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By Editorial team
“They say that in life you make decisions that lead you down a path and then another and another, until it is impossible to know how things would have ended if you’d chosen a different path.” Delia Sieff, PR communications for Microsoft MEA started her journey in the ICT industry through a series of coincidences. Read more on her experience as a woman in ICT.
What attracted you to the ICT industry?
Honestly, I didn’t proactively seek a career in ICT. My entrance into the industry was more a series of coincidences. After studying communications, I worked for a number of PR agencies before starting a small agency with a friend. We focussed primarily on PR, image management and graphic design for the performing arts; a far cry from the high tech world I now live in. During that time, my business partner was approached by a personnel firm to do a three month maternity cover at Microsoft. She had recently launched a trade magazine and was focussed on getting that off the ground, so she suggested I go along for the interview, do the three month stint and then we’d focus on growing the agency again on my return . They say that in life you make decisions that lead you down a path and then another and another, until it is impossible to know how things would have ended if you’d chosen a different path. That’s how I view going for that interview at Microsoft – it changed the course of my career and my life. Shortly after joining, the marketing organisation went through a restructure and I was asked to stay on as the consumer marketing manager. I had never worked in ICT before, nor had I worked in a corporate environment or in a broader marketing role. Based on all of those considerations, the opportunity was simply too good to pass up, and the rest, as they say, is history. That was in 2000 and in the fifteen years since, I have worked for Microsoft both in South Africa and the UK, Intel Corporation, Nokia and now Microsoft again in a Middle East and Africa regional role. I suspect that once you’ve worked in tech, everything else seems a little boring.
What do you love most about being a woman in the ICT industry?
There’s no doubt that the ICT industry is still heavily male dominated, although that is changing slowly but surely and I feel I can also contribute to that shift. What I love about the ICT sector is that it is full of incredibly smart and competent people, not only tech smart but experts in their specific field. The industry seems to attract the best of the best in terms of talent and that means you get to work with dynamic, passionate people in marketing, sales, logistics, business development, finance, legal – in fact every possible function. When you work in environments like that, I think you challenge yourself to be better, to think differently, to make a greater impact and that means you are always learning and growing. As a woman, I have always felt I had a special ability to bring balance to the environments in which I have worked. The ICT industry attracts a lot of the same personality types – “Drivers” as defined by some research methodology. Perhaps it’s a combination of being both a woman and a different personality type, but I am often the person focussing on some of the softer skills, looking at things with more empathy and from a different perspective. I think the strongest teams, especially leadership teams, are ones with diversity, because you can draw on many different views and experiences. Decisions are made more thoughtfully and usually with better outcomes by diverse teams and this is a key opportunity for women in ICT.
What challenges have you experienced as a woman in the ICT industry?
I have been very fortunate in the roles I have held and the companies I have worked for. There has always been a huge respect for diversity, whether gender or otherwise, so I have not experienced too many challenges. There are times where I have found myself literally as the only woman on a leadership team. That can be interesting, simply because men tend to have different interests, and my knowledge of sport and cars is fairly limited for making conversation at team building events. Men also tend to behave differently in groups and sometimes feel uncomfortable when a woman is thrown in to the mix. But once you find common ground and build a network of support, it is far easier to fit in and even make the team dynamic better. I also find that many men in senior positions have wives that do not work, or have significantly less pressurised jobs and carry most of the responsibility for managing the home. Sometimes it is difficult to be the person who says “I can’t do a call at 7am because I need to drop my daughter at school”. There’s not always an appreciation that you are trying to juggle two jobs – the corporate one and the home one, but that is the reality and you tend to need to work a little harder to prove your commitment at senior levels.
Why is it important to encourage more women to pursue STEM subjects?
The reality is that women are still marginalised, potentially even more so in Middle East and Africa. Women don’t always get the same opportunities, starting with access to education, time to focus on their studies and even access to funding for further studies. Because of all these things, women sometimes don’t believe that they can do the same things as their male counterparts, that they can excel in subjects traditionally dominated by men, that they can hold senior roles in any sector. That is only a perception, because women can do absolutely anything they set their minds to. Sometimes women also feel that it is inappropriate to pursue STEM subjects because those are “for boys” so there’s also a stigma attached to not doing what is conventionally accepted. That means women need to have more courage, to stand up against the norms, to be proud to have an interest in STEM and pursue those areas with passion regardless of what others say or think. In the same way that women bring diversity to the workplace and to decision making, women also bring fresh perspectives to the study of STEM subjects. This change in thinking is sometimes the very spark that can result in a major breakthrough in research or development, something that can literally change the world.
How can a woman achieve a good work / life balance? (Having time for your work and your hobbies)
This question is relevant to absolutely all working women, regardless of the industry sector in which they find themselves. Being a home maker, being a mother, being a friend and being an employee/manger/leader are all roles that compete with each other for your time and attention. It’s not easy to be all things to all people; and the reality is that you make compromises on your work life balance, on both sides of the equation. I am very fortunate in that most of the companies I have worked for have had incredibly progressive policies around managing your workload and personal life. I feel that I am measured and rewarded on the impact that I make, not on how many hours per day I spend at my desk. Flexible working hours save you time by not sitting in peak hour traffic to be at the office at a specific time, being able to work from home from time to time, allows you to have a day without distractions to get on top of some pending items. Being able to access tools and information from anywhere anytime is an advantage in being able to manage when and where you work. For me, personally, I have set some ground rules to manage all the areas of my life. I drop my daughter at school in the mornings which gives us some quality time to chat in the car and also gets me to the office about an hour and a half earlier than most other folks. That is a very productive time to get on top of things before the day kicks off. I try to leave the office in time to get home to have dinner as a family, do bath time, story time and bed time. I am disciplined about not switching my laptop on again until my daughter goes to sleep. After that, I will connect again for an hour or two to attend to any urgent tasks. It’s difficult when you work across timezones and you have to make allowances for evening calls at times. When I travel on business, I tend to work really long hours. Being alone in hotel rooms provides the perfect opportunity to work for several hours at night without taking time away from your family at home. Because I travel a lot, I then try to increase my quality home time on my return by going to watch a ballet class or swimming lesson in the middle of the day to surprise my daughter. It’s all about setting your priorities, understanding what is important to you and making the time for those things. I say “making” the time intentionally, because no one will ever “give” you that time. Every area of our life can become all-consuming if you allow it. I would have to say that the areas I don’t make sufficient time for are exercise and relaxation. I can hold nobody except myself responsible for that and there’s always room for improvement on work / life balance.
What advice do you have for women looking for a career in ICT?
Go for it!! If you have any interest whatsoever in a career in ICT, at least take the time to research the options a little more and understand how or where you might like to get involved. Being in the ICT industry doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to specialise in deep tech. There are so many opportunities to be part of the tech industry while becoming a functional expert. As an example, more and more ICT companies are targeting consumers. We see marketing and sales professionals from other sectors such as FMCG or entertainment moving into ICT because they bring this deep understanding of consumers but are drawn to the fast paced and exciting environment of ICT. The industry is so multi-faceted that you can truly have several different careers here without leaving the industry. The only constant is change and as things change, new opportunities open up. That makes ICT an exciting place to work. And if young girls have an interest in ICT, find a mentor or someone who can help you navigate the possibilities. Nurture that interest and pursue your dream. It is not an industry reserved for men and every women who takes a chance makes a difference for others.
By Rotimi Olumide, Windows Lead for Microsoft West, East and Central Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
The Count Down has begun – on July 29th, Microsoft will launch Windows 10, undoubtedly our most personal, interactive operating system yet. We designed Windows 10 to create a new generation of Windows for the 1.5 billion people using Windows today in 190 countries around the world.
Are you ready for amazing new features and a familiar experience where you’ll feel like an expert from the start? Check out this great Windows 10 Video, and find out more.
Windows 10 is coming to you on the 29th July as a *FREE UPGRADE for qualified Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 devices
Yes, it’s a FREE UPGRADE to a full version of Windows 10 – you’ll find full details on our Windows Sites – here. Once you upgrade, you have Windows 10 for free on that device.
So here’s how to reserve your upgrade today!
You can reserve your free upgrade in the Get Windows 10 App. The Get Windows 10 App is available on most PCs running Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows 8.1 Update. Click on the small Windows icon found at the right end of the taskbar. If you don’t see it, visit our Q&A page for more info.
This app is designed to streamline your upgrade process by making sure your device is compatible, reserving your free upgrade and scheduling a convenient install time. It also has information to help you learn about the features in Windows 10.
Click “Reserve your free upgrade” in the app window.
Enter your email if you want a confirmation of this reservation.
Once you reserve, Windows 10 will download when available, and you can cancel your reservation at any time.*
You’ll get a notification when your upgrade is ready later this year. This lets you schedule the installation for a time that’s convenient. NOTE: If you are on Windows 8.1, you can set your PC to only download updates when using a non-metered connection (for example tethering to a smartphone is a metered connection). The Windows 10 download file will be approximately 3GB in size.
After it’s installed, Windows 10 is yours to love.
We’ve got your back
The Microsoft Answer Desk is here for you; if you have questions or want to learn more, our friendly Answer Techs are here to help. As a starting reference, see the Windows 10 Q&A site, click here.
