Celebrating Women in Open Source from Africa - Yaa Nuamah Kusi-Fordjour

Celebrating Women in Open Source from Africa - Yaa Nuamah Kusi-Fordjour

Yaa Nuamah Kusi-Fordjour is an Accra-based Technical Product Manager at Craft Education. Before pursuing this role, Yaa was a Software Engineer at Turntabl where she collaborated with other Engineers, Project Managers and Designers to develop software solutions for different clients ranging from small startups to large multinational corporations.

She is always interested in getting involved with organizations that align with her values and interests. Moreover, she believes in the importance of giving back to the community and using her skills and knowledge to make a positive impact in the world. As such, she currently leads the PyLadies Ghana community, a mentorship group focused on helping more women to become active participants and leaders in the Python Open Source community. The community's mission is to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for women to learn and grow in their Python coding skills, network with other like-minded individuals, and ultimately, make meaningful contributions to the broader Python Open Source community.

Tell us about your experience(s) contributing to open source

As an advocate for Open Source, I am passionate about collaborating with others to build innovative solutions that can positively impact communities around the world. Outside of Open Source, I have a keen interest in software development, product management and cyber security. I enjoy exploring the latest trends and techniques in these fields and experimenting with new tech stacks and processes.

I first started contributing to Open Source as a way to develop my skills as a software engineer and make a positive impact in the tech community. I saw Open Source as an opportunity to work on projects that aligned with my values and interests and collaborate with others who shared my passion for technology. Through my contributions to various Open Source projects, I have gained valuable experience in software development, communication, and teamwork.

While I have not received any awards or recognition specifically for my contributions to Open Source, I am proud of the work I have done and the impact it has had. Being a part of the Open Source community has allowed me to learn from some of the most talented and dedicated people in the industry, and I am grateful for the opportunities it has provided me.

What does Open Source mean to you?

As a Ghanaian woman in tech leading PyLadies Ghana, Open Source means a lot to me. It represents a community-driven approach to software development, where individuals can freely access, use, modify, and distribute software without any restrictions or limitations.

Open Source is particularly important for PyLadies Ghana because it provides an opportunity for women in tech to collaborate and learn from one another. By sharing our code and ideas, we can collectively create better solutions that benefit not only ourselves but also the wider community. Additionally, Open Source allows us to contribute to projects that align with our values and interests, regardless of our geographical location or socio-economic background.

In a broader sense, Open Source also promotes transparency, accountability, and inclusivity in tech. It challenges the traditional power dynamics within the industry and empowers underrepresented groups to have a voice and make meaningful contributions. As a Ghanaian woman in tech, I am proud to be a part of this movement and to advocate for Open Source as a means of advancing diversity and equity in our field.

What Open Source community(ies) have/are you currently contributing to?

As a member of the PyLadies Ghana initiative, which is part of the Python Ghana Software community, I have held various roles such as mentor, social media manager, and Communications Lead and have moved on to become the Lead.

It has been a challenging yet fulfilling task to develop a women's group with a membership of over 450, particularly in a culture where there is an underlying yet genuine gender gap in the technology industry. As a volunteer, I joined PyLadies Ghana in 2018 and played a vital role in organizing more than 20 meetups, workshops, and tutorial sessions across PyLadies chapters in eight regions of Ghana. Our training programs are focused on various applications of the Python programming language such as web programming, data science, and cybersecurity, and we have successfully trained over 300 women. The outcomes of our training programs showed that these women gained interest and confidence in using their coding skills to solve problems. Our objectives to expand the reach of training more women to code, pique their interest in technology, and provide a supportive community were successfully achieved.

In 2022, I co-organized PyCon Ghana which is the annual gathering for the community using and developing the Open Source Python programming language and other related technologies

Any advice to the younger you and other women considering starting their journeys in Open Source?

For younger women interested in starting their journey in Open Source, my advice would be to find a community that aligns with your interests and values. Look for groups or projects that align with your passions and goals and seek out mentorship or support from those who have experience in the field. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. Remember that the Open Source community is welcoming and diverse, so you will find a place where you belong.

Additionally, be persistent and patient. Learning and contributing to Open Source can be challenging at first, but don't let that discourage you. Keep practising, learning, and collaborating with others. Seek out feedback and guidance from mentors or other experienced contributors. Also, don't be afraid to make mistakes, as this is how you learn and grow. With time and effort, you will see your skills and contributions to Open Source projects improve, and the impact of your work will be evident.