Women in Tech: Olamide Ajah
Today, we have Olamide Ajah 👩💻, the Chief Technology Officer at Seamfix with acclaimed expertise in project management, people management, leadership, and software development. Though a highly versatile individual, her love interest is product management.
Don't narrow your focus to your field, though; of course, you should strive to deepen your knowledge in your chosen field.
— Olamide Ajah
In this interview, you'll learn how Olamide started her career in tech, her 12 years journey so far, advice on tech, and experience with guiding teams through the conceptualization of product ideas. 💜
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. How and when did you venture into tech?
Olamide: I am a technology and product executive with a passion for people, processes, and technology. I started my career as a developer 11 years ago when I got posted to Seamfix as a youth corper. Before then, I had a cursory knowledge of programming thanks to my then-boyfriend (now husband), who had taken a holiday course on Visual Basic and so much loved the course that he needed to teach someone. An outlet so to speak. Of course, I was the scapegoat, however, the knowledge proved useful since I went on to build a few basic apps one of which was an inventory app for my dad's publishing company.
On getting to Seamfix, I had to learn other tech stacks very quickly. I was basically thrown into the deep end and had to sink or swim. I swam.
Can you briefly tell us about your job title?
Olamide: I am the Chief Technology Officer and Head of Products at Seamfix. I am the primary interface between business and technology, and I am ultimately responsible for ensuring the successful delivery of products to our customers.
I define product roadmaps as a product owner, hold frequent reviews with other product managers to ensure that we have our priorities in order, that our product delivery is on track, and customers are satisfied. I also have constant reviews of our product delivery process to drive improvements in delivery speed, product quality, and user experience.
I also have hands-on involvement in system and software design and architecture, capacity planning, and resource planning. I am always figuring out how to deliver seemingly endless demands/requirements, all with supposed similar priorities with limited resources.
Talent management, performance management, and team building are also core parts of my work, common to the product and tech. I am always on the lookout for great talent!
What difficulties have you faced on your way in tech? Have you ever felt like you were not treated as equal?
Olamide: Early on in my career, I was the only lady in a sea of guys, and instead of feeling intimidated, I usually found myself in the leadership positions. I never felt discriminated against by anyone; neither was I ever made to feel inferior because I am female.
Regardless, I believe I felt I had something to prove just due to my nature of trying to be the best at everything I do, so I found myself working extra hours to learn everything I could in the shortest possible time. Of course, this led to difficulties at the home front, with my family believing it was unhealthy to work that much, after all, how would I find a husband if I spent all my free time working?
I believe I have been quite fortunate in my career, really, to be working for such an organization as Seamfix, who considers gender equality a fundamental human right. Whatever difficulties I faced at the homefront were also quite easily handled.
If there is a bias women face, why do you think it is still there, in the 21st century? What are some things people and organizations could do to change this?
Olamide: I believe gender bias still exists even in the 21st century. Though I am happy to see more influential companies advocating diversity and inclusion in the workplace, we still have some ways to go. I think every company needs to consciously change its policies and processes to recognize men and women as equal.
For instance, do your company's policies favor nursing mothers? Will these nursing mothers be assured of having their jobs back after their maternity leave? Are they caught between taking care of their babies or working? Do the policies protect women from assault or abuse in the workplace? Do you give your women a voice so they can tell you what's going wrong, and right? Do you consciously train and empower women?
The other aspect to consider here is to get more ladies to own their voices. Being in an industry where we are outnumbered can sometimes cause insecurities or the 'infamous' imposter syndrome. We ladies need to speak up, make ourselves heard, take those bold steps, and help other ladies.
You currently work as Chief Technology Officer at Seamfix. How long did it take you to arrive here and what significant difficulties did you face along the way?
Olamide: It took about ten years. As I stated earlier, I started as a software engineer 11 years ago. I will first talk about what enabled me to get here, before talking about the difficulties.
When I started as a software engineer several years ago, I was one of very few developers working at my company then, being a very small company. I had to learn how to code (front end and backend), test my work, deploy it, manage the database, manage my team members, and manage the customer. These experiences were invaluable, as they taught me to be very versatile. I believe they also contributed significantly to getting me where I am today.
We see that you work predominately in Software Engineering and Product Management. How did you decide to focus on these paths?
Olamide: Product management and software engineering are intricately connected. I started my career as a software engineer, and about five years down the line, I started craving something more than just software development. I found coding to be challenging and fulfilling, no doubt. Still, I realized I had a flare for other aspects of product development, including translating business requirements to tech, managing projects, managing stakeholders, and managing resources.
