Taking on Corporate Kenya by Storm
Meet Florence Gaya,
Ada Lab Africa, Mobile Application Developer, codeHive 2019 graduate
When Florence Gaya graduated from high school in 2013, she was looking forward to going to University. She wasn’t quite sure what career path to follow, but the degree in Industrial Chemistry at the University of Nairobi was not very interesting. But she still attempted to fundraise for her education.
“My father said, I was too ambitious, ‘who told you women need to go to university? You are biting more than you can chew’.” Florence recalls.
When she attempted to apply for the government student loans her father made his displeasure known further, “you are taking this money and you won’t be able to pay it. You find a job and educate yourself if you want to.”
Unable to get the money for her education through government loans, Florence sought out work. For 5 years Florence juggled jobs; from waiting tables at restaurants, working in supermarkets in sales promotions and at cyber cafes.
By this time she could no longer live with her parents who seemed completely adamant against working.
“They didn’t want to support my education and were not supportive of my working and I was helping them pay bills. I was so disappointed, I moved out in 2014.”
Between 2014 and 2017, Florence lived with her friend, a cousin and boyfriend, trying to make a living, and something out of her life. In March 2017, months after ending her relationship with her boyfriend, she fainted at work and was rushed to the hospital. She discovered she was expecting a child, at the time she had moved back in with her friend again.
But with her meagre income, she found herself in the hospital again, malnourished with her unborn child and was ordered to take drastic measures to care for herself. Apprehensive and desperate she moved back home with her parents towards the end of 2017.
When her child was 9 months old, in 2018, Florence’s cousin reached out and informed her of the AkiraChix codeHive program on the day of the application deadline. Florence rushed back to the cyber cafe, where she worked, to complete the online application just before the midnight deadline.
“It made sense to apply. I had this unconscious love for computers, I preferred working from the cybers it felt good just engaging with computers, compared to walking in the sun and talking to people in supermarkets who just don’t care about what you are saying.” Florence explains.
A few weeks later to Florence’s elation she received a conformation call following a nerve-racking interview, she was going to part of the codeHive class of 2019.
“My father was sceptical, my mother apprehensive, she brought me to the school to see for herself on the first day of school.”
Her mother was impressed by the school and reassured her daughter was in the right place and chose to support Florence further.
“I will help you through this, I will raise your child, this is what you need to do to change your life.” Florence was ecstatic hearing her mother say those words.
The first few days were very intimidating for Florence, she was older than most girls at 22 years of age, most were in their late teens having recently completed high school.
“Some girls were extremely confident and spoke up, which I couldn’t. I also had internal battles with myself, is it going to pay off? Am I just passing time? Will I have wasted a year away from raising my child?”
It was only until May 2019, at the beginning of the second trimester of learning, Florence finally felt she deserved to be in the programme. Her instructors were a support system for her, most of the time she genuinely had no clear understanding especially the mobile development class. John Owuor would always reassure them,
“I know you don’t know what you are doing but I am here to show you.” She recalls him saying.
Florence is extremely grateful for the support of Kelie Murungi, her entrepreneurship class instructor, who taught them business planning.
“We developed a business plan from scratch as our class project and its those notes that I used to develop a go-to-market plan to launch our big data healthcare mobile application at work,” Florence points out.
“That’s what they call AkiraChix,” Florence chuckles.
Florence is determined to pay it forward and ensure more women are drawn to careers in technology, she runs a support group for women in technology and mentors technology start-ups. She is also planning to offer the codeHive class of 2020 internship at her place of work.
Florence has an ambitious five-year plan to start a tech company-owned, run and managed by women developing solutions by and for women.
“I am happy I am not just a developer. I am so proud of myself. It started with school and my life has changed.” Florence concludes.