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Profile: Sonia John, blockchain developer

Women in Tech: “Women have been able to bring a new perspective to the tech industry”

Dominik Mohilo
women in tech

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Three years ago, we 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 Sonia John, blockchain developer.

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?

Three years ago, we 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 Sonia John, blockchain developer.

Today’s Woman in Tech: Sonia John, blockchain developer

women in techSonia John is a blockchain developer, writer, and speaker based out of Nairobi, Kenya. Prior to becoming a developer, she worked in telecommunications until she was forced to define a new path for herself. She is now a strong believer in and contributor to the decentralized web.

When did you become interested in technology?

From an early age, I was introduced to technology as the next step of our economic evolution. When I got the opportunity to work with the largest telecommunications company in Africa, I was drawn to Information Technology specifically Data Intelligence and fundamental methods for Data Science. I was also intrigued by the development of NLP algorithms for AI and Machine Learning, which led me to learning and developing bot-based solutions like Messenger Bots for Telegram.

How did you end up in your career path?

My transition to the Web3 ecosystem did not start until my experience with hyperinflation and straight away one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome was the steep learning curve. I had no idea how to write code for distributed or peer-to-peer systems and to change this I started by studying every cryptography course I could find on Coursera.

For an extended period of time, I was interacting with the Bitcoin core codebase and mashing that up with the theoretical knowledge I was getting from all the online courses. From this experience, I was able to write and deploy various smart contracts, work with other codebases to deploy other types of networks, and understand the key technical principles of major distributed networks.

     
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Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?

Although I wish I could say my career transition was smooth, it was my experience with the financial loss which followed our economic crisis that really motivated me to explore this path. I struggled with a lot of negative emotions, but with help from family and friends, I was able to reorient my focus and passion. Through my interest in Web3 technologies, I was introduced to various open source communities where interacting with other like-minded individuals led me to becoming an advocate of web decentralization. I took inspiration from different communities and individuals.

Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?

No, although I could argue that for the longest time in the beginning I was my own worst enemy. I had a lot of self-doubt, I was very impatient with the learning process and I was presented with so many opportunities to rage quit but I’m glad that I stuck it out because now I can confidently say that this is what I want to be doing for my foreseeable future.

I’m glad that I stuck it out because now I can confidently say that this is what I want to be doing for my foreseeable future.

A day in Sonia’s life

I am a blockchain developer, writer and speaker. I work with organizations to help and guide the implementation of distributed systems. I’ve engaged in public and private speaking events about decentralized and distributed systems, and I offer workshops and training for teams as continuous education opportunities.

As a graduating participant of the Genesis Block of Gitcoin’s Kernel Program, I spent the 8-week duration working with an incredible group of people to create Porium, a distributed online learning platform designed to grow the pool of Web3 enthusiasts, developers, collaborators, and builders with career goals linked to web decentralization. Day-to-day, I switch between reading technical papers, writing, and testing code, researching and writing articles for my technical blog, and/or interacting with the community.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Being a self-taught developer there’s a lot of moments I could highlight but one moment that stands out is the day I got my first developer paycheck after designing and building a solution for a customer. It was the validation I needed that I was on the right path and it’s a feeling I’ll always remember.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

While there’s no simple answer to the multi-faceted question, I think if during early development tech can be presented as a viable career choice for women, this can be followed by an increase in STEM-based college enrollments and thus a wider talent pool for recruiters of tech companies.

Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?

Over the years the tech industry has come together to minimize gender-based challenges, this however, still leaves several challenges that women can experience for example having few female role models. Additionally, not having a college degree in computer science oftentimes leads to a skills gap but the best way to overcome some of these challenges is to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in technology and focusing on building up skills and performance.

Over the years the tech industry has come together to minimize gender-based challenges, this however, still leaves several challenges that women can experience for example having few female role models.

Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?

It’s difficult to determine if or how different our world would be if more women worked in STEM. One thing is certain though, around the world women have been able to bring a new perspective to the tech industry and as that continues to happen it will be interesting to measure the impact.

The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?

As to how long it will take, I can’t say for certain but tech has been described as a great equalizer and as long as we continue to present it as a viable career option to all people then we will continue to register more diversity in the industry.

What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career?

I think self-doubt is the biggest challenge anyone will face, which if left unchecked can easily evolve to imposter syndrome. My advice is to continue upskilling and focusing on giving the best performance at all times.

More Women in Tech:

For even more Women in Tech, click here

Author
Dominik Mohilo
Dominik Mohilo studied German and sociology at the Frankfurt University, and works at S&S Media since 2015.

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