We start with a word, ‘Education’.
What comes to mind? Youth, a classroom, a curriculum, a teacher, exams and the list draws on in similar fashion. How about Entrepreneurship? Did it come to mind? It is interesting that entrepreneurship does not coincide with our notion of education. In a way, this can be blamed for the high percentage of illiteracy in Africa, as Entrepreneurs are the courageous ones who break away from status quo and put life and heart in ideas. For Education to grow, we need Entrepreneurs to establish their presence.
This ushers us into our Techpreneur of the week, Teresa Mbagaya, a lady who has continued to push for the positive evolution of Education in Africa. Teresa is Zimbabwean however, she was born in Kenya in the year 1990.
For an individual to aim for positive change in the current academic landscape, it is important to pay the dues necessary. She packs a strong educational background, starting with an Arabic and Political Science Bachelors Degree at Yale University. Teresa Mbagaya performed so well that she received an Eagle Scholar Awards from the Institution for inspiring her classmates through kindness, dedication, and courage. She also received a $1,000 youth scholarship grant from Hudson River Fisherman’s Association in 2006 as a result of her passion and zest.
After this, Teresa studied Political Economy at the London School of Economic and Political Science and then moved on to study Advanced Arabic in Morocco through the School for International Training. She also holds a certificate in Advanced Arabic from the SIT Graduate Institute in Washington DC. This is a vast pool of experiences for Teresa to fish from and she corroborates it saying:
“The broad nature of my studies lent to experiences abroad which fuelled my passion and interest in the world.” And as a result of this fueled passion, Teresa Mbagaya would dedicate her life and self to business, education, technology and innovation.
Teresa kickstarted her professional career at Google Inc. in the United States, there, she occupied various capacities. First, as the account manager of education and then she was selected to partake in the Google Reach leadership program where she served the position of an Outreach and business consultant for over 2 months. That’s not all, she also worked as a Project Manager and Product marketer where she organized the first ever technology education conference for over a thousand students around the world.
In 2013, Teresa moved on and was appointed the team lead at Econet Education in Zimbabwe, and was the youngest ever person to occupy such position. There, she strived to make an indelible impact with the launch of EcoSchool, an educational platform that gives students dependable access to school materials with the use of the EcoSchool Tablet.
She was also at the forefront of the Econet Zero initiative— which gives over five million Econet Broadband subscribers access to more than 50 educational and learning platforms. After a successful stint at Econet, she moved on to the position of ‘Education Lead’ at Microsoft, a role she still occupies today.
On her rise to the top as a female in a male-dominated field, Teresa is well aware of the imbalanced preconception people have regarding sexes, citing an unconscious bias test performed at Columbia University. Two Classes were given the same resumes under a man and a woman’s name. The class that received the man’s resume perceived him as ambitious, strategic and a go-getter while the woman was seen as power hungry and less likeable. “… during my tenure and Econet and Google, I note that the elevation of women does not simply happen naturally but must be cultivated in the culture and vision of any institution.” She is quoted to have said.
“We have to value the contributions of women and ensure those in your hierarchies are women of range and depth.” She continued.
Teresa Mbagaya has contributed to many initiatives, having co-founded Bidii Children, a nonprofit initiative aimed at promoting education in Western Kenya in 2006, she seats on the board of VilCap Communities Africa and she is the Principal of Education – Investments at the Omidyar Network.
She is well lauded as well— listed among Forbes “30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa” in 2015, was nominated by Future Awards Africa for “Young Person of the Year” category and is a 2015 inductee to the African Leadership Network.
When asked by the Daily Nation to advice women in the areas of career, relationships and health issues, Teresa had quite the poignant answer.
“On career, I’ve always remarked that absolutely no one but you is responsible for your career; as such, plan for your future. Ask for that promotion, ask to be included in strategic meetings, invest in your leadership and in your colleagues, ask to take lead of varied initiatives and best yet, bring your best self to work.
On relationships, I’ve found I learn most about myself when in a relationship: to be patient, kind, to prioritize another, to listen, to be vulnerable, to communicate. Relationships are difficult, but they are also incredibly rewarding.
On health, preventative screenings and annual physicals are a must. I urge all women to visit a doctor, whether an ob-gyn, a therapist, or a general practitioner because your health is the most important thing.
I find women remarkable and strong and powerful; and so my advice is simple: know yourself, trust yourself, and love yourself.”
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