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Profile: Odion Olumhense, co-founder and COO at Ellcrys

Diversity talk: Even if your team is not very diverse, what matters is that they value you

Gabriela Motroc
diversity
© Shutterstock /Lamina2014

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? In addition to the Women in Tech survey, we also launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Odion Olumhense, co-founder and COO at Ellcrys.

Is tech a boys-only club? So it seems. But the light of smart and powerful women is finally shining bright. We root for excellence and justice and, above all, we want meritocracy to win. This is our way of giving women in tech a shout-out.

A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Women in Tech — The Survey

We would like to get to the bottom of why gender diversity remains a challenge for the tech scene. Therefore, we invite you all to fill out our diversity survey. Share your experiences with us!

Your input will help us identify the diversity-related issues that prevent us from achieving gender equality in technology workplaces.

Without further ado, we would like to introduce Odion Olumhense, co-founder and COO at Ellcrys.

Odion Olumhense, co-founder and COO at Ellcrys

Odion Olumhense is the co-founder and COO of Ellcrys. She has extensive experience working and managing projects in retail, fashion, aviation and technology sectors. She co-founded Gangfly, an advertisement network and Crowd Effect, a software consulting company. She founded Tentacles, a food and beverage company. Her journey into finance began with Rupt and Object network, earlier interactions of Ellcrys. She is a project strategist who is excellence driven, chronically curious, loves technology and a futurist.

What got you interested in technology?

I have always loved science. I have always been interested in how technology works. Spotting problems and seeking solutions is something that I find interesting. This curiosity led me to the path I am threading. In 2009, I recognized a problem in Africa’s fashion industry; at the time, there were good designers on the continent but I felt there was no real structure to showcase and sell products.

I wanted to use technology to solve this problem. I built a team of developers to work on a solution. It didn’t quite go as planned but I gained a lot from that experience. It opened me up to other possibilities. That was my first venture into technology. In 2014, I met Kennedy Idialu at Aptech (a technology institute). He told me about a project he was working on at the time. I was convinced and joined him. We have been working together ever since we met and have worked on various projects leading up to Ellcrys.

I grew up in Benin City, Nigeria. I was born to a family of entrepreneurs. My parents were entrepreneurs and encouraged us to do same. After school, I came to Lagos where I met Kennedy. I have had a few obstacles. People not taking me seriously because of my nationality and gender. Lack of feedback from people because they thought I am crazy. Lack of financial support to pursue my vision. I have fought my way against the odds and still do. I have fought my doubts and fears. I have fought to keep moving despite the lack of support. Thankfully, I was able to overcome and forge ahead.

I am lucky to have a supportive family. They understand that I am living a life different from what they are used to but they give me their support regardless. At various stages of my life, I have been inspired by many people — both living and dead. People like Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama, Nelson Mandela and Elon Musk have helped shape me to become the person I am today.

However, I have had people tell me I am stupid, some said I am ignorant. Someone once told me I should quit technology and become a doctor. He was willing to sponsor my medical career but unwilling to support my tech vision. I am glad I didn’t listen to any of them. I am lucky to have a very supportive family and an amazing team. So, while others think I am crazy, there are a few persons who understand me and provide their support.

SEE ALSO: GitHub alternative: Ellcrys is using blockchain to help developers create indestructible repositories

A day in Odion’s life

I am co-founder and COO at Ellcrys, a project building a blockchain that will allow people build community-owned software product and organizations. I meet with my team on Mondays to discuss priorities for the week.

On a typical workday, I check in on every member of the team and access their progress on assigned tasks. I check in and help them with any issues they may be having. I handle various administrative duties as well, including responding to emails, drafting emails and documents, scheduling and attending meetings.

I am blessed with an amazing team. Kennedy and I have come a long way and it’s been an interesting journey. It is humbling to wake up each day to a team of people working selflessly to attain a common goal. It isn’t common to see people working selflessly without pay for years not because there is a lack of opportunity in other companies but because they believe in a vision.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

It is an irony that there are very few women in tech considering the fact that in the early days of computers, building software was often seen as a woman’s job. Heck, the world’s first programmer was a woman. One major problem is the historical narrative that says technology is a man’s job. This idea is prevalent in many parts of the world today. We need to correct this idea to bring more women into tech.

Diverse teams perform better. Individuals from different gender, races, background, and experience can bring a different perspective that can lead to innovative solutions. We tend to forget that a lot of what is being created will find a customer that is a woman.

Involving women in building a solution to day-to-day problems would increase the usage of the product and solution being created and the success of their application. Companies with a strong female leadership deliver higher returns on equity. I read somewhere and agree that a company with 30% female leadership could expect to add up to six percentage points to its net margin when compared with a similar business with no female leaders and that groups with more diversity are more innovative and make better decisions.

Obstacles

Gender discrimination is a big problem in the tech industry. Statistics show that women in tech report gender inequality at a higher rate than the overall average among employed women. Another problem is lack of support from coworkers and sometimes from family and friends. Handling inequality on its own is hard but doing so without any support makes it even harder. Lack of encouragement and harassment also increases the entry barrier for women aspiring to be in tech and makes it harder for women to remain in technology.

Tips & tricks

Working in the tech industry is awesome. You get to go out every day and build the future. Here are some of the things that have helped me in the industry and may help anyone who wants a tech career.

  • Focus on what you love doing. Maybe you love coding or design or have the “let’s solve a hard problem’ mentality. Focus on that. Don’t get distracted. Be passionate about the problem you want to solve. Dedicate yourself completely to making it work.
  • Find a team that values diversity. Ask questions about their values and ensure they align with yours. Get to the point where you feel confident that the team, even if it isn’t very diverse, values you.
  • Believe in yourself and your abilities. Ignore the naysayers and the sexists. Don’t worry about your gender. Don’t let it get to you. You may meet some nasty people (men and women) who may cause you to question your career path, ignore them. They are the one with a problem, not you. Speak up if what you experience crosses the line.

Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:

Author
Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc is editor of JAXenter.com and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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