Choices is a platform where guests share their journey in their chosen (STEM) field, with emphasis on the 'sacrifices' and choices they made, who and what inspired them, and what they are using or used their knowledge in their chosen field for. We spoke with Martha Navele, who shared her journey in the tech space with us.
Please tell us about yourself and your inspiration for being part of the Tech field.
My full name is Martha Vivian Ziem Navele, and I am 22 years of age. I'm doing my National Service as a Dietitian at Ho Municipal Hospital. I also double as a Product Design intern for KudiGo Inc, a mobile retail company.
Honestly, I think I've always liked using computers from childhood, but I never really thought of having a career related to it. It started when I attended my first Django Girls event, organized by Python Ghana. I fell in love with the community, how open and tolerant they are, and their acceptance of diversity. I was so excited when I was able to view my first Hello World in a browser. That blew my mind and made me more curious.
Is this how you started coding or you had some prior knowledge?
Yeah, I wrote my first code at the Django Girls event.
I'm plenty curious as to how things went from that to Product Design intern?
Well, like I said, I became curious and started exploring the internet. Although I liked the idea of coding, I felt I needed something that aligned more with my personality, but still in the tech field.
I found out about User Experience design after taking a career personality quiz. I read more on the subject and made up my mind that, that is what I've been looking for all this while.
Product design and User Experience design are technically the same profession. Just that some companies call it one and not the other.
Do you have any other interests apart from your current profession and programming?
Well, yes. I'm also interested in 3d animation. I love traveling and volunteering.
Amazing, any peculiar volunteering experiences to share with us?
Apart from volunteering in a few nutrition screening programs during university, I also volunteered during the first PyCon Africa program in 2018, the Django Girls event organized at the University of Health and Allied Sciences, the PyLadies Ho coding boot camp and the Africa’s Young Leaders and Entrepreneurs’’ Summit (Success Africa), organized by LEC Group.
What exactly is STEM? And what are some of the professions in this field?
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Some professional fields include: Medical scientists, User Experience designers, Software developers, Electrical Engineers, Actuaries, Architects, etc.
Is it necessarily synonymous to the Technological field?
What is the difference?
I would say STEM is broader and technological fields fall under it.
What exactly makes this field special on its own? Why should someone choose to pursue a profession in this field?
Technology has become a very essential part of our lives. You can't escape it even if you wanted to. The job market for STEM and especially technological fields keeps increasing on a daily basis. People and companies in Ghana especially have come to realize the importance of tech in enhancing their profits or income. Therefore they need professionals who have working knowledge of technology and how to use their skills to generate revenue. Women especially would have a great advantage if they choose to pursue STEM fields. Because not only is the pay much higher than other jobs, but there is also general demand for gender diversity.
With the way STEM is infiltrating almost every sector now, are there any predictions you can make with respect to its development in the near future?
Well, I think we're currently experiencing the future right now, thanks to Covid-19. There is more demand for paperless system. To reduce physical contact, people are embracing the exclusive use of mobile money services. There's on-going adoption of online education and some TV stations dedication to education. People who have tech-related skills in this period are more fortunate because they are able to work directly from home and may not be impacted by the recent surge in unemployment.
In a way this is going to persist even after covid19, it does sound like a pretty convenient field to be in now.
It definitely is. After Covid-19, Ghana will definitely be a different country.
It sounds all rosy but what are some of the basic requirements to enter the STEM field?
Yes, so the sooner we start upgrading our skill set, the better it will be for us. There are tons of online resources for studying. You just have to make up your mind. Apart from the courses we are exposed to during our basic and secondary school education years, like physics, mathematics, science, ICT, etc which are hard skills, you also need soft skills in order to survive in STEM. Some of these include analytical/critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving ability, effective communication, curiosity, ability to collaborate with others in a team, among others. All these skills can easily be learnt if one is motivated, courtesy of the internet.
Is a background in programming a must?
No, there are numerous careers available to you, depending on your interests, and what you're willing to learn.
What about qualifications?
Some STEM careers do require degrees, especially if you're dealing directly with human lives but in general, most companies prefer skills to degrees. If you're capable of doing a great job and prove that you have adequate knowledge of your chosen field, they are willing to overlook certificates and degrees.
It is quite common now to see top professionals in various companies who are self-taught.
What are some of the limitations you faced in the STEM field?
In terms of the profession, I don't think I've faced any limitations so far apart from having to learn a new skill mostly on my own. But on a personal level, I had issues with family drama.
All hell broke loose when I announced I wanted to switch careers. I had a choice to move back home to continue as a Dietitian full-time or stay in the Volta region so I can have time to pursue other interests.
I chose to stay here and I was more or less cut off from the family, but that only made me more determined to prove them I can make it.
What is your advice for all the ladies thinking about joining you in the STEM field?
Sit yourself down and think about your interests. Imagine how you want your dream career to be. What is it that even if not paid, you'd be happy to do for the rest of your life? Now look for a career pathway that aligns with your values, interests and that particular dream you envision.
Start your journey to acquire the relevant knowledge for that chosen career. Surround yourself with people who will push you to go farther than you can imagine. Find yourself a role model or mentor in your field of interest.
Practice, practice, practice your new skills. Show your work to the world and accept constructive criticism. Work every day to be better than you were yesterday.
Lastly, don't let anyone decide for you what career you should pursue or any other personal life choice for that matter. Stay motivated and determined to achieve your dream and you shall surely be among the top people one day.
Questions from audience
How did you make the transition from being a dietitian to UX designer? Was it in school and how did you balance that with school during the transition?
It started in my final semester at university. I had to do some serious time management to be able to learn. So I drew myself a personal timetable which I tried as much as possible to follow.
Who are your biggest inspirations in terms of what you are doing now?
Well, for tech, I have Abigail Mesrenyame Dogbe and Ivy Barley. I love their energy, and ambitious personalities. For UX design, I have Don Norman, that's a man though! He's one of the biggest names in UX design and I really enjoy his ideologies.
We hope you enjoyed our interview with as much as we did. Follow Martha’s journey on twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.Post a comment below and tell us your experiences in your STEM journey.
This session was moderated by, Irene Dzifa Avotri.