I did a scholarship thing, here’s how it went

Almost a year ago, I decided to sponsor some Nigerian women interested in the technology field to complete a Udacity Nanodegree of their choice:

I paid for them to complete their Nanodegrees within a specified time period (which was about 6 months depending on the particular Nanodegree). 11 months later, 4 of the 7 women I sponsored successfully completed their Nanodegrees, and I thought I would share how the process went and my thoughts on it after the fact.

Why?

If you’re interested, here’s the long answer:

In 2016, I completed the Senior Web Developer Nanodegree (no longer available unfortunately) and it helped me in a two major ways:

  1. It made me more confident about the things I did know. Whenever I was taught something I was already familiar with it helped alleviate my imposter syndrome, being a completely self-taught developer.
  2. It made me more aware of the things I didn’t know. When you feel like an imposter, you’re in constant fear that there are things that everyone knows that you have no idea about. Having a general “overview” of modern frontend development helped me understand those blind spots.

Completing the Nanodegree is one of the reasons I felt confident enough to search for and eventually get a job at a company outside Nigeria. Given it was such a valuable experience for me, I wanted as many people to go through the same process as well. But it costs money. Money that the average Nigerian youth wouldn’t have, given that the average salary for a developer is something around $300/month (and a Nanodegree is $200/month).

Since I landed my job at eyeo, I felt like I could afford to do more with the extra income, so i decided to put it to this cause.

Why women? Because I want to see more people like me doing what I do. It isn’t great always being the only black ⚫️, female 👩‍💼, or black & female 👩🏾‍💼developer in the room.

How?

There were a few things I was looking for in the potential candidates:

  • 👩🏾‍💼 Women. You would think this would be obvious, but 6 men applied to this female-only scholarship 🙃
  • 🇳🇬 Living in Nigeria. Although some Nigerians in the diaspora applied, I wanted to restrict this to only Nigerian women living in Nigeria, because they are the most likely to need a scholarship. If you live in London, you can probably afford to pay for this Nanodegree.
  • 🗣 Good English and at least secondary school education. All the Udacity courses are taught in English, and the short time frame of the scholarship isn’t enough time to also be learning English.
  • 👩🏾‍💻 Some amount of experience in the field. Besides the Intro to Programming Nanodegree, the other Nanodegrees have some prerequisite for knowledge of programming.
  • 💛 A great desire/interest in the field. This is hard to determine, but we tried to infer this by seeing if the candidates had already played around with the field before. E.g. if they wanted to do the Android Developer Nanodegree, have they every attempted to build an Android app?

After weeding the number of applications down a bit, we also interviewed potential candidates just to make sure they were real (because, 419) and they were knowledgeable & driven enough to complete the process within the period of time I was giving them.

The whole process took several weeks, but we finally got the 293 applicants down to 7 women.

During their Nanodegrees, myself and my volunteers acted as points of contact to help (in a non-technical way) the students are they did their Nanodegree. We also checked in with them every few weeks to make sure there we were always up to date with their status.

Results: the good & the bad

The good 👍🏾

(PS: You should really check out their work, they are amazing!)

The bad 👎🏾

What’s next?

  • A 57% success rate is pretty poor. Maybe I was naive — and I have been advised that I was — but I fully expected everyone to complete the Nanodegrees. I also paid for the programs up front and in full, so I lost quite a bit of $$$.
  • The selection process takes a lot of time, and it’s still not perfect. In an ideal world, I would want the selection process to be even more thorough, but myself & my volunteers all have day jobs and we can’t take off a week to dedicate all our time to doing this.
  • There are many Udacity scholarships now available through Google. Although restricted to certain Nanodegrees, Google has offered hundreds of scholarships specifically to people living in Africa and to women.

But there is one reason I should do it again — the four women that did manage to complete it. Even if things didn’t go exactly as I planned, I still did have a positive impact on them and if I can do this again, shouldn’t I?

Written by

Frontend Developer & User Interface Designer

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