*Windows Offer Details
Yes, free! This upgrade offer is for a full version of Windows 10, not a trial. 3GB download required; standard data rates apply. To take advantage of this free offer, you must upgrade to Windows 10 within one year of availability. Once you upgrade, you have Windows 10 for free on that device.
Windows 10 Upgrade Offer is valid for qualified Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 devices, including devices you already own. Some hardware/software requirements apply and feature availability may vary by device and market. The availability of Windows 10 upgrade for Windows Phone 8.1 devices may vary by OEM, mobile operator or carrier. Devices must be connected to the internet and have Windows Update enabled. Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1 Update required. Some editions are excluded: Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise, and Windows RT/RT 8.1. Active Software Assurance customers in volume licensing have the benefit to upgrade to Windows 10 enterprise offerings outside of this offer. To check for compatibility and other important installation information, visit your device manufacturer’s website and the Windows 10 Specifications page. Additional requirements may apply over time for updates. Security and features are kept automatically up-to-date which is always enabled.
Posted by Jeffrey Avina, Citizenship Director for Middle East and Africa
I was thrilled to hear that three students from Africa made it through to the final round of the Microsoft YouthSpark Challenge for Change competition this year, with 17-year-old Saviour Okusenogu from Nigeria being named as one of the 10 grand-prize winners.
The Challenge for Change is a global contest that helps young people turn causes close to their hearts into tangible ways to do good in the world. It inspires socially-conscious youth to imagine how they would use Microsoft technology and resources to support their cause. The winners each receive $2,500 to kick-start their projects, a Windows Phone and the chance to serve as a Microsoft YouthSpark advocate, along with a leadership-development trip to Nicaragua that promises an unforgettable experience doing hands-on volunteer work.
Saviour says he’s delighted that, “Many people around the world will know about my project and what I’m trying to do in my community.” He runs the BISET Initiative (Become Inspired in Science and Engineering Technology) aimed at organising various science practical sessions with secondary students to raise awareness of science and engineering technology. Through audio-visual and interactive science experiments, students are trained on up-skilling themselves technologically to better their communities. In his entry, Saviour explained that Microsoft’s tools like PowerPoint and Visual Studio will help with presentations and videos, while Microsoft Excel/Access could be used for storing the database, and Microsoft Word/Publisher could be used to design colourful magazines, pamphlets and manuals of science inventions and science projects for the students to study.
Some of the other African finalists were Alia ElKattan from Egypt, Chinenye Ezeakor from Nigeria and Nwodo James from Nigeria. Alia runs the ‘Learning Through Making (For School Students) program to encourage high school students to get involved in DIY. Engineering student, Chinenye believes she has a responsibility to help develop the minds of young girls and is doing so through the ‘Women in STEM-AFRICA’ outreach program at her local university. James’ innovative idea came from his concern with the dying reading culture among Nigerian students, and he aims to encourage reading by making technological gadgets suitable for reading. All three finalists shared the compelling ways they feel that Microsoft technology can assist them in their initiatives.
At Microsoft we are heavily invested in empowering and inspiring young people to spark change in the world – after all, some of the most significant positive changes in history have come from the burning desire of young people doing something to change not only their own lives, but the lives of those around them. It is really encouraging to see this great work and inspiring innovation coming out of Africa and I commend youths like Saviour and the other finalists for their hard work and vision.
Posted by the Editorial Team
Mark East, General Manager Operations – Microsoft WW Education, recently visited Egypt to meet with government and school leaders to discuss the future of education in the country, and how to solve some of the current challenges.
During his visit, Mark was encouraged by several examples of how educators are using technology to improve learning outcomes. One of his key learnings was that focussing on the teachers and empowering them to use technology must be prioritised. Off this base, they can pass on their knowledge to their students.
Mark discovered an enthusiasm among parents, teachers and the public sector to secure technology and improve infrastructure. There is significant potential to capitalise on this enthusiasm and enhance learning through ICT, especially with the commitment by all parties, including the Egyptian government, to invest in young people.
To read more about Mark’s visit to Egypt and his key takeaways, click here.
The world’s population has tripled over the last century, while water use has multiplied by seven. In Africa alone, there are 358 million people who don’t have access to water. However, simply providing access to water is not the end game. To achieve long-term sustainability, the first step is collaboration and creativity in order to spark behavioural change.
This is the vision behind the ONE DROP Foundation, a non-profit organisation (NGO) established by Cirque du Soleil founder, Guy Laliberté, in 2007 to bring safe water access and sanitation to communities in need Microsoft is proud to support the foundation as it launches its ONE DROP of Life application.
The launch of the ONE DROP of Life app this week is a great articulation of this approach to problem solving. Working with Microsoft, the ONE DROP Foundation has created the app to convey important educative messages about water issues worldwide. Tapping into the growing popularity of mobile gaming to secure an audience, the partnership has identified a creative way to spread a serious message. It appears to be effective, too. Even before the official launch the game had been played by over 100,000 people.
Microsoft’s technological support for the ONE DROP of Life app is motivated by the shared belief with the ONE DROP foundation that empowerment is the key to re-thinking new kinds of sustainable solutions to pressing global challenges. We are empowering ONE DROP through our technology so that they, in turn, can empower the communities where they work through the provision of safe water and sanitation.
In Africa, the ONE DROP foundation has been working to empower communities in Burkina Faso, where less than 56% of the population has access to water. Through a series of programs to address access to water, as well as awareness and microfinance, ONE DROP hopes to reach 125 000 participants by 2017.
Microsoft’s support of ONE DROP is part of our wider belief that technology has a fundamental role in helping create a more sustainable future for everyone. The issue of sustainability is becoming increasingly important, regardless of who you are, what you do or where you live. Businesses are now operating in a world where consumers want to know about the environmental impact of the products they buy. At Microsoft we are committed to the creation of a sustainable future and are actively working with partners, customers, governments, and leading environmental organisations to bring the power of information technology and cloud computing to address the world's environmental challenges.
To learn more, visit ONEDROP.org
Microsoft Environment https://www.microsoft.com/environment/
"In Tanzania the gender gap in STEM subjects is still very wide with females lagging far behind males." SHE Codes for Change, a Tanzanian tech mentorship project aims to close the gender gap in the technology sector by educating, inspiring and equipping high school and university young women with the skills and tools for innovation and social change. Abella Bateyunga, founder of SHE Codes for Change, shares more on her contribution to enhancing opportunities for women in ICT in Tanzania.
Coming from a legal background, and then specializing in governance, community development, media and arts, one will wonder what business do I have to be called ‘a woman in ICT’?Years ago I would have thought the same too, until I was exposed to the tech world and limitless opportunities it presents. I said to myself in order to be relevant, having access to applications and services that will make my career easier, my platform not only wider and accessible but also relevant to this global virtual community - ICT is unavoidable, not only to me but to whoever is serious with development from the grassroots to the top society leadership. I am realizing with technology revolutionizing our current society, especially the youth, I can’t afford to remain rigid to the industry, but rather join and shed light to many more so that together we cause even major positive societal impact, from local to global.
Imagine getting an opportunity to run a Tanzanian tech mentorship project that aims to close the gender gap in the technology sector by educating, inspiring and equipping high school and university young women with the skills and tools for innovation and social change, also providing resources for them to pursue opportunities in science – especially computing fields. This is what my team and I, fellows from the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, are set to do through our project ‘ SHE Codes for Change’. We aim to create an amazing learning experience for girls through tech skills learning, pairing them with ICT mentors and role models, showing them examples of what it means to work in tech world, this is regardless of where they will end up in their future careers.
What challenges have you experienced as a woman in the ICT industry?
Well, coming from the non tech background, or even from my fellow team mates who posses few years of experience in the industry at times delays potential partners and important stakeholders’ buy in, partners who could assist our efforts given their long experience and skills depth in the field. But this neither makes me nor my team lose hope, we understand that trailblazers and trendsetters everywhere don’t have it the easier but the results are always worthy and so we keep pushing forward, for we have seen it working in other countries and we have hope for our girls too.
In Tanzania the gender gap in STEM subjects is still very wide with females lagging far behind males. This is due to the fact that there was a huge push for men to get into science and technology than women. There are also not a lot of role models for women to look up to, and so girls are not as encouraged to get into the industry. Through our program we aim to begin as early as secondary schools when girls begin to define their career journey to university level, sparking their interest in science and tech industry. What better way to spark a desire for pursuing STEM subjects than through using the technology itself? Though encouraging student’s own tech projects, science fairs, mentoring opportunities, guest speakers from the tech world, student clubs and field trips, We believe our project will encourage Tanzanian girls/women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Being involved with quite a lot given my passion to bring about positive change in my society, most time I am excited, passionate, energetic and motivated to do what I do, but there are time I am found out of energy, or even burnt out. I believe the balance is found in taking care of our spirit, body and soul (mind, emotion and will) equally, we need to find a balance for our both inner and outer person; otherwise we will not go so far or achieve so much. Learning should never stop, eating healthy and exercising should be part of our daily lives.We should aim to work smarter and have fun during and after work doing what we love.
ICT is fun! It continues to revolutionize and simplify our way of living. One should think of it as less coding and more of changing the world while aiming to inspire, encourage and motivate society around you to leverage technology as a necessarily outlet for development. We should think of computers and all tech media related tools as platform to providing solutions to our surrounding communities, now who wouldn’t want to be part of solution bringers and change makers? Of course we all are, more so I believe women should even be found at the front line of such major agent of change.
