Joyce Agbanobi: My company has helped over 4,000 women transition into tech
Technology is one of the key drivers of female economic empowerment, though the fields women participate in are still gendered. Joyce Agbanobi and her team are trying to fix that problem through their Black Women Paving Ways Initiative.
An enthusiastic Tech leader who is passionate and committed to closing the gender gap for women of color in technology, Joyce is a Technical Program Manager Lead at Microsoft with over 7 years + of experience in ecommerce sectors. She is also the Co-Founder of the Black Woman Paving Ways, a platform that aims at closing the digital divide and increasing the percentage of women in STEM, through building initiatives to help women upskill for the future and Matching newbies to their dream Mentors across different Fortune 500 companies.
She founded BWPW with her grad school friends Lola Quadri and Omotoyosi Ogunbanwo who are also in the tech sector. Since November 2020 when the initiative was birthed, it has helped 4,000+ women find their unique paths in technology, gain skills for the future, get matched to technical experts and gotten their dream jobs. With the major layoffs in the tech space, the goal of her company for this year is not only to bring women into technology, but also to make sure they are uniquely skilled and indispensable on their roles.
To achieve that and commemorate the Black History Month, BWPW will be holding a free 2-weeks Data Analytics hands on training for women transitioning into tech, those in non-tech roles and those who own their business, but not exactly sure how to make sense of their data. The training is open to both male and female.
In this interview with ESTHER IJEWERE, Joyce shares her inspiring story and how her company is determined to support women transition into different parts of the tech industry.
I remember growing up being the only girl in a family of six (including my parents). With my dad being a Mechanical Engineer working in oil and gas, all he knew and wanted was for all his kids to be Engineers, Medical Doctor, or a huge disappointment. I did not grow up having the opportunity to choose what I really wanted; my dad and Late Grand Pa (who was also an Engineering Professor) choose for me to become a Psychiatric Doctor. Hence, I have a BSc in Psychology.
I remember my dad saying when he was in school, in an Engineering class of 50 students, they only had about 10 girls and by final year, they were left with only 2 girls, with the others dropping out to less technical courses. As a result, he constantly coached my brothers and I exactly same way; to be always bold, never be afraid of been the only one and never to stop pushing even when its hard. My Parents never saw my gender as a blocker to success, so I never saw it as a problem.
I have come this far in my career and rapidly growing, because of some great traits (Grit, Confidence and Curiosity for Knowledge) I got from my parents and brothers. Who would have known that I would continuously be the only girl or black girl in the room?
Inspiration Behind Black Women Paving Way
Women are one of the most innovative creatures ever, but being the only Woman of colour constantly in the room, was confusing to me, so I decided to really understand why and how that can change, instead of constantly complaining. Based on my research, I realised there is a huge gender gap, because of some key issues: Lack of technical skill for the future, awareness, representation, and support on all levels.
So, in 2020 during COVID-19, I started sharing knowledge on LinkedIn, IG, Clubhouse and had some technology series on a friends YouTube Channel- ‘How to break into the technology,’ with some technical trainings. I also mentored women for free, but got overwhelming after a while and knew I couldn’t scale doing this alone. So, I partnered with my Grad school friends who were also passionate about increasing the percentage of women in the space. That’s how BWPW was born!
The Journey So Far
I must say it’s been nothing short of amazing, but also very tasking, time and personal funds consuming but refreshing, because we have been able to train, mentor, and help over 4,000+ women transition into different paths of technology across the globe. But we are still barely scratching the surface with over 3 billion women in the world; we have a lot more to do and planned for 2023, watch the space.
My Role As A Technical Program Manager Lead At Microsoft And How My Work Experiences In Jumia And Amazon Prepared Me For This Role
As a TPM I Lead the analytics and process automation initiative for Hyperscale Network Connectivity in Azure, my strong analytical skills and PM experience across the two eCommerce giants has uniquely set me apart for my current role in Cloud Networking.
