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I wanted to be a lawyer until ICT stole my heart

Achieving Woman
 Beryll Semmo, Principal ICT Administrator at Kisumu County Government (Collins Oduor, Standard)

When Beryll Semmo, 34, was growing up at Ondiek estate in Kisumu she dreamt of becoming a lawyer.

Semo never imagined that her world will, later on, be surrounded by computers and information technology.

Despite developing an interest in mobile technology when she was 12 years old, Semmo hoped to become a mother and a female professional pursuing a "more popular" career -- law.

Being a lawyer would also help her focus on work that was more “meaningful” and that support her humanitarian goals.

However, fate had a different plan. When she was in Standard Seven, her father brought her a phone and she discovered her love for technology. She would also visit cyber cafes in Kisumu town to help clients access and even open up e-mail accounts.

Shortly after, she joined Kisumu Girls High School where she was introduced to IT lessons. Though this propelled her curiosity in IT, her desire in law was always alive.

She wished to join the University of Nairobi Law School after high school but her father had a different choice for her. He took her to Strathmore University.

 Growing up, Semmo wanted to study law (Collins Oduor, Standard)

At that point, Semmo didn’t know what to pursue. A list of courses was offered to her to make a choice and she chose Bachelor in Information Technology (ICT), which she studied until she graduated in 2010. Semmo recalls that, in a class of 81, there were only 15 female students.

“This was an eye-opener that I had chosen a career dominated by men and I had to go an extra mile to find my footing,” Semmo recalled.

At this point, friends doubted her abilities. “It is a career for men, you won’t have time for your family, it’s a poor choice for women,” others could say. However, she had support from family and the zeal to prove that she could make it.

At the university, Semmo developed a deeper interest in computer programing keeping abreast of the latest computer languages.

After graduation Semmo traversed the globe with her IT skills, working for both local and international institutions until she joined Kisumu County government in 2014.

As a programmer, she has developed and designed applications and websites including Kisumu County website: “I worked alongside my colleagues but I was the lead person was managing the website until last year when new staff were employed,” Semo explained.

A mother of two, she has risen the ranks from ICT officer 1 to senior ICT officer to currently principal ICT officer administrator.

However, she says the most outstanding achievement has been championing for more female IT personnel to be employed at the department.

She attests that since 2014 she was the only female in ICT at Kisumu County until last year in November when she walked to the public service board demanding for female applicants to be given a priority.

Later when the vacancy was advertised, three female IT staff were employed a programmer and two in networking: “This is my greatest achievement of all and I will still push for more,” she notes.

“They are not in higher positions but at least I know they are there and have a chance to grow something we have been lacking for a long time,” she notes.

She is a go-getter who gets things done which has made her male colleagues to give a pet name “Fire Mama”.

In 2016 Semmo in partnership with African Center for Women in IT trained 700 youths to get IT-related jobs she has also taught IT in a number of schools in Nyanza including Bishop Okoth Ojola Secondary School, Nyawara Girls School, Kisumu Girls High school.

“I am not actively involved in programing abut more involved in administration work,” as a result, Semmo is pursuing  Masters in Business Administration (MBA) specializing in Information system at the University of Nairobi a course she believes will make her influence  IT policies and develop strategies as she supervises teams.

However, she notes her dream of becoming a lawyer is still alive: “I will become a lawyer someday and carry out ICT audits and point out the legal issues that govern the technology world,” she said.

 Semo has risen the ranks from ICT officer 1 to principal ICT officer administrator (Collins Oduor, Standard)

Semmo advises women to develop a passion and remove the notion that ICT is for men: “If you are a person who doesn’t want to do the same thing with a desire to explore join IT world,” she explained.

“There are endless opportunities like cloud computing, online marketing which can be done from home with Covid-19 era IT is gold to mine,” revealing one can earn Sh5 million by developing a single website.

As a mother, Semmo says her children are free to choose their career, however, she is willing to nurture IT to any of them who will show interest.

County director ICT Nicholas Migot notes there are 30 staff with only four women at the department which are strained due to work demand.

Migot says the department needs 120 staff and striving to get more women on board.

He said there are strategies in place that will ensure more women are given responsibilities that will make their working environment more attractive.

Migot said there are policies that protect women however he notes that the directorate has not tackled well issue of gender in the workplace.

“We are doing all we can to protect women give them room to be innovative and creative to be relevant in the outside world,” he said.

He vouched for Semmo abilities as an outstanding team player and example women in IT can emulate.

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