Kelechi Udoagwu is on a mission to take technology - education and adoption -mainstream across Africa.
I met Kelechi Udoagwu via Linkedin. Her posts and video content caught my attention and I reached out to learn more about her story. The interview below is the outcome of that conversation.
Hi Kelechi, tell us about you and your journey so far.
Hello, it’s my pleasure to be here. I’m a tech entrepreneur, advocate and multimedia content creator. Most of the work I do and content I create revolves around demystifying technology, providing career options and connecting young Africans to global opportunities. Until July 2017, I was Communications Director at a tech incubator in Ghana. From that experience, I developed the passion for explaining what tech companies do in simple words to people who don’t understand it - which is a large proportion of Africans - both young and old, well-educated and not-so-educated.
Prior to my entry into tech, I knew nothing about it. I was a commercial model, and I thought of the tech industry as an elite club for nerds whose language I could never understand. Fast forward a couple of years and I’m right in the thick of things.
I formally got into technology on a full scholarship to MEST in 2014. We were taught Software Development, Communications and Business/Startup strategies.
My career goal then was simple - learn to programme, build apps, sell them and live in luxury for the rest of my life but, obviously, life has other plans.
While at MEST, I enjoyed learning to code but discovered my strength was in Communications. I became the person always chosen to pitch, explain complex concepts and give the valedictory speech at my graduation. And so I started to work more as a communicator - bringing the human element into an otherwise technical and closed environment.
Tell us about your work now and what you do.
These days, I think of myself as a walking explainer video for all things technology. My goal is to educate young (and older) Africans and businesses to leverage technology and digital tools to create better lives, businesses and communities; and take advantage of more global opportunities.
My main areas of expertise are communications, technology and media. I speak at events, teach kids to code, create videos and offer one-on-one mentorship. I’m constantly open to new experiences that align with my mission.
On the other side, to get my bills paid, I freelance and consult for brands, mostly on marketing communications, digital strategy and PR.
I’m also writing my first book - A Week Of Saturdays - about life as an African freelancer and how to make bank doing things you truly love.
What role do you think the media plays in shaping Africa’s narrative and how can Africans leverage it more?
Media is such a fluid terms these days. Traditional media is on its way out as most of us get information online. Generation Z has grown up with the internet and smartphones so they know no other way to communicate or get information. It’s up to all of us, not just journalists, to share and celebrate indigenous brands, culture, entrepreneurs and everything good.
You know the saying: “Until the lion learns to write, history will always favor the hunter.”
What’s a major challenge the tech ecosystem across Africa faces?
Low market adoption definitely! Working at an incubator for the last 3 years, I have seen so many good ideas and apps fail because the market just wasn’t ready. An example is Paysail. Another challenge is the subconscious belief that Western apps and products are better than ours which is why most of us use Instagram daily, but not Suba (which is dead now) or Tress.
You’ve been a freelancer, full-time professional and also an entrepreneur throughout your career, which has been your favorite experience?
There’s perks to all but my favorite is freelancing. I love flexibility because that’s where my creativity comes from. I’m not a planner and I don’t like to be put in a box or under constant supervision. Having said that though, as a full time professional, I had a team which felt like family. They provided support and there was always someone to talk to when I needed to.
As an entrepreneur, everything is my responsibility and sometimes it gets overwhelming. I look forward to a time when I can merge all worlds and build a strong team to achieve more.
What advice would you give to aspiring tech entrepreneurs or brand marketers and communicators?
You don’t know what you can do till you actually do it. I wanted to be a programmer but after trying it, realized it wasn’t fun for me.
Imagination and dreams have nothing on reality. So try everything, and try them early. Give yourself room to experiment and grow.
Most importantly, never get tied to a job description.
How has your time in the tech industry been? Ever felt out of place as a woman or experienced any mistreatment?
I have never been mistreated. My major problem is that, at least 80% of the time, I’m the only woman in the room and that can feel a little lonely because guys have their inside jokes that I can’t seem to break into.
Have any role models? Tell us about them.
I love Tyra Banks! She started from scratch and has conquered industries from modeling to television to tech.
If you could give your 18-year old self some advice, what would it be?
I’d tell her adulthood is no joke - there’s bills to pay, expectations to live up to, and no one warns you about these things till they suddenly start happening to you.
I’d tell her to save a little of everything she earns in an account she can’t access until she’s about 30 years old.
What’s next for you?
I am super excited to streamline my ideas, join new teams, make more impact.
I want to partner with individuals and organizations with similar goals - to take technology mainstream, and teach our youth to survive on their own without waiting for paid employment.
To contact or get more information about Kelechi and her work, please visit kelechiudoagwu.com