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Fareeha Usman: My TechUPWomen Journey

Fareeha Usman poses for a photo with prof. Alexandra I. Cristea and prof. Sue Black
Fareeha Usman with Prof. Alexandra Cristea (left) and Prof. Sue Black (right) at the TechUPWomen graduation, University of Nottingham, 18 January 2020

by Fareeha Usman, TechUPWomen Alumna

It doesn’t matter whether you’re new to digital skills or are an expert computer scientist, being one of 100 TechUPWomen is something that will change your life. Starting to learn new digital skills may sound a bit scary – and it is – but when you overcome the challenges that are part of this experience, you become a different person.

Although I was already motivated to help equip people with digital skills, I was finding it hard to manifest these plans. Through TechUPWomen, I learned how to convert my dreams and ideas into a goal, and then achieve it. Here are three of the actions that helped me in this journey.

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Stepping out of your comfort zone was one of the main challenges faced during TechUPWomen. However, it’s also the best way to learn, grow and boost your self-confidence. When you accept the challenge of stepping into a completely different learning environment, you have the chance to open new doors you didn’t even know existed.

Appreciating and Uplifting Diversity

We all know that every person has their own culture and norms of life, right? However, it’s only when you experience these differences first hand that you can open up and learn more. During the residential weekends, I was able to connect with other ambitious women who were on the same journey as me, and who shared the same motivation to bring about change in our communities. Learning about diversity will give you the ability to understand different behaviours and mindsets. In the long term, this means you’ll be able to understand diverse backgrounds and reduce social injustice in all areas of your life.

Developing New and Important Skills

While doing a study-based online programme, people usually focus on developing their hard skills – also known as technical skills. Topics like marketing analytics, coding, and project management are all technical skills that definitely benefit a career, but on the TechUPWomen programme, we also developed soft, or human, skills. We learned that they’re just as important, because they help people interact, communicate, and consequently work better.

After graduating from TechUP, I was able to take on more partnerships for my charity Being Woman, and the charity itself grew as we were able to recruit more staff, trustees and volunteers. We initiated many new projects to help teach digital skills to the most isolated and disadvantaged in our community, including BAME, asylum-seeking and refugee women and families. Our projects are based on the use and benefits of technology, from basic computer courses to something as simple as doing a video call so that they could connect to their loved ones during COVID-19.

Promotional material for the Share Karo  app, with a phone showing the app on the screen and a text to the right that reads 'Share Karo. Let's build a fair and inclusive society!'

Our latest innovation is ‘Share Karo’, a web, IOS and play store application that means ‘Let’s Share!’. During lockdown, we’ve interacted with many people who do not feel comfortable letting anyone know that they use food banks during this difficult time. We wanted to create a way for them to order food and essentials securely and privately. With Share Karo, users can request their groceries on a simple and user-friendly application, through a faceless secured connection. All it requires is a signup and they will be able to get food at their doorstep! The app will be available to download in a few weeks’ time and is currently in the testing phase.

Not only has TechUPWomen given me the skills to advance my organisation and help my community, but it gave me the chance to discover a new world, new people, and a whole lot more. Every day is different and exciting when you’re a part of this cohort of incredible women. From learning about Python to discovering Artificial Intelligence, there is so much to gain from this amazing journey.

This blog has been cross posted from the Institute of Coding website. You can view the original here