“So, in my days – many years back – IT was always looked at as a man’s profession. Very few women were in the industry and I think we felt intimidated by the profession. In my graduating year there were about only 5 out of 50 students who were women” For many women, taking up a career in technology can be a challenge in itself. Laura Chite, Marketing and Communications Lead for Kenya at Microsoft shares her experience of being a woman in ICT, and why it’s a path young girls should consider.
The excitement of doing something different every day. Surprisingly, when I was a student in University I had no major interest in technology. However upon my graduation, I got a job with an agency that was managing marketing for Microsoft East Africa. So, I was thrown into this deep end situation where I had to work with an IT company. After a 3 month stint, Microsoft offered me the opportunity to work with them as a sales person initially and then marketing thereafter. I hardly knew anything about technology and would constantly harass the technical guys about my PC. Eventually, I realised if I don’t learn how to navigate my way around and troubleshoot my own issues, I will never perform at my job. Luckily, I was in this organisation that had an endless pool of learning resources, even for beginners like me. The journey became very exciting and I would schedule training for myself once a week. That is when I realised, technology is very exciting and dynamic. There was always something new to learn and the more I learnt the more exciting it got….then I became insatiable and here I am today!!!
2. What do you love most about being a woman in the ICT industry?
So, in my days – many years back – IT was always looked at as a man’s profession. Very few women were in the industry and I think we felt intimidated by the profession. In my graduating year there were about only 5 out of 50 students who were women. What we didn’t realise at that point, is that there’s all sorts of careers within the IT industry and one doesn’t necessarily have to be a technical expert. The most exciting thing about this profession is that, when people realise you are in the IT industry as a woman, they are very ready to challenge you, which I love very much. It gives me the opportunity to “spew” all my technical jargon and look like a genius – just kidding. Seriously though, being a woman in the IT industry – gives me the opportunity to express technology as I understand it and make it work for me. It is a challenging job every day and no two days are the same. I put myself in the shoes of a consumer and try to understand their needs and most importantly make them understand that without IT, you have no future. One other thing that I love about IT, is the fact that so many girls out there who are thinking of their future career can look up to me and be like – mmmh, that is an option for me – if she can do it, then I can…
3. What challenges have you experienced as a woman in the ICT industry?
So, there’s this whole jargon around IT – OS, WS, O365 etc- these are not regular English words. Acronyms and more acronyms – I wish someone would put together a “dummy’s guide to ICT language” J.
4. Why is it important to encourage more women to pursue STEM subjects
All sorts of opportunities that can be handled by women are opened up when women pursue STEM subjects. We always shy away from these because we don’t think we are good enough. We must learn to break the seal and operate out of our comfort zones. If a woman has interest in technology, engineering or numbers – then those of us in these industries must learn to mentor and encourage them and show them the possibilities that exist out there. There’s a lot of focus and investment in the “Girl Child” they should take advantage of this and make sure they make the investment worthwhile. There’s a saying that goes “ Educating a woman, is educating a village”. So, women must learn to take the bull by the horns and make their dreams come true and drop the traditional belief that we are homemakers and only good enough for the ARTS.
5. How can a woman achieve a good work / life balance? (Having time for your work and your hobbies)
Women by nature are very good at multitasking. We must continue to practice this even when we get into the cycle of work. We must make sure that we create time for ourselves and take advantage of flexi working schedules. We must learn how to do less to achieve more. You are the one who plans your schedule, have you thought about your “me” time? We must learn to push back in the corporate world – we find it hard to say NO! We are always swamped with work and can never say my plate is full!! If you are not passionate about what you do, you will find yourself putting in more time than you need to just to get things done – always follow your passion and learn how to incorporate your hobbies in your work schedule.
6. What advice do you have for women looking for a career in ICT?
There are so many career opportunities in the IT industry i.e. HR, Finance, Marketing, Technical, Sales etc. IT is not rocket science and has very many disciplines in it. Do your research, seek a mentor, try an internship during your holidays, subscribe to publications. Don’t feel like your hands are tied, be aggressive and go out there and make it happen for yourself. Just the way there are endless opportunities in other professions – IT is the new “Orange is the new Black” – you can do anything within this scope. Be creative and think out of the box and make IT work for you!
Posted by the Editorial Team
In the spirit of International Women's Day on 8 March, we are speaking to some of the inspirational women at Microsoft. Somtochukwu Ochuba is one of our MACH's (Microsoft Academy of College Hires) in Nigeria. After spending 2014 as a 4Afrika intern in Nigeria, she has now moved on to become a MACH armed with a passion for technology. What excites her most about the ICT industry is its dynamic nature, and she feels women have a unique set of skills they can offer in this space.
I really can't say a particular thing or event attracted me to the ICT industry. I guess I was lucky to be alive at a pivotal time in history, when the internet was fairly new and the desktop computer was gradually trickling into people's homes. The attraction grew from my love for new challenges, so I was naturally drawn to the unknown and the excitement of deciphering this new "myth". I got hooked - it was dynamic and there was always something new to learn or do. I can also see how it impacts the lives of people around me and that puts a smile on my face.
It's different, it's cool. That's the easy answer. But putting things in perspective, more women are getting interested and involved in the ICT industry and we must recognise the role that diversity has to play in the development and success of any generation. We all have a role to play in guaranteeing a better future for the next generation and I would be delighted if young girls see the women in ICT today as role models and are encouraged to be more interested and pursue a career in the technology industry.
Let's face facts, it's an industry that is predominantly dominated by men, for whatever reason. This goes some way in women's abilities being more deeply scrutinised than her male counterparts. So I think it takes much more for us to prove ourselves. Once you get past that, I have found that women excel, in some cases, above their male counterparts, because we have a unique set of skills that we bring to the table.
I believe people should be allowed to do whatever it is they truly love to do. This can only happen if society doesn't set boundaries of what a person can achieve, just because they are a certain sex. When I was choosing a career, I was told that it wasn't a field that favoured women-folk, that it wasn't "lady-like" and that being a nurse was more befitting of a woman. But I'm glad that I was able to stick with what I love to do, and it has paid off. It's important that more women pursue STEM subjects because we bring to the table a lot that's lacking today. I think we are the key to unlocking the full potential of the future for the next generation. We are the piece that's missing.
How can a woman achieve a good work/life balance?
With the new "work from anywhere" world we live in today, I like to think of it as just life. I don't yet have a family of my own so I may not be able to give a very well-informed opinion on this topic, but speaking in general terms, women are deemed to have more responsibilities in the home than men and that is why this new way of thinking favours us. It makes it easier to be fully involved with family, work and hobbies with a very healthy balance.
My advice would be "go for it!" It is really that simple. It's a fast growing industry, and it's getting even bigger and much more exciting every day. There's no limit to what you can achieve.
Posted by Editorial Team
CEO of Tunisian startup, CHIFCO, is passionate about doing work that impacts the community. With the help of a Microsoft 4Afrika grant, he has been able to do just that by developing technology that taps into the Internet of Things to give African users access to products and services that solve some of their daily problems. Through his experience, he has learned how important SMEs are to develop local economies and encourage global investment. He believes that aside from funding, it’s all about finding the right people with aligned values when it comes to building a successful business.
We spent some time with Amine getting to know more about CHIFCO and what makes his business brain tick.
Tell us a bit about CHIFCO?
I used to work as an engineer, but always dreamed of starting my own company that would impact the community. I had the idea for CHIFCO, as a company working in the ‘internet of things’ sector to connect everyday devices in order to create new services related to energy, security, and health care. I was particularly interested in energy and conducted market research in this sector to come up with the concept of the InnerJ Box. This technology captures the complex relationships among devices, premises, customer accounts, users, applications, networks and services that must be managed by any Smart Grid in order to save energy. After seeing an advert in a newspaper from Microsoft, awarding ten startups grant funding and training, I saw the opportunity to turn my idea and market research into a reality. By winning a Microsoft 4Afrika grant, CHIFCO was able to pilot its technology. We built it on Microsoft platforms including Azure and Windows 8 mobile. With additional mentorship and training from Microsoft, CHIFCO has grown its business to 20 employees. The company also helped us gain valuable exposure.
Why do you think this technology is important in Africa?
Our technology helps African users to have easy and affordable access to a different product that focuses on solving their daily problems. For example, our energy service works on reducing energy demand in a smarter way by cutting off some devices without shutting down the whole grid. Through providing 3G/4G connectivity, InnerJ Box connects people on the energy grid and allows them to receive requests to cut consumption for short periods during the year. When the demand is high, users receive an SMS asking them to shut down their air-conditioning. Once they do, the system detects that and offers them a number of points that can later be exchanged for tablets, phones, internet or electricity equal to their energy savings. In such systems all the players of the energy distribution channel are winners. This technology is a first in Africa and enables users to enjoy real-time energy monitoring and an energy bill reduction of up to 30%. This way we are engaging people to change their habits for a greener future. For more information, click here.
Where is innovation needed in Africa? All around the continent, there is a lack of equilibrium between demand and production. So, for innovators, the opportunities are endless.
