Joana Ayisha Ewuntomah – from Ghana – West Africa – is an astute and self-motivated millennial. While growing up, she has witnessed how computers and technology has transformed the world in diverse ways informing her predilection for computer science and programming.
She attended Tamale Senior High School where she studied General Science. She then pursued a two year diploma program in computer science which catapulted her a step further to achieving her dreams. She currently holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer science from the University for Development Studies-Tamale with much interest in Data Structures and AI. Her thesis sought to create an algorithm to process criminal forensic data for the purpose of digital investigation/policing for the Ghana Police Service. Away from computers, she is a formidable chorister, an immutable fan of FC Bayern and an Amnesty international advocate. She loves to travel and sing.
She is presently at the African Institute for Mathematical sciences (AIMS) Senegal, reading the co-op program to acquire a masters degree in mathematical sciences with specialization in big data. With the kind of knowledge and skills AIMS provides, she inspires to become an academic and consultant, identifying business problems that need to be solved with IT and to equally create a prolific internet community that can deliver income growth and innovative services across Ghana and Africa as a whole.
Why did you get into STEM?
Growing up in Northern Ghana, I had no access to a computer. But by reading about the fascinating things a computer could do made me have confidence in wanting to pursue a programme that had to do with computers. I wanted to know and explore more about computers and how computers are used to solve problems in the world. I was intrigued about how computers executed tasks they were told to do. This, I thought, would open a world where I can create, analyze and give results that can transform my community. This will be of great impact in solving Africa’s challenges which would make Ghana and Africa a better place to be.
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
I am most proud of my undergraduate research out at the University for Development Studies, Tamale. There, I created an algorithm to process criminal forensic data for the purpose of digital investigation/policing for the Ghana Police Service. This sought to simplify forensic data analysis and improve digital policing. Also, as a graduate student at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, specializing in Big Data, I successfully gained a work opportunity as a data scientist at Manobi-Africa (a digital orchestration company). This gave me international recognition in my field.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
Challenges are part of human life and how we overcome them is of great importance. Growing up, science (most importantly mathematical sciences) is seen on the basis of gender. Mathematics and science were meant to be for males and the social sciences for females. Having the interest to study General Science in senior high school brought a lot of tension and anxiety because of being conscious of suggestions that “Science is for men” and “Science is difficult”. Even though I gaining admission into Tamale Senior High School to study General Science, this also brought fear and panic into my life and I said to myself – “I cannot do this”. I decided to opt for General Arts. However, my family was there to encourage, advice and motivate me to follow my dreams and aspirations. I became determined and was ready to break all the myths behind all of those notions. I overcame my fears although sometimes it gets difficult on the way. I always get my motivation from the saying “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. This has gone a long way in helping me and I hope it helps and motivates you too.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
Being a woman in STEM comes with a lot of challenges which can be discouraging. Our societies in which we live in plays a major role in these situations. For you to overcome any challenge you are facing, you need to first have passion in your choice of field. In addition, constant learning and practice is needed for you to be abreast with the current happenings in technology. This also gives confidence and elevates your self esteem. Aim higher and surround yourself with people who will intellectually challenge you to be a better version of yourself and always have in your mind that everything is possible if you devote yourself to it.