We started highlighting women on the African continent who are tech entrepreneurs, spearheading technology, and changing the tech status quo as we know it.
Ghana's Ethel Cofie is another amazing woman who is passionate about using technology as a tool for development and for supporting businesses’ in their efforts to customers with great service.
She is the founder of the Women in Tech Africa alliance.
iAfrikan: Who is Ethel Cofie?
Ethel Cofie: I have three passions; technology, women in leadership and entreprenuership.
My professional experience spans a variety of countries including the United Kingdom, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. I have worked on projects like the Bill and Melinda Gates Funded Mobile Technology for Health and Ford Foundation funded election-monitoring project for Nigerian Elections.
My last corporate job was Head of Commercial Solutions for Vodafone.
I started my company, Edel Technologies, to enable organization's to use IT to stay ahead of the competition, create products that differentiate them and grow exponentially.
Recently I have being working with non profit organizations to use technology to solve difficult social problems like access to health and maternal mortality.
I started a monthly Women in Technology Series in Ghana which is an informal networking group focused on education and enhancing women’s careers by sharing experiences and lessons learned in members’ career development.
I am also initiator of the 1st Pan African women in tech meet up which attracted over 150 women across the African continent and a founding member of the Women in tech Africa Alliance.
I believe that the more women in technology the better for the industry and I work to ensure that women in the industry stay and girls and encouraged to join.
Why did you choose a career in Information Technology ?
Technology chose me.
My story with computers started with an old Windows 2000 computer my dad bought for me after secondary school.
I discovered my love for computers quite late, I was almost 18 years old at the time .
I was struck by one thing when I discovered computers, that was the simple fact that the computer is dumb and the computer is only as smart as the one who writes its logic.
When did you realise it was time to quit your job and venture into entrepreneurship?
I wanted to work with clients in a different way, I wanted to build technology that made impact and helped business, grow, become profitable and solve their most pertinent issues.
Technology is not about computers it is about value.
Did you know before hand you were ready to venture into your own business?
I had tried before and failed and had gone to learn the lessons I needed to restart and win.
Tell us about your about your business and the type of community you are building.
My job is to help businesses and non profit organisations to use tech to meet their goals and succeed, my job with women in technology is to provide network and opportunities for women in technology to succeed.
My job is to enable the communities I work in.
How do we get young girls involved in and keep them involved in STEM?
By showing them examples of women doing well in STEM careers and encouraging them to consider those careers.
The first time I saw a woman who was talking about STEM careers, she was a student, running for Miss Ghana.
What myths do women need to break to feel they ought to access the technology and science community?
That they can't do it.
We know that is untrue, that is a lie. We can do anything we put our mind to.
What set of tools or resources keep you productive ?
What is the most important lesson learned from a mistake made in your past?
In January 2010, I returned to Ghana after a number of years in the UK. I studied for a Msc. in Distributed System under an International Student Scholarship after which I worked in various roles predominately as a Business Analyst for a consultancy firm.
Upon my return to Ghana in 2010, I worked with various organizations.
In Early 2011 I decided to pursue my long ambition of becoming an entrepreneur, and Iike the doer that I am I jumped to start a consultancy that would focus on providing excellent service support and customer service on behalf of clients to their customers on the one hand and formulating and implementing strategic directions to improve business performance indicators from visibility to finance by using simple and available technologies on the other.
After a year without any meaningful revenue I began to realize my startup had failed. I was passionate and hardworking but I still failed.
I went back to climbing the corporate ladder which lead me to exciting projects in Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. All the while I kept asking myself the questions "Why did I fail and how can I ensure that others like me do not take an entrepreneurial nose dive, and how could others learn from my experience".
My last corporate role was a Head Commercial Solutions of Vodafone before I returned to the entrepreneurial life as Founder of Edel Technology.
With my new experiences in product innovation, business strategy and networking especially from my role as business development manager in Sierra Leone and in Vodafone as a head of commercial solutions I partnered with iSpace Foundation Ghana (a new technology innovation hub in Accra, Ghana funded by Indigo trust) to run a series on how to create a strategy, how to form strategic partnerships and how to build products that sells.
Additionally I worked with iSpace to mentor its hub residents including Games Nerd (Game Nerd’s mission is to provide the conditions necessary for the gaming culture)
I learnt what I didn’t know to ensure when I started a busiess again, I would be in a better situation.
What are your words of advice to any young woman who wants to be like you?
The world does not forgive us when we take a seat at the table or stand up to speak without being able to speak from a place of knowledge and understanding.
It is what it is, so women need to be prepared, but my first advice is take that seat at the table, speak up!
I spent years not speaking up because my career was just starting and I didn’t have anything of consequence to say, I remember going to a meeting once and being mistaken for my boss' assistant.
Don’t be afraid of criticism, research shows that in cases of men and women with the same type ‘A’ personalities , a man will always be seen as a go getter and ambitious and the woman will be seen as bitchy and loud.
Understand it and move on.
Negotiate: You don’t get what you deserve you get what you negotiate, I was head hunted out of school for a role and I took the first offer they gave me, I assumed they were giving me what I deserved, only to realize when I started the role that the guys headhunted at that time negotiated and asked for more. So immediately I was earning avg 10-30 percent less than all the guys in my role at the time. I leant my lesson!
I will be controversial here: Learn to be uncomfortable, are you willing to do a dinner or a late night drink with a VC or learn to integrate with the boys club, sleep on the hard floor on the night of deployment?
You must understand that’s the cost of doing business? I have had to survive initially in tech by being one of the boys until my reputation spoke for me. I don’t know if it’s the best advice I know that’s what I had to do for survival in business and technology.
Cover Image Credit: Ethel Cofie