Halima Olapade
Young African in IT

EDUCATION: Software Engineer | Drexel University

I am a proud Nigerian technologist and all-around creative. In 2016, I graduated from Drexel University with a degree in Software Engineering. While in school, I did some research work on the applications of database management systems and also completed multiple internships as a software engineer with companies like SAP and Microsoft. I also created an array of applications like Servo, a fire station aid intended to help the city of Philadelphia improve emergency medical services. More recently, I worked on Diggly, an application that smartly extracts information from Wikipedia articles and transforms it into a graph visualization of the data extracted. Having graduated, I will soon be starting work as a software engineer at Google in New York. 

I wasn’t always a computer geek; in fact, I had never seen or written code prior to my first university software engineering class. The first time I tried to write code I found it extremely difficult, frustrating even. It took me a long time to understand why the struggle was worth it. Growing up, I always thought that university was the thing that you do so that you can earn lots of money, feed your family, buy a house and save for retirement; but in time, I have unlearned that. Today, I am a software engineer because I love to create and I thrive on the thrill of combining art with science. The beauty, I have found, in being a technologist is in its ability to harness the true power of the mind. As a technologist, I build applications that are an expression of my own unique interests.  

Growing up in Nigeria, I was immersed in a rich beautiful culture; I could not have asked for a better upbringing. Today, I am inspired by everything that is both good and bad about the Nigerian society. The good aspects, such as the “suffer and smile” attitude of Nigerians and love for lavish celebration inspire me to create products that showcase all that is beautiful about my country. On the other hand, the unpleasant aspects such as poor distribution of resources and the flailing economy inspire me to create products that help diversify the economy and create new jobs. I choose to embrace my Nigerian-ness and African-ness in its entirety; as such, I devote my time and skills to the development of proudly African products. To this end, I am currently developing an application called Craze that showcases Nigerian artisans (such as tailors, photographers and make-up artists) and connects them to customers. Essentially, Craze is a platform for Nigerians to find artisans in their region. More generally, I intend to focus my future development projects on creating applications specifically for African audiences and users. 

Studying software engineering has truly been a life changing experience. It has taught me about embracing new challenges and finding novel ways to solve different types of problems. In this regard, being in a tech field has been an empowering and uplifting gift – the kind that I can only hope to share with others. Many before me have done incredible work to bring tech education to African youths. Africode, for example, is an organization whose mission is to educate, inspire and equip Africans with the skills necessary to foster technical development across the continent. I fully support the mission of organizations like Africode, and I’m always looking to find more opportunities to help educate and support young African technologists.  

Having spent some years in the tech field and gained some industry experience, I am constantly in awe of the power that technology puts in our hands and how it transforms entire societies. However, I am also astonished at how it is sometimes grossly underutilized. As such, my overarching goal is to partake in the creation of an Africa comprised not just of technology consumers but also disruptive innovators in the worldwide tech space. Some of my personal tech legends include innovative and driven tech entrepreneurs like Tunde Kehinde and Iyin Aboyeji who founded Jumia and Andela, respectively. Following in their footsteps, I hope to soon be cutting it with the “big boys” who are driving technological innovation in Nigeria and the continent as a whole.  

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