Oluchi Anyabuike, a senior software engineer at Fidelity Investments and recent recipient of the Rising Star award at the Diversity in Tech Awards, discusses her work and her passion for diversity and inclusion
When we first spoke to Oluchi Anyabuike in 2020, she had just completed Fidelity Investment’s Leap graduate programme and joined the company as a full-time software engineer. Since then, Anyabuike has accumulated no shortage of tremendous and inspiring awards and accomplishments, including being a member of winning teams for three consecutive years in Fidelity’s Women in Technology Special Interest Group WIT-A-THON, an annual two-day global hackathon event.
As well as her many technical achievements, Anyabuike has also demonstrated a passion and determination for diversity and inclusion (D&I). She is a founding member of Aspire Ireland, Fidelity’s employee resource group for Black and Latinx associates, and has worked on various D&I projects, such as leading a team in developing an inclusive language browser extension to promote the use of inclusive language as per the Fidelity D&I Guide. Her significant contribution to D&I at Fidelity has not gone unnoticed, as Anyabuike recently received the Rising Star award at the Diversity in Tech Awards 2023.
Today, she is a senior software engineer at Fidelity and is currently completing her master’s degree in advanced software engineering at University College Dublin with a thesis focused on cybersecurity.
What drew you to this career area?
My interest in software engineering began in secondary school but I was drawn to the engineering domain from an early age. My father is an engineer, so I was always around engineering tools, computers and was encouraged to learn how to type and play with technology. I had a bespoke Barbie laptop when I was three years old that I took very seriously! More concretely, I always had an interest in understanding how things worked and enjoyed breaking and fixing whatever I could get my hands on.
In secondary school, I got the opportunity to shadow a senior manager in technology for a couple of days and observing her day-to-day role debunked a lot of the myths of what I thought a career in computer science entailed. She was not glued to her desk all day and did not work in a dark cubicle in the corner of the office or other false stereotypes that you may hear. Instead, I saw various facets of what I enjoyed doing in school applied – creativity, problem-solving and collaborative leadership.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy solving challenging problems in a fast-paced field, with a team of hard-working individuals. My learning style means that I learn best from others and in a productive, knowledge-sharing environment. In my opinion, collaborating with others is an undervalued part of a career in software engineering. As a naturally competitive person, I get immense satisfaction from every successful bug fix, feature deployment and innovation. They all feel like little daily wins!
What skills and personality traits do you feel make you suited to your job?
I would say that I have good communication, interpersonal and leadership skills which have been tried and tested in numerous capacities while working in a corporate environment. These skills are being strengthened constantly in my current role. Thankfully I began developing them during my undergraduate programme by participating in university societies, events and volunteering programmes. Along with strong problem-solving skills, they allow me to be a well-rounded developer and associate.
It is valuable to know how to ask the right questions at all stages of the development life cycle, from gathering requirements with stakeholders to typing the right keywords on a search engine. I am inquisitive by nature and have always been predisposed to asking a lot of questions until I have a sufficient understanding of a topic or problem. This makes it easier for me to find the correct answers or discover another vantage point to tackle an issue. This curiosity spurred a continuous learning mindset in me which ensures I stay abreast of new trends, even if that may require upskilling. Technology is a fast-evolving field and being open to learning something new keeps your skills current and sought after.
A common misconception is that you need to be a genius to be a software engineer, although that helps and the importance of strong technical skills cannot be discounted, being able to communicate, ask questions and engage in continuous learning can get you very far.
Tell me a bit about your career journey to date.
I joined Fidelity Investments as part of the Leap graduate programme after a four-year undergraduate degree in computer science from University of Galway, which included an eight-month placement at Fidelity.
After the Leap programme, I joined my current team developing trading and monitoring applications for fixed-income products. At different points I was offered opportunities to showcase or strengthen my non-technical skills and this contributed greatly to my career progression. During the pandemic, I was inspired by one of my role models to enrol in a part-time postgraduate course at University College Dublin.
In my current role, I wear a few hats, primarily working as a senior developer writing code, solving complex problems and mentoring junior developers on my team and across the firm. I am also an ambassador of the early career programmes at Fidelity Ireland which I availed of in the past. I participate closely with various employee resource groups, special interest groups, communities of practice and external groups in areas that I am passionate about. There have been many contributing factors to my recent Diversity in Tech Awards recognition thanks to the opportunities that I have availed of and the many advocates I have in my corner.
What’s been the hardest thing you’ve had to face in your career, and how did you overcome it?
