Years in Tech
Technology Product Manager, Andela
Product Management. Experience Design. Strategy Planning. Leadership. Problem Solving.
14th December 2018
Desiree Craig is passionate about leveraging technology to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. In the past 6 years, she has worked across different sectors in the technology industry, including Media/Advertising, Edtech, Fintech and Health. She currently works as a Technology Product Manager at Andela, a technology company that builds high performing distributed engineering teams with Africa’s top software developers. In her spare time, Desiree can be found writing fiction/non-fiction and on rare occasions dabbling in poetry. She is also a closet adrenaline junkie and seeks out thrilling (but reasonably safe) experiences.
What experiences led you to technology and how did you develop the skills to compete in the industry?
I ended up in technology by accident – it was based on my mother’s recommendation. She thought going for a short course during my gap year would be beneficial and luckily for me, I loved it! After writing my first computer application in Java there was no turning back!
Regarding my skills, I believe two things have provided an edge. The first is being insanely curious – I’m a seeker of information and am constantly asking questions. This helps me eventually connect dots faster because I can pull information from one seemingly unrelated field and apply it to another.
Another key factor was the fact that I gained experience early on. While I was still a student I had the opportunity to intern for a year at a Media/Advertising firm where I was the first in-house developer. I would develop apps for clients in PHP using the Facebook Developer API. It was quite challenging but equally exciting as I had the opportunity to apply what I was learning at school to real projects.
I also participated in my first hackathon (Startup Weekend Lagos in 2011) and then went on to participate in a few others after. My team won one of such hackathons and we co-founded an Edtech startup. This gave me invaluable insights into how products were built and also how businesses were run. While in the U.K to complete my degree, I also applied and got accepted into Google’s Top Black Talent mentoring programme and attended a few more technology events. All those experiences, the people you meet, the discussions you have and the tools and resources you have access to all come together to help you improve your
How has your background helped/differentiated you in the tech industry?
Apart from the experiences above, I was lucky to grow up in a family where you were largely allowed to have a say in what your future would look like. I remember changing my mind at least five times when trying to decide what course to study. From Economics (I still love this) to Medicine (thanks Grey’s Anatomy), to Computer Science, Psychology and back again to Computer Science. The freedom to decide your own path within reason is something I consider important.
Also, while I didn’t realise it then, the privilege of having a supportive family also contributed to my development. During my year-long internship, I wasn’t getting paid, however, because I got a monthly allowance from my parents I was able to ‘afford’ that experience. It’s one of those things you tend to take for granted.
Finally, my parents raised us to believe we could do anything we put our minds to. There was nothing out of reach. I wasn’t aware there were certain things you could ‘not do’ or aspire to because you were female. It wasn’t until much later at the University I became aware of that. If I was aware of that gender bias earlier, I probably would not have ended up in technology.
What advice would you give to women considering a career in technology? What do you wish you had known?
My advice will be: there are lots of options to consider in technology – explore them! There’s a lot of growing interest in Product Management and Product Design – which is great because a lot of focus prior to now has been on Software Engineering. On one hand, not everyone feels like they would enjoy programming, on the other hand, it’s difficult for them to identify careers in technology that align with their interests – say art, design or just good old
My eureka moment came at the University, where I realised that some of my most interesting courses were not related to core Software development. My modules on Internet Culture & Psychology and Pervasive Computing were largely responsible for making me consider other paths outside being a developer. One of the things I am interested in is how we interact with technology as humans; especially in a world where technology is fast becoming ubiquitous. Perhaps if I had known there were other viable options outside software development I may have found a way to pursue my love for psychology and technology, together.