TechWomen Fellow Amanda Obidike Leading the Way in STEM Education for Africa

Apr 30, 2024
Amanda Obidike, TechWomen Fellowship winner, smiling happily at the caerma, wearing a white dress shirt and black suite jacket. She's sitting, one hand on her side, slighting leaning forward in front of a TechWomen banner.
Amanda at the TechWomen graduation ceremony, where Team Nigeria won a seed grant to implement the “Walk-to-Water project.

Fellowships are powerful catalysts for career advancement, providing individuals with the tools to realize their aspirations. In our insightful interview with Amanda Obidike, a trailblazing non-profit leader and multi-fellowship winner, she unfolds the profound insights gained through her diverse educational background and as a multi-fellowship winner. Her journey takes us through competitive fellowships, including the Young African Leadership Initiative (2019), Yunus and Youth (2020), and LEAP Africa (2021), which are programs that provide high-quality training, mentoring, and networking support to exceptional young African leaders, global social entrepreneurs, and innovators. She then went on to receive the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Growth Fellowship (2021) and U.S. TechWomen Fellowship (2022), programs that provide emerging women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) knowledge that empower them to reach their full potential. Her impressive multi-fellowship journey has taken her to the Vital Voices Visionaries Fellowship (2023), helping her continue to create a positive impact not only in her Nigerian community but globally as well.

These programs have been pivotal in growing her non-profit organization, STEMi Makers of Africa, which is dedicated to revolutionizing science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and innovation education on the continent. Join us as Amanda unravels the motivations behind her initiatives, the transformative power of fellowships, and her vision for the future of STEM education in Africa.

With a rich educational background, can you share details about what you studied and why?

My primary education background was in Business Management and Administration. I have a Diploma and a Higher Advanced Diploma in Business Management from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. I attained a Project Management certification from the British School of Project Management, Milan -Italy. For me, the world of Business Management offers numerous career opportunities across fields. It allows qualified graduates to move on to further prosperous post-graduate studies.

I was inspired by my parents, who were middle-class entrepreneurs and took an interest in studying Business Management. Upon graduation, I worked with an FMCG firm but realized I needed more. My first degree didn’t give me the technical skills and the opportunity to apply creativity.

I realized I needed more out of my career. I experienced my career change trajectories when I got the opportunity to learn business intelligence/data analytics with IBM. After the training, I decided to serve as a knowledge panel to empower undergraduates and students to explore career options in science and technology.

I also clinched a couple of certifications like International Economics from Politecnico di Milano, Italy; certification in Biomedical research data management from the Harvard Medical School; STEM education from the Open University, U.K.; and an MBA from the International Business School, Berlin, Germany. At this point, one would ask why.

I want to demonstrate that I have intermediary knowledge and expertise in multiple areas and can lend my voice to research in these industries. I am also in my second year of a PhD in International Development and Economics at Selinus University of Science and Literature. My research is about revolutionizing STEM education and laying a blueprint for long-term sustainability on how working governments can truly refine STEM education policy using artificial intelligence.

Can you tell us about your experience in the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI)?

In the entrepreneurship track, my first fellowship was with the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI West Africa, Accra – Ghana). This initiative was a signature project launched during the Obama Administration. I was motivated by how this foundational program would provide transformational leadership and guidance in leading communities through communal projects and resources. The fellowship catered to young talents who want to take on leadership roles within the private sector or build their own business ventures in Africa.

Fellowship winner Amanda Obidike, dressed in traditional formal wear, taking a group picture with others during a dinner party.
Amanda at a Cultural Mentor visit to Queen Denchukwu, the Vice President of DEI at Disney Studios.

You founded STEMi to “equip Africans with STEM emerging tools and skills.” Can you share how you created this organization and your motivations behind it?

The Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Innovation Makers of Africa, founded in 2018, is a non-profit organization that recognizes and harnesses the power of educators. We equip them with Science and Technology project-based learning resources for their classrooms, empowering them to shape the future of Africa. Our mission also addresses the unemployment issue by preparing the next generation of Africans to transition effectively from education to employment, fostering self-reliance, and nurturing problem-solvers for Africa’s economy.

