By Miracle Nwankwo

Stories have been told about people who died in regrets knowing they never pursued their dreams and passion in life. This is why in recent times, parents, guardians, and teachers have begun to take conscious steps in helping their children find their passion and pursuing it wholeheartedly. 

To this end, the women in STEM category for this week brings you the story of Sarah Asio to help understand the impact and necessity of building on your talent and pursuing your dreams no matter what it takes.

Sarah began her journey into STEM as a little girl in Uganda who was attracted to mechanical appliances and electronics around the house. She decided to take up a course in electrical engineering, and build on her knowledge but she was discouraged by someone who told her about the infeasibility of gaining a degree in industrial engineering. Filled with passion to effect changes on her country’s infrastructure and economic development, Sarah stayed keen on finding her way despite the odds. Fortunately, she soon realized that she could still thread on the path and become a remarkable influence on her community back home in Uganda.

“In Africa, infrastructure and development are really important. I understood that my economy needed more input in this area and I made a more informed decision to pursue my first degree in industrial engineering. It would be the best way to make an impact in my country,” she says.

As soon as Sarah discovered that she had the ability to pursue her dreams and become a blessing to her people, she began to walk on the path she has chosen despite the cost.

After college, she went to the United States to pursue her master’s degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, afterwards a doctoral degree in industrial engineering at Texas Tech University.

She also had her share of the struggles that comes with surviving as a foreigner in a non-indigenous country, such as having to pay for her fees and many more. However, Sarah testifies that due to her Christian faith and continued efforts in applying for scholarships she was able overcome those financial challenges. As a result of her persistence, she received an AAUW International Fellowship that funded her master’s degree in industrial engineering at University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She also found a sense of community in international student groups as a replacement of a family which helped her navigate life and education in the Western world.

Sarah took a job at the Bayer, which required knowledge on digitizing agriculture. As a result, she got preoccupied with data science and began developing digital tools and solutions to enable the production of adequate food with less seed and ground by farmers.

“I was able to connect my original passion of making a difference and trying to empower economies to mature and remain sustainable, while also providing for indigenous people so they can develop as a nation.”

Having conquered negative words that tried to prove that she was incapable of doing what she had set her heart on; Sarah has been all out to inspire people with knowledge so that they can find their strength and pursue their dreams. In doing this, Sarah joined forces with local partners in Uganda to search out raw talents who are interested in areas that surround data science to harness and help them build a future. Under this platform she provides basic knowledge in STEM through tutorials and further steer them in the right direction to obtain technical certifications.

“I strongly believe in the grassroots approach in finding and training local people with the skills and talents to innovate what they have in order to solve problems in their culture and community.”

She has achieved some remarkable feats on this journey. She has also helped some Ugandans to create influential and innovative products for their communities. 

She enjoys recounting her journey in STEM and learning as it continues to evolve. Learning more about people has given her a strong platform to build her relationship. Relating with the grassroots creates a better interface with the lows of the society to enable a fruitful interaction as well as addressing their needs.

Sarah is also bent on navigating the workplace as a woman, she therefore encourages women to unapologetically own their accomplishments.

In line with that, she tells women to; “Look at what you have achieved and know that you have the right to be in the environment you are in. Stand boldly for yourself and let no one overlook you or sidestep you. Own your own truth. Speak confidently and be proud that you earned the right to be there on merit.”

As a beneficiary of the AAUW, her story is told in partnership with AAUW, which has a long history of opening doors for women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), from the classroom to Capitol Hill. 

Sarah currently serves as the Data Science Lead at Johnson & Johnson where she works at combining business strategy and developing technical solutions in line with the organization’s values and global presence. In her belief, data science will propel the advancement of artificial intelligence. Like other rare and unexplored fields, it is an untapped mine. She foresees that in the nearest future, services and products will be completely transformed by decades of data from end-users, consumers, and practitioners. Sarah expects to see services across industries that are more attuned to the consumer’s needs, as she believes that this type of data has the power to diagnose problems occurring societally and make a real impact. 

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