Meet Tracy Baraza
User Experience Designer, Inuua Tujenge, codeHive 2019 graduate
Growing up in Nairobi’s low-income neighbourhoods of Kaloleni and Makongeni, Tracy knew her only way out was through hard work. Her father passed away when she was young and her mother did the best she could raising money through casual labour to care for her five children.
Tracy and her siblings were in and out of school for most of their formative school years as Mum sought bursaries to ensure they completed their primary and high school education. Tracy studied her hardest in school despite these odds. In 2017, when she graduated from High School with a ‘C’ grade she was torn.
“I wanted to pass, I was reading so hard and I was in and out of school. For me, that was a fail. I knew that was it,” Tracy recalls.
In 2018, Tracy stayed at home, mostly unsure of what to do next, she was intimidated to look for work because she knew one needed certificates to get a good job. To her, she didn’t qualify at all. She tried selling t-shirts but was unsuccessful.
Her elder sister Lavet Adhiambo had graduated from the AkiraChix codeHive program a year earlier and was pursuing her career in product design. But Lavet’s life didn’t immediately inspire Tracy, she was still confused about what to do or where to go.
AkiraChix, to Tracy, was a small non-governmental organization (NGO) which she felt couldn’t give her the certification other universities or colleges could qualify for a decent job.
Lavet had successfully applied for the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) program and was on her way to see her mentor for guidance as she prepared for her one-year away in Ghana. Lavet asked Tracy to join her.
The trip to the mentor’s office took them from the bleak reality of Makongeni to the leafy suburbs of Nairobi.
“You see these houses? Who do you think they were built for?” Lavet asked her sister while they were walking headed to the mentor’s home.
“It’s for people with money, people born with money,” Tracy responded.
“Women can work just as hard and make money. Marriage isn’t the way to wealth for women. You need to change your mindset.” Lavet pointed out to her sister.
Tracy’s worldview began to shift from that visit to Lavet’s mentor. Tracy revisited AkiraChix once again and made her application. She was ecstatic in December 2018, when she received the news she qualified for the codeHive Class of 2019.
“I was excited to have the opportunity and put my best foot forward. For me, AkiraChix was a dream come true.”
But it wasn’t easy at the beginning, it was Tracy’s first time to live away from home. She missed her family and she was also unsure and intimidated by her new environment.
“The other girls came from different backgrounds from me and it felt like two different worlds,” Tracy recalls.
Tracy judged them and herself based on this; it was the imposter syndrome, constantly feeling she didn’t fit in, making friends was difficult for her.
The Navigating Your Journey class provided new insights on life, money and relationships. One particular lesson on emotional intelligence and understanding people and their differences eased Tracy’s anxieties and apprehensions.
“I learnt that people grew up in different homes and have different experiences and I didn’t have to judge people based on that. That class taught me what leadership meant, why we should speak up and let our voices be heard as women. I also learnt what being around a diverse community is and why it is a big thing. I see things differently; I now know I can do it. We are totally different people from the ones who walked in through the doors at the beginning of 2019.” Tracy exudes.
Tracy wasn’t just impacted by what she learnt in that class. Jeff Muthondu, her Frontend Web Design instructor’s words of wisdom are the foundation of her work ethic and drive as a user experience designer in the workplace.
“He told us everything we do is about the time you put in, which will distinguish you from others. He used to encourage us at the beginning of every lesson to put in the time and dedication.”
Working at a startup and as the only female employee, means Tracy takes on a lot of new tasks which she is unfamiliar with. She credits her new bosses patience with her and keenness to let her explore and learn as she applies wisdom from her trainers. She is now teaching herself digital marketing and animation as she continues to pursue user experience design.
Tracy believes exposure is essential, “don’t limit your world to your village or neighbourhood, try and explore new things, new places, find new friends and attend as many events as possible. Don’t give up and think only specific things are for specific people.”