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Celebrating Two Remarkable Career Women From Eldoret In Honor of International Women’s Day

History is written by the survivors and the overcomers. That’s how it’s been since time immemorial. The resilient ones, the overcomers, the ones who come out on top, are the ones who live to tell the tales.They become so celebrated that their opinions and experiences are used to guide others.

Today as the world celebrates International Women’s Day, we would like to celebrate two incredible women from Eldoret who continue to overcome and come out on top. Two amazing women who are slowly but surely earning the right to go down in history.  Allow me to introduce to you, Harriet and Magdaline Chepkemoi.

Magdaline Chepkemoi, Founder and Executive Director Of EldoHub

 

Stephanie: Please introduce yourself and what you do in regards to your career.

I am a computer scientist with a passion to use technology, entrepreneurship, and research to solve challenges in Africa, especially in rural areas. Additionally, I have seven years’ experience serving in different technical capacities as a software engineer, network management system engineer, data scientist, and educator at different universities. I also love building innovation and business ecosystems using ICT for development (ICT4D).

I am the founder and executive director of EldoHub, a tech-innovation hub that aims to create opportunities for youth in technology through digital skills classes, STEM education, entrepreneurship lessons and access to mentorship opportunities.

I also co-founded North Rift Women in STEM  to inspire, encourage and support women and girls in rural Kenya to pursue STEM careers and education. I hold a master’s degree in mobile telecommunications and innovation from Strathmore University.

In 2018 I was recognized among 20 exceptional “faces of science” in Kenya, as one of the people using science and technology to bring change in Kenya. I was chosen a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow and won a Business Innovation Challenge for youth entrepreneurs by the USADF. In 2019, I was selected for the prestigious US Tech Women program and was recognized by the 2019 Anita Borg Pass It On Award. I also spoke at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Orlando Florida. 

 

 

Stephanie: How did you get to where you are right now? 

I will share how I got into the tech field. Growing up in a rural village in the western region of Kenya, I never imagined that one day I will become a software engineer.  In high school, I got interested in sciences and after graduating, I told my family that I intended to study Computer Science. Due to a lack of information, my family opposed my choice.

I was given only two options that they considered to be “women-friendly”: a degree course in Education or Nursing. I tried explaining to them my passion for STEM and my desire to study Computer Science, but they couldn’t listen to any of my pleas. This was a big challenge for me since I was young and expected to obey my elders.

However, I decided to go after my dream against their wish and later graduated with first-class honors in Computer Science. Working in Nairobi I attended forums on technology and entrepreneurship. 

I was thrilled by the opportunity youths in the city had to learn, network and be mentored in the innovation hubs; an opportunity fellow youths back in my village did not have. This challenged me to launch EldoHub to create opportunities and a conducive environment for youths outside Nairobi to excel in STEM.

 

Stephanie: Did luck play any role in your success because some people are just lucky or privileged?… Not that there’s anything wrong with it. I believe you should use whatever advantage you have to succeed. 

 

I was lucky to be raised in a family of entrepreneurs. My parents were not well educated and they had no options other than to start and run businesses. I saw them struggle to build their businesses and we never lacked anything.

I even helped them to run their businesses and they mentored me into what I have grown to become. This inspired me to always find a solution to people’s problems and choosing computer science enabled me to achieve my dreams.  

Stephanie:  What do you love about your job? 

I am very passionate about supporting youth and women to identify challenges in their communities and to think of coming up with solutions to those challenges. I lead EldoHub a technology innovation hub that does just that and that is what I love about it. Everything about the world we currently live in is being shaped by technology. Artificial intelligence is the driving force in the fourth industrial revolution. 

Our vision is to create an education technology platform targeting youth between the age of 18 to 35 years, with an aim of preparing them to benefit from the opportunities the emerging ICT industry offers and close the skills gap in Africa’s job market. I also want to grow to be an influential technology entrepreneur in Africa who is solving the most challenging problems like youth unemployment. 

 

Stephanie: What’s the most challenging thing you deal with in your field of work? 

 

Introducing a new technology product into the market sometimes can be challenging but you have to keep iterating until you get a product-market fit. You see, you have to develop human-centered designs

 

Stephanie: What lessons have you learned since you started up to where you are now? 