My vision was to shatter the barriers of fragmented and disconnected practical education in African institutions. The stark reality is that 7 in 11 Educators (nearly 65 percent in Africa) lack access to future-focused teaching tools, project-based learning resources, and the improved knowledge of STEM curriculum that is crucial for 21st-century classrooms. The need for change is urgent, and educators are at the forefront of this transformation.

To build a sustainable initiative, I needed to expand both personal and professional networks, access to experiential learning, and mentoring through exchange fellowships. Every fellowship has its unique takeaway and advantage. For me, it was about the opportunity to pursue designed projects and compete on a global level.

Can you share how you came across the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Growth Fellowship? How did your past experiences and work contribute to you being a stand-out candidate?

It started as an enrollment into the 10,000 Women online business education program on Coursera. After completing the course, I learned of the fellowship, and one of the requirements in the application was the course as a prerequisite. I went through the selection processes and got into the Top 20 of the 10,000 Women Growth Fellowship. Every cohort is a yearly program that runs on a periodic basis. As fellows, we still have access to the alumni network and the Leeds Business School webinars.

The 10,000 Goldman Sachs Fellowship was my first international fellowship that gave me an opportunity to engage international partners, high-level executives from Goldman Sachs, and business coaches who complimented their experience with the rigorous training and helped to finetune the different aspects of my business that needed modifications and support. They offered one of the most unique opportunities to access high-level Professional coaches who transformed STEMi Makers of Africa’s form of operation and positioned us for global business opportunities and growth.

TechWomen Fellowship winner Amanda Obidike along with other fellows taking a group picture. The people consists of multicultural women, some wearing hijab.
Amanda and TechWomen Fellows during graduation at the Pier 15 Exploratorium Museum, San Francisco, USA.

Then you won the U.S. Tech Women Fellowship! What motivated you to apply for this opportunity? How did you know this was the next step?

I applied to the U.S TechWomen fellowship twice before I was finally selected to participate. In my time of applications, I don’t think there was a real connection and concrete reason (and it showed). Seeing how competitive the Fellowship is, I took a year’s break to build my story, work, portfolio, and, most importantly, one professional goal: STEM education. I realized I was saying too many things at the same time earlier in the applications. In 2022, I knew I was ready to participate.

The TechWomen fellowship is customized for women professionals in the STEM fields. This was an opportunity for me to build life-long relationships, utilize opportunities to collaborate with women in STEM from other countries represented in the program, and develop learning edges in building a sustainable STEMi Makers Africa for global impact.

For these steps, the rejections, growth, and lessons learned from previous applications guided and encouraged me to continue moving forward.

What were the biggest takeaways from the U.S. Tech Women Fellowship?

The TechWomen fellowship impacted me in understanding the methods of revolutionizing STEM Education in Africa, where well-trained educators can bring their first-hand know-how in mentoring students, introduce an effective teaching system to enable educators to integrate pedagogical techniques, and fully understand how students absorb STEM concepts.

One of my mentors, Kathy Giori, an EdTech and IoT (Internet of Things) entrepreneur at Stanford who serves as the Vice President of Operations at Arduino, strengthened my technical know-how in teaching physical computing using Microblocks to educators.

Amanda sitting with other fellows at a table for lunch. People are talking with one another at a long table while they look over the menu.
Amanda, second on the left, out for lunch with the Salesforce Executive Mentors.

Moving onto the Vital Voices Visionaries Fellowship, how was your experience in this program?

The Vital Voices Visionaries Fellowship supports the next generation of women changemakers and leaders who are redefining leadership in their businesses and professions. The fellowship incorporates lessons in leadership from Estée Lauder executives and the Vital Voices Global Network of women leaders.

As a selected fellow, I also have the chance to be chosen to attend an annual in-person experience that provides deeper training and investment in their personal leadership journeys. The unique advantage of this opportunity was the ability to design a realistic framework for measuring our community impact and secure investments. I was able to measure performance and identify challenges and opportunities for growth and investments.

