in The ROOM‘s talent community, working to pay it forward by creating her own platform to equip and empower other aspiring data-driven administrators.
“It’s important to know that your gender should never hold you back from pursuing your dreams. With hard work, perseverance, and a commitment to your goals, you can overcome any obstacles and succeed as a software engineer.”
Lucy Njeri Maina is an ALX Software Engineering learner and undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelors’ degree in Medicine at the University of Nairobi. Her first five years in medical school exposed her to various problems in the healthcare sector and inspired her to look to technology to address them. Now Lucy’s mission is to improve the healthcare access and support of women in deprived neighbourhoods.
“Remember why you started and keep that hope alive.”
Nancy Annu is a Procurement and Supply Chain Assistant from the Eastern region of Ghana. As a passionate and self-motivated young professional who believes in the persistent nature of women, she strives to be a source of inspiration and encouragement. She is a two-time ALX learner currently enrolled in ALX’s Software Engineering programme, and looks forward to the opportunities that a career in tech has in store for her.
“Don’t let your gender define what you can do. There are unlimited opportunities, so if you can get one, just take it. Your gender is not going to count at the end of the day.”
ALX learners have different motivations for enrolling in our programmes. PhD student Rufaro Razuwika sought to learn Python so it could ease the data analysis process of her Bioinorganic Chemistry research. After joining the Software Engineering programme at ALX, she discovered other programming languages, increasing her interest in technology. As a philomath, Rufaro is excited to upgrade her STEM status with Software Engineering skills, and hopes to spread the joys of learning new things with others.
“Know what you want and go after it. No matter what, if you have it at the back of your mind that you will figure it out, you will break through all your challenges.”
Ghana-born Phyllis Laryea is an Executive Assistant and Operations Associate at D4 Consult and an ALX Software Engineering learner. Passionate about learning, Phyllis believes that empowering women who have interests in the tech space will contribute towards providing equal opportunities across other sectors. She aims to spread awareness and provide green solutions through software development.
“Coding is a new literacy and we’re helping teachers bring this into their classrooms. Young people will now learn to read, write, count and code!”
Emma Dicks is an ALX graduate and the co-founder of CodeSpace Academy, an educational institution that specialises in teaching coding & software development. CodeSpace has received global acclaim for its highly-effective initiatives that foster diversity in the tech world. Passionate about supporting young women in tech, Emma founded the non-profit Code for Cape Town in 2014, which teaches coding to high school girls.
“First, identify what you can do with the talents and skills you have. Then leverage the resources that you have — be it social, human or financial capital — to initiate change. Lastly, choose to be bold, action-oriented and vision-focused. If you can follow these 3 principles, you will be unstoppable!”
As a trailblazing graduate of ALX, Elizabeth Okullow has committed her life to one mission: creating food sustainability in Africa. It may be a mammoth task, but this ambitious microbiologist and agritech entrepreneur has already founded two businesses – Lafamia Greens and Aafri Fudi utilising hydroponic technology to promote sustainable farming. At the age of 25, she’s just getting started.
“Be confident in your abilities, and you will be shocked by the exceptional networks and opportunities that will chase after you.”
Joy Otieno is a Programme & Operations Specialist at ALX and The ROOM, and a graduate of ALX. The self-described digital activist and Afro-optimist is passionate about youth empowerment, as evidenced by her highly educational and uplifting social media activity. At work, she builds and engages our community of tech talent by designing transformative events and experiences that enrich their professional journeys.
“Women’s voices are worth sharing not only because we are underrepresented in the tech industry, but also because we are competent, intelligent, proactive individuals with merit-worthy ideas that can improve projects and processes.”
Celebrated for having the most inspiring conversation in 2021 with ALI Founder Fred Swaniker, ALX Software Engineering graduate, Firdaus Salim is a rising force to be reckoned with. Despite entering the world of tech with no prior experience, her tenacity and passion for learning have opened doors for a promising future. Now, as a blogger, Technical Writer and Technical Mentor with ALX’s Software Engineering team, she offers training and support to others on their own tech learning journeys.
“There is no better field to accommodate all the twists and turns of life as a woman than tech. All you really need is a laptop and internet connection. Our sharper intellect should be channelled optimally into a tech career.”
Kibirt Bayou is an ALX graduate from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with an 8-year background in Civil Engineering. Her journey as the mother of an infant who made a daring career change into Software Engineering was acknowledged by Fred Swaniker as the definition of ‘doing hard things’. Kibirt works at iCog Labs – the first private AI and Robotics Research and Development Company in East Africa – and plans to pursue entrepreneurial projects in machine learning, artificial intelligence and mobile development in order to develop her country.
“As young leaders, we all have ambitions and problems we would like to solve. Our role is to take that step towards realising our dreams. We have to take ownership of our present and future by changing the narrative through courage and resilience – not shying away from being an outlier, even if it means shifting the status quo.”
A young leader from Kenya, Millicent Aluoch is a passionate dreamer and an ambitious doer. Currently working at Proto Energy as a Management Trainee in the UI/UX department, she believes that young people have the power to make the world a better place – if they’re willing to step up to the challenge with integrity and tenacity. As a graduate of ALX, she credits the programme with unlocking her potential and shifting her mindset to seeing problems as opportunities.
“I want to say to every woman that you CAN. You CAN be a woman (with all the complexities that come with it) and be ambitious. You CAN get to the top of your career. You CAN do the seemingly hard things. You CAN build a global business. You CAN be a bold woman, unapologetically.”
