Fatima Zohra Benhamida strongly believes that any big change starts with a small act.
While the Paris-based MVP readily admits her home nation of Algeria will require the biggest of changes before young girls and women are given equal opportunity in STEM, Fatima also understands how tech markedly improves education for the next generation. Thus, Fatima is enacting the change she wants to see back home.
“I learnt in public school in Algeria, and it has been a long and challenging path to reach my current level of knowledge,” Fatima admits. “I look back today and want to save the next generation from the same frustration. Plus, I have a burning passion for both technology and teaching which inspires me to use modern teaching methods and better engage my students.”
So, The Office Apps and Services MVP volunteers 10 hours every week to mentor and advise young girls in Algeria. Fatima hopes in doing so to inspire young women just like her to strive for more.
The push to give back to her community began after Fatima represented Algeria in Techwomen 2017.
The Silicon Valley event selects 100 global women for a five-week fellowship focused on professional mentorship, cultural exchange, and impact planning. The conference was revelatory for Fatima, who soon offered technical and educational support not only to students at her university but to women in her home country.
“The best way to inspire future generations is to spend some of our personal free time to mentor them and help them to thrive,” Fatima says. “I really do believe that our actions can start small and grow to something much bigger.”
Fatima – who describes herself as someone with a “big thirst for science and knowledge” – hopes supporting other women in tech will help overcome stereotypes and unconscious bias. While being a dark woman from an underrepresented country has not been advantageous, Fatima says, it has made her persevere.
“I never felt intimidated by the looks from others or their refusal to my ideas. I was always ready to take on a new challenge and prove my competencies, to repeat my words twice if the first time wasn't enough to be heard, or to start the conversation instead of waiting to be invited. This is how I could evolve both personally and professionally: perseverance and self-confidence.”
Now, Fatima is using this perseverance and self-confidence to benefit those in North Africa. Today offers an incredible opportunity to design new solutions which solve societal challenges, Fatima says, and she hopes to guide the coming batch of tech leaders in caring for our shared future.
“It’s our mission as technical community leaders to design new solutions for new challenges and then make them accessible for everyone. We should include every single person: citizen, refugee, developed nation, undeveloped nation.”
“Being engaged in volunteering is the best way to use our skills for the sake of all humanity,” Fatima says. “We should all ask ourselves: what are my skills, how can I use them for a wider positive impact, and how can I share it with my local community or even worldwide?”
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