Christa Munezero is a tech enthusiast and is very passionate about promoting the use of technology for social impact. She is the Chief Operations Officer Tap&Go WiFi, an Internet in buses project implemented by AC Group, a tech company that provides smart transport solutions in public transport. She holds a Master’s degree in Information Systems from Kobe Institute of Computing in Japan. Christa is a mentor at kLab and an active member of Girls in ICT Rwanda – a group of women working in the tech industry with a mission to encourage young girls to join STEM careers.
Christa has won numerous awards in the tech space. In 2013, Christa won “The Best Innovator Award” in a competitive coding event held in Rwanda organized by Transparency International for French-speaking countries. In 2018, she participated in a TechWomen fellowship program in Silicon Valley. Her team competed and won a pitch contest, along with 4 other teams that gathered 100 women working in STEM fields from Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East.
Why did you get into STEM?
Looking back on my career path, I would say that I had an opportunity to be exposed to technology at a young age. My high school was in a remote area but we had Internet infrastructure provided by the government of Rwanda. Additionally, our headmistress Sister Marthe NTUYUMVE started a culture exchange program and a team of engineers from France volunteered to provide short-term trainings on how to use computers. They also donated a few computers equipped with an application called WEDUS (Web Education System).
The application helped us to learn how to set up a local area network by simulations. We learned to install servers without using physical machines and the skills learned helped me to get a half-time job right after high school. The company I worked for had a software-programming department and I was curious to learn about what they do. I used to borrow books from the developers. The first book I borrowed was on designing web applications using HTML. In my spare time, I used to practice what I read and ask a lot of questions to senior developers.
A few months later, I got an opportunity to work as a Data Entry Officer using the software they had designed to record households’ information in some Rwandan districts. With that experience, I got to see how it could facilitate the district offices to effectively do their jobs.
The whole experience boosted my interest in STEM and later on, I decided to study Information Technology to make an impact in my community.
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
I am an ICT for Development enthusiast. In my professional career and community work, I have always demonstrated that ICT can contribute to the social and economic development of our communities. With over 3 years of experience working on ICT for development projects, I have accumulated excellent skills in managing technology solutions for social impact. Currently, I lead a project that is designed to build digitally inclusive communities. Regarding my greatest achievement, I would say that I aspire to always make an impact, using my skills. In 2018, I applied and got accepted in a TechWomen program. It is a mentorship program that takes place in Silicon Valley every year gathering all women working in STEM from Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. During the program, all participants are required to work on a project that would make an impact in their communities once they go back home.
My group, Team Rwanda, was made up of 6 ladies: Noella Nibakuze, Vanny Katabarwa, Solange Uwera, Pascale Umugwaneza, Lucie Uwizeye and I. We designed a project that will help increase the network of counselors to assist widows and women survivors of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. Towards the end of the program, we pitched our project and won a seed grant to implement our project. On January 13, 2019, by partnering with AVEGA (Association of the Widows of Genocide), we provided training to 40 counselors from all districts of Rwanda. Seeing something that started as an idea becoming a reality was my greatest achievement. For more information about our project, visit https://www.techwomen.org/uncategorized/a-journey-to-healing-together
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
When I was in high school, a person asked me what I was studying and I told him that I study computer science. He immediately said, “Oh, you want to become a secretary?”. The only thing he assumed I could do was to type. As I walked away, I kept asking myself, “Why of all things, could he only think of me as a secretary?” So, I think the discouragement that women face can sometimes lead us to reconsider our choices. But I kept on being persistent to achieve my goals
I also identified a list of role models that I can always look up to and tell myself that if they did it, I can make it too. You cannot do it alone, you need mentors who encourage you to persist despite challenges.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
“Dare to dream, maintain an I-Can-Do-It Attitude, learn from failures and rise with each achievement.“ I came across these statements, in 2008, while I was reading a newsletter by Imbuto Foundation. That statement was written right below a picture of 8 extraordinary women who had been awarded for their exceptional achievements. The group included philanthropists, medical doctors, entrepreneurs and managers. It was inspiring to read about their career paths and what they have achieved. The question, I had in my mind was, “What can I do to be like them?” The statements I mentioned above gave me an answer, and it has been my motto ever since.
I am a member of Girls in ICT, a group of women working in STEM with a mission to encourage young girls to join STEM. We do mentorship activities and every time I get a chance to talk to the girls, I always pass on that motto. My advice to aspiring women in STEM is to believe in themselves and to try to be the best they can be at school, at work, or in their businesses. Perform each task with dedication and focus. Keep on learning and never take an opportunity for granted however small or big it is. Do not give up – humble beginnings can create better opportunities.