Bisola Alabi is the CEO of Heels and Tech. Her company, Heels & Tech provides an experiential E-learning platform with real-time instructors, where African women learn technical enterprise skills with a 92% increase in career advancement, job retention, and employability skills.
In this interview, Bisola speaks on working in a male-dominated world, and how she has been able to train more women, many of whom now work in multinational, across the globe
You operate in a male-dominated world. And over the years, you’ve carved a niche for yourself by training women to own their own in the industry. How did found Heels and Tech?
After I left the corporate scene, I took some time to raise my kids and tend to my family. In the background, I noticed a lot of women wanted to transition into the tech space but found it difficult. There were so myths and ceilings to debunk. The majority of the myths back then was that Tech was majorly coding. I worked in tech all my life and never touched a line of code. There were so many non-coding Tech jobs. Also, as a new mum of toddlers myself, I knew the challenges women faced. So, I thought, why not create a safe space for women where they can acquire technical skills so they could earn more? That was how I founded Heels & Tech. Also, since technology is now the new oil, for those who wish to transition to tech with the hope of getting a tech job in a developed country, we also train them.
Tell us about some of the achievements of the training strategy, which your company adopted so far?
I am an advocate of closing the gender gap between women and technology, and I can say we are responsible for the successful transition of over 100 women into the Tech industry, and are currently training many more.
A major achievement of our company is that our mentees are now in high demand all over the world. They’ve gained employment in multinationals, such as Amazon USA, RBC Canada, Accenture, TD Bank, Auvenir, UBA, and more.
We have a community of over 30, 000 combined across different channels from 22 countries. Acquiring tech skills has helped our women remain marketable, and relevant and increased their earnings by $8.07m, and counting.
Many youths are leaving the country to seek greener pastures in other climates. What would be your advice to job seekers out there, in terms of how to prepare themselves to get relevant jobs in a tech industry?
My advice would be first to get mentors they can look up to. Secondly, acquire as many skills, whether on YouTube, online, or in boot camps, such as ours. And then, finally decide the path you want to follow. But truth be told, as a young job seeker, it’s absolutely normal to be confused as a starter, but as time goes on, you will figure out the best place for you.
What would you attribute the male-dominance of the Tech industry to?
I will simply say it’s because of lack of awareness. Many people believe Tech is new, which is not true. Tech has been around for the longest time, but back in the day, a woman would rather become a baker and a homemaker, rather than decide to acquire technical skills. All these are not their fault, as the foundation was not properly laid. Think of high schools where the boys are asked to work on technical skills while the girls cooked in the labs. All these experiences shape the girl-child and if care is not careful, they begin to make their career decisions there and there. In Africa, it is even worse as the girlchild is meant to be in the kitchen.
Lack of mentorship is also a huge problem, if you don’t see people who look like you in a particular space, you won’t aspire to become like them.
Technophobia is also another problem. Women believe technology is difficult, which is not true. Women have done harder things like pushing a baby out and taking care of toddlers. So, what can be harder than that?
In a case where employers shut out women, particularly in leadership roles, how can they gain more recognition?
They should speak up and learn to build strategic alliances such as mentors and sponsors in their organisation.
What would be your advice for companies in bridging this gap?
The representation of women in the IT field must be prioritised and actively sought after. And I’m sure it won’t just happen. One strategy is to firmly establish the idea that the goal for all new enterprises and projects is equality of opportunity for men and women. Another is to monitor and steadily raise the representation of women in leadership roles.
Tech companies in Nigeria and around Africa should strive towards gender equality. This is crucial in closing the alarming gender gap in technology. Women should also be receptive to opportunities to pick up these tech skills and join communities of other women working in or considering careers in technology.
Can you highlight some mistakes women in tech must avoid to help them thrive in the industry?
One is not being part of a Tech community. There’s this quote we love at Heels and Tech, “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much”. Working in a male-dominated industry could mean that you might find it difficult to fit in. Getting support from like-minded women who are thriving in the tech world might boost your morale.
There are a lot of benefits you get to derive from joining a female tech community. You could get advice and support from female experts, or you could also find out how to negotiate your salary and balance work with your family and personal life.
Also, you can get access to exclusive career opportunities you usually wouldn’t get access to, if you’re looking for other career roles in tech The list is endless.
Another mistake is being disorganised. When you’re disorganised you displease your employer and the entire team. You even make it look like you don’t have an iota of knowledge of what you’re doing.
Not knowing your strength is also another mistake.
Your strengths may propel you into a state of flow, in which challenge and fascination intersect and you lose sight of time. Not knowing what your strengths are can led you to unnecessarily compare yourself with others and look down on your abilities. A way out is speaking with trusted relatives, friends, and colleagues about their perceptions of your strengths.
Also, not negotiating salary. Many times, women make the mistake of not negotiating their salaries probably because they’ve searched for a job too long, they’re nonchalant about it, or they’re desperate for job roles. This is why one ought to know one’s worth as a techie, understand your position in the market and go for roles that offer what your needs and deserve.
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