Chepkemoi is a Computer Scientist with over five years of experience in research, software development and networking. She is the founder/executive director at EldoHub, a technology and innovation hub, which empowers and supports young people to identify problems in their communities and apply different technologies to solve those problems. Chepkemoi holds a Master’s Degree in Mobile Telecommunications and Innovation from Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya. She also co-founded Techstarlets Kenya to empower and support women and girls in rural Kenya on technology-related issues. She has spoken in technology forums and participated as a judge in technology innovations challenges in Kenya. She is the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow and ambassador for Kenya Women Entrepreneurship Day. Chepkemoi has a vision of using technology and innovation to transform Africa and she aims to impact over 6000 youth and women through her work in the next five years.
Why did you get into STEM?
Having been a girl straight from the village, I was lucky to have joined a high school with a fully equipped computer lab. Computer Studies was a compulsory subject in form one and two. When I joined that class, it was like “love at first sight”. I knew computing and programming is something I love and when it came to course selection in my fourth year, I chose Computer Science as my first choice and I have never regretted it.
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
My greatest achievements is founding EldoHub. EldoHub is an I.C.T. and entrepreneurship innovation hub located in Uasin Gishu County in the western region of Kenya. It targets young, energetic, innovative and creative individuals and provides them with skilled based training, working space, and a platform to interact and network with their peers for the purpose of sharing ideas. It started operations in 2017 with the realization that there was a lot of talent among the youth in the Western Region of Kenya that was unutilized.
Since its establishment, EldoHub has impacted over 1,150 youth and women between the age of 18 and 35 through workshops/events, community, incubation and capacity building in the target areas. These include a partnership with Next Einstein Forum Africa to host the first hackathon in Eldoret, Kenya during the Africa Science week; Hivos International funded us among 17 others in the world to host the 2018 Open Data Day in Eldoret; we also received a seed funding from the pollination project to support our Digital Literacy project for Rural Youth in Uasin Gishu County. EldoHub is currently incubating and mentoring 12 start-ups of which 6 of them have sustainable models with clients already. We also have programs to support women and girls in STEM and one of our projects was finalist in the 2018 Miss Africa Seed fund.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
I grew up in a rural setting in Kenya where very often there are challenges. I never imagined that one day I will end up as a software engineer. When I mentioned to my relatives after getting good grades in high school that I intended to study Computer Science, they discouraged me with all sorts of theories surrounding girls in STEM (Science, Technology, engineering and Mathematics) careers. It even led them to organize a family meeting where I was given only two options: either take a degree course in Education or Nursing. They told me those are the only courses which are “women-friendly.” I tried explaining to them my great interest and desire to study Computer Science, in an effort to make them understand but it fell on deaf ears. It was quite a challenge for me since I was very young, but still, I decided to go for what I wanted and later graduated with first-class honors in Computer Science. After graduating, I moved to Nairobi because I wanted to improve my life. So I religiously attended almost all forums on technology and entrepreneurship. I saw so many platforms that empower youths which we did not have in the village. This challenged me to found EldoHub, which is outside Nairobi, to create opportunities and a conducive environment for youth outside the capital city to excel in the STEM fields.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
There is a lot of emphasis on women. But being a woman is not enough, in technology you have to be an expert in what you do.I advise them to challenge and push themselves every day and not to be afraid to take risks.