Rakiya

How did your career in tech unleash itself?
I have always been interested in STEM, in fact, that was all I knew growing up, from primary school, right to my postgraduate degree. My first proper exposure to technology was in 2015 when I had to make a website for my fashion and lifestyle blog on WordPress. I had no idea what I was doing but I remember the sheer excitement when I edited my first CSS file to change the colours and style of my website. Since then, I have created more personal and professional websites. During my MSc at Imperial College Business School, I worked on some interesting technology projects including an interactive Sex Ed online platform to teach teenage boys about making healthy sexual decisions and an app that empowers local businesses to maximise the power of Instagram for customer insight and interaction.

Fast forward a year later, I got an opportunity to work as an Operations Intern at a Fintech (Financial Technology) startup which was part of the Barclays Techstars Accelerator Programme. This is where I got a more hands-on experience with technology and entrepreneurship. I grew a passion for promoting financial inclusion and have been doing this for 3 years now. It has been an insightful journey. I have pushed myself, led exciting tech projects, tried new things and learnt from others.

Last year I decided to explore something new, programming. I like to come up with innovative ideas and find ways to make those ideas work using technology so what better way to do that than through coding. It also helped me to make better product and process improvements at work and in my day to day life. I took the Code First: Girls Front End Development course where I learnt more about HTML, CSS, Bootstrap and APIs. This further sparked my interest in going further so I took the Python course a few months after. I am still learning and I hope to continue improving.

What are your business and lifestyle rituals to stay ahead?
I take advantage of learning opportunities that come my way especially if it is free. I stay curious and have recently been trying to read more. A lot of what I know also comes from interacting with others both on a professional and personal level. I try not to limit myself and always try something challenging to improve myself. And most important of all, I always try to put God first.

What books/podcasts/network/resources do you recommend for someone trying to achieve better results within their career or entrepreneurial journey?
Business Wars is an interesting podcast I listen to once in a while. As for books, I recommend Hooked by Nir Eyal and Becoming by Michelle Obama. Ted Talks are also good. I would also advice joining a community that offers career support and mentorship. LinkedIn is also a great platform to connect with these communities and network with individuals. Attend events and webinars centred around your area of interest.

What do you believe are the most effective ways to engage other ethnicities and genders to embrace diversity?
For companies, create a culture where people’s beliefs and notions are welcomed. No one should feel ashamed to speak freely about issues around ethnicity or gender. Hire more diverse employees especially as a tech company because these employees provide insights that can make your product/service more inclusive.

What actions/decisions did you take that had the biggest impact on your career?
Having a strong will and discipline have been important for me especially as a woman. Sometimes I feel underqualified in certain areas but I just go for it anyway, and most times, it works out well and if it doesn’t, I learn from it.

What advice do you want to give to black women entrepreneurs or professionals who to achieve more within the tech sector?
1. What do you think black women in tech should start doing?
Elevate yourself, adapt to the trends of the industry. If you believe you have a skills gap, take that course to improve yourself. You want to get just as much of an opportunity as anyone else in the industry or your field.

2. What do you think black women in tech should keep doing?
Help and inspire others. Continue being the best at what you do, you never know who you encourage along the way.

3. What do you think black women in tech should stop doing?
Do not let Imposter Syndrome (feelings of self-doubt, fear of failure, or self-sabotage) prevent you from going for what you want and deserve.

If you could advise your younger self, what would you say?
Do not underestimate what you can do. Just go for it.

 

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