As the company grew, and we had to build and manage many more products concurrently, I found it natural to transition into product management due to the above-stated reasons.
What advice do you have for a newbie or intermediate who dreams to work as a Chief Technology Officer?
Olamide: First, believe in yourself and your capacity. As Roy Bennet said, "Believe in your infinite potential. Your only limitations are those you set upon yourself".
Secondly, cast your net wide. Consume any information that comes your way about tech. Don't narrow your focus to your field, though; of course, you should strive to deepen your knowledge in your chosen field.
Thirdly, see beyond your nose. While every engineer derives joy from coding, testing, or whatever your field demands, we're performing these activities for one ultimate goal - the profitability of the companies we work for. Let this knowledge color your actions and help you make decisions in the company's best interest. For instance, do you really need to revamp that module? On the other hand, can you spare a few more hours to fix that huge tech debt that you know could cause serious production issues?
Fourthly, be a helper. Mentor others, teach others and love others. Be passionate about helping others be as good as you are, even better.
Lastly, don't strive to become a CTO. Strive to be the best you can be in everything you do. Opportunities will always find you when you have developed a good name and a good brand.
How long have you been in tech and what word will describe your experience so far?
Olamide: 12 years. eye-opening
What do you think needs to be done to encourage beginner developers to learn a technical skill and continue learning?
Olamide: Have a mentor or buddy who can encourage you and keep you going even when it looks tough. I believe the best way to learn is by doing. Have a goal in mind right from the beginning. What product would you love to build? Then start building; start from somewhere. Yes, you will make mistakes, yes, it will be slow going at first, but do not relent. I love this Confucius quote, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
Imposter syndrome is one problem developers face especially newbies, what is your experience with imposter syndrome, how did you manage yours, and what advice do you have for anyone facing this currently?
Olamide: I don't believe that imposter syndrome ever goes away. We just become more adept at managing it. First, to address this, understand that it is not unique to you; everyone deals with feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy at some time or the other. Second, amplify your successes, and use them to drown out the negative thoughts and feelings. Third, as much as possible, remove naysayers from your immediate circle of friends or acquaintances. Fourth, have trusted friends or mentors that you can discuss openly and honestly with.
Rejection emails are another thing that motivates imposter syndrome and depression amongst developers, especially intermediates. How did you manage this effectively during your "job-hunting" days?
Olamide: I will answer this question from the perspective of someone that has had to tell some potentially good people 'no'. A 'no' is rarely a hard no. Many times it 'not yet.' It is an opportunity for you to take on board any constructive comments or feedback from the recruitment process and seek to improve. It may also mean that you aren't a good culture fit for that company, in which case, the 'no' was probably the best thing that the recruiter could do for you. There's nothing more demoralizing than struggling to fit in. Hence, in summary, look for the silver lining even if you have been told 'not yet'. Actively seek constructive feedback, and keep the self-belief alive.
What advice would you give to aspiring programmers who look forward to working for companies like Seamfix or Google.
Olamide: Seamfix is on a mission to build 1,000 leaders, empower 10,000 organizations, and deliver value to 1billion end users/customers. Anyone who would work with Seamfix must think like a leader and be ready to solve challenging problems. While we place value on your technical skills, we place a premium on your attitude to work, leadership, and problem-solving abilities. Does it mean that you can't work with Seamfix if you haven't led a team before? Absolutely not!
We need talents that are endlessly curious, highly creative, emotionally intelligent, and respectful of others. Of course, the advice I gave before to newbies who plan to rise through the ranks still applies here.
What is the best advice someone has given you that has helped you in your career?
Olamide: Never stop learning
What are your favorite programming tools?
Olamide: I love tools that reduce or eliminate tedious processes. E.g. code checker tools like SonarCloud lessen the time spent in code reviews, CI/CD tools like Jenkins & Ansible reduce the time spent deploying to the servers - often a frequent activity. I also love tools that analyse codes and commit trends for insight like GitPrime.
What does your development environment look like?
Finally, what would be your message to women trying to get into technology?
Olamide: Believe in yourself, get a mentor or buddy to support and encourage you, join a community - there are so many of them supporting women in tech - and never stop learning.
Thanks for taking out time to read this interview. 👋
This series is all about talking to the awesome women in tech, understanding the current health of the tech industry, and inspiring other women to become better. If you want to share your story, please reach out to me on Hashnode.
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See you next time and keep trailblazing 💪💙