In the world of Information technology today, women are grossly underrepresented. However, a few women are smashing old ways of doing things, altering the status quo and making gigantic waves in the sector.
More specifically, in the Nigerian technology space, women such as Dr. Omobola Johnson, Nigerian technocrat and the pioneer Minister of Communication Technology; Evangeline Wiles, the Managing Director of Nigeria’s leading online marketplace Kaymu.com.ng; Linda Ikeji, foremost Nigerian blogger and FunkeOpeke, an experienced telecommunications executive who founded Main Street Technologies and is the C.E.O. of MainOne are making a massive difference in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Today, we we bring you the story of Funke Opeke, the founder of MainStreet technologies and CEO of MainOne.
Funke is an alumnus of the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife where she studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering before she proceeded to New York for a Master’s degree at Columbia University. Funke thereafter pursued a career in ICT in the United States and rose to the level of the Executive Director at the Wholesale division of Verizon Communications in New York when she decided to return to Nigeria in 2005.
On her return, she served as the Chief Technical Officer of MTN Nigeria, and subsequently served as adviser to Transcorp and Chief Operating Officer of NITEL for a brief period before eventually launching the Main Street Technologies in 2007.
An ambitious project
The company raised $240 Million to build the pioneer private submarine cable system in West Africa – the Main One Cable. The 7,000km cable runs from Portugal down to Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria and delivers wholesale broadband capacity across several countries in West Africa today.
She says that the most challenging aspect of her work so far is building her team to drive such an innovative project and deliver world class service quality out of the operational headquarters in Nigeria, while the most satisfying part is seeing how much they achieved within few years of the company’s establishment and early progress towards the transformation of the Internet economy in West Africa.
Reformer. Record breaker. Leader.
Funke Opeke’s dream was transforming her world; so when she was the Interim Chief Operations Officer of the Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL), she performed several actions that conflicted with the numerous norms, like paying junior personnel their salaries; strange, isn’t it? It was quite normal for low level workers not to be paid for several months and not one thing would be done about it. So she stepped on the toes of many.
Consequently, She found it quite difficult to thrive in such an environment, but she was not discouraged in her mission to transform her world. It was after her efforts in NITEL fell through that she decided to lauch Main One.
Funke once said of Africa, “We can’t leave an entire generation of young people without proper access to the internet”
In this Spirit. Funke Opeke started a $240m project; she decided to lay a fibre optic cable from Portugal down to Nigeria across the bottom of the ocean, so in 2008, she started Main One Cable company for this purpose. With the help of Fola Adeola, the founder of GTbank and Asue Ighodalo, a lagos based corporate lawyer, the project was a success. This endeavor was the beginning of an explosive technological transformation in the history of the continent. It was this singular idea that gave our e-commerce niche a progressive leap. Companies like Konga, Jumia, hotels.ng, DealDey, Uber app among others consequently sprang up.
Funke Opeke’s Main One cable has become the backbone of internet technologies and telecommunications in general, in Africa today as they have become broadband connection providers to giant telecommunications companies in Africa.
She said ”To succeed, one needs leadership skills; clear vision; clarity of purpose; excellent understanding of Telecoms particularly in Nigeria; People Management; Planning and Organization; among other things. To develop my career, I invested in reading a lot, including taking avantage of various personal development opportunities. I also keep abreast of happenings across the different sectors of the economy, especially Telecoms, and participate in relevant industry events and programmes and other professional development activities. I happen to belong to Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and Nigerian Society of Engineers.”
To all young minds out there, here is Funke Opeke’s advice for you. “I think the possibilities within Nigeria are limitless and students and young graduates need to continually seek opportunities to excel within their fields of endeavour. They should seek solutions to challenges, seek the assistance of like minds and people who believe in their dream and just go for it. The fact is you can achieve whatever you put your mind to. And it does not matter if you are male or female. I participate in the Girls in ICT programme and there I said to them that ICT offers a tremendous opportunity for young women to work on solutions and technologies that impact people’s lives and change the world. A career in ICT can be diverse, varied and offer good rewards. Young women with the Science and Maths aptitude and skills who do not explore a career in ICT are limiting themselves.
One cannot be successful if one does not also have self-belief, the support of a great team, and of course a dream.
Thanks for reading today’s brand report. If you were inspired, kindly leave a comment.
Are there other women making waves in technology that you know of? Why not share your list in the comments section?