Humans of Andela

Bridget Mendoza, Kampala

Bridget Mendoza
“If you have a dream, find a mentor who will help you get there.”

Bridget Mendoza is a Software Engineer and Team Leader. This is her story.

Based in Kampala, Uganda, Bridget joined Andela in 2018 as a tutor for the Women in Tech Leadership Boot Camp. Throughout her studies and subsequent career, Bridget has developed innovative solutions to benefit society, particularly women. By designing female healthcare apps and mentoring female technologists, Bridget has made a significant impact increasing female visibility in tech. In 2019, she joined a leading Andela client and has grown her career with this company, from working as a software engineer to leading technical teams across the organization.

Technology is my life – but I didn’t use a computer for the first time until I was 13. 

My first foray into tech was playing Super Mario Cart at a friend’s house, but I wasn’t blown away by the experience. Computer games never really interested me, but the science behind their creation, electronics, and engineering, I found fascinating. Enthralled by the magic of tech, I wanted to kn ow how everything worked. I soon left Mario and Luigi behind to become head of our science club at high school.

One of my closest friends led our robotics club, which was connected to the highly regarded iLabs@Mak program. iLabs is an engineering, robotics-based course run by Makerere University in Uganda that encourages high school students to develop robots and compete in nationwide competitions. The project aimed to find a real-world problem  you could help solve, such as measuring water levels for the agricultural industry or building temperature and humidity gauges to forecast weather. We’d develop and program the robots, using LEGO bricks. 

My friend was leaving, and they needed a new leader for the club, so she recommended I take her place. Considering how opposed I was to gaming, I wasn’t an obvious choice, but with my science know-how, she thought I’d have a knack for leadership; she gently  persuaded me to try it. To have someone who believed in me, providing the guidance and mentorship I needed to take on this role, was inspiring. Because of her positivity and encouragement, I had the strength to jump in with both feet. I loved robot assembly, programming, and, most of all, helping to motivate our team to succeed in competitions. It was a life-affirming experience.

Several years later, I was accepted into the Bachelor of Science Electrical Engineering degree program at Makerere, where I developed a new experimental hosting software using C# and Once again, I was drawn to iLabs, but I joined as a tutor this time. I had the chance to mentor and teach high school students about science and technology, designing robots using LEGO kits. I also taught new entrants in the project LabVIEW and helped with the basics of programming in C#. Eventually, I became the Vice President of iLabs@Mak and led the 2017 STIC challenge.

Technology has the potential to transform the world, and I’ve been lucky enough to witness that in action through my involvement in Her Health Uganda.”

Technology has the potential to transform the world, and I’ve been lucky enough to witness that in action through my involvement in Her Health Uganda. While at Makerere, I took part in the university’s Technovation Challenge with some fellow students, forming the team Code Gurus to develop a healthcare app. 

Her Health provides communities with health education and continuous advocacy to empower them to monitor, manage, and be more aware of their health conditions through affordable alternatives. One condition was bacterial vaginosis.

As Code Gurus, we created an app that detects vaginal bacteria, in partnership with Her Health. The app, coupled with Her Health’s BV test kit, could take readings from urinal and vaginal samples, and then transmit data for diagnosis. After receiving the data, the mobile app reads the pH levels, analyzes the amount of healthy versus unhealthy bacteria, and recommends whether the user is healthy or should seek medical attention. Another significant aspect of the app was its use of health information from a nearby hospital to yield information about vaginal infections and preventative measures.

The app was such a success that my team won the challenge. Using technology to help others is the most inspirational reason to join the tech industry, and I’m immensely proud of it.   

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I was in my final year at university when I discovered Andela. I’d heard positive things from friends, including someone who trained at one of their boot camps. Andela’s vision is to solve global problems, which is what I love the most about tech, from playing with puzzles as a kid to developing software. At school, I focused primarily on getting the best grades. Still, I realized that letting people experiment with technology through trial and error produced more innovative results. Midway through my final papers at university, I applied to join the Andela boot camp. When my last paper was submitted, I was notified about my Andela interview. Several of my friends had applied at the same time, and we were all excitedly texting and calling each other when our letters arrived.

At Andela, the focus on training engineers was inspiring and I knew I still had a lot to learn. After my first boot camp, I was accepted into Andela’s network as a developer. Andela’s courses and boot camps helped newcomers learn the fundamentals of tech, to try, fail, and try again, and this really resonated with me. I volunteered to help new Andelans in Rwanda, and to support engineers through my role in the Senate, the engineering leadership body. Soon after, I became a tutor in Andela’s Women in Tech Leadership Program.

This boot camp was a beautiful community of like-minded tech enthusiasts. In daily life, I am a bit of an introvert, and sometimes suffer from imposter syndrome. I second-guessed myself, thinking “Can I do this? Will I really be able to help people?” But when I was tutoring, I was finally able to come out of my shell, as I was surrounded by a community of people on my wavelength. It was a natural growth moment in my life.

We helped to train over 200 female aspiring techies, and each tutor was assigned four students to mentor, sharing skills from software delivery to leadership and entrepreneurship. Working with so many interesting women from diverse backgrounds was amazing. They were nurses, lawyers, businesswomen, farmers, and stay-at-home mothers, all keen to learn more about technology. Women in tech can experience a lot of gender bias, and it helped our learners to work closely with female tutors as they developed their skills. 

Something I always tell females I work with is: “If you have a dream, find a mentor who will help you get there.” We can all strive for greatness but having that support and guidance, whether it is a team leader who motivates you, or a friend who gives you the confidence to join a robotics club, is essential.

Mentoring Andela’s young female techies was a touching experience, and I knew that guiding the careers of up-and-coming tech talent would be part of my own career trajectory. In 2019, I supported several of my friends from Andela, helping them to publish a book – Vulumba React – based on their previous React work.  

Soon after, through Andela, I matched to a software engineering role with Crossover Health, and I am still with them almost five years later. I have friends from university on our team who also joined Andela, through their other learning programs. Andela lays out stepping stones for you when you join, helping you to hone your communication skills and learn how to conduct yourself in a work environment, giving you a solid foundation when you start a new role. 

I’ve had an incredible growth journey at Crossover Health, joining as a Software Engineer and working my way up to my current role, as Squad Leader.  What I love most about leadership is being able to help people become better versions of themselves. Guiding your mentees as they solve problems and helping them to feel part of the team is the best feeling in the world. Leadership isn’t just about striving for success; it’s about helping your team understand your organization’s goals and ensuring they feel they’re making a significant contribution. We all want to add value rather than just be a cog in a system. Supporting females in tech is essential, and I love seeing women succeed. My team has seen so much growth by hiring female engineers, lead architects, managers, and senior directors. The tech industry still has a way to go, but ever since my time at Andela’s boot camps, I can see significant strides in female representation. 

One of the things I loved most about the Andela boot camps was the sense of camaraderie. Six years on, whenever I see folks from Andela, nothing has changed. Yes, we’ve grown. Some of us are married with young families, and others have traveled the world, but whenever we meet, it’s like we’ve never been apart. Andelans always “get you” and make you feel instantly at home. It’s comforting to know that no matter where life takes me, I’ll always have the support of this welcoming community.

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