Tech trailblazer: Life lessons birthed my 'motherhood app'

Evacare app founder Ellen Karuga. [Courtesy]

Ellen Karuga was born and raised in the leafy suburbs of Nairobi but faced significant challenges in accessing the education and support she aspired to.

With her parents retired during her upbringing, she lacked many basic necessities, including education.

Becoming a mother as a teenager further compounded her difficulties, as she had limited access to resources to navigate motherhood.

However, she found solace and opportunity in the emerging world of computers, teaching herself through short-term packages.

Her passion for technology blossomed, leading her to develop a tech app designed to support pregnant mothers through their journey into motherhood.

The Evacare app has since benefited over 150 women, guiding them through this transformative experience.

How did you get started in this profession?

It’s been a long journey. I started as a clerk cum secretary. I decided to take computer packages to supplement my secretarial duties. From then I gained an interest in tech, which led me into pursuing a Diploma and eventually did a BSc. Degree in Computing & Information Studies. I then took up an MBA and a PhD.

Is this what you always wanted to do?

Not quite, I had a dream of becoming a medical doctor, but I missed the cut-off point.

Do you think Kenya is ready for the evolving technology which is gradually taking over changing the way things were done before?

Yes, the uptake of evolving technology is quite impressive in Kenya in comparison to other African countries, but unfortunately its only a reserve for those with access to internet connectivity and electricity. The big question is not if we are ready or not because the future (emerging technology) is arriving regardless of our preparedness. It is imperative that we embrace the emerging trends with a critical eye, an open mind and a yearning to harness the potential of tech.

How has your experience been working in a tech space, considering the fast-paced trend of input and output?

The tech space is dynamic and continuously evolving. I’ve learnt to quickly adapt to the ever-changing market dynamics by upskilling and keeping abreast with the emerging trends. I have 3 principles that have kept me going: Embrace, change and adapt.

How would you compare how things were done then to now?

Tech has revolutionised how things were done. One is making things simpler. Thanks to technology, boring or difficult chores can become enjoyable and straightforward. Furthermore, duties have become even simpler in recent years thanks to automation and artificial intelligence, which has made life easier. Robotic vacuum cleaners are one basic example of a device that can clean our houses on its own.Access is unquestionably one of technology’s biggest benefits. For instance Google searches (statistics of 6.3million searches per minute); smartphones that allow users to access the internet from wherever they are.

What do you appreciate more when it comes to technical operations and why?

The fact that I’m offering essential first line technical and security services to ensure the safe and smooth running of critical business functions for my clients gives me a lot of satisfaction.

Why?

The fact that every day is different because of the variety of tasks involved in my work. The position is creative, and it gives me great satisfaction to watch my efforts bear fruit.

What are some of the challenges women face in tech spaces?

The difficulties faced by women in technology are numerous and deeply embedded in the sector. The first issue is underrepresentation: because of gender biases and cultural expectations, very few women are pursuing professions in technology. Impostor syndrome Women feel their confidence diminishing when gender prejudices against them grow. They fall prey to, a psychological condition in which people question their achievements and worry that they will not perform as expected. In environments where men predominate, women in technology frequently feel alone and excluded.

What does your job entail?

As a software engineer and a business owner, my job entails providing business IT solutions to companies and groups. This involves evaluating aspects of an organisation’s business systems, such as cybersecurity, software efficacy, and data and analytics, which may have an impact on how a firm may profit from its technological investments.

How is pay for women in tech spaces?

There’s some parity in the pay range in some organisations.

Are women paid the same as men?

The biggest gender pay disparity in technology, according to recent studies, is seen in early careers, where women under 25 make, on average, 29 per  cent less than men of similar age. The report goes on to say that this might be because, as they advance in their careers, women are gradually overcoming this bias, which might indicate developments in the sector or society in the past years. 

What are some of myths and misconceptions in tech spaces?

Tech will lead to loss of jobs: Tech opens up new and diverse career paths for those who are ready to embrace the change and upskill. Tech is a man’s world: Women have taken up tech and succeeded. Tech jobs are only for coding: Tech includes a wide range of positions that call for different skill sets, such as project management, cybersecurity, system analysis, quality assurance, and user experience design. Diverse skill sets such as problem-solving and critical thinking are equally important in a variety of IT roles.

What would be your advice on these myth and misconceptions?

Do not let misconceptions discourage anyone from pursuing fulfilling jobs in technology, the IT sector offers a varied and dynamic chance for everyone.

Tell us about your proudest moments working in the industry?

When I started my company, I had a vision of having a product that serves women. We have in come up with an AI product called Eva Care that supports women in their pregnancy journey.

What triggered you to start your own company, looking back what makes you proud with it now?

I wanted to be in control of my success. Flexibility: As a wife and a mother, I can schedule and have a work-family life balance. Become a mentor to those who are less privileged.

Given a chance in the ministry of information, communication and digital, what are some of the transformation you would like to see implemented in Kenya to ensure tech competence in the country?

Access to affordable internet and electricity connectivity countrywide.

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