Talk about the use of information and communication technologies in Cameroon and most attention is tilted towards men. Following a study carried out by an organization known as “Internet San Frontieres” in 2015 on the use of internet in Cameroon, it was realized that Cameroonian women are 50% less likely to access the internet than their male compatriots.
“Internet San Frontieres” established that access to the internet remains a luxury especially for women who are more vulnerable to poverty.
It is in this context of what has been described as a male dominated field that Estelle Yomba has singled out herself not only as an ICT expert at the national level but a first class international information and communication technology engineer by holding the position of a Senior Technical Program Manager at Google in the United States of America.
Born in 1989 in Nkongsamba, Moungo Division in the Littoral Region of Cameroon, Estelle Yomba lost both parents at the age of 10 – a situation that may have frustrated her dream of success, but no.The inner zeal to triumph over poverty through quality education became the main motivating factor of the then little girl that has grown to become a force to reckon with in the field of ICT on planet earth.
Today, Estelle Yomba at 30 is the first African woman to hold the position of Senior Technical Program Manager at Google.The graduate of Regent University College of Science and Technology in Ghana believes in the philosophy that challenges can actually be turned into stepping stones of veritable success if one is focused and determined.
In a short visit to Cameroon, Mimi Mefo Info negotiated and obtained few minutes of the career woman for an exclusive interview. In the interesting interview below, Madam Yomba, mother of a bouncing baby boy tells her incredible story of success in the world of information and communication technologies, her view on the learning and use of ICT in Cameroon and Africa and equally her projects of empowering young people on what she practices with passion and expertise.
Mimi Mefo Info(MMI): Good Day Mrs.Estelle Yomba. Welcome to Cameroon and thanks for accepting to talk to Mimi Mefo Info.
Estelle Yomba: Thanks for having me and special thanks for giving me an opportunity to share my experiences with the world in general and Cameroonians in particular. I have heard of Mimi Mefo Info reporting news with all professionalism and I’m glad to have your team give me the opportunity to tell my story.
Mimi Mefo Info: Thanks for the compliments. You are a young influencial Cameroonian woman in technology. How did you get to the prestigious position of a Senior Technical Program Manager at Google?
Estelle Yomba: I can describe my journey into the world of technology in general as that of hard work and commitment. Back to your question, I was hired to work at Google in 2015. When I was contacted to apply for the job, I was a little reluctant because I had other things that actually took much of my time.
By then, I was offering a Masters Degree in Engineering Management at the California State University and had a full time job as a software engineer with eBay. I knew how tedious the interview process at Google can be. At times, up to three months of a rigorous interview process. However, the recruiters at Google were so intelligent and they convinced me on how simple and lively the interview was going to be so I gave in. I went for the interview and was recruited as an engineer in Google Chrome.
Through hard work and dedication to service, I have been promoted to different positions from Engineer to Technical Program Manager. I have worked with Google Chrome and now I have been transferred to Google Cloud (Computer Engine).
MMI: As a Cameroonian and African in such a position, how do you evaluate the involvement of Cameroon in particular and the African continent as a whole in information and communication technology?
Estelle Yomba: I think Cameroon and Africa as a whole is behind the trend as compared to other continents in the world. That notwithstanding, some countries in Africa like Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Tunisia are beginning to make significant strides in embracing information communication technology. Kenya today stands tall as a tech hub in Africa.
MMI: You have been in the field of information and communication technology for over 10 years. What do you think is the major barrier in the African continent to the development of ICT?
Estelle Yomba: I am of the opinion that a single reason cannot explain why Africa is still backward in the domain. This means several reasons account for this. First, there is the problem of training.There is a big gap between how ICT is taught in most African countries (Cameroon inclusive) and other advanced countries.
Our curriculum is mostly outdated – Technology is something that changes dramatically so we have to always do constant updates.There is a problem of ingnorance where stakeholders may not even know what they are doing. To some, education is just a business.This is dangerous as we are dealing with the futures of young Africans.There is equally the problem of lack of expertise and worst still even when the real experts are there to train, they still face the problem of poor environment that affects productivity and quality training.
This is one of the reasons I created Seven Advanced Academy, a first class IT Engineering Training Institute to give students and young people practical quality training that will permit them to compete at the international level. We will collaborate with existing institutions and the government to change the continent. They got the experience, we got the trending knowhow that will be a force for us to write the new African story in technology.
MMI: Estelle Yomba, if you are given the opportunity to advise policy makers in Cameroon on how to design the educational system or syllabuses to favor the teaching of ICT, what will you tell them?
