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Setting my career path with the Outbox Women Passion Program

Lisa Namugga shares her experience about the recently concluded Women Passion program(WOPA). As a student of Business Computing at Makerere University Business school, The women Passion program was the kind of program she needed to figure out where she wanted to concentrate in her career. Outbox initiated the Women Passion program in May 2014 -- a program designed to equip women and girls with skills in web programming, lean startup methodologies, leadership and human centered design. Outbox later on partnered with Thoughtworks Uganda to initiate the WOPA levelup program - a program designed to further support graduates from WOPA by pairing them up with industry mentors and further assisting them realise their projects. WOPA was supported by Google for Entrepreneurs under the #40Forward initiative and the Wetech seed fund for women and girls in Computer science within Africa.


I started with the Women Passion Program as an intern. I had just completed my first year at the university and it was dictated that I got an internship placement somewhere during the 2 months school break. It wasn’t really important where I did it then, point was getting it done and then write a report about my experience. My initial experience with WOPA was a challenge especially due to the fact that I did not know what I wanted from it then, I felt a bit intimidated by the girls with whom I was participating because they had clearer goals than I did. They had diverse knowledge about the tech world, had brilliant ideas and had a purpose for being there. Me on the other hand, it was about keeping up appearances and getting it over with the internship.

Things begun getting clearer three weeks into the program, as I got to discover that  it wasn’t a big deal that I knew nothing then but rather maintain a positive attitude and learn from the program as much as I could. I wasn’t going to become tech savvy in a day or two. I needed to take baby steps, make a few changes before I could hit any major mile stones.


WOPA was a thrill! I was pretty much raw at the start but by the time we closed I realised that just like any of the other girls that participated, I had an equal chance at being a star in the world of technology like they did. I got to learn from the other girls and knew what they were good at. I was taken through a journey of personal discovery which got me to learn things that I never knew about myself; where my strengths and weaknesses lie, where I’m at my best and worst, and how to build a personal shield around that to take me through life successfully. I was encouraged to find a vision for life and live a life away from mediocrity.

I was introduced to Human Centred Design in which we were challenged to create products from problems faced by people in our communities. The products we conceptualised had to deliver value by alienating those problems. The challenge was "How might we improve the income of low-earning families in the crafts business in Uganda". In teams we set out to learn as much as we could from the communities, generate ideas around our learnings and make a prototype of the product we thought best. We created a prototype of an online shop to raise awareness and ease access of crafts to customers at affordable prices mainly because the “Crafters” were looking at attracting an international market and we figured that the best way to get to it was through the internet.


With WOPA I learnt the value of teamwork, there was 25 of us and we were all expected to deliver something by the end of the challenge. Six (6) teams were built and sent into the community. I was in a team with people I hardly knew and I tend to chicken out in situations like that. Assignments were given at the end of every session and they had to be complete by the next. In the beginning I’d sit at my table and attempt to do the work alone, but then I realised I was putting too much upon myself and saw why the facilitators divided us into teams. I noticed how important it was to communicate effectively with the girls on my team, learn their attitude towards the project and find out what they were comfortable with and coordinate the team to deliver new material at every session.

WOPA LevelUP came along and I signed up as a Business Analyst for my team. We were to develop the prototype from WOPA and bring it to pilot. We planned for our MVP which would enable a buyer to make an order online, have their purchases delivered, then pay on receiving them. It had to be complete in seven (7) weeks with weekly showcases to let the ThoughtWorkers know of our progress. Now there was a lot to learn here, as a Business Analyst I didn’t know what exactly I was supposed to do because I thought it was up to the developers to get the work done. I remember asking someone on the team if they needed me. Thankfully we had mentors to guide us through the project and they were more than willing to offer help at any time. I learned that as the BA, I was a representative of the customer and I had to understand their needs in and out and convey it to the developers in the most understandable way so they could get the work done. I learned that for a manageable project requirements were to be broken down into User Stories. User Stories describe a piece of functionality that will be of value to an end user. They could change anytime along the project based on the customer’s preference so I had to provide for flexibility while writing them. The stories must be able to perform their function and this was catered for in the acceptance criteria and tests as a guide to the developers. These determine whether the stories have been correctly and fully coded.

ThoughtWorks is an agile environment so I had to get comfortable with the agile practices. I organised stories boards to help me keep track of the project, with these I was able to know what still needed to be done and what the developers had finished. I learned how to use lo-fi prototypes, they give developers a clearer picture of what a piece of software should look like and what it should do, if the customer have any objections then it would be easier to identify with the prototype. I had assumed that the developers were to do all the work and that I’d only come in once in a while to check on their progress but then I realised that for us to be able to obtain a smooth flow and reach our target for the MVP I had to be engaged in the project all the way by making the developers work easy.

I came out a totally different person than I walked in with a new perspective on life. It was no longer about where I was at this point in life, I needed to look at where I wanted to be and draw out a plan to get me there. Proactivity became an important aspect in my life, I needed not to wait for something to happen so I can do something about it because I have the power to influence what happens then based on now.

I now know that I have potential as a Business Analyst so I intend on developing skills in that area and learning from it as much as I can. I’ve been reading all sorts of material I get my hands on, I’ve already amassed a number of books from Mike Cohn that explain clearly all the roles and duties of a BA. The ThoughtWorkers are very supportive of my decision to become a business analyst, I get all the advice I need whenever and guide me where things aren’t clear. This gives me great confidence that they see the potential in me to do this and I’d like to pursue it more seriously.

I feel that we should have many more girls getting aboard techprenuership programs like WOPA to give them a platform to explore the possibilities that technology has to offer and what they can get to do with it and also to enable them to build already existing ideas further. We can raise awareness about these programs through outreach programs in schools, universities, work places to let people know how they can benefit from them. We can also have more posts on social media on our activities and have former participants encouraging their acquaintances to take part. The LevelUP programs should have participants vetted to gain positive progress on projects and avoid people dropping off along the way.

Otherwise it was great being a part of this experience and I hope we have plenty of other girls out there uniting on the technology front!


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