What is Tunisia's tech startup ecosystem like?
It's getting better and better. There are a lot of programs like Microsoft 4Afrika focusing on incubation and seed funding, but it will take time to set up a real sustainable innovation ecosystem. By being able to launch my company in Tunisia, I was also able to increase the vote of confidence in the country’s future economic landscape. This is important in light of the political instability we have faced, and in helping to attracting investment into the country so that other startups can prosper. I have now signed deals with a number of high-profile customers, ranging from consumers to enterprises, and we are currently working with large telcos and utility companies in various continents. This includes three deals with Telcos in Europe, and I am currently focused on signing 1 000 customers in Tunisia in the next year, followed by South Africa and Kenya.
What are some of the challenges you face?
What makes a startup successful in your opinion?
A successful team. People who share the same vision and can spread their passion through the whole value chain and implement critical thinking into the ground, building their network in a sustainable way and spreading the right values internally and externally.
Guest blog post by Lindsay Pointu, e-Inclusion Foundation
We live in a fast-paced digital era where new technology comes into play every day. For any organisation to flourish, it is essential that it incorporates this technology into its workings to improve productivity and efficiency – and NGO’s are no exception.
NGO’s in Mauritius play an important role in the country, and multiple organisations across a broad range of sectors assist with crucial services and continuous development of the island nation. So it is imperative that these organisations have access to technology, as well as the relevant skills they need to operate effectively and have maximum impact in the work they do.
With this in mind, Microsoft’s MySkills4Afrika volunteer program, part of the 4Afrika Initiative, recently partnered with the e-Inclusion Foundation and the University of Mauritius to train NGO representatives to build their IT skills. MySkills4Afrika offers world-class skills for Africans and fosters global leadership and career development for volunteers to assist in the skills development of graduates and startups across all industries, schools, universities and the public sector. The E-Inclusion Foundation’s aim is to facilitate access to ICT tools and training for those at the margin of digital society, and it has distributed to date some 5,200 PC’s, 2,500 of which went to NGO’s. The 4Afrika Initiative is constantly looking for ways to invest in Africa’s promise and explore new avenues to accelerate growth across the continent. Helping NGO’s by providing training is an ideal way of working towards achieving both these goals.
MySkills4Afrika volunteer, Omar Rahmouni, conducted a workshop over two days, focusing on training the 58 participants from 23 different Mauritian NGO’S in the optimal use of Microsoft’s productivity tools. The training was conducted in one of the IT labs made available by the University of Mauritius – a telling illustration of University’s commitment to the community and of their willingness to partner with the Private Sector.
Naveesha Bhirugnath, who attended the workshop on behalf of the Global Rainbow Foundation – a charitable trust that supports people with disabilities – felt the training helped her to brush up her skills and discover new ways to work more effectively. “I have used Microsoft Office before, but now I understand how to use it more effectively, especially for my presentations. I also learned about Microsoft Publisher for the first time, which is really helpful for making brochures.”
Caritas Mauritius is a volunteer- and community-based organisation that aims to rehabilitate the poor and oppressed in the country, and has more than 20 projects on the go throughout the island. The NGO’s Secretary General, Patricia Adele Felicite, said the training gave her ideas about how to improve her organisation’s work. “Up until now we have mostly stuck to the basics, but I’ve learned how useful Excel can be for monitoring, analysing and evaluating our projects. It is also helpful to know how to maximise our use of PowerPoint and Outlook.”
Both Naveesha and Patricia are eager to share what they learned with their colleagues and implement their learnings in their organisations. They, along with the other participants, have also committed to completing the e-Inclusion Foundation’s Digital Learning Curriculum to further their IT skills development.
Lindsay Pointu of e-Inclusion commented that what was clear from this training workshop was that while many Mauritian NGO’s are making use of technology in their daily operations – a great step in the right direction – many are not optimising their tools. “In fact, the e-Inclusion Foundation has supplied PCs to 300 NGO’s, but the majority haven’t had any training, and certainly none targeted specifically at them.” A NGO Day – the second such event in this country – with the participation of all NGO’s is planned for later this year.
The participating NGO’s share the belief that being exposed to this type of training will help them better service their communities – which in turn has the potential to help the African continent grow. Lindsay concluded, “Being skilled in working with constantly developing technology will help these NGO’s stay ahead of the curve, not only locally, but globally too.”
With this in mind, it is imperative for NGO’s like those who participated in the workshop to seek training and upskill in order to be part of a forward-thinking African community.
By Dele Akinsade, Server and Tools Business Group Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa
It has been over ten years since Microsoft launched Windows Server 2003, and it’s been a decade of significant change. SMEs now have capabilities previously reserved for only large enterprises, thanks to cheaper hardware, smaller devices and cloud solutions. The way we work has also changed with the growth of mobile. And yet despite this, many companies are still using outdated technology.
With this in mind, Microsoft is completely ending our support for Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2 on the 14th of July 2015, following the end of mainstream support in July 2010. This is part of our support lifecycle in place to encourage our users to migrate to one of our latest solutions and take advantage of modern technology for compliance, hybrid cloud infrastructure and innovative applications.
So, what does the end of support for Windows Server 2003 mean?
After the 14th of July, Microsoft will no longer develop or release any updates, which can increase security risk, result in slower performance and cause potential down time of business applications. The costs of maintaining your legacy servers can also add up quickly, while your business will likely fail to meet most industry-wide compliance standards and regulations, which increases the risk for your daily business transactions.
There’s no need to panic, though – because with change comes opportunity. Many companies who have migrated are already reaping the benefits of the new operating system. “With Windows Server 2012 R2, we can ensure the integrity and modernity of our IT infrstructure; it protects our operations and our customers’ data, and it also gives our infrastructure the ability to evolve, thus ensuring our competitiveness and making sure we benefit fully from the advantages of the cloud”, says Misa Ratovaoarison, IT Manager at Filatex, a Malagasy group specialised in real estate.
Apart from ensuring that your servers remain protected with continued security updates and patches, migrating from Windows Server 2003 could signal the beginning of a new stage for your business, giving you new capabilities no matter how big or small your operations are. A cloud platform like Azure, for example, provides you with a range of benefits, including increased backup capacity, enhanced disaster recovery capabilities, consistent compliance with regulatory demands and access to the most modern applications. In addition, it reduces server sprawl and boosts employee productivity by allowing them to work from wherever they are. All these features can help your business move faster, reduce costs and ultimately be more productive.
Compliance with key industry regulations and standards is a key reason many of customers have taken their migration from Windows Server 2003 seriously. Yan Ng, executive director at Intercontinental Trust Limited (ITL), a leading Management Company operating in the global business sector in Mauritius, says “It is also important to highlight that this implementation is compliant with our ISAE 3402 Type II certification”.
The path to migration
Of course, as you begin the migration process, you need to ask yourself what solution makes the most sense for your business. You have a few months before Windows Server 2003 support ends, so take a moment and use one of our tools to discover what applications and software you have running on the outdated technology. Then create a transition plan to make your migration process as smooth as possible, and choose where you would like to move your current workloads and applications – whether to a new server like Windows Server 2012 (R2) or to a cloud platform like Microsoft Azure. Finally, there are several vendors that offer do-it-yourself tools to assist with the migration, such as Dell ChangeBASE, Citrix AppDNA, AppZero, Refresh IT, BlueStripe and Microsoft Services JumpStart for Windows Server 2003.
We are pleased to say that our partners support our move away from Windows Server 2003, understanding the importance of making use of the latest technology. Hasmukh Chudasama, Practice Lead – End User Computing at Dimension Data East Africa, comments: “By helping our mutual customers make the transition, Dimension Data is opening the doors for them to protect their environments, use virtualisation to reduce server sprawl, take advantage of hybrid and public cloud options for their application and reduce IT burden with Office 365 and other services.”
Thanks to new technology, it’s an exciting time for SMEs. That’s because many are finding that increased access to new technology—such as cloud and mobile solutions—can provide access to services that were never within their reach before, helping them grow and be more productive.
So if you have been using Windows Server 2003 and haven’t yet begun migration planning, now is the time. We have a range of options to suit your needs, including the new Windows Server, Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and other hosting partners. For advice and assistance, we also have tools and guidance available to help you during the migration process, and our partners are there to assist you along the way.
by Djam Bakhshandegi, Corporate Social Investment Lead Microsoft West, East,Central Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
Exposing African girls to the possibilities within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers and driving a greater female workforce to these industries is an essential element for developing economies across the continent.
With this in mind, Microsoft YouthSpark, in partnership with I Choose Life Africa, Craft Silicon Foundation and Techno Brain Limited, held the fourth ICT Day for girls in Kenya last month on 7 March, attracting 218 high school girls from 11 schools.
The event, known as DigiGirlz, was made up of a series of mentorship sessions led by female Microsoft employees as part of our Employee Volunteer Program (EVP) and targeted girls who are enrolled in computer studies and are high achievers at their schools. This year, the mentors at DigiGirlz included Tonia Kariuki, Marketing Director for Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative; Wambui Mbeca, Country Director Techno Brain Kenya; Elssy Makena, Microsoft Student Partner and STEM student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology (JKUAT); and Dr Susan Musyoka, Machakos County Women Representative (Member of Parliament, Kenya National Assembly). The girls had the opportunity to engage with these women while learning about careers in technology, gaining career planning advice and enjoying hands-on computer and technology training.
