Winning the prestigious Emerging Leader Award from the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is no small feat ─ but it’s an even greater accomplishment considering the many challenges this year’s winner tackled and overcame growing up in Rwanda.
The award honors one who has been actively engaged in the engineering or technology profession, demonstrated outstanding leadership skills resulting in significant accomplishments, and has ten to 15 years cumulative engineering experience. This year the much-deserved honor went to Data Governance and Scrum Master for the Forward Engineering Team in IT’s Data and Analytics Group Marie Claire Murekatete.
Tell us about yourself
I was born and raised in Rwanda, Africa. Sadly, I Iost my dad at the tender age of 10 and was raised by my loving mother. Because of my love of academics and despite growing up without a strong role model, I was the proud recipient of a government scholarship to attend the local university. After graduating, I secured a job as software engineer and later as software division manager in Africa and was awarded a Presidential scholarship to pursue a master’s in information technology from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Three years ago, my journey took me to Intel where I am supporting/co-leading our teams to deliverer new capability for Hadoop and modernizing the technical stack using scrum framework.
What does winning this award mean to you?
Looking back from where my professional journey started, to me this is a symbol of courage. With tenacity over the years, I proved the journey I started was worth it. I think I have achieved a certain level of success. For instance, I am now a role model to many women and young girls back home, as well as in Africa at large. This motivates me and encourages me to do better.
You have expressed how lucky you’ve been in both your personal and professional journeys. What are you doing to give back to the community?
I realized that many girls in my home country of Rwanda are not exposed to a diversity of role models that fit with their future career aspirations. Some of them face the same challenges I did at their age. It is also a well-known fact that there aren’t many women working in tech, and many girls across different countries need to be guided in order to be competitive in their respective job markets. So, they need role models not only to help them but to increase their confidence during the mentorship process. I believe that mentoring in STEM and robotics is a practical example of a woman’s capability to undertake and succeed in a technology career, so I have invested my time in different ways to help.
In 2017 I co-founded a chapter of First Global, an international robotic program. It enables girls from Rwanda to attend and compete in worldwide robotics championships.
I’m currently a member of the advisory board for Girls in ICT Rwanda. One flagship program is the “Ms. Geek Africa,” a competition aimed at inspiring more girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The program invites girls to propose innovative solutions to address challenges in their community and across Africa, and then share a roadmap for implementing their projects.
Another one of my projects focuses on girls living in refugee camps in rural areas, empowering them to use computers to connect to their local community. Lastly, I have been working with the US Department of State and UNESCO to create an initiative to teach young girls to build mobile applications.
What advice would you give young girls to help them overcome challenges?
My advice to girls out there is to keep their mind open to learning something new every day. Kindness and objectivity are other values that I personally used to be where I am today. I would highly encourage them that they need to believe in themselves and strive to be the best possible version of themselves and tell them that STEM is not only for men, or people that have resources; it’s about pursuing a passion and helping to make a difference.
I grew up having nothing ─ but I had a dream and passion to learn. Don’t be afraid, be confident and believe in yourself. You can make a change and also help others.
Marie Claire is the first Rwandan ever to receive this award since its inception in 1952. Please join us in congratulating Marie Claire Murekatete for this great accomplishment, for being an inspiration and for promoting STEM among young girls around the world!