Amrote Abdella speaks to us about her role in the technology sector and shares her thoughts on Women in Tech Africa, taking place 18th-19th March in Cape Town.
Amrote is the Regional Director of Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative, spearheading investments in Africa across 54 countries. She works closely with the internal teams in the Middle East and Africa – and globally – to enable and accelerate digital transformation opportunities across the continent.
Before becoming Regional Director, Amrote was 4Afrika’s Director for VC & Startups, where she worked closely with startups supporting the innovation ecosystem in Africa. Prior to joining Microsoft, she worked with the World Economic Forum in Geneva, as an Associate Director for Africa. Amrote also served as a Financial Analyst at the World Bank in Washington, and worked in micro-finance with the Global Hunger Project, an NGO based out of New York. Here, she oversaw projects across eight countries in Africa and worked with African women farmers, driving financial inclusion.
In 2017, Amrote was named as one of Africa’s Top 100 Young Business Leaders, ranking 12th out of 100 leaders under 40 who are playing a major role in driving the continent’s economic development.
Amrote will be sharing her wisdom in a session entitled 'Top 5 Tech Investment Trends to Fuel Positive Social and Economic Impact Across Africa' on 19th March at 11:30 where she and a fellow female tech leader will shine a light on what upcoming investment trends mean for your portfolio or product development roadmap.
Women in Tech Africa comes to Cape Town 18th - 19th March.
We caught up with Amrote ahead of the conference, here's what she had to say.
Why have you decided to get involved with Women in Tech Africa?
A few years ago, we began a journey to evolve our culture at Microsoft, and in so doing redefine our relationship with employees, customers and partners on a global scale.
We recognised then, as we do today, that our culture is critical to attracting and retaining talent, enabling our strategy and achieving results for our shareholders. It is also critical to our success as an employer with a sense of purpose and mission to make a difference in the world.
To achieve our mission to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more, we know we need to be unwavering in our efforts to build a diverse and inclusive organisation, with a service offering that also enables this diversity and inclusion in industries and communities across the globe. While we define diversity broadly, with intentional action plans to support all dimensions, our data today reflects specific areas in need of progress across the tech industry.
While more women are entering the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce than ever before, women are still significantly under-represented in STEM occupations, which the tech industry is heavily comprised of. This poses challenges in digital transformation, as diverse perspectives, made up of different cultures, races and gender, are vital to developing and scaling 21st-century technologies.
"To achieve our mission to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more, we know we need to be unwavering in our efforts to build a diverse and inclusive organisation..."
As Microsoft, we hope to inspire more women to seek out opportunities in tech and we are aware that partnering with like-minded organisations, like the Women in Tech Africa conference, can take us further in achieving our mission to advance diversity and inclusion in the tech industry. It is an opportunity for women to showcase just what we are capable of in the age of technology. The journey of diversity and inclusion of any company has to start with a single story that will create a ripple effect and give others the chance to see themselves in that role/position. My hope is that, by participating in events like these, we encourage young aspiring women to join the tech industry and see themselves playing a key role in it.
What are you speaking about at Women in Tech Africa?
I will be discussing more on the top five tech investment trends to fuel positive social and economic impact across Africa. When we launched the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative in 2013, we did so with an eye to accelerate economic development in Africa, investing in affordable access to the internet, 21st century skills and world-class innovation. Six years down the line, the landscape looks a lot different to what it did in 2013. Artificial Intelligence, for example, wasn’t dominating conversations as much as it is today. We’re excited to share some of the key learnings we’ve had, and innovations we’ve seen, along the way.
What will people learn from listening to your talk?
I hope people will gain a better sense of what we’re doing as Microsoft, but, more broadly, how cloud and AI-enabled innovation is driving social and economic inclusion. We have some incredible examples of startups that we’ve worked with, that are revolutionizing the way people access services like healthcare and finance. I also hope people gain a better understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the innovation process.
What are you most looking forward to at Women in Tech Africa?
To meet and connect with other women who are making a difference in their communities – and indeed the continent through technology – is an honour. The chance to listen in on their roads to success, how they overcame hurdles of prejudice and putting these behind them to reach a greater goal and indeed re-write the history books and make a positive contribution to this continent is a privilege and inspiration.
I am also looking forward to being part of the greater conversation around women and career development in STEM related fields and also how we can encourage more young girls to study STEM subjects. Bringing 600 million additional women to the ICT sector can boost the GDP of developing countries by an estimated US$13 billion and we therefore need to create a culture where more women are attracted to STEM and see themselves having a career path in the technology industry.
"To meet and connect with other women who are making a difference in their communities – and indeed the continent through technology – is an honour."
Who is your female tech inspiration? What have they done and why do they inspire you?
With all honesty, I don’t have a single woman in tech who has inspired me. I have come across a number of women who have shaped my views and understanding, from those who are dedicated to mentoring young girls in STEM to those who have pursued their startup ideas and others who working in various tech companies.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I smile as I share this… there is not a single day that is typical in the average day. At work, the structure of a day and week really varies. However, regardless of the project priorities we work on, I make it a point to spend time connecting one on one with everyone on the team.
Are you working on anything exciting at the moment that you’d like to share with our readers?
Our AppFactory (Apprenticeship Factory) programme is expanding rapidly across the continent, with 18 to date and more in the pipeline. We’re excited about the impact this is having both on youth employability and in building a portfolio of more homegrown tech solutions. Last year, we also hosted our first AI and IoT PopUp Lab in Kenya. As part of the lab, we hosted two dedicated women in technology sessions for 50 female developers, answering their questions on AI trends and career opportunities. We look forward to expanding this programme and hosting more labs in various regions in the future.
What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech?
I strongly encourage women who are considering a career in tech to pursue it. It’s a very exciting sector, especially now where so many transformations are happening where technology is not siloed – it’s become a platform that is critical across all industries. For women who are considering joining the industry, I say do it!
Interested in mastering the art of disruption like Amrote has?
Women in Tech Africa is taking place 18th – 19th March in Cape Town, South Africa. In addition to speeches and workshops, there will be a MEETUP stage so that attendees can converse with prominent tech innovators from across Africa on a range of subjects. This includes AI, cloud computing, blockchain, tech career paths and empowering female leadership in male-heavy industries.