Mariam Abdullani, General Manager for East Africa Microsoft Mobile Device Sales, says programs like DigiGirlz help to reduce the wide gender imbalance that exists in these trades. “It is our hope as the women of Microsoft that through this event girls will be motivated to not only take up careers in the ICT sector in a futuristic approach, but also use the skills gained from the hands-on training and mentorship session to create solutions that can resolve the issues in their immediate environments using technology.”
Carol Ngugi, Co-ordinator for the Youth Employability and Entrepreneurship Portal at Microsoft, believes that there has been a great shift in mindset in the girls attending DigiGirlz. No longer are STEM subjects seen as reserved for boys. She adds, “This year’s DigiGirlz was special because it was the first time it was held outside of Nairobi – at Misyani Girls in Machakos County – which is exciting because this gives girls even in remote areas the opportunity to explore STEM careers and make an impact on their society.”
Although the workshops were primarily aimed at students, there was also an opportunity for teachers to be part of the event, in a session on using technology in teaching. This workshop gave the teachers learning tools and encouraged them to engage in technology programs throughout the school year, so that the girls who attended DigiGirlz, along with their peers, can continue to be exposed to technology in the classroom. The girls also exchanged contact details with their mentors to engage with them in the future.
Our partners put the impact of mentorship programs like DigiGirlz best. Mike Mutungi, CEO of I Choose Life – Africa, says: “This partnership brings together mentorship models that will inspire the girls to remain in school to pursue their ambitions, directly impacting the student’s learning, enrolment, attendance and performance.”
Priya Budhabhatti, CEO of Craft Silicon Foundation, adds: “Firstly education is important for all, as it puts everyone on an equal footing regardless of your background and gives you a competitive edge. Secondly, as women, we need to have financial stability and acquire some form of financial means as it is prudent for us to be self-sufficient. Lastly, I encourage women to pursue fields which were long ago male dominated, because as women we must believe we are gifted, capable and have contributions to make in society.”
The DigiGirlz program has grown from strength to strength over the years, and its impact on the lives of these young women is undeniable. The girls who attended this year’s workshops commented, “The session was excellent. It has helped and assisted us in improving our skills in science, technology and other life skills.” They added, “We have learnt a lot about how to create apps and gained general knowledge that we are going to use to develop ICT solutions for our communities.”
This highlights the real impact DigiGirlz can have on the girls who attend, as well as their communities. We call on teachers, leaders, captains of industry and other ambitious young women to get involved in the program and grow STEM capabilities among African women.
Read more about Microsoft’s DigiGirlz programs here.
In the spirit of International Women’s Day earlier this month, we are putting the spotlight on some of our inspiring women in tech at Microsoft. Global Sales Strategy Lead, Mobile and Windows Ads In Apps, Sharon Harris, is one of our leading ladies. She shares her passion for technology that can add value to our lives, and encourages women to bring their unique perspective to the ICT industry and act as role models for other women.
What attracted you to the ICT industry? I was attracted to the ICT industry not because I am a geek or have a background in technology. What attracted me was the way in which technology can have an impact on people’s lives in very simple and meaningful ways. I was first introduced to the tech sector while working at an investment firm dealing in tech stocks. I quickly learned about the various new start-ups and technologies coming to market. I became fascinated with a company that was launching a satellite radio service. Not because it would beam commercial free music to your car, but because I love music and now would have access to over 100 channels of music in every genre possible. Technology was going to bring me something that I couldn’t do as easily without it and add value to my life through something I loved – music. My relationship with technology has always been about making it invisible and placing the needs, wants and dreams of people first. My 12-year passion for mobile has stemmed from seeing how easy and effective communication, knowledge sharing and access to information can be made through a mobile device. Tasks once reserved for technology ‘geeks’ now enable us to live our lives in new, often more productive and definitely fun ways.
What do you love most about being a woman in the ICT industry? Women bring a unique perspective to technology that keeps it focused on the value to the user rather than on the bits and bots. Our sense of design and ease of use have been invaluable in bringing certain technologies to market. Women often illuminate new uses for technology that are sometimes overlooked. I love participating in an industry that will have such an impact on the world for good.
What challenges have you experienced as a woman in the ICT industry? There are not as many women in ICT as I would like. Often it can be challenging to find role models. For a woman of colour it is even more difficult to find role models and mentors. Often women are viewed as inferior or less capable of running technology projects. I have used those doubters to motivate me and challenge me to do things I didn’t think I could do. As a woman in technology, I have made it my personal goal to mentor other women and provide support in the journey. The only way there will be more women in technology is if there are more women in technology.
Why is it important to encourage more women to pursue STEM subjects? The next global economy will be driven by technology. Having a solid foundation in STEM will be critical in securing opportunities and having financial independence. Women are increasingly the bread-winners or one of two very vital incomes in the household. Careers in technology will open new doors and present the most opportunities in the future as we move to an Internet of Things world.
How can a woman achieve a good work/life balance? I don’t believe there is a balance, honestly. I think we make trade-offs and need to prioritise what is most important at the time. There will be times when work is the priority and times when family, hobbies and ourselves are the priority. Having a strong support system is key, as is making the choices that allow you the most flexibility. It is never perfect and we have to make tough decisions at times. The scales will always tip back and forth and we have to manage this carefully when it happens and make sure our managers, co-workers and colleagues are aware of what our needs may be at the time. Microsoft is an amazing company because we are afforded a great level of work flexibility whether through working remotely or shifting our hours to accommodate our family needs or personal passions.
What advice do you have for women looking for a career in ICT? Find your passion in ICT whether it is programming, marketing, sales or something else. Learn the industry and be prepared for change. Most importantly seek out role models and mentors who can help you along the way. Find supporters who can provide insight into the roles or positions that interest you. Be diligent and take a risk even if you don’t feel like you have 100% of the qualifications. No experience is ever wasted. Learning is a life long journey.
Posted by Warren H. A. La Fleur, Regional Manager, Education Industry for Microsoft West, East, Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands
Across the African continent, growing evidence suggests that learning by using technology is essential to deliver good academic results and to supply a tech savvy work force pool, according to The eLearning Africa Report 2014. Up to date, educational institutions in 18 different African countries have introduced new ways of ensuring learners and students become more ICT-literate to guarantee these job seekers have equal access to tomorrow’s sough-after careers world-wide – an imperative in today’s market, where worldwide youth unemployment is continuing to rise.
With that said, and against a backdrop of ever increasing availability of broadband in Africa, eligible students and teachers in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Botswana, Ethiopia, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Angola, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda, Senegal and Zimbabwe can now get Office 356 ProPlus (formerly known as Student Advantage) which lets students and teachers install free Office when their academic institution are signed up. This brings an affordable productivity solution to students to collaborate online and to have access to email and 1 Terabyte of cloud storage, today.
Recent studies found that today’s education system is not adequately preparing students for the jobs of the future. In fact, IDC research commissioned by Microsoft found that this skills gap could be closed by focusing on communications, knowledge integration and presentation skills; combined with a solid competence in the Microsoft Office tools that facilitate 21st century work. And in a tight job market, having the right skills means a better chance at securing that dream job.
Moreover, academic institutions on the continent are dealing with shrinking budgets against growing requirements. We listened to those challenges. So when schools and tertiary institutions allow Microsoft to host collaboration and communication services, schools directly benefit from the latest world-class and secure technology while reducing costs.
Students on the other hand have quick and easy access to Microsoft’s familiar and secure collaboration tools from anywhere, and on any device by signing up using their school-specific email address. By familiarising themselves with these tools while studying puts them ahead of the digital pack when it’s time to enter the tech-heavy workplace. It is here where they are often required to know their way around tools such as Outlook, Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and Lync and are expected to have good presentation skills and collaborate effectively with colleagues.
According to the IDC data, the only software package called out within the top 20 skills in demand across all occupations is Microsoft Office. High-growth, high-salary occupations of the future consistently require a high level of competence in communication, knowledge integration and presentation skills. And many 21st century employers specifically require Microsoft Office or Microsoft Office-related skills.
With tools like Lync, they can seamlessly collaborate with students in classrooms around the world. And with OneNote, students can keep class notes, photos, and important information in one, easy-to-find location that’s available on all of their devices (PCs, Macs, Windows Phone, iPhones, iPads, Android Phones, Android Tablets) and now even wearables. Students can type directly into their notebooks, capture and convert photos of whiteboards and handouts, even record meetings or voice memos, and they’re all available from any device with a simple search. Using their Office 365 ID also means they can access the same Office content while on the go with the mobile apps on Windows Phone, iPhones and Android Phones.
In order to provide a historically familiar technology tool to students at no additional cost, an education institution needs to have an Office 365 ProPlus license in place for its staff and faculty. Institutions in these 18 African countries wishing to participate are encouraged to sign up for an academic agreement via a local Microsoft partner.
Through the YouthSpark initiative, we have to date provided education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for more than 227 million young people in more than 100 countries around the world since 2012, with plans to reach 300 million across the three year initiative.
To check your eligibility and learn more about Office 365 ProPlus go to office.com/getoffice365. For more information on the benefits of Office in education visit Microsoft in Education. Students can also explore additional deals and resources Microsoft has to offer specifically for them on the Microsoft Student Page.
