By: Danaëlle Dominique, Graduate of The WIT Network STEM Education Program, Union School, Haiti
Since I was in high school, I knew I had a passion for technology; computer labs were always my favorite spot and I was, even at my young age, the person my relatives and friends would go to for all computer-, phone- or tablet-related problems. Somehow I became a fixer even without being a professional technician.
In 2016, when I graduated from high school, I wanted to major in Computer Science, but my mother couldn’t afford it. I majored in Business Management, telling myself that I would not let this setback kill my dream. Instead, I would use that degree and my first job to ensure financing so I could satisfy my craving for technology. The goal of becoming a famous female computer scientist like Marissa Mayer kept me going, and every day I would tell myself, “Danaëlle, you can and will make it happen!”
For the past three years, while studying for my bachelor’s degree in Business Management, I looked for and grabbed every single opportunity that I believed would lead me to my desired destination. My thirst for technology took me to Union School, Haiti, where I was given the chance to be part of a program sponsored by the Women in Technology Network (WIT) and Harvest for Humanity, which both aim to empower women interested in technology by offering access to training, seminars, conferences and/or workshops on computer skills.
To tell you the truth, there were times when I doubted myself; times when I asked myself whether, as a woman, I was smart enough to succeed in this field. Those moments of self-doubt emerged when men laughed at me when I told them of my love for IT and computers; when they said I was not good enough, that women were born to be secretaries. Oh yes, I have personally been a victim of stereotyping and gender gaps, and males have often tried to intimidate me. Many people tried to discourage me whenever I told them about my goal. But it all changed on January 5, 2019, after I attended The WIT Network conference about career opportunities with STEM for young women and various computer-related study programs. The conference boosted my self-confidence; the speakers, who were mostly women, were so inspiring that I found myself again. From that day, I decided to become an advocate for women in technology. I was excited to start one of their programs to strengthen my computer skills. My goal was to share what I learned and inspire other young women.
The first WIT class in STEM education began about a month after the conference was held. My whole perspective started to change by the end of the month. I was amazed with the program. It really was the first time I had attended a class in such a format (online and in-class) and I wondered how effective it would be. It was one of the best experiences of my life. The content was extremely interesting and the quiet learning environment encouraged growth. The learning process was long enough, and enthralling. I learned about computer literacy and the digital lifestyle. Not only did I learn about social media marketing, which I’ve developed a strong interest in, but also the different productivity tools within Office 365. I knew about the main components of Microsoft Office, which are Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but discovered that Office 365 is so much more: it has over 10 components that I never knew existed.
Those three months of online courses were such an amazing gift. Not only did I learn a lot through the courses, but the whole experience was beyond my expectations. It allowed me to take a leading role, which I enjoyed a lot. I was able to help the facilitators by ensuring that the other program participants were all on the same page, learning and progressing, and that nobody was left behind.
If I had not taken advantage of this wonderful program, I would have not been able to secure employment as a Data Manager at Union School, managing all the data for their annual summer camp, and supervising kids and adults on campus using Office 365 applications. I would have not been contacted by different people to manage their business social media accounts, either.
Now I can say loud and proud that I am an incredible computer literate, digital citizen, and, most importantly, a Woman in Technology. I’m not a computer scientist, not yet, but I am closer to becoming one, thanks to this program that has provided me the starting place I needed to continue down the road towards reaching my goal.
If ever I were given this opportunity again, I would go for it a thousand times over, with the same passion.