Estelle Yomba: The educational system should give priority to practical work rather than theory. Government should encourage talent. There are many ways she can do this: A policy of tax exemptions for startups for like five years to permit them establish and develop apps and other engineering software applications that can advance the economy. Above all, ensuring that there is fast and good quality internet is necessary. Investors should trust Africans, companies should promote Africa and users should consume what is African.
MMI: In Cameroon, Chad Burundi and other African countries, their leaders sometimes shutdown the internet to punish the citizens for one reason or the other. Can that be an impediment to the advancement of ICT?
Estelle Yomba: (Smiles…) It is regrettable that such things do happen. But I belong to that category of people who will stop at nothing when I have a burning desire to do what is right.This means that government’s shutting down the internet or other mishaps should not discourage people.
It should instead spur their inner creativity to develop technological ways to overcome the challenges. For instance, if there is internet shutdown as you mention, a conscious tech engineer needs to go to work and develop what will solve the problem of internet blackout.
MMI: How can a Cameroonian back home make money from Google which is a database of information in the world?
Estelle Yomba: There are several opportunities of making money with Google.Technology is developing and changing in a very fast pace that no one can imagine.Google is receptive to tech engineers that have something to develop that can advance technology. Either by developing new apps, putting in place new and efficient ways of internet security and many more are welcome. This means you can make money from Google anywhere you are in the world.
Talented Africans are making money from Google through blogging.Those passionate in technology can participate in Google competitions and win thousands of US dollars.
MMI: Earlier, you mentioned Seven Advance Academy Institute you have put in place in Douala.The question many are asking is what will a top Google employee like you living well in USA is doing with an ICT institute in Cameroon.
Estelle Yomba: Good question. I have lived in Cameroon before moving out for education and subsequently work. I did not go to USA for adventure or greener pastures. I was living my passion in Africa, then was identified by an engineer in the Silicon Valley and was hired from here. I landed in USA on Friday and started work on Monday. So I went on a constructive purpose to learn and come back.
One of the major challenges Cameroonians and other African face out there especially in the domain of ICT is that of training. Conscious of this, Seven Academy Institute is to provide quality training to young Cameroonians.
Let me remind you that I come from a family where we don’t have ministers, directors or any member of government. As an orphan, I understand perfectly what it means struggling in Cameroon to acquire quality education. So the institute is partly to offer scholarships to young, smart but poor students who demonstrate a strong zeal of doing great things in the domain of ICT.
Seven Academy is not a business but a timely necessity to prepare students for the huge challenge in the domain. Studies have shown that Africa will have the highest work force more than India and China put together by 2040.This means investors will be streaming into the continent to hire experts. Therefore, there is the need to prepare now technologically to avoid a second ‘ICT colonization’ that can be more dangerous than slave trade. It may interest your readers to know that in Silicon Valley, we call users getting online for the first time “The next Billion users” and Africa is mainly part of it.
MMI: Beside Seven Academy, what does Estelle Yomba have in the pipeline as part of a transfer of technology?
Estelle Yomba: We have a lot that will be dished out to Cameroonians and the African continent progressively. There is Seven Academy University with preparations for its kickoff already at an advanced stage. The site has already been secured. Seven Incubation Centres for mentorship and equally financial empowerment. We believe in problem-solving education. So, we are soon launching Seven GPS that is, Seven Global Procurement and Sourcing. Here, we will be providing jobs to our students upon graduation and helping local companies with hands-on expertise in tackling corporate problems using technology.
MMI: These are projects that demand that you live here to oversee all of them. Is that going to be the case?
Estelle Yomba: I visit Cameroon more often and even when I’m away, I keep in touch with workers back home. So, I practically know what is happening. Let me say here that there is no place as home. It is part of our duty to build and develop Cameroon to look like USA, UK and other developed places. I feel much better while at home.
I always tell my students that what they see and admire in USA and Europe so beautiful is the fruit of sacrifice of their forefathers who built their countries for their great grand children.We go and remain there while lavishing on their labour that to me is stealing.
MMI: What advice to young girls and Cameroonians out there on the use of the internet?
Estelle Yomba: The internet is what has been given to us to improve our well being. My late mum used to tell us that the only way out of poverty is to be well educated. So instead of posting the food you eat, the dress you wear and other things, Cameroonians should use the internet to educate themselves. Read more and research on your area of interest. That alone will move us from the position of complaining and cursing to that of a fulfilled life.
Mimi Mefo Info: We have come to the end of this interesting interview Madam CEO.Thanks for talking to Mimi Mefo Info.
Estelle Yomba: Thanks for giving me this rare opportunity on your platform.The media is doing an excellent job. If we must go far in the domain of ICT and other fields of life, then the media must be robust and the Mimi Mefo Info team is doing just that.
Mimi Mefo Info: Thanks and safe journey back to USA.
Mimi Mefo Info