"The barriers exist, but my passion for technology runs deep!"
For Bilha Kaguima, ICT Specialist at UNICEF, it's been a long journey looking around the room for women. Today, she thrives in an role where she delivers results for children
I created paper planes, disassembled and reassembled my dad's favorite radio and I was hitting off with mathematics perfectly. That passion has stuck with me to this day. At work, it has been a journey of looking around the room for women. Today, I am appreciated and provided with opportunities to flourish.
Bilha Kaguima, is a changemaker. In her role as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Specialist - Project Management she integrates business applications development in the Solutions Center and Support within UNICEF's ICT Division (ICTD). Bilha is a woman in technology, and with her work she facilitates collaborations that drive digital transformation and delivers results for children.
How does your typical work day look like?
A typical workday starts at 8am with reviewing new software development demands, ideating ways to improve processes, creating reports as required, and attending to projects that I am directly accountable. In most days, 9 am to 5 pm is mostly filled with meetings, where I get to participate in discussions or facilitate project management conversations with stakeholders. When I am able to, in between meetings I follow-up on actions and consult with the technical teams. If that doesn't happen during the day, then after 5pm I make a point to do some of the required follow-ups otherwise it's checked-in to the to do list. Every day has its own dynamic, some days are more generous while others can be very hectic. I enjoy working with the teams to create a conducive environment for applications development.
What first sparked your interest in working in the technology industry?
My background is engineering therefore solving problems is a natural attraction. I enjoyed building things from a very early age. I created paper planes, disassembled and reassembled my dad's favorite Sanyo radio and hitting off with mathematics perfectly. That passion has stuck with me to this day.
What are the challenges, and what the rewarding moments of your job?
Let me start with the rewards, producing a working piece is the most rewarding experience I have whether it is completing an innovative project or fixing of a broken system. The challenge is that technology can be frustrating somethings especially when it embarrasses by not working when it is needed most. Use of humor has come to my aid in such times, good thing no one got badly upset.
Women continue being underrepresented in professional areas such as technology and engineering. In 2018, only 20% of all jobs in technology were held by women. (Source: Small Business Trends), while the ratio of men to women in engineering is 5:1. (Source: TechRadius). What barriers/stereotypes did you have to break to shape your career in a male-dominated area?
The greatest stereotype I have had to overcome is "girls don't do technology". From being 7 ladies in my engineering class of 70 students to only 3 women of 27 ICT professional staff in UNICEF’s Eastern and Southern Africa Region in 2014, it has been a journey of looking around the room for women. I remember in my first job, as the only woman IT support engineer the company laid me off during restructuring because the Change Manager pushed the argument that women cannot be engineers. It was a heart-breaking start and even now many of my managers have advised me to move to operations offering that I have better career growth opportunities there. I have stayed put with technology because the passion runs deep. While the barriers exist, ICTD promotes women in technology and there are many areas one can make real difference for children.
How did UNICEF support you and your career, as well as other female colleagues working in ICT?
UNICEF provides a level playing field, I am appreciated and provided with opportunities to flourish. We have had managers who created mentoring networks and it has helped many of us. UNICEF has a great deal of support mechanism.
At UNICEF we live the core values of Care, Respect, Integrity, Trust and Accountability. Which one of our values is very important to you, and why?
Working in an environment that people are cared for is the most important to me. ICTD colleagues are very caring and that makes it a wonderful place to be.
As UNICEF constantly strives for more Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, it sets specific targets for women's participation. Due to the historical underrepresentation of women in senior positions, UNICEF is committed to achieving gender balance at the P5 (Chief) level by end 2021 and will prioritize eligible and suitable women candidates for P5 positions. In addition, women are strongly encouraged to apply for positions in UNICEF's Information and Communication Technology Division (ICTD).