Desiree Craig is passionate about the use of technology to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. With a degree (B.Sc.) in Computing from Plymouth University (UK), Desiree has spent the past 6 years working across different sectors in the technology industry, from Media/Advertising, to Edtech, FinTech and Health.
She currently works as a Technology Product Manager at Andela, a technology company that builds high performing distributed engineering teams with Africa’s top software developers. In her spare time, Desiree can be found writing fiction/non-fiction and on rare occasions dabbling in poetry. She is also a closet adrenaline junkie and seeks out thrilling (but reasonably safe) experiences.
Why did you get into STEM?
My journey into STEM was quite accidental. As a secondary school student my favourite subject was Economics and for a long time I toyed with the idea of studying that at the University. I also briefly considered Medicine.
But as fate would have it, during what you could call my gap year, my mother had me sign up for a programming class, which incidentally was a Java one and from the very first day I attended the lesson I fell in love! Technology was an easy choice for me because of its blend of creativity and logic. The fact that a particular problem could be interpreted in multiple ways was exciting; and then the application of logic to implement that to arrive at a particular solution made it a win for me.
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
For me, success is really measured by the number of people you impact, whether directly or indirectly. My greatest achievement will be helping to bridge the effects of the digital divide in Nigeria. For 4 years, during my time as Practice Lead of re:learn at Co-Creation Hub, I was fortunate to lead a team where we rolled out initiatives across the country for thousands of students. A vast majority of these students were from low-income households and would not have had access to the tools and information that they were able to. That also laid the groundwork for extending that work in Education to 3 other African countries, with plans to reach an additional 7 countries by the end of next year. In my new role, I’m also excited about solving equally tough problems at scale.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
In the early days of my career one of those challenges was around being seen as a female first, rather than a fellow colleague. I remember the first time I became acutely aware of how women may be perceived differently. It was in my final year at University in Plymouth, and we had just finished a lecture on Object-Oriented Web Application Development. I was having a chat with one of my male friends when a fellow coursemate, equally male, stopped by to ask a question. My friend didn’t know the answer to that particular question, but I did. It, however, did not occur to our fellow coursemate to ask me the question! The trick for me is building your reputation carefully and being known as someone who doesn’t just talk the talk, but actually does the work.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
People often think that pursuing a career in STEM requires you to have core technical skills, such as with software engineering, data science, or say networking. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! For instance, my branch of STEM, which is technology is made up of different roles that exist along the spectrum. Roles such as Product Management, Project Management, Product Marketing are some examples. I’d say find the closest role that aligns with your interests and don’t be afraid to explore! It’s also okay to try one or two options before finally making a choice.