With these fellowships, what do you hope to do next? How do you think they will play a role in the success of your non-profit organization?

2024 is where I take a small break to consolidate the learnings and cultural exposure. I feel more curious and motivated with the milestones achieved in the last few years. It’s the season to apply the resources for the growth of STEMi Makers of Africa and its people.

These fellowships have increased my confidence and paved the way for me to launch bigger projects across the countries we serve. This year, we hope to launch the Science and Technology education policy hackathon, converging researchers, educators, administrators, and policy enthusiasts to discover innovative teaching methods and cutting-edge technologies that we can witness in the transformative power of student-centered learning and the incredible impact it can have on shaping the mind of tomorrow. The challenge is to discover the future of education, identify unique solutions to critical development challenges plaguing the continent, and set the policy agenda for Nigeria.

I have also provided policy support to community-led initiatives, state governments, and organizations where we can strengthen existing ecosystems in preparing young women and girls for technology through incubator programs and implementing community projects. Policy support for diversity has been imperative to ensure women’s inclusion in organizations and communities where limiting cultural beliefs are deeply entrenched.

Have you faced any challenges that you had to overcome?

Nigeria as a society is a very interesting yet multiplex. We realize how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are driving high-income countries for better economic development and innovation. I have once encountered a challenge in integrating STEM education in classrooms by training educators in rural communities.

Our most pressing challenge in integrating STEM education in the classroom consists of very few qualified educators, lack of infrastructure, resources, better leadership, inadequate policy drivers, low awareness, and traditional constraints in the home/society. The low investment and poverty index has led to the poor promotion of STEM education in most parts of Africa. This has also caused a ripple effect on the economy, causing a decline in the number of girls exploring STEM and dampening innovative ideas.

It’s one thing to identify these problems and proffer solutions. It’s another to make these solutions to be sustainable. I intentionally included community, local, and state government leaders to buy the vision and contribute to continuity. It was tough because it required dialogues, building stakeholder relationships to steer trust, and simplifying data outcomes. It was time-driven but very effective in guaranteeing project sustainability.

Fellowship winner Amanda Obidike wearing a white dress standing next to a spherical art installation at Sandford, along with 2 other TechWomen fellows at the university's campus.
Amanda at left, and fellow TechWomen at a get-together with the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Stanford.

And finally, is there any advice you would like to share with our readers?

It’s okay to be ambitious, tenacious, and restless for more in our quest to accelerate our work.

In a world where opportunities may not always come knocking, especially for Women in STEM fields, we must take the initiative. By preparing ourselves both personally and professionally, we can seize opportunities that will significantly contribute to our growth.

Identify a growing network that is less saturated where you can volunteer, contribute, and leverage the experiences of budding professionals. The advantage is to take stock and make self-evaluations as you accelerate in your career. It makes you more accountable and measurable and helps you transform into a better leader.

You are free to dream and excel. It’s essential to prioritize these dreams and goals into timely plans. Engage in journaling, where you detail lessons learned and how to optimize networks, hobbies, and friendships.

Create a free ProFellow account to discover more fellowships that empower women to pursue their passions.

Amanda Obidike is an accomplished non-profit leader and Data Scientist with 11 years of experience directing social enterprises, start-ups, and complex organizations in Africa, Europe, and MENA Nations. In 2022, she became a TechWomen Awardee, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), and winner of the Innocent Chukwuma Prize for Women Empowerment and Youth Development. In 2021, she became a Global 20 Goldman Sachs Fellowship Winner. She won the U.K.’s foremost award, the FDM EveryWoman in Technology, Tech For Good Category. In 2020, she was given the Technology Rising Star Award by WOC, Michigan, for successfully championing diversity in technology and innovation for the girl child. Forbes Science has also celebrated her as an African, changing the cultural fabric for young talents to embrace opportunities in Science and Technology. She is currently pursuing her PhD in International Development and Economics while growing her STEMi organization.

© 2024 ProFellow, LLC. All rights reserved.