Chioma Mbaoma: Enabling Digital Literacy

1 Let’s meet you. Who is Chioma and what does she do?
My name is Mbaoma Chioma; a student of the University of Lagos, studying Geophysics. I am also a co-founder of Arete Initiative, an entry level SRE and currently a Program Manager Intern at Microsoft, Nigeria. I like to think myself as someone who is hungry for and actively vested in making an impact and achieving set goals.

2 Wow! Very impressive profile you have there. Tell us about your journey to Microsoft.
I started applying for a Software Engineer Intern role in 2019 or so and I got rejected five times. The sixth try was a charm. I wrote about it here.

Mbaoma Chioma as a Microsoft intern.

I heard about the term ‘Program Manager’ in 2020 when I got an email from a recruiter asking me if I wanted to apply for that role. I had been involved in community work for a while and also participated in hackathons. Much of the activities I got invested in were about making sure community events went well and the team delivered the end goals – little did I know this was training for my current role more or less.

3 What are the career prospects in Program Management and what does it entail exactly?
To the best of my knowledge, a program manager assists a team of developers, designers, Ops people ship a product or feature which will satisfy the clients’ needs and bring income to the company.

You have to have team spirit; ability to fill in for teammates; learn-it-all spirit, that is, knowing a bit of everything; be open to positive criticism, listen to your teammates and superiors (management); and other skills that help you serve better generally.

Possible career prospects include: Product management, Project management etc. But you are not limited to work only in the tech space. Program managers can work in the health sector, construction companies, IT firms, consulting, basically any field where people come together to achieve a common goal.

4 What is the role of Program Management in the improvement of the country as a whole?
This is huge! I will say having a program manager run things in every aspect of the country will improve things, because tasks will be delegated to people who will perform. Program managers are all about getting the end goal accomplished and will learn, unlearn and relearn while trying to achieve this. Because hey listen a lot, they carefully weigh every opinion they receive and come up with a working plan to fix the broken parts of the country. Also, when your team feels heard and respected, they tend to put their best foot forward. With them, I believe the citizens will have a sense of security and will be willing to bet on the government and assist with the governing process.

5 What’s your advice for people who want to begin a career in tech and get into the big 4s?
Ensure your knowledge of the foundations of whatever aspect of tech you’re delving into is strong. Volunteer a lot so you gain real life experience. Be a lifelong learner, send out those applications. As much as you want to get connections, invest time in building healthy friendships built on trust. Always remember your reason for starting on this path (your motivation). Pray and keep moving forward (consistency). Finally, progress is progress, so celebrate your wins – all of it and lend a helping hand when you can.

6 You mentioned that you are a co-founder of the Arête Initiative. Tell us more about this initiative. What is the drive behind this establishment?
Arete started when I and three of my friends wanted to give back to the community without being cliche. A lot of people do not know the basics of operating a computer system (I kid you not!), so we thought why not catch them young? Teach children how to use the Microsoft Office tools and other basic programs to help them get comfortable operating computers for a start. Arete focuses on ensuring the IT foundations of children is strong, so that they are able to efficiently build upon this knowledge as they take a voyage through life.

7 Let’s talk about the rate of digital illiteracy in Nigeria, and how that can be tackled.
I believe that creating an enabling environment first is one way to tackle digital illiteracy. Children love to learn new things. For instance, there was a time Arete went to teach some children at Ikorodu, Lagos. They were very much interested in learning and picked up the basics quickly. I feel if they had personal computers or a computer center in their community, they would achieve more.

If we have community ICT centers which are accessible at cheap rates to the public, dedicated volunteers and sponsors, I feel the rate of digital illiteracy will drop significantly. When people are provided with an enabling environment and sensitized about opportunities in tech space, great things will be achieved.

8 As a woman in tech, what are the challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
Personally, the tech space has been welcoming to me. I have a lot of people to reach out to when I need help. Being a woman and a coming from a non-tech background has put me at an advantage somehow. I have not been in any situation where being a woman has put me at a disadvantage or prompted my being denied opportunities.

9 Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I see myself actively serving the community, blossoming wherever I am planted.

10 Is there any other thing you’d like to share with us?
I’d like to say that everyone should strive to live a life of no regrets and also put God first in all things. I am open to connecting with people, so feel free to reach out to me via LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Jane Egerton-Idehen is a telecommunication executive with over 13 years’ experience in the Nigerian, Liberian and Ghanaian telecommunications markets. Jane has a strong passion for promoting girls in STEM and ensuring women in STEM industries remain and grow their careers in that industry. She curates her thoughts around her career journey, experiences and passion in life.