Betty Enyonam Kumahor: An African Woman Worth Celebrating
It is August 1910 and 100 women from 17 countries meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, to agree on a strategy to promote equal rights in what will eventually become known as International Women’s Day. Fast-forward to many generations later: It is February 1st, 2014. The scorching Accra sun pierces with little dancing wind; yet the streets continue to move to their usual hustle tunes. But hustle or not, Betty Enyonam Kumahor, Managing Director for ThoughtWorks Africa, is building a foundation that will benefit the African continent in generations to come.
Twice a week, she blogs about productivity, leadership and Africa on her platform Enyonam.com. Her day-to-day activities as MD, however, are best captured as follows: Working with all ThoughtWorkers to ensure that they’re actively out to discover talents, building leaders and ensuring that great softwares are being created while rescuing near collapse IT projects, and continuing to innovate on the continent.
And that includes empowering more African women to venture into IT.
“There’s not enough of us, that disappoints me,” she says about the number of African women in the industry.
“I keep wondering who are the women going to build the technology solutions that I need to use as a woman. And so I need to do my part making sure that they’re there and that they see the opportunities when they come into the field.”
Kumahor admits to spending considerable amounts of time as MD searching for women and girls who desire to venture into technology or would like to use more of it.
But what aspect of technology lured this dynamic woman into the territory?
“For me it was the creation. I like building organizational systems so that was it for me,” she says as she describes her fascination with technology and where it all started – watching her brother use his computer many years ago.
“We didn’t have any graphics in those days, right,” she breaks into chuckles and continues, “He just seemed to be typing all the time, I didn’t know what he was doing. But it was the way he sort of changed the computer and made it do what he was asking it to do, that was pretty cool. It was unlike any of the other subjects I was studying.”
Prior to her meeting with Roy Singham, Founder and Chairman of ThoughtWorks, which led to her current position with the global software delivery and products company, Kumahor was already practicing what Thoughtworks terms Pillar 1 and Pillar 2: Building a sustainable business and revolutionizing IT, respectively, through her personal business ventures.
“But that was all extra-curricular,” Kumahor says of activities prior to her current work.
“ThoughtWorks was the opportunity to do all of that every day, all day with a group of like-minded individuals. One voice is far less powerful than all of us speaking about it, than all of us doing something about it. It just felt like one of those moments, ahhhhhh” she chuckles softly, “It was one of those moments.”
On whether Africa is ready to deliver the next Bill Gates, she confidently retorts:
“Absolutely. It’s more than just possible; I think it’s probable. I think we will be coming out with a lot of innovative solutions that other nations and continents are not ready to. I think the next tech innovations will come out of here and the next tech leaders will come out of here. “
Indeed. From enlightening mothers who are clueless about the capabilities of a simple device as a cell phone and educating others about technology to managing ThoughWorks Africa, Kumahor is en route to leaving incredible foot prints on the continent. She has much to say about this generation’s contributions.
“I think sometimes, our generation, we sort of think that we’re still striving for something and we forget that we actually have a lot to share,” she asserts. “I think if more people spend more time with their relatives who are not as fortunate and with schools or kids who are not as fortunate, it’s amazing what could happen.”