(Published - 6 September 2018)
Kamogelo Matjila was a stubborn girl from Alexandra, and it was that defiant attitude that took her places - from the Google head office in the US to the University of Warwick in the UK. Now the 21-year-old will be jetting off to Texas. This is because Matjila is a savvy dealer - in data.
She is a final-year computer science student at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and is working hard to challenge the stereotypes that women face in the male dominated IT industry.
She has been selected for a prestigious GHC Student Scholarship and will attend the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Houston, Texas in September. The event is the world’s largest gathering of women in computing.
“I was encouraged by my second-year lecturer, Dr Omowunmi Isafiade, to apply. She is someone that I have always admired and looked up to,” says Matjila, who is still overwhelmed at being awarded the scholarship. She will be in the company of some of the world’s foremost students.
“I am mostly looking forward the keynote speakers such as Priscilla Chan and Sophia Dominguez”. Chan is a co-found of Chan Zuckerberg Initiative who is married to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg while Sophia is a co-founded SVRF, the first search engine for AR/VR.
Matjila was raised by a single mother and has two younger siblings - a brother and sister. She said she has always been a technology enthusiast, and her earliest memory is connecting VHS at home. “Despite being told that girls do not play around with gadgets I was always a curious being. As a result, I was the one helping people set up their phones and computers.”
At high school she was the sole representative for Africa at The International Gateway for Gifted Youth programme at the University of Warwick. “I had to write a 2000-word essay about how the internet is going to improve education, and couple of interviews. As a result, I was chosen.” And this was just the first place her brilliant mind took her to. “I got to visit Google and many other successful tech companies – this was when realised that I wanted to become a developer,” she exclaims.
She came to UWC in 2016 after receiving a bursary, to study what she believes is the best computer science programme in the country. “I believe that this campus is open to people - the diversity that I see around me is incredible.”
Matjila has been featured in the 2017 Top 100 Future Leaders list, and recently she and her team took second place in the Amazon Hackathon competition at UCT. “My team and I created an app via which people could register anonymously and converse with others suffering from mental illness. We called it Memeza”. One of her teammates was a second-year UWC computer science student, Babalwa Dumani.
Kamogelo shares that she has always been a driven and assertive woman. She believes that this is thanks to her upbringing and being exposed to harsh realities of life. She plans to get her PhD before she turns 30.
“I know what I want in life and understand my worth. I always remain resilient – despite the obstacles that come my way”.