By Dele Akinsade, Server and Tools Business Group Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa
Those of you who move in IT circles might have heard of Microsoft Azure. But it’s not just for the IT savvy – in fact, Azure is the perfect cloud-based platform for any business owner, small or large.
If your business makes use of Mission Critical solutions and Datacenter redundancy you will know how much data you need to store. Instead of having to use a bulky server box in a fancy server room, Azure allows you to store your many gigabytes of data in a secure, yet easily accessible online environment in the cloud. It also has a built-in BI solution to organise your data and conduct market research – so you know exactly where to find the files you need, while simultaneously gaining important business insights.
Once you have these insights, it’s simple to put them to use because Azure allows you to develop applications on any platform, in any code, including mobile applications. In modern business, applications can be a great way to improve efficiency, or may even be at the heart of your business model – for example as a means for your customers to pay online. In Uganda, access. mobile has used this functionality to develop an app called Clinic Communicator, which stores patient data and sends automatic updates to their phones, reminding them when to take medication or come back for a check-up. Another African app called Agrilife an agricultural solution designed to provide a credit and training facility for over 135k farmers across Africa using SMS services.
An online presence is also a must for modern business, as complicated as this can be to set up. Azure removes the complication, offering website development and hosting, and taking care of considerations like which operating system to use, as well as network, storage and scalability – so you can focus on your business.
Of course, the main benefit of anything that sits on the cloud is that it cuts costs because you don’t need to buy expensive servers that you have to have installed and serviced regularly. You can also pay the licensing fee for Azure monthly, and you only pay for what you need as you need it, making it affordable even if you are a small business owner.
Azure is also 100% safe – an important consideration no matter the size of your business. Not only do you have peace of mind that your data won’t be affected by fire or theft, but because we focus on the latest safety methods at Microsoft, you can also be sure that it will remain firmly out of the reach of hackers.
And although hackers won’t know how to get to your data, you always will because it’s based on Windows, which you are already familiar with and which offers a well-established support structure.
Azure is a great tool to help businesses store and protect their data at an affordable rate, allowing for scalability and continuing innovation. If you haven’t signed up yet, what’s stopping you?
Posted by the Editorial Team
Microsoft had many reasons to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, thanks to the strong women occupying some of the lead roles in the company. One of those women, Mariam Abdullahi – the Mobile Devices Lead in East Africa – explains her early interest in ICT and says that in a male-dominated industry women need to remember they are equals who have just as much to offer business.
I developed an interest in technology when I started my A levels. At this time we had to go to computer labs and use machines with large floppy discs and MS DOS. I was very intrigued so I decided to choose a course that was related to computers.
I started off studying Computer Science and Business at Brunel University and then got my first job as a teacher for a year, teaching Mathematics, English and basic computer skills. After my teaching stint, I ventured into IT infrastructure and then project management. I have since had an opportunity to work in four IT-related positions in the United Kingdom and Dubai for almost 15 years before moving back to Africa, where I got the opportunity to work for Microsoft.
I have two main elements that generally fascinate me in this industry, regardless of being a woman. Firstly, it is very humbling that through technological developments, disability is not inability. People with disabilities worldwide can now rely on technology to aid them with their day-to-day tasks. Secondly, there is never a dull moment in this field. Things in this industry transition faster than others and that means I have to be remain abreast always.
I have had some interesting learning curves along the way – some were not because am a woman but an employee who has deliverables to accomplish. The solution for me was to tackle them to the best of my ability and use the lessons to grow.
At the onset, there were many cases where I would be the only woman in the conference room, which was caused some anxiety and challenged my self-confidence. However, the reality is that I was in a very hungry mode wanting to learn something new, which helped me forget that I am a woman and instead see myself as a colleague who needs to make an impact on the business.
Another challenge we face in the industry is that sometimes we don’t see the possibilities. We tend to make decisions based on the “here and now” needs and forget to look at the future.
Why is it important to encourage more women to pursue STEM subjects? What advice do you have for women looking for a career in ICT?
I am strong believer in possibilities and also adding value to everything I come across. I grew up where I was conditioned that everything is possible. There are immeasurable opportunities for women in the industry as we naturally tend to look at things differently from men.
How can a woman achieve a good work/life balance?
There are no two ways about it: planning and prioritising tasks is the only way. There are times when work will demand more input; other times social/family will come first. The most important thing is to learn what takes priority at what time.
As we celebrate women who are making it happen on International Women’s Day on 8 March, we are profiling some of Microsoft’s leading ladies. Corporate Social Investment Lead, Djam Bakhshandegi, shares her pride in seeing women leaders leaning in and supporting one another and encourages young women to pursue STEM subjects to realise their potential and lead change in the 21st century.
The ICT industry is an exciting, fast-paced and highly innovative sector to be in. It keeps me young, challenged and inspired by what we are creating and where we are going as human beings.
What do you love most about being a woman in the ICT industry?
I love the support, encouragement and connections with other women in the industry. I especially love seeing the cadre of women leaders we have rising in rank and leaning in, setting examples for others and supporting and mentoring them to be the best they can be.
What challenges have you experienced as a woman in the ICT industry?
Balancing the “hard” and “soft” has been the most challenging, and continues to be so. Being supportive, a team enabler and leading with a systems approach and emotional intelligence need to find their balance with driving results aggressively and being a winner.
Why is it important to encourage more women to pursue STEM subjects?
It is vital that more women pursue STEM subjects. We need women scientists, innovators, mathematicians and so much more. As technology and science open our horizons to possibilities, we need to be the first ones on the threshold of this change. We are, after all, the mothers of nations. Our potential is immense, our responsibilities undeniable.
The beauty of working in the ICT industry is that we are often able to have flexible hours. Such an adaptable environment enables women as well as men to better achieve work/life balance. With our phones becoming work devices, everything is possible for both genders. I believe that when we reach a sharing of genders’ roles and responsibilities, we will all have a good work-life balance.
What advice do you have for women looking for a career in ICT?
This is the place to be in the 21st century. Prepare yourself, learn the language, lean in and be the best you can be. And don’t forget to support other women in the journey to self-realisation.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, which took place on 8 March, we wanted to profile one of Microsoft’s leading ladies – Tonia Kariuki, the Marketing Director for our 4Afrika Initiative. Tonia loves being a woman in the ICT industry because of its energy and innovative nature. She is a strong advocate for encouraging more women to pursue STEM subjects because of their increasing presence in the digital marketplace and the rich contribution she believes they can make to the industry.
What attracted you to the ICT industry?
Actually, I landed in the IT industry quite by accident. I am a lawyer by training and after my graduation, I served my pupillage at one of the leading law firms in Nairobi, Kenya. One weekend in November 1996, an old friend called me to inform me that he had been posted to Nairobi to start up a regional office for East Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands for Microsoft Corporation. We agreed to meet for a drink a day later, he offered me a job, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What do you love most about being a woman in the ICT industry?
For a long time, the sciences were the purview of men. Women were resigned to the more “creative” career choices. However, having been in the industry for the past 18 years, I’ve found that IT is the perfect balance between art, innovation, creativity and science. I love the energy, the fact that the only constant is change and because by nature the industry is innovative, you always know that the best is yet to come – it sounds a lot like fashion, right? That’s why this is an industry that was made for women – it speaks to our ability to adapt to change. I also know that this is not the same in every industry so I’m grateful every day that my choices led me to tech.
What challenges have you experienced as a woman in the ICT industry?
To be honest, no challenges that I would say are unique to the tech sector. Very early into his appointment, our CEO, Satya Nadella said, “Our industry does not respect history, it only respects innovation.” In this context, the traditional challenges women face are less obvious, innovation is what counts. There are a lot of amazing women setting trends in technology across the world from Sheryl Sandberg to our very own Juliana Rotich here in Kenya.
Why is it important to encourage more women to pursue STEM subjects?
Simple – inclusion. In tech, we struggle with the stereotype of a male computer scientist, we don’t see the equivalent of a female Bill Gates or a female Steve Jobs. While women are making huge strides in other disciplines like medicine and law, we continue to lag behind in tech. Inclusion allows organisations to draw from the best talent regardless of personal demographics, which in turn leads to a richer contribution to the industry. This balance can only be achieved if more women take up STEM careers. Women have surpassed men in internet usage, they account for close to 60% of online spending and they use their mobiles twice as frequently as men do. This demonstrates the increasing influence women are playing in the marketplace today. Any tech company that wants to be successful will look at these statistics and know that increased gender inclusion in the workplace is not an option anymore, it’s a necessity.
How can a woman achieve a good work/life balance?
I believe that the primary lever to achieving a healthy work/life balance is personal choice. There is no set formula. YOU have got to find YOUR right balance that allows YOU to prioritise that which makes YOU happy.
What advice do you have for women looking for a career in ICT?
Go for it. Start small and build your career. If you have a great idea that doesn’t sound tech-related, think of how technology can enhance it by making it better, faster or more efficient. I don’t know if there’s any other industry that’s as committed to making other industries better than technology. There’s something for everyone.
