Guest post by Michele Njiki Djemi, 2015 Emerging Leader, Cameroon
This year, I had the most unique opportunity and amazing experience ever – participating in the TechWomen program in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. A public health epidemiologist, I develop tools by using technology to improve the health system and make it accessible to communities. This can be a tedious task because most often, these two disciplines are kept apart. Also, being a woman with little hands-on experience and the absence of a role model with my vision did not make the task any easier.
The TechWomen program was designed for a woman like me. I fell into a little part of the planet where every wish became a reality and all I had to do was to express myself and learn. I was hosted by One Medical Group and mentored by Samihah Azim, a product designer. One Medical Group is a company innovating health care. The product design team into which I was placed focuses on patient experience by developing applications and methods to make this experience awesome, and no, I do not exaggerate.
Being a scientist and not a product designer, I was a little overwhelmed and frightened I might not fit in. I felt I had to remind everyone of this. But the first lesson I was taught was team work. The Marketing, Data, Human Resource, Product Development, Billing, Providers and Information Technology teams worked together and had fantastic feedback loops within and across each other. This meant I had access to all teams.
Together with my mentor Samihah, we narrowed down my eHealth project to a core action plan from which I could expand once developed in my home country. I attended the weekly evaluation meetings, daily stand-ups, brainstorming sessions, “shadowed” one of the providers at a clinic in the Embarcadero area of San Francisco, interviewed with health coaches, participated in the monthly hackathon and of course, gave an almost daily progression of my project “Improving Health via Technology.”
All these actions might not seem to be related but they actually were. Surprisingly, it was so much fun and on the last day of my mentorship, I had the privilege to pitch my action plan in the “In Tense” conference room to all teams at One Medical that got involved. My mentor said I did a great job, and hearing those words from a talented product designer, I think that really meant “You are ready to take on the world.”
I cannot tell what woman I would have been without this opportunity. I can only say I am a much more confident one now. With a group of professionals at One Medical eager to help and expecting my feedback, a TechWomen team and alumnae to encourage me, I will give back by working hard to have concrete results and by inspiring young girls to pursue STEM in Cameroon and Africa.
Michele Njiki Djemi is a public health professional and medical laboratory scientist with experience in community health and medical research. She is a research officer at the Center for Media and Strategic Communication. Her dynamic nature and passion for women’s empowerment have led her to work with many communities to promote health education. As a social entrepreneur and CEO and founder of the association Build Our Women, she focuses on technology as a tool to be leveraged in her country so that the maternal health care system can be revolutionized. Michele has a project titled iPrev, a mobile app to improve access to information on reproductive health among youth. Michele also serves as girl’s program administrator at the Female Empowerment Initiative, an organization focusing on childhood education for girls and encourages them to pursue careers in technical fields.