Meet Asha Abdulrashid Ali
Android Developer, Open Institute, codeHive 2019 graduate
When Asha graduated from High School in 2017, she looked forward to going to University. But she knew her mother wouldn’t be able to afford the tuition fee for her education. She wasn’t quite sure at the time what career she wanted to explore, so she immersed herself in what she loved most at the time; baking. When she wasn’t baking she would go to a cyber café, which also had a gaming facility, to break the weekly monotony.
While at the cybercafe Asha noticed the owner would get various jobs to design posters and develop logos as he made money from other services. That caught Asha’s eye. The cyber café owner took her under his wing and soon she was designing logos and taking on graphic design.
A few months later, in 2018, her cousin, Leila an AkiraChix alumnus, gave her a call and informed her she would be running a few errands in her neighbourhood. This was a pleasant surprise.
The two caught up and in the process, Asha learnt about AkiraChix and her cousin shared a lot of what she loved in the codeHive program and the 2019 in-take application open in a week. When Asha heard it was a free program she was initially sceptical.
“Will they accept me? I had very little knowledge of the tech scene.”Asha recalls wondering. That didn’t stop her, she researched extensively on AkiraChix, the codeHive program as well as who funds the organization.
“There was a lady who had graduated three years earlier who shared her experience of what she learnt in a year on Twitter now working at the United Nations. When I saw she could do that much in a year and the main goal of AkiraChix was to balance the gender gap in the tech scene I was intrigued and applied.” Asha recalls.
But even after a successful interview, the first day of class in February 2019 wasn’t the easiest. Living away from her mother and siblings for months on end was difficult, but having made friends did make it slightly easier. Asha was determined to succeed.
And that’s what Asha did. During the school year, Asha was sponsored by AkiraChix to attend the annual Droidcon; a two-day global conference which celebrates and explores engineering of android applications with numerous software developers in attendance.
Asha was amazed by what she was able to do, during the conference she tackled each of the specific challenges and won prizes in all categories.
“It was a wonderful moment, I coded my way and won a challenge. I was so proud of myself. After winning those challenges, I realised I had a passion, I practised and showcased my skills in android development.”
And these are skills she has honed further at Open Institute where she interned at the time. On graduation in 2019, Asha was offered a full-time position at Open Institute, a non-profit organisation which focuses on sustainable development.
“I was proud of my growth in android to stay here and learn more. It is a fast-growing field. I am now entering into iOS which makes it crazy. In Kenya, not many people use iPhone which also gives me a head start as a developer with skills to work on the apple software.”
Asha doesn’t see the need for anyone to go to a public university, especially for those who struggle to get a tertiary education. She believes AkiraChix offers much more than the average university.
“Aside from my growth in the tech scene I learnt how to showcase my skills, learnt how to be confident in myself, learn how to be someone and sit at the table and step up. It also makes me want to give back and show others a better schooling option.”
Asha is eager to pay it forward and is actively involved in technology communities locally and abroad raising the next generation of software developers. She is Kenya’s team leader for Android Remote Developers job (Ardejob); a global online community of android developers who share work and growth opportunities. She organised her first webinar on May 23, 2020.
“It feels cool to be part of a team, giving back to a community. It is an intriguing process for me.”
Asha is also part of another community, HACK Club KE. This is a high school outreach program introducing students to software programming. Asha volunteered to pay it forward at her alma mater, St Teresa’s Girls High School in Nairobi, a public school in a rough neighbourhood. Due to the novel COVID-19 pandemic, all activities have been suspended. But once schools resume, the weekly one-hour software programming programs will resume.
Asha is ready to take on the world, “I want to be known as an android and IOS developer and I would love to have a community, run by me, of ladies interest in tech.” she concludes.
You can tune in to Asha’s new podcast; Diaries of Nerdy Asha. Where she shares her struggles and experiences coping during the COVID-19 pandemic.