You cannot achieve anything on your own, build your team. Have the right network and get mentors. Choosing people who share the same vision, belief in the idea and with good working relationships is a number one thing one should work on. Resilience and consistency regardless of the challenges is key to succeeding in what you do. Lastly, don’t be mediocre and always try to keep educating yourself.

 

Stephanie: You’ve achieved what others dream of. How does it feel to be at the top of your game or successful?

I don’t really consider myself as having achieved it yet. I have made remarkable progress and I feel I am headed in the right direction. It’s a fulfilling journey. This makes me proud of myself and I want to use my success story to motivate others especially young people that there is no hard work without a reward.

 

Stephanie: How do you balance work and life?

I am really trying hard to achieve that balance. My mentor Cathy Coyte advises me to take a break sometimes when I reach that breaking point. I try as much as possible to plan my time, to set work hours – and stick to them. Family time is what I have learned not to compromise.

Stephanie: If you are asked to advise young women who look up to you and wanna get to where you are, what would you say?

 

There is a lot of emphasis on women now. But being a woman is not enough, in technology you must be an expert in what you do. I advise women and girls to challenge and push themselves every day and not to be afraid to take risks.

 

You need communication skills, problem-solving, creative thinking, innovation, mentors, collaboration and an entrepreneurial mindset.

Harriet Njoki, Owner Of Cleopatra’s Cold Fire, One Of The Best Coffee Shop and Ice Cream Parlor In Eldoret

Stephanie: Please introduce yourself and what you are in regards to your career.

I am Harriett Njoki, a married mother of two and doing business in Eldoret in the hospitality industry. I run a leading coffee shop and ice cream parlor located in Eldoret’s Central Business district, on the fourth floor of Metro Towers on Oginga Odinga Street. I have been doing this for the last 10 years.

Along the way I have also been involved in the fashion industry, selling ladies’ and men’s’ wear sourced mainly from neighboring Uganda

Stephanie: How did you get to where you are right now? 

It has really been through grit and hard work, with a healthy dose of God’s grace and support from family and friends. Business is tough, any business for that matter. But the hospitality industry, and specifically the food business, is challenging in unique ways. You have to be very careful how you source, prepare and present food and drinks. 

You have to build a team of well trained and dedicated staff who understand not just the market trends, but also the client’s individual needs and preferences, without compromising quality and the profitability of the business.

The first few years were very hard getting off the ground since the coffee shop was among the first businesses to open in the building. The current business environment in the country is unfriendly and is a very delicate balancing act between costs and revenue/profit. There are especially too many licenses and permits required to run a food joint.

Stephanie: Did luck play any role in your success because some people are just lucky or privileged?… Not that there’s anything wrong with it. I believe you should use whatever advantage you have to succeed…

I would say my luck on this journey has been the support I have got from family, friends, and the customers who believe in our specialties and keep coming. I wouldn’t also leave out some of the staff who have helped me establish the business to be the brand that it is today. 

Stephanie:  What do you love about your job? 

There is no limit to creativity when it comes to food and drinks recipes. Cleopatra’s Cold fire is known for very unique presentations of aromatic coffees, food and ice cream presentations. Seeing customers get amazed by our recipes and clear their plates and bowls gives me great satisfaction

Stephanie: What’s the most challenging thing you deal within your field of work? 

As I have mentioned above, the food industry is full of challenges. It is difficult to quantify input and output, and in turn difficult to compute the cost of production and product pricing. There are too many licenses, permits, and levies to pay. And a slight mistake with product preparation can chase away clients

Stephanie: What lessons have you learned since you started up to where you are now? 

Persistence, patience, creativity, and faith. 

Stephanie: You’ve achieved what others dream of. How does it feel to be at the top of your game or successful?

It sure feels good to have nurtured something to become a recognized brand in the town and beyond. I wouldn’t say I am at the top yet, but I am grateful for the far I have come 

Stephanie: How do you balance work and life?

It is all about planning one’s time, and having well trained and trusted staff who can ensure product and/or service delivery is not compromised in your absence when you have to run off to attend to family and other matters.

Stephanie: If you are asked to advise young women who look up to you and wanna get to where you are, what would you say?

Believe in God and yourself, have a good support system, work hard and don’t give up on a venture until all the options have been thoroughly examined and interrogated.

 

 

Stephanie Maiyo

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