A native of the Bronx, New York, she grew up the oldest of five siblings, and at an early age she wanted to be a human rights or criminal defense attorney. This desire to support others in challenging circumstances eventually led her to work in direct mental health services, but she later decided she wanted to combine her passion for tech with positively impacting the world.
Check out our Q&A below with Uduakabasi, in which she highlights the importance of seeing people who look like you do what you dream of doing; why celebration is crucial at every point of one’s journey; how economic freedom allows one to set new boundaries and new goals; and more.
Pursuit: Will you tell us more about your life before Pursuit?
Uduakabasi: Before Pursuit, I worked as a case manager in the mental health field and among the unhoused population. While I loved helping others get to a better space in their lives – guiding them towards a more independent lifestyle – it was mentally taxing in the long run, especially because I often took on my clients' issues as my own.
Pursuit: What led you to apply to Pursuit, and why were you interested in a career in tech?
Uduakabasi: A fellow from an earlier Pursuit cohort and now an Android Engineer for Kohl’s, led me to Pursuit. We first met at a Hackathon hosted by Enza Academy – where we ended up on the same team — and I was inspired by the technical work she did. I’d always been interested in building things, and engineering was the perfect way for me to do that while also making a difference. She showed me that I could make that vision a reality.
Pursuit: What advice do you have for other minorities, or women in particular, who are considering careers in tech or who are already working in the industry?
Uduakabasi: The most meaningful advice I received was to take a break and reward myself. As minorities, and especially for black women like myself, we work so hard to prove to our counterparts and ourselves that we’re worthy to be in the spaces we’ve worked so hard to get to. There’s no point in me telling other black women or other minorities to work hard or keep going. We were already doing that. But learn to take a step back and see how far you’ve come.
Landed an interview? Go celebrate with ice cream from your favorite shop because you got an interview in a new industry. That’s a celebration worthy in itself. We’re so busy trying to be great that we forget to applaud ourselves for the steps it took to end up at greatness. Learn to enjoy the scenic route. You deserve it.
Pursuit: How has breaking into the tech industry impacted your life?
Uduakabasi: The most obvious one is finances. It’s brought me to another level and given me the opportunity to learn more about myself – what I’m able to welcome, tolerate or down right refuse. It’s given me the opportunity to get back to doing the things I loved without feeling guilty about it along the way. I’m also able to help my family out when I can.
The coolest part is that I’ve come to inspire some important people in my life to follow my path — one being my baby brother. He’s currently in high school and now tells everyone he wants to be a software engineer like his oldest sister. As a young Nigerian, it brightens my world to know my family is proud of the career path I’ve decided to take, and that I’m someone worth looking up to in that aspect. For now, I’m still pushing for my brother to be the scientist he wanted to be, but it makes me smile to know he wants to follow in my footsteps.
Pursuit: Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
Uduakabasi: I want to have created and built something of my own that I truly believe in, something that will help marginalized groups of people on a larger scale. Or — after stepping back from my dream company — I want to devote more time to my family and personal life.
Pursuit: What motivates you in moments when you find your work challenging?
Uduakabasi: I cry it out. I know that’s not the answer anyone wants to hear, but when I’m not able to go to gym, go to the dojo, or fly down some slopes, I have to just cry it out. I talk to God a lot too. Not in a formal way, but I just talk it out and ask God why God brought me this far if I wasn’t going to succeed. After that, the tears bring the best type of sleep, and I wake up feeling refreshed. Sometimes a conversation with a friend or mentor who’s in the industry helps as well.
Pursuit: Who or what inspires you?
Uduakabasi: All that I do is for my family. Most importantly, my mom and my siblings. I’ve always wanted to be wealthy, but I didn’t know why until 2020. People say all the time that life is not promised, but I experienced this first hand in 2020. Ideally, I’d help my entire immediate family retire, pull my siblings out of school, and travel the world – friends in tow, as well – and enjoy the time we have together. That’s my goal. That’s what pushes me. That’s what drives me.