Diversifying Physical Computing Skills in West Africa: Kafayat Adeoye
Kafayat Adeoye is on a mission to make technology skills training accessible to West Africa’s women and girls. After graduating with a first-class Bachelor’s degree in Electronics Systems Engineering from the University of Portsmouth in England, Kafayat returned to Nigeria and started working with diverse organizations, developing digital skills training courses in the areas of robotics, IoT (Internet of Things) and general-purpose programming.
If you are interested in Artificial Neural Networks, you might want to take a look at Kafayat’s thesis on using neural networks to create a fingerprint recognition system here.
What steps led you to pursue electronics engineering?
My friends called me “Computer” in secondary school after I represented the school at a web development competition in 2004 which was hosted by the Ministry of Education in Ogun State. Participants in the competition were paired up, and together with my teammate, we took second place in that competition.
My interest in computers and electronics grew from that point on, especially because I got to learn a lot about software from the experience at the competition. That exposure made it easier for me to settle on electronics engineering — a balance between software and hardware programming.
How did you get into the University of Portsmouth?
I was first a student at YabaTech, pursuing an HND in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. I chose electronics as my field of focus and studied a lot about digital processing. I graduated with distinction and got a partial scholarship from the University of Portsmouth to study there.
How was your time at the University of Portsmouth?
It was very research-intensive — my supervisor gave me a list of projects, and a lot of them required extensive reading and practice with algorithms. I had started learning programming on my own before getting there, so that helped me to adapt relatively quickly. A lot of the focus on my final year project work was on making the fingerprint recognition system faster and more efficient.
My lecturers were certainly helpful, but I went the extra mile to study a lot on my own. I took some courses on Udemy to supplement my studies and explored the resources that were available on the University E-Library platform. It wasn’t a walk in the park, it was really difficult, but I am glad it turned out great.
I also realised that the approach to learning at Portsmouth was more hands-on, and the systems were highly structured for students to access resources for their learning.
What projects have you worked on so far, coming back to Nigeria?
I started working with Eko-Konnect as a technical support staff. One thing that I like about the organisation is that they give you enough flexibility to expand your skills to be better than you were when you joined. At different times, they just throw different challenges at you and expect you to come up with great results. One of those projects was the Women in WACREN (West and Central African Research and Education Network) project. You can read more about the Women-in-Women project online course and hackathon in my article here.
Eko-Konnect also has a program called ICT4Girls based in Nigeria, and we are exploring holding a virtual Hackathon this year, and providing some training for young women and girls using course outlines from The Carpentries.
Have you had any significant mentors on your journey?
Not really. Lacking that I would say is one thing that made the journey a tad difficult for me. I was trying to find my way through this information technology ocean. There wasn’t really any program providing women in tech a clear pathway to a successful career in tech at that time. It was bewildering trying to settle on one skill to master.
That is why I am passionate about the ICT4Girls and Women in WACREN programs. I try to imagine my experience and how it would have been better if I had the kind of support these programs offer, then I work hard to create it for the ladies aspiring for tech-related careers now.
I apply a lot of empathy, asking myself what would have positioned and equipped me to do even much more. Within the communities we have created through these programs, we have discussion forums and those help me get a lot of feedback and ideas from the users of the solutions we are designing. One key element that has surfaced is the need for a practical immersion into the technologies they are desiring to work with — they don’t want to just hear about AI, but they want to see AI at work, create solutions from it, and see those solutions make impact.
Any final words?
One mistake a lot of people make is to rush towards the technology of the most current wave and trend. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is a need to properly evaluate one’s strengths and weaknesses before taking such steps.
If we have more people in West Africa having a strong dedication and commitment towards what they know they truly want to pursue deep within, I believe there would be an increase in innovation through the uniqueness of each individual’s pursuits.
Nominate someone for me to interview.