Healthtech entrepreneur Ifeoluwa Dare-Johnson is the founder and CEO of Healthracka – a startup that is decentralising access to medical diagnostics in Africa through at-home testing. Galvanised by the unfortunate loss of her father in 2019, Ife realised the need for accessible, proactive and preventative healthcare in Nigeria. The company has since participated in the Techstars Toronto accelerator program, raised $1.5 million in seed funding from a set of female-led investors, and grown in popularity across the continent.
“Fall in love with the problem you’re trying to solve. Entrepreneurs solve problems; we are not in it just to sell something and make a profit. It’s about solving a problem, but also making sure it’s the right one.”
Kidist Tesfaye is the founder and CEO of YeneHealth, the first and leading femtech startup in Ethiopia unlocking the digital door for healthcare services for African women by leveraging AI and data analytics. YeneHealth was born out of the realisation that there is a large medically underserved female population in Ethiopia, with little to no knowledge on sexual reproductive health. Passionate about solving problems for people, Kidist employs her entrepreneurial mindset and 12 years of experience in the financial, education, business and healthcare sectors to lead her company to greater heights and provide this much needed service.
“Get outside of your comfort zone – that’s where the magic happens.”
Nadia Gamal El-Din is the founder and CEO of Rahet Bally – which translates to “peace of mind” in Arabic. Realising the need for a support system after having her son, Nadia formed Rahet Bally as an all-inclusive support system for mothers in Egypt, offering support through a wide range of online femtech services and on-ground facilities. Grown from a small community of mothers, doctors and experts to a 74-million audience of women, Rahet Bally is leading the femtech scene in the MENA region with a female-based team of over 200 women.
“I believe diversity is the foundation of better solutions.”
Not everyone can say they were “born” for the world of tech, but Natalija Puzanskaja can. She was born in Lithuania to two software engineers, and was inspired by them to choose a career path in tech. Professionally, Natalija is a statistician, but has a multi-disciplinary background in software development, database design and business analytics and over a decade of experience in the tech industry. She works as a Senior Data Engineer at ALX and The ROOM, and has been described as a “data whisperer” who approaches her work creatively to arrive at fresh, break-through solutions.
“I feel that women need to reclaim their close connection to high technology, whether it is in hardware manufacturing or coding because technology is just a tool; it is how one uses the tool that makes one powerful.”
Lise Hagen is a PhD candidate, management research consultant and the Founder and Director of Herding Cats Innovarium, a technology insight and innovation advisory firm in South Africa. She has over 20 years’ experience applying socio-political, economic, and ICT mega trend insights to business problems. As a project consultant at ALI, Lise applies her vast skill set to the Global Brand team for ALX, helping to unlock Africa’s remarkable tech talent.
“Explore the full scope of tech. Don’t limit yourself to just one specific area, because it is broad. Think about where your own strengths are and play to those. Seek out guidance, mentors, and learn. When you’ve done all that, take responsibility for your life and never count yourself out. Go for it!”
Oyin Johnson, born in Lagos, Nigeria is a multi-talented human – poet, singer, actress, dancer – but first and foremost a technology lawyer. As part of the Legal, Compliance and Risk team at ALI, Oyin creates legal frameworks for ALX and The ROOM that allow the company to thrive, ensuring clients are protected and the company stays aligned with the law. She firmly believes in the potential of women and their right to be represented in the tech industry and for her, making an impact on the lives of African youth is what she loves most about her work.
“It’s a no-brainer that we need more women to get into tech and gain the skills. It’s a space that is going to continue to be at the forefront of some of the most life-changing innovations that we will see in the coming decades.”
Jahira Martins is the Director of Sales and Marketing Automation at ALX and The ROOM. She started her career in the United States helping technology companies prepare for and scale in public markets through sales and marketing automation – and hasn’t left since. Her passion for developing long-lasting solutions led her to gain over a decade’s experience in the field, working with reputable companies such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., MongoDB and Datadog. She is a big believer in the power of women, and feels that no matter the field a woman enters, it thrives exponentially.
“As a woman in tech, it’s important to have confidence in your abilities and ideas. Don’t be afraid to speak up and share your thoughts and opinions, even if you’re the only woman in the room.”
Kenya-born Gladys Mbogo is a MarTech Support Specialist at ALX with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. Her foundations in Marketing, Customer Service and Fintech gave her the necessary skills and customer-centric mindset to work in marketing automation and technical support at ALX. To succeed in tech, Gladys believes that women should be untiring, confident and life-long learners.
“It’s important to have more women in tech because they bring valuable problem-solving skills and research abilities that can benefit the industry. By nature, women tend to be excellent problem solvers and researchers, which makes them well-suited for the fast-paced and constantly evolving tech field.”
Faith Okoth is a Technical Mentor to over 90,000 participants at ALX, ensuring efficient programme delivery, technical support and facilitation of live coding sessions. Over two years ago, Faith joined the tech space out of a passion for growth and solving problems. She began her journey as a software engineer in Kenya while leveraging the training opportunities available within ALX, including the Software Engineering programme. Not only has engaging with the learners solidified her foundational knowledge and widened her perspective, it has also presented an opportunity for personal and professional growth.
At ALX, we believe in the vital importance of bridging the digital gender divide and increasing the representation of women in tech. Find out how we’re empowering the women leaders of tomorrow.