Lorna is a passion-driven technology leader who seeks to empower communities with the necessary skills to compete favourably in a digital world. Lorna believes in the growth of tech talent across Africa as a solution to rampant youth unemployment and a contribution to better the next million creators for the next billion users. Lorna has worked with technology talent acceleration programs in East Africa and is currently based in Central Africa on the same mission. Her favourite part of technology is the data!
Why did you get into STEM?
Getting into STEM for me was out of curiosity. I didn’t grow up around so many gadgets but when I enrolled in high school, I was exposed to computer skills classes and that was the beginning for me. I remember being oddly fascinated by my mum’s Siemens phone and always saying I needed to discover how phones work. From there, it took personal initiative to attend all my computer skills classes and later when I had a chance to choose what course to do at university, I insisted on computer engineering.
These are the factors that got me into STEM:
- The practical learning experience in STEM subjects gave me the ability to see the power of building things.
- Teaching aids and methods my teachers used to explain basic concepts.
These did not only get me into STEM but also made me love STEM.
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
Often, I encouraged people to get into tech. I had been training and advocating for tech diversity and inclusion for a long time, but I never had personal examples to that effect.
My greatest achievement was convincing and finally getting my older sister into tech. She was at a point of career transitions and when we had a conversation and discussed her options, I suggested to mentor her into tech. I was so humbled by this achievement because aside mentoring her, I have watched her grow into a kickass developer than I ever was.
When what you do starts to influence people around you and that energy rubs off onto others, that becomes your ultimate achievement.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge at the beginning was the tech culture. I found it really closed and it barely celebrated difference. This was about 4 to 5 years ago, and I have watched the tech culture grow and open to be accommodating for diversity. This was through making deliberate decisions in policies and activities. Overcoming this included deliberately voicing ideas that celebrated diversity, creating safe spaces like Women In Tech meetups and encouraging lots of interaction with everyone in the tech field. For me to overcome this, I had to access spaces and demand for inclusion.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
I would like to give advice to different levels of women in STEM because at all levels you carry the responsibility to keep the Women in Tech chain sustainable.
For the entry-level: This is the hardest level always, it includes sacrificing a lot but remember your skill matters. Prioritize on developing concrete technical and interpersonal skills, that will make you compete favourably, deliver great work and you will be unstoppable.
For the intermediate level: It is so great being in the tech club space, at this stage, you have insider knowledge. Be open to helping others get in, shares tips on the sought-after technologies, work openings, run something that will create a sustainable contribution to the industry, that is the best gift to give the industry.
For the expert level: At this level, you will have probably moved into high-level and leadership roles, but remember your gen superpowers are still with you, I urge you to help young ones talk about abstract topics like negotiating salaries, work-life balance etc. You are accessing spaces that make industry decisions. Insist on diversity and seek balance. Your position will serve a lifetime sustainable pipeline of supply for Women In Tech.