Embarking on my tech journey

Jacinta Kazenzi

My tech journey is a story of building my skills over time. I believe that my willingness to learn and put myself out there has led me to become a woman in tech.

Allow me to share it with you.

Building foundations

My passion for software engineering began in high school, prompting me to take computer studies as an additional subject. Thankfully, my performance was good enough to earn me a scholarship to a tech boot camp. I was happy, but seeing my parents even happier made me feel even more joy.

While I got into tech at an early stage, I relaxed, not knowing I had to continue to keep learning. Later, at a hackathon, I realized that I had knowledge, but my skills were lacking. It taught me one thing, which is that it’s important to match your knowledge with the right skills and continuously build your capabilities. So, I went back home and started working on my skills.

On that path, I applied for a training program for women in AI. I thought, “There’s no harm in trying things out.” Here was an opportunity to learn in the field, and I got it.

Diving into AI: The Women in AI training experience

The Women in AI training program was divided into two phases: the self-paced, and the instructor-led. The organizers provided access to the Flapmax platform, where we could choose different the topics we wanted to learn. I will call this learning freedom, as everything was at our pace. It was wonderful; the program allowed for a pressure-free learning environment amidst the busy activities of our daily lives.

For the second phase, we were paired up. I am from Kenya, and I worked with Sophie Ejikeme from Nigeria, Being in a partnership was amazing, but even better, we were assigned mentors to guide us in our projects. In case of any difficulty, we could ask them for support.

Tackling challenges: My first AI project

My background was Software Engineering. Looking at the assigned projects, I struggled to grasp some of the technical terms. Luckily, the documentation provided by my mentor included these terms, which boosted my confidence in tackling the project.  

My partner Sophie and I agreed to familiarize ourselves with the documentation. She understood that I was new to AI, and was so supportive.

After project familiarization, we started to get to work. The first step was cloning and downloading the right dependencies. This concept was explained to us by our mentor Benard. I first did my project on the Visual Studio code but when I started working with Sophie, I had to use Anaconda. It’s a different code editor, but the work had to be done.  

The next steps were explained well in the project documentation. It specified how to successfully predict a loan defaulter based on the different inputs, and the history of the user. The major challenge for me was training the model. It took a while, but Benard explained it, and I managed to get to grips with it.

I finalized the report with Sophie, and joined the final webinar with the rest of the trainees. It was great to see how the teams overcame the difficulties. We were from all over the world, and we were learning from each other. Getting to know that and other women, who were like me but also different, made the experience feel special.

I will never forget the online dinner we had to celebrate our graduation. FAI Institute Founder and Flapmax CEO Dave Ojika joined us, and everyone got to speak to him. He even gave us life advice. It felt nice hearing everyone talk at a more personal level, hearing their ambitions, and discovering the local dishes they were eating.

Looking ahead: Embracing opportunities in STEM and AI

Drawing from my own experience, I advise women in STEM, or tech, or AI to take advantage of spaces for learning, such as the Women in AI program.  

One thing I especially know now is that if I started my tech journey with a mentor, I would have become way better. But I am on track, and I thank the Women in AI training program for the opportunity.  

For the women out there who have a mentor or a person to look up to, keep working with them and you will see things more clearly. Let's embrace AI and technology annd mentorship for the future of women everywhere!