Yesterday, Women @Google Africa and AkiraChix co-hosted a Women in Tech Cocktail at the iHub. It’s always great to see so many self-professed female tech geeks gathered together. We had some special guests, including Olga Arara, Google Kenya’s new Country Manager, and Margaret Lisowiec a Google Software Engineer based in Zurich. In addition, there were many of the “usual suspects”, young Kenyan women making in impact in technology, including m-farm’s Jamilla, iHub manager Jessica, Google’s Shikoh Gitau and Jacqueline Rajuai. The ladies of Akirachix were also in attendance: @mariegithinji, @Lkamau, @owigarj, @g33kmate, @rosewkaranja, @kiguruc, @AngieNicoleOD, @gkitony and yours truly, @marialangat
Most inspiring was the talk by Olga Arara, Google Kenya’s new Country Manager. Olga has had an exceptional career in Kenya’s business and technology fields, and has an Engineering undergraduate degree and MBA in Engineering Management. She shared with us her trailblazing career progression, and how she balances work, her marriage and family, and her personal development while making it look easy.
Naturally for such an event, we got into how to succeed as women in technology, a traditionally male-dominated industry. Olga’s advice was to “remove our blinders” and self-imposed limits. She emphasized the importance of not limiting yourself by defining yourself only as a woman. She also emphasized letting excellent results speak for oneself. While I agree that we shouldn’t preface our every statement with “As a woman I think… “, it is still important to recognize that there are very real barriers to success for women and other minorities. This is why I firmly believe that it is important to keep organizations like Akirachix active, organizations that have the specific mission of helping women succeed in their fields despite institutional barriers.
Another great subject that Olga addressed was work-life balance. Olga is 39 years old and has two children. She has been married for 16 years and draws a lot of strength from her family life. Olga emphasized the importance of making time for friends and family. She keep a strict 8-5 schedule, which encourages her to perform optimally when at work, while allowing her meaningful time for her family, friends and personal development.