Wadzanayi is a digital nomad, a computer scientist, a designer and a techprenuer. She is studying Computer Science at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Zimbabwe. Under Beedesigned, her design start-up, she provides graphic design services through visual design and UX (User Experience) design. She is also the co-founder of Neon Web Services, a start-up which provides scalable end-to-end web resources. Both these start-ups work hand-in-hand in growing local business brands and increasing their online presence on the digital map. Lastly, being a female in a male-dominated field, she felt the need to empower other girls through her organisation Techempowerment, which works with diverse communities and foundations to encourage the use and appreciation of technology by the African girl and woman, in order to harness its benefits in today’s competitive world.
Why did you get into STEM?
Pure fascination. I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a computer at an early age. This enabled me to experiment with and grow to love computers. Support and encouragement from family also allowed me to dive deep into the field without any restrictions. I have witnessed the power that technology has to improve African livelihoods hence my reason for staying in this field.
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
I believe women play a key role in reducing poverty and promoting social and economic development for themselves, their families and countries through the use of ICTs as an essential tool. Therefore, founding Techempowerment in July 2017 has been a great achievement for me because through this initiative, we are able to work collectively with partners across the private, social profit, academic and government sectors to technologically empower girls and women, enabling them to maximize on productivity in their academic, domestic and professional lives. An example would be the events we hosted in September 2017 in honour of women-in-tech-week where we had over 200 physical and virtual attendees from all over Zimbabwe participating in these world stage events where we were addressing topics on women, entrepreneurship and technology through discussions and training workshops. It is projects like these that give me hope that our technological future as Africa, is not so bleak after all. To add on to this, in September 2016, I made it to the top 5 at the Zimbabwe ICT Innovators Showcase in Bulawayo where I was exhibiting my start-up Neon Web Services.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
Being judged by my gender, not by my skill-set. I know it seems cliché but many women are experiencing it out there. I have had to work a bit harder than my male counterparts just so that I can be given a chance at certain opportunities. I learnt that stereotypes are just misguided individuals and I do not allow myself to be limited by them. I keep working hard in my field and I always embrace the opportunity to learn soft skills e.g. public speaking as this helps boost my confidence for when I am faced with such situations.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
Do not be afraid to break or bend social structures and stereotypes. Embrace your uniqueness as a woman and never be afraid to take a leadership position in STEM. The going might get tough (just like everything else in life) but a firm belief in your goals and aspirations will always keep you going.