Women in Tech: Peace Ojemeh
Today, we have Peace Ojemeh 👩💻, a Senior Product Designer at Tjommi who helps organizations & communities design, maintain, and improve the quality of their products & overall experience, to match the needs of their target audience.
Breathe and take that step, you have no idea what is waiting on the other side. How are you going to find out anyway, if you don’t try?
— Peace Ojemeh
In this interview, you'll learn how Peace started her career in tech, her journey so far, advice on tech, and experience at Open Source Community Africa, African Union, Google Summer of Code, and International Telecommunication Union. If this interview is helpful to you, please share it with your friends and help others. 💜
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. How and when did you venture into tech?
Peace: I am a digital product designer with a background in Microbiology, currently living in Nigeria. I help organizations & communities design maintain and improve the quality of their products, to match the needs of their target audience. I am also actively involved in the open-source space.
I got into tech at the end of 2017. I attended a design sprint event hosted in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. As someone with an existing business and always sorted out ways to improve the experience of my product/services at that time, the section was extremely interesting and fascinating for me, and that played an integral role in getting me into tech.
Can you briefly tell us about your job title?
Peace: I recently started consulting as a Senior Product Designer for Tjommi. My role is to create interfaces to help people seamlessly interact with our product, participating in all phases of the development, from scratch to delivery. I constantly collaborate with the developing team in order to bring value to the customer’s experience.
As a product designer, I am not only focused on the aesthetics and interactions, but the ENTIRE user experience. I am all about solving problems and this requires skills like research, business strategy, prototyping, user testing, etc., to create a platform where users feel comfortable interacting with.
Could you summarize what you do on a day-to-day basis for readers still trying to figure out their career paths?
Peace: As someone who started out newly with Tjommi, my activities seats around researching, studying the existing product to figure out how best we can greatly improve the experience of our product. The product is focused on ensuring that customers get their money back if the price falls after their purchase.
Other than that, I do a lot of open source work. Currently building a community and leading the design team at Open Source Community Africa. Lately, I have been focused on planning strategies of how best to continue to do our open-source design work in Africa.
I am also involved with 3 teams (engagement, design, GNOME Africa) on the GNOME project. With the engagement team, we focus on how well we can improve the onboarding experience of new contributors because we want the GNOME community to be a home for ALL. With the design team, I recently started contributing to GNOME desktop, so I have been doing a lot of researching and starting to design some interfaces for the GNOME desktop. Finally, with GNOME Africa, we’re focused on getting more African contributors.
What difficulties have you faced on your way in tech? Have you ever felt like you were not treated as equal?
Peace: Well, everyone has in one way or another faced challenges. For me, in the early stage of my career, being able to balance my activities as a tech working student was a great challenge for me. Personally, I can’t say I have experienced being treated as not equal.
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?
Peace: Honestly, gender stereotypes are a thing and it isn’t only particular to tech. This has been an ongoing social and cultural change, but these things take time, conscious, and collective efforts to fully eradicate them. It starts with little things like having a well diverse and distributed team, encouraging a safe environment for reporting discrimination, harassment, racism, etc.
You are currently consulting with the African Union, the International Telecommunication Union, and UN Women to bring more women into technology. What is the experience like?
Peace: I have had an awesome experience being part of an initiative like this. It is an initiative that brings together girls from all over the African continent across different languages to spark their interest in ICT as a career path and to empower them as young promising innovative women on the Continent.
It opened my eyes to how much “gender stereotype” awareness we still need to push for. I remember in one of the camps we had, I got to learn that things like child marriage were still a very predominant thing going on, girls not allowed to further their education or even pursue a career. It was refreshing to see how enthusiastic they were, how much they got to learn, and were willing to continue on this path. Hahaha, I would say being part of this is one of my proudest moments.
You currently work as a Senior Product Designer. What significant difficulties did you face along the way?
Peace: A challenge I face once in while is having to deal with burnout, in times like this, I realized taking a short break and doing things like sketching, brushing up my fashion sense, or just playing video games go a long way in helping out.