Challenges Of My Line Of Work
I think my challenges are similar to a lot of other women in this space, but I can say the major challenge for me as a young woman of colour and an immigrant with an accent leading technical Projects in a room filled with white male mostly twice my age, I constantly have to prove myself, which I personally do not have a problem with, as I am now used to it, but it’s a challenge.
Our BWPW Free 2-Week Introduction To Data Analytics Intensive Training For Women
With the current climate of heavy layoff in the tech space and as Artificial Intelligence continues to take preeminence, we want to make sure our women are constantly upskilling to become the disruptor and not the disrupted. Low skill jobs will be the easiest to automate hence they need to stay up to date on latest technology and continuously learn new skills to stay relevant.
Whether you are a business owner, a Product Manager or wanting to get into the AI Space, in-depth data analytics knowledge is very key. Hence, BWPW is partnering with some Snr. Data Engineers at Amazon, Google, and Samsung to hold a 2- weeks Hands on free Master Class to train women in Advanced Excel, SQL, Python and Tableau, with an opportunity to solve a real-life business problem through hands on project.
Other Projects And Activities
We have several products in works, but our most recent is: A platform to help democratise mentorship for women of color across the globe with a launch in 5 countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Canada, and US), so we are excited for that one.
What I Enjoy Most About My Job
Critical thinking and ability to solve problems. Every problem to me is an opportunity to shine and learn something new.
Three Women Who Inspire Me And Why
Bozoma Saint John – CMO, Netflix
Shelley Zalis – Founder, Female Quotient
Annie Jean-Baptiste – Director, Product Inclusion & Equity @ Google
These women inspire me to do more every single day. They decided not to conform to the norm, but push themselves to constantly create solid tables, instead of waiting to be invited to one, in their respective space. Their continuous way paving for women in the corporate space is highly admirable and with them, I am hopeful for a brighter future with more women in it. I believe together, we can all make this change!
What We Can Do Better As A Society To Support Women Who Aspire To Go Into The Tech Industry
Support: As of today, women make up to 47 per cent of all employed adults in the US, yet according to Computerscience.org only 18 per cent of women earn a Computer Science degree. This simply means just women alone are not able to do this; we need more male support to close the gender gap.
Hire Women: Diversity breeds innovation and according to ongoing research conducted by McKinsey, it’s been discovered that diverse teams financially outperform non-diverse teams as much as 25 per cent based on gender diversity alone. Partner with platforms like BWPW for fill those roles.
Mentor and Promote Women: Again, it’s worth going out of your way to connect with women, support your female teammates and help them climb the ladder. It’s difficult to find your footing when your peers don’t look like you or can’t relate to your challenges. Be sure to extend the same benefit of doubt you extend to men.
Encourage Women to pursue STEM: The STEM Field can appear intimidating as its heavily male dominated, so it’s important we become the bridge for young women and encourage them to pursue these fields.
Support Families: About 70 per cent of adult women will become mothers, so its important for companies to provide good employee benefits to include parental-focused incentives, as having a child is a huge life changing experience.
One Thing I Wish To Change In The Tech Sector
The Technology space is constantly changing, and companies should provide room for everyone to learn and grow, whether you are an intern out of school or a leader. We need to support people, so they feel empowered by technology and not frightened by it.
Being A Woman Of Rubies
Honestly, being exceptional to me means caring less about perfectionism and validation from everyone, but deciding to be exceptional on my own terms. Embracing my uniqueness, acknowledging my struggles, following my path, believing in myself, and ensuring I don’t lose my identity is what makes me an exceptional woman
How We Are Reflecting International Women’s Day #Embraceequity 2023 Theme In BWPW
-Leading the Black Minority Student Program (BMSD) at Microsoft: creating technical workshops to educate, close the digital divide and expose high school students to technology
– Hiring Women
– Providing Mentorship for women within the company