Exploring Her Way to Success
Meet Wendy Orengo
Software Engineer, codeHive Class of 2020
When Wendy, 20, completed her primary school education in 2015 in a private school in Nairobi, she was super excited to go to a boarding high school across the country. But to her shock and dismay, her mother couldn’t afford her high school education at her school of choice.
Her mother had closed a lucrative business in entertainment due to a change in her religious stance and opted to run a grocery store. The family income took a dip.
“It was the worst feeling ever. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t live my dreams because my parents didn’t have money,” Wendy recalls.
It took some convincing from her aunt for Wendy to understand the need to adapt to the new situation and attend a different high school within Nairobi.
On completion of high school in 2018, Wendy toyed with the idea of a career as a doctor, but the thought of seeing blood repulsed her. Then she considered journalism but was told that it wasn’t a very lucrative career. She was soon drawn to graphic design. Her elder sister was a graphic designer and from time to time Wendy would visit her at work. She was taken by the fact that her sister had a career after just one year of learning design and she was really good at her work.
But since there was no money for college tuition, Wendy opted to keep herself busy. She was told of an organisation, Crime Si Poa, which provides alternative creative and entrepreneurial outlets to at-risk and vulnerable youth susceptible to engaging in criminal activities.
“I was idle at home, I was given fare and lunch. I just thought I could go and pass my time there and maybe make a difference,” Wendy observes.
Through the program, Wendy mentored young girls aged 9 -18 in youth detention centres (called Borstols in Kenya), on sexual and reproductive health, life skills and computer skills.
“I am an out-going person, so doing this work made me fall in love with social work and showed me how much I love helping my community.”
Through her social work, Wendy was informed of Digital Divide Data (DDD)where she worked in data analysis and some basic graphic design. Her supervisor Calvince saw her keenness to learn and started to walk Wendy through basic software development skills in CSS/HTML.
“Seeing how the software worked on the browser was amazing,” Wendy smiles reminiscent.
Wendy was immediately drawn to technology, she started researching online on technology companies and studying the work they did. In November 2019, after 5 months of volunteering at DDD, Calvince informed her of the AkiraChix codeHive program intake in November 2019. She started to read the stories of alumni of the codeHive program and the progress of their careers. She was immediately drawn to the program as well as a few additional perks.
“It’s a free program, tech, only women and it’s a residential program in the Nairobi suburbs of Kilimani, I am in.” Wendy enthuses.
Wendy made her application and to her pleasant surprise, she was accepted.
“I thank God I got this scholarship, I got a C- so there was no direct entry into a public university.”
As the codeHIve 2020 program kicked off, Wendy was eager to learn, but after just six weeks of learning everything came to a halt. On Friday, March 13, Kenya announced its first case of COVID-19 and following a government edict, all learning institutions were directed to close. All 52 students in the residential program had to go home.
At the start of April, codeHive Lite was kicked off, learning was continued but it wasn’t very easy.
“It was hard, we had to study from WhatsApp, internet connection issues, you can’t talk to your friend till class ends. Balancing house chores, my noisy kid brother, the business was slow for Mum so there wasn’t much at home.”
Wendy resumed volunteer work with Crime Si Poa in between classes where she would get a stipend and lunch which did ease the pressures at home. She was able to once again serve her community conducting environmental cleanups, and sharing information on COVID-19 prevention and sexual and reproductive health with most at-risk populations.
On the resumption of classes on campus in August 2020, she did realise there was a lot she needed to catch up on. “Whatever I was learning at home, I didn’t quite understand. It felt like going back to March in August.”
Back on the AkiraChix campus in August after 4 months of virtual learning on WhatsApp Wendy began to catch up on what she didn’t quite understand and it also gave her clarity on what she was passionate about.
“I am drawn towards backend development with Python, I don’t need to be pushed to do python. When it comes to python I have that inner drive.” She states.
Wendy is determined to push forward, as she nears graduation in November 2020. And hopes to one day found an organisation where she can mentor other young women to success.
“I have learnt along the way I need to be open-minded. If I am not successful in this life is because of me not being open-minded,” Wendy concludes.