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.
What attracted you to the ICT industry?
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.
What do you love most about being a woman in the ICT industry?
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.
What challenges have you experienced as a woman in the ICT 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.
Why is it important to encourage more women to pursue STEM subjects?
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.
What advice do you have for women looking for a career in ICT?
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.