Guest post by Agatha Gikunda, East Africa’s Head of the Software Service Group, Intel Corporation
As we celebrate women’s day today, I remember almost two decades ago, when I moved from Nairobi to Vancouver to get my Bachelor's degree in Engineering. I was one of only a handful of women in the computer engineering program. At my first job as an engineer at Nokia, I remember a time when there were only 3 women on the second floor of where more than 100 people worked.
Those numbers have changed for the better, and we have celebrated the promotion of high-profile women to chief-executive positions at tech companies, such as Hewlett-Packard's Meg Whitman, Yahoo's Marissa Mayer, Intel’s Renée James and locally Microsoft’s Mariam Abdullahi, But overall, the number of women remains less than stellar in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and careers.
As more universities locally focus on getting more students to study STEM disciplines to prepare them for future jobs, we need to pay special attention to getting girls into those fields so we can have a shot at correcting gender imbalance in technology careers.
In some markets such as Asia, academic excellence is not only expected but perceived as cool. Many girls enjoy a strong start in STEM education in schools and universities, but are slowed down later in life by societal pressures to prioritize family over professional advancement.
Back home, in classrooms across Kenya and indeed most African countries, that drop-off occurs much sooner and has a domino effect -- quite simply, fewer girls choose to study in disciplines where they are the minority.
Strong female role models, who can help young women discover their inner-geek cool, are important at this age. Those of us who have walked this path should mentor girls to show them the careers possible in the world of science and technology. Strong support by technology companies through scholarships and internships is also critical to building and sustaining momentum.
Not all tech industry employees are engineers and programmers. The companies employ large numbers of people who manage projects, market services and design products. Many of these jobs do not require a computer science or an engineering degree. But the proportion of women and minorities in these types of jobs is not much better than the proportion in technical positions.
Getting girls to choose a STEM education is only half the problem; keeping them in the field is the other half. A technology career can be an isolating experience for a young woman. Strong female mentors and peer-group networks are hard to come by.
Though women role models in technology fields are important, male mentors are also key. Men occupy the majority of jobs in Computer Science and Engineering careers, including most leadership positions. They can have a powerful impact in helping girls and women succeed.
On my own journey to senior executive ranks within Nokia and later Intel, I have had to find internal champions who advocated for my growth in a way that accommodated my personal needs.
A good starting point is to learn to ask for what you need personally in order to do a great job professionally. Not only does this bring down barriers for other women in the workplace but, more importantly, it helps build a knowledge base of successful ways to address these life scenarios.
As we look to change the conversation, and numbers, of women in technology, it is important to remember that long before employers ever interview women, you and I see them -- in our living rooms, classrooms, science-fair competitions, scholarship applications, workplace interns.
It's the girl who is a gadget fan but has never dreamed that she could build one herself. It's the college student who wants to declare a major in engineering but hesitates over being the only woman in a class.
By showing them what's possible, we can all work to change the equation, one girl at a time.
“No country can get ahead if it leaves half of its people behind,” said the US Secretary of State, John Kerry. He was talking about the importance of gender equality, which is something Microsoft takes very seriously, especially in Africa where the gender gap can be wide. It is also an important consideration considering that researchers have found that nations which elect women to their highest office see a GDP increase of up to 6.9% greater than when a male leader is elected. So in the spirit of International Women’s Day on 8 March, with the theme, ‘Make It Happen’, we wanted to highlight the importance empowering women in the tech space and some of the ways in which we are working to make this happen in Africa.
We have some catching up to do
Current trends show that women’s participation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art and design and mathematics (STEAM) is lagging behind their male counterparts – women only make up 15% of the ICT workforce in Kenya and 18% in South Africa. This is a concern because it is these fields that are driving progress and economic growth. It is equally important that women participate in the fields of art and design, added to the original STEM fields, because these areas are essential for innovation, which is another imperative for growth.
Microsoft is an ardent supporter of women in the STEAM fields, and as a result we are involved in several partnerships and initiatives to give them access to these fields and upskill them to succeed.
Empowering young women at all stages of their careers
As part of our YouthSpark initiative, we launched Aspire Women – a three-year program with the aim of empowering 100 000 young women in the Middle East and Africa through youth leadership, economic empowerment and civic engagement. This includes learning how to code, mentorship programs, drives to employ women from disadvantaged and underserved communities, fostering young women startups and developing volunteer programs, women policy makers and NGO engagement.
Then there are several projects we are working on to further encourage young African female students to chase a career in the technology sector. The 2015 Girls STEAM Camp is a public-private partnership between the US State Department’s LIONS@AFRICA initiative, Microsoft, Intel, Girl Up and the Rwandan Girls Initiative to expand educational opportunities to young Rwandan girls. We also run our own DigiGirlz campaign globally, and have had several camps in Africa. Since its launch in 2000, the programme has engaged with 19 000 female students in the form of workshops and one-day events, where industry professionals interact with participants and discuss innovation in technology and opportunities in the ICT sector.
Mentorship is key
Young women graduates also need guidance and skills development to succeed in the ICT space. In Kenya, 150 female graduates were selected for the EmployMentor programme. We partnered with the African Centre for Women in Information and Communications Technology (ACWICT) in an ongoing project to create a program with one-on-one Skype mentoring sessions and on-the-field training, with our own employees acting as mentors.
Beyond the student realm, it is also important to help female entrepreneurs in the ICT space to grow their businesses. In conjunction with the Association of Women Entrepreneurs (AFEM) in Morocco and INWI, our Cloud Startup Academy is doing just that. The idea of the Academy is to help young women launch innovative startups based on the latest cloud technology, along with strengthening their skills in communication, technology, entrepreneurship and marketing.
The proof is in the success stories
While these programs are ongoing, it is encouraging to see some of the success stories that have come out of initiatives like these already. For example, through a Microsoft YouthSpark programme called Ajegunle.org at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), a social enterprise that connects Nigerian youth with ICT-enabled opportunities, Nigerian-born Esther Olatunde learned to be proficient and productive using computers and has become a full-time software developer. Our Aspire Women Women program has also seen several success stories. Neema, a young Egyptian women, went from being a housewife to an entrepreneur with the help of financial training giving her the confidence to expand her small family business. Also in Egypt, Tahey Nabil got career guidance from an initiative called ‘Masr Ta3mal’ and ended up fulfilling a dream to dub cartoon movies.
We believe that young women like Esther have a huge opportunity to fill the growing demand for ICT and business skills across Africa. It is imperative for these young women to acquire the necessary knowledge and skill sets to take advantage of these career opportunities, not only to participate in the global economy and create a more balanced gender distribution in the ICT space, but also because it empowers them to leverage technology to improve their daily lives and uplift their communities. So we urge African and global government, businesses and academic institutions to get involved in making it happen for our young women.
Carbon neutrality is important to Microsoft, not only in terms of our direct carbon emissions, but also when it comes to protecting biodiversity, promoting health and wellbeing and securing food and jobs. Deforestation is estimated to account for approximately 18 percent of global carbon emissions, so we have teamed up with the CarbonNeutral Company to provide carbon finance for, among others, the Meru and Nyanyuki Community Reforestation Project in Kenya. The country has gone from having a forest cover of more than 10 percent at the turn of the 20th century, to only two percent due to deforestation, commercial agriculture, charcoal burning, forest cultivation and population growth. The aim of this project is to work with local communities to create more productive and sustainable models of economic development that reduce negative impacts on local forests and biodiversity, while simultaneously strengthening the community’s economy and wellbeing.
Read the whole story here.
(Image by Lynn Johnson, Ripple Effects)
By Louis Otieno, Legal & Compliance Director at Microsoft 4Afrika
African innovation has been around for centuries, even millennia. A method to harness fire was invented in South Africa 1.4 million years ago. In Ethiopia, underground water pipes were created in 1460 BC. In more recent times Africa has also been home to the advent of the modern Kreepy Krauly, an automatic pool cleaner, and the CAT scan.
The massive growth of the internet and proliferation of new devices, has provided an incredible platform for innovators to unleash their ideas, and African innovation is flourishing like never before.
But, unfortunately, it also allows for ideas to be easily stolen, unless they are protected by intellectual property (IP). Many entrepreneurs are at risk of having their ideas taken by larger companies and some don’t know how to monetise and protect them. That’s why Microsoft 4Afrika launched the first Intellectual Property Portal, the 4Afrika IP Hub, in Kenya, to give innovators the resources and connections to protect their ideas, and take them to market. In November, Microsoft partnered with Thomson Reuters to host an IP protection event to promote innovation across East African markets.
Below, five successful innovators explain how protecting their IP is fundamental to their own growth, and to the economic development of their country’s too.
Tayeb Sbihi, Morocco. CEO and founder of B2N Consulting and co-founder of iTaxi.ma, a mobile application that recently won a Microsoft 4Afrika Innovation Grant award.
“Intellectual property is your competitive advantage.”
“Instead of concentrating all your efforts in creating a prototype or a product, you need to take time to look around you and the different IP that already exists. Then try to have your work protected so that nobody can steal or use it.”
“IP can be either the product you design, the way you design it or any component that makes the product.”
Kate Kiguru, Kenya. Founder of Ukall and a 4Afrika Innovation Grant winner.
“A lot of people feel IP will protect them from direct competition and misrepresentation. I look at it differently; if an idea or a product has someone closely trying to replicate it, then it’s evidence it has value and there is a need for it. I look at the competitors or people trying to replicate the idea as followers.”
