FAITH KEZA: CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF IREMBO, RWANDA
After working for tech giants like Oracle and Google in Silicon Valley, Faith Keza returned to her home country to head Irembo, a local technology company that is revolutionising government service delivery in Rwanda. Their IremboGov online portal offers over 80 government services from birth certificates to health insurance.
When Faith entered university, she realised that she had quite a bit of catching up to do. She had always loved mathematics and performed so well that her teachers and family encouraged her to study it. But once she had signed up for a mathematics programme at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, USA, she realised that she’d rather study an applied science or engineering. “I had study mates making really cool software and others turning sugars into fuel. I knew then that I wanted to be a maker, and one of the fields I explored first was computer science.” She loved it and decided to join the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Program. “At MIT, all my classmates grew up programming games and tools. I had never programmed before my first computer science course at the university.” But she had good advisors and friends who encouraged her to stick it out.
Faith graduated with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and computer science – and set off to conquer Silicon Valley. In California, she worked as a software engineer for top tech companies including Oracle, Delpix and Google. “It was a great experience and great introduction to how software technology is made at scale. I learnt a lot about teamwork, product strategy and user-centric design.”
But at the back of her mind, Faith always wanted to come back and make an impact in her home country, Rwanda. And when an opportunity opened up, she “knew it was the right fit.” Upon her return, she joined Irembo as Chief Technology Officer. Irembo is a digital government start-up that delivers the country’s main government services online, saving users the trouble of applying for services in person. Citizens can sign on to public health insurance, register for a driving test, pay fines and apply for ID cards and birth and marriage certificates. Faith was later appointed Chief Executive Officer of Irembo. With her diverse background in the technology sphere, she was also appointed to the board of the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR).
According to Faith, women are still underrepresented in tech. “We have a representation problem in the field globally, but I feel it more now that I am back on the continent. In many companies, we have very few if any female engineers, and we need to do more to attract and keep women in the industry.” The way we communicate with young girls and boys needs to change, she says, and more opportunities must be given to girls in high school and college to ensure that women are not considered anomalies in tech in the future. Only with more women in leadership positions can we change tech companies to be more inclusive and welcoming to women. ?
“Lean in, do it and stick with it!”
This article has originally been published as part of the publication "Women in Tech: Inspiration, no fairytales" by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). You can download the publication or order a print edition of the book on the #eSkills4Girls website.