I’m lucky to say that the hardest thing I have had to face in my career is overcoming impostor syndrome. Technology remains a male-dominated industry so initially it was easy to feel out of place and doubt my technical abilities, especially when interacting with more senior developers in well-established teams. I began to overcompensate by taking on more work and in some instances stretching myself too thin in order to prove myself. This led to burnout which negatively impacted my work-life balance and at a certain point it became quite tough to manage.
Hearing other people’s stories made me feel less alone in my experience and gave me feasible steps to address my concerns. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that my team were instrumental in alleviating my imposter syndrome. They trusted me with complex tasks and reinforced the calibre of my skills, both publicly and privately. I realise now that imposter syndrome is very common and would encourage anyone struggling with it to talk to others as this was very beneficial for me. I also find it helpful to look back at what I have achieved rather than focusing on what else I feel I need to accomplish. These days I try to take time and celebrate each accomplishment, large or small, and self-congratulate.
You’re incredibly passionate for D&I in tech. Tell me about some of the work you do in this space.
I have been a part of several initiatives to bring STEM awareness to classrooms and improve the participation of women in technology careers.
Root2STEM aims to inspire students to pursue STEM careers by allowing them to be onsite and gain visibility into the myriad of opportunities a career in technology provides. CodePlus is a collaboration with my alma mater, University of Galway, to bring coding opportunities into the classroom, working with guidance counsellors and parents to elevate computer science opportunities for young women.
Women’s participation in technology is closely linked to representation in the industry and I hope that my publicly visible accomplishments inspire someone who may be on the fence, to take the leap!
As a founding committee member for Aspire Ireland – Fidelity Ireland’s employee resource group for Black and Latinx associates which aims to advance the professional development of its members, I have been able to spotlight cultural events, contributions and achievements of those from the global south. Being able to share parts of my cultural background with my colleagues this year has been extremely fulfilling and the support we have had along the way from senior leadership and associates across our global regions have been heart-warming.
Although I have been quite passionate about D&I in technology for a long time, my work in this space is just beginning and I hope to continue to highlight the incredible contributions of diverse voices that enrich Ireland’s technology landscape by working with external groups that are paving the way.
When it comes to D&I, what do you see as the biggest challenges in this space right now and how can they be addressed?
That’s a tough question. In Ireland, a lot of work is underway to address DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] challenges in almost every facet, whether that be introducing inclusive language in the workplace, community outreach programmes to highlight diverse perspectives or award bodies to spotlight pioneers in these areas.
One of the major challenges of DEI is bridging the gap between progress made in industry and schools. For example, one of the technology industry’s primary goals is the improvement of gender parity and although great strides have been made in this endeavour, women technologists are still underrepresented in the workforce and this disparity is even more significant with women of colour.
Education is the primary way to address these issues and not just for young people but for those who have a hand in shaping their futures. Parents, teachers and career guidance counsellors could benefit from unconscious bias training and attending workshops to understand how to best equip girls who may have an interest in STEM.
I would love to see more people with similar personal backgrounds to mine with fulfilling careers in technology. My aim, with the help of like-minded individuals, is to find tangible steps that we can make as successful engineers to bridge this gap.
A common misconception is that DEI goals are exclusionary and this can be a challenge in its adoption. Inclusion of some does not mean exclusion of others. DEI aims to uplift and provide support for groups who have been historically excluded from specific careers and this has been proven to improve the bottom line in many industries.
Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?
There are numerous people who have been so influential to my career thus far but if I must pick just one, I will say my first team lead, Mary Seery. She taught me a lot about what it means to be a brilliant software engineer operating at a high level just by observation. She spoke her mind at meetings, offered innovative solutions to existing and future problems, and participated in technical initiatives outside her day-to-day role. Mary challenged me constantly, which is what I needed at the time, and it imbued me with confidence to step outside of my comfort zone and round out my skillset.
I believe I was gifted with the rare experience of starting my career by joining a high-performing team led by a woman, giving me a tangible career path to follow.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career in your area?
Without sounding preachy, I would encourage anyone, especially those from minority groups, to own your career. Be proactive about learning and ongoing development. Do not be discouraged about common misconceptions or myths about what a career in software engineering entails.
If an opportunity arises to extend your skills outside of a technical remit, in an area that you are passionate about, go for it! It can provide an avenue for innovation and creativity that can meld both technical and non-technical skills. Find a great company that will support you with your career goals. Most importantly, give yourself grace to make mistakes along the way – that is where true understanding arises.
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