You are currently involved with Open Source Community Africa, Google Summer Of Code, Google Code-In, Sugar Labs, GNOME, Open Source Design, amongst many others. What's your inspiration?
Peace: I am generally just inspired by helping build better experiences, whether with products or with communities. I love helping people and being actively involved with communities around me has helped me in doing that.
We see that you work predominately in Product Design, Product Research, Product Management, Community Building, and Open Source. How did you decide to focus on these paths?
Peace: I am very concerned about the product or community I’m involved with. How well do people interact with this product? how inclusive and accessible is my product/community? what experience do people sense from using this or being part of this? Let’s say I am very concerned about people and how they feel, that has driven me down this line.
What advice do you have for a newbie or intermediate who dreams to work as a Senior Product Designer?
Peace: Start TODAY. The sky is wide enough, just fly.
In one word, describe your experience so far?
We see that you speak and teach at tech conferences, how did you get into public speaking and how has it affected your career?
Peace: I have always been someone who tries to find every opportunity I get to share my knowledge with others and that’s what got me into public speaking and teaching. I have met and connected with some of the most amazing folks through public speaking, it has also helped a lot in building my self-confidence.
What advice would you give to designers who look forward to speaking at meet-ups and/ or conferences?
Peace: Send in that proposal! but first, try to talk about topics you’re most comfortable and passionate about. One great way to get the attention of the audience is - how involved you are with what you’re giving a talk about. For me, storytelling is another thing that has always been one of the most effective ways of talking to people, it helps draw and maintain the attention of people listening to you.
What do you think needs to be done to encourage beginner developers to learn a technical skill and continue learning?
Peace: Building a more inclusive community is one great key to encouraging beginners. Also, if you have the time as a "senior" giving feedbacks and guidance to beginners can be very encouraging as well. Little talks, like "Hey, how is it going?" can be of great help.
Impostor syndrome is one problem developers face especially newbies, what is your experience with impostor syndrome, how did you manage yours and what advice do you have for anyone facing this currently?
Peace: This is something I experienced a lot starting out, I am naturally introverted (designing has done a great job on me over the years LOL) and a perfectionist. One time, I was working on an open-source project, I had this idea that came to mind. I thought and thought and thought and THOUGHT about it cleaning it up and making sure it was PERFECT before I had the "guts" to let it out and share with my team, several times I thought of just letting it go as it wasn’t a "good enough idea". When I shared it, they really loved the idea and someone said "In the past 20 years + of working on this project, no one has ever thought of doing this… it’s so amazing, Perrie". My heart melted because this was something I was so scared of sharing, feeling like it was not “a great enough” idea to share.
So I would say, we have days where everything works great and also we have bad days, where everything seems to go wrong. Focus on your strength, no one has it ENTIRELY figure out. Breathe and take that step, you have no idea what is waiting on the other side. How are you going to find out anyway, if you don’t try?
What advice would you give to aspiring programmers who look forward to working for companies like Google or Twitter?
Peace: Everything starts from somewhere, join a community that supports your skill set. I also will strongly advise that you do a lot of open source contributions related to the skill you are trying to build because it gives you the ability to work on big projects. Without having to so many years of experience, you get to learn while doing and connect with awesome open source folks :).
Did I forget to emphasize how much experience you can gain from doing that? A LOT.
What is the best advice someone has given you that has helped you in your career?
You don’t need guidance for everything, just take the initiative and be in a place to lead others who need guidance.
What are your favorite programming/ design tools?
Peace: My note and pen, they’re the fastest things I can pull up to make a rough sketch, list or anything I need to start off my design process.
I also like Figma, more so because of how collaborative, accessible, and inclusive they have been over the years.
What does your work environment look like? Could you please share a photo? :)
This is my previous working space, working on a new one :) … I’m not ready to unveil yet :)
Finally, what would be your message to women trying to get into technology?
Peace: "Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, 'We’ve always done it this way.' I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counterclockwise." - Grace Hopper, Pioneering Computer Scientist
Yes, be part of that change. Whoever told you it was a man’s world, lied :). Start today!
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. 💪💙