Sarah Khudze is a determined young Malawian woman who is passionate about software development, graphic designing, leadership and women empowerment. She is a Bachelor’s degree holder in Management Information Systems (with CREDIT) obtained from the University of Malawi, the Polytechnic. She is currently working as Associate Lecturer in Systems Designing, University of Malawi, the Polytechnic. She is also the founder and National Coordinator for Reach out to Girls (RoG) Christian Organisation. She is also a member of Women in Tech Africa- Malawi Chapter.
Why did I get into STEM?
Growing up I never thought of being a software developer, but things changed when I was selected to pursue Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems with the University of Malawi. During my first days in college, I never liked programming or anything to do with coding. I hated coding very much because I was not doing well at all. All over a sudden passion started to take over, I developed a heart to learn programming. It was not easy at all but taking up challenging tasks defines me, I decided to specialize in software development; a field that is mostly male-dominated. Now the passion has spread all over me. I think code and I love to code. I like being part of the team that is bringing great IT innovations that are solving different problems in different fields. I would like to see more women pursuing courses in STEM and I have decided to stand as a role model to females aspiring to go this direction.
Being a founder of ’Reach out to Girls (RoG)’, I take it as one of my greatest achievements in my life. RoG aims at creating a world of God-Fearing Educated girls. This is achieved by donating school materials to less privileged girls in the rural areas of Malawi and also conducting mentorship sessions to help the girls make transforming decisions about their life as a result bringing a positive impact in their communities and Malawi at large. RoG has also set a platform to train young women in leadership. Through RoG, I have managed to help and mentor 300 rural girls. I am well known to be creative and innovative who in 2016 alone: was voted the Best Innovative and Creative Student, and was runner up in the “Girls Who Code” competition. I have developed a mobile application. ‘TeachMe’ that enhances the learning process for kids by providing basic lessons taught in kindergarten. I have also developed a Human Resource Management System for small companies. In 2018, I helped organize the Youth Global Leadership Summit-Malawi, a platform that trained 80 young people in principles and practice of effective leadership.
Challenges faced as a woman in STEM and how I overcome them
Being undermined is one of the challenges that I have faced throughout my career as a software developer. I have once been told that I do not have enough knowledge to develop software solutions for certain problems. Some have never trusted my work. Despite all these negative voices coming from both directions, I have decided to press on by advancing my skills in software development. I have believed that I have the potential to provide software solutions to some of the challenges being faced by my country and the world at large.
Advice to budding women in STEM
I do not believe that software development, engineering are for men only. I believe that everyone has been given the potential to achieve their God-given purpose. If God has called you to be an engineer, get to know that He has also given you the potential to achieve that. It’s not even written in the bible that, “Only men shall be software developers, engineers or science teachers”. Never allow the negative voices out there to define you as a woman. Choose to remain focused on your career goals and make sure you achieve them. Do not feel intimidated when you attend an interview that you happen to be the only female candidate. Build your confidence and also believe that you have the potential to make a difference as a woman in the science industry. When you face challenges, do not give up instead use them as stepping stones, for challenges reveal geniuses.
Lawrencia Asabea Osei is a Guan from Ghana. She is a freelance Data Scientist, a part-time tutor in Mathematics at Beacon School, a part-time Asst. Accountant and a Research Methods Consultant & Co-founder of PALMAS Consultancy.