Just two years after graduating from the College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) with her degree in software engineering, alumna Halima Olapade is keeping herself busy – in addition to her job as a Software Engineer at Google, she also dedicates her time as the volunteer Program Manager at Africode, a non-profit organization that works to support Africans in technology.
Obtaining her position at Google, Olapade explained, was a result of her willingness to learn a diverse set of new skills through her co-op positions and being involved in Drexel’s Women in Computing Society (WiCS). “WiCS transformed my CCI experience,” Olapade said. “I made some really good friends and got to attend Grace Hopper conferences with the group, which helped to open up internship opportunities.”
While she was a student, Olapade held co-ops in Philadelphia, Seattle, and Germany, where she got to try different positions within the software engineering field, including quality testing, backend/frontend development and academic research. The variety of experiences she accrued helped her gain a broad set of skills in software engineering and allowed her to build an interesting resume. After making connections at Google events, she found herself talking to the company’s recruiters and prepping for interviews.
About one month after she landed a position at Google in 2016, Olapade also became the program manager at Africode, a non-profit organization established in 2014. Africode is run by a team of four people and consists of a total of 44 mentors and mentees, as well as about 50 members of the tech community. Their mentees have held internships at Google, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs, among other companies.
“My role as a Program Director is to help develop and maintain Africode programs and initiatives,” Olapade said. This includes planning and logistics surrounding its mentorship program as well as AfricodeX, a platform for members of the Africode network to share emerging technology, ideas, projects, and new knowledge with members of the Africode community and the general public. These tutorials are usually hosted by Africans who have developed expertise in the subjects at hand.
“For one hour, we introduce one or more new ideas and facilitate discussions about the topic,” Olapade explained. “In the past, we’ve had tutorials focused on topics like Android development, machine learning, and version control.”
To Olapade, Africode’s mentorship program is important because she has experienced firsthand the difference an invested mentor can make in a student’s life. “As a student, it’s easy to only see and worry about your next test, next exam, or next internship without necessarily thinking about how the pieces will connect – mentors are very good for helping you see the bigger picture and figuring out how to get there,” she said.
Olapade considers Assistant Professor Julia Stoyanovich, PhD, as an influential mentor. She worked in a research position for two years in Stoyanovich's database laboratory where she developed her skills as a researcher. In her position at Google, Olapade also has a few informal mentors who continue to help her grow as an engineer.
“Personally, I think mentorship is important because it opens ones’ eyes to what is possible,” she said.
While there is no formally established relationship between CCI and Africode, Olapade has used her connections at Drexel to recruit Africode members, many of whom are Drexel students. Currently, Africode’s leadership team is focused on building and improving its mentorship program.
If you’re interested in learning more about Africode or volunteering to become a mentor, you can find more information at www.africode.org or contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.