“IP is a great option if you feel the need to protect an idea or product but don’t let it distract you too much from your key focus, and later you find out someone has already executed your idea.”
Abiola Olaniran, Nigeria. Founder and CEO of Gamsole, a Windows game development company and 4Afrika innovation grant winner
“By protecting your ideas through copyright and patents, you ensure that you will be maximizing your benefits of originality. Registering your ideas for a patent or copyright protects you and your creative work.”
“Protect your work, it’s all you have. Before releasing even a good line of code online, make sure it’s copyrighted. This way, you can lay claim to it later. Computer software may result in more than one piece of property. For example, for a software product, the source code is a property, as can be the preparatory design material for it, its general organization and its user interface. Bearing this in mind can help you effectively protect your creation.”
“As a software developer, when you write a computer program, you are creating a kind of property. By default, this property will be owned by somebody. If you’re employed by a company, your good lines of codes are owned by your employer.”
Owiti Gordon Ochieng, Microsoft DPE intern and Developer of the Month
“IP protection sparks motivation towards creative thinking enabling more individuals to come up with great ideas.”
Kaakpema Yelpaala, Uganda. Founder of access.mobile and 4Afrika innovation grant winner
“There are some areas of IP protection that play an important role in access.mobile’s work. We rely on trade secrets, trademarks and copyright laws as well as WIPO’s global framework to protect key aspects of our IP and brand.”
If you are an innovator, remember that protecting your ideas doesn’t only serve you, but your country and the continent at large. Let’s build Africa’s great new inventions together.
If you live in one of the 18 African countries with access to Office 365 – and you’ve given the service a try – you would already have seen how useful it is for improving productivity. But are you using it to its full potential?
I’ve put together five top tips that I think are critical if you want to get the most out of the service.
1. Sync Outlook across devices
Your Office 365 subscription helps you keep all your devices in sync. It allows you to install your Office 2013 desktop applications on up to five different devices, meaning you can run the service on your phone, tablet and laptop. By using ActiveSync, you can access your same customised email accounts across all of your devices. No matter which device you switch to or used last, you will find your Outlook mailbox and other folders looking exactly as you left them.
2. Declutter your inbox
Have you ever tried to focus on an important piece of work, but unimportant emails keep popping into your inbox, vying for your attention?
Office 365 helps you prioritise your work with its Clutter feature, which works as your personal assistant on Outlook. The Clutter feature studies your unique actions and habits and prioritises your emails for you, so that you can focus on what needs your immediate attention and deal with the rest later. You can train the system to better sort messages correctly by using Clutter actions to mark mail items or move them to the Clutter folder. The Clutter folder is easy to access with a single click, but your inbox remains uncluttered, improving your productivity.
3. Access documents on the Web
Your Office 365 subscription gives you access to Office Web Apps, so that you can work on all your Office files like Word, Excel and PowerPoint online. You can create a working space wherever you are by using the Web Apps together with OneDrive, which is especially useful to keep productive in those otherwise wasted moments between meetings or even on a plane. All your up-to-date data is stored in the Cloud and all changes are synchronised automatically across all your devices each time you click ‘Save’. If you have been working offline, your changes are synced with the files stored in the Cloud as soon as you are back online.
4. Share and collaborate online
Producing the best work often comes from collaborating effectively, but when your team mates are scattered around town or even a busy office, this can be quite a challenge. SharePoint Online is an Office 365 tool that allows you to share files, documents, spreadsheets, presentations and folders, and collaborate on these online in real time, in a secure environment. You can also manage access levels to allow permission to ‘Read Only’ or to edit, depending on who you are working with. Working together in this way is no different to editing a document as you normally would, except you can see when someone else opens the document, as well as which paragraph they are working on and their comments.
5. Connect and communicate wherever you are
Office 365 includes mobile apps for Microsoft’s communication platform, Lync. That means you can chat with multiple contacts at the same time, by text, voice or video, and you can do so no matter what device you’re using or where you are. No more excuses for missing that important meeting. You can also interact during your Lync meeting by sharing your desktop, programs, files and presentations, and use the interactive whiteboard for a virtual brainstorm. Usefully, you can also record your Lync meetings and share meeting notes directly to OneDrive so that you can keep track of exactly what happened.
These five simple hacks have made me so much more productive and efficient, while allowing me to be flexible when it comes to where when and where I work. Office365 is a new way of thinking because it is based in the Cloud, but for African users it’s a way to get ahead of the pack. Subscribe for Office365 to take your first step forward.
For more useful tips and tricks, click here or visit the Microsoft Africa Facebook Page or the Office Facebook Page.
As the technology market in African continues to thrive, it makes sense to have devices that are tailored to local markets. Mayokun Onawola, a developer from Nigerian based technology firm, Brian Integrated Systems Limited, is part of a dynamic, entrepreneurial team that has assembled the first ever African tablet, the Brian Tab iw10, in Nigeria.
Mayokun spent a few minutes sharing more detail on this new device.
Why did you decide to create a tablet specifically for Africans and how have you tailored it to the African market?
Our core objective was to design a tablet PC, tailor-made for the African market, but also to provide an attractive alternative to popular global brands at an affordable price point. Fundamentally, the tablet’s purpose is to help bridge the information technology gap that Nigeria and Africa at large has with the rest of the world.
What are the advantages of making the tablet Microsoft compatible?
Firstly, Microsoft technology is widely understood and used and secondly, Microsoft’s software is highly compatible with the tablet device. The device’s design provides the user with an improved Microsoft experience. Users are able to customise their Office 365 packages to suit their needs for the tablet. Because the new Office 365 allows users to choose and pay only for the programs they need, they can tailor it to their lifestyle, offering flexibility. The 10.4-inch tablet is supported with Windows 8.1 with WiFi capabilities, Bluetooth, 2GB RAM and 32GB internal memory.
How much does the tablet retail for and how does this compare to other tablets?
The tablet costs N65,000 which is significantly lower than the average cost for a tablet on the market. As the tablet is produced locally, the product importing levy and overall retail costs are reduced, which is beneficial to African consumers.
Where can users find the tablet?
The tablet is only available in Nigeria at the moment, but we are looking to launch in South Africa, Ghana and other African markets in the near future. We are working with engineers to design the tablet’s applications and content, which will be tailored for different African regions.
How has the Nigerian audience received the tablet?
The response has been positive and very supportive. A lot of people feel proud to own a tablet manufactured in Africa and in turn are supporting the growth of Africa’s tablet market.
In your opinion, how will the production of this tablet affect the African sales market?
This is a device that matches the standards of basically every device of its kind and at a competitive price and therefore, the African sales market will be positively affected. Consumer have in their hands a high-quality Microsoft device at a good price, which can only boost sales.
“My dream was to help other youth find their path,” says Ashraf Abou Zeid, Masr Ta3mal (Masr Works) trainer in Aswan Youth Center. And this is exactly what he has done. Ashraf, like hundreds of youth, was recruited by the Ministry of Youth, trained by Microsoft Egypt on the Career Coaching curricula, and became Masr Ta3mal Career trainer. Ashraf has trained tens of youth in Aswan Youth Center, in Upper Egypt.
In Upper Egypt, there is a mismatch between the present level of education and the required job skills within the employment market. After getting their bachelor degrees, many of the youth hope to work in a governmental institution or to start their own micro or small businesses. The Masr Ta3mal initiative is helping youth to do this, by offering employability services with the government youth centers across Egypt. These centers provide the youth with employment opportunities in the Ministry of Youth and help others to find their career path and start their business.
The Masr Ta3mal initiative is a result of a partnership between Microsoft Egypt, the Ministry of Youth and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Egypt. The project aims to empower Egyptian youth and help them realize opportunities through capacity building, job placement and entrepreneurship. By equipping the Ministry of Youth centers with an online employability portal, the initiative is transforming the centers to provide a full employability eco-system from career advising, training, job placement and entrepreneurship. It helps these centers to foster the development of entrepreneurial skills and to promote creativity, personal initiative and independent thinking among young people. In doing so, they are bridging the gap between the educational system and the job market needs in Egypt.
“I can see Nubian crafts are sold internationally and I know that I can do it,” said Neama Ibrahim, an Egyptian young woman from Aswan who is working at Aswan Local Information Institution. She has always dreamt of starting her own business that would market Nubian handmade accessories all over Egypt, but did not have the means and tools to help achieve her dream. Luckily, Neama was introduced to Masr Ta3mal center in Aswan and got her first Career Coaching session with Abou Zeid where she was equipped with the tools to start her own business and the resources needed to attain her dream.
Abou Zeid introduced “Get online” training, part of the joint partnership between Microsoft Egypt, the Ministry of Youth and UNDP, to Neama where she learnt valuable computer skills needed to run a business. She also received the “Build your Business” online curricula that provide the entrepreneurial basics.
Neama received an entrepreneurial scholarship and has also competed with a hundred teams in an entrepreneurial contest – where she won 3rd place. She has now finished her complete business plan and she is working on launching her online marketing portal to sell Nubian Handmade accessories.
These are just two stories of many more. To date, Masr Ta3mal has resulted in the creation of 27 Centers, 120 career advisors, 2547 advising sessions and 13 job fairs.