Career Nav #74: Leveraging Your Communities Power to Grow Your Career

Career Nav #74: Leveraging Your Communities Power to Grow Your Career

Written by Madona Wambua


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Madona S Wambua, founder and chief technology officer at Jibu Labs, shares her talk, “Leveraging Your Communities’ Power to Grow Your Career.” She discusses her love of building, overcoming imposter syndrome, and how community involvement grew her confidence and provided many opportunities throughout her career. 

After the pandemic, so many things changed. Now everybody’s wondering how to stand out because there are so many great talents. I’m telling people, especially my mentees, that having a community to help you through this process is very important. There’s a lot of fear, too, especially with stuff like AI, where people are worried it’ll take our jobs. Even if it takes our job, I don’t think it will destroy the community. Communities will always remain. If you’re leveraging the community, there’s a lot of growth that you can gain.

I started as a junior Java developer back in 2011. I was working on building imagery systems. I was not enjoying what I was doing. I think most of us, from time to time experienced that. I decided to look into what I could do with my knowledge of Java. I learned that you can build mobile applications. What inspired me actually to start building mobile applications was the Snake game.

Before that,  I wanted to become an aeronautical engineer because I loved seeing planes fly. After I started my career in software engineering, building a mobile application was something that I loved. I spent the first five years of my career building as an individualist. I’ve been able to publish two applications. My first application was called Simple Math. My other application is called Budgeting Buddy. I wasn’t inspired because, as we know, in the software engineering world, we don’t have many women or people you can work with who look like you in the field. That did demotivate me. I started looking into how I could connect with my local community.

I learned that Women Who Code had a community in Alabama, and they were organizing events. I found this amazing woman who was very accepting of me. She introduced me to Women Who Code, told me what they were doing, and told me she was looking for speakers who could help on mobile. The community was there to support and motivate me.

The community has helped me in so many ways. After giving my first talk, I was invited to other talks. I flew to San Francisco to attend the Women Who Code conference in person. That motivated me because I remember seeing so many women giving talks and panels. That inspired me to keep doing that more. I did not have a platform yet, but I decided to become the global lead for mobile. This opened the door to lead webinars and continue working on my speaking skills and representations, ensuring that my representations are understandable and that I leverage the community to keep growing this thing I like to do as I continue my engineering.

I ended up becoming a Google developer expert for Android. I was referred to this program called Women Developer Academy. I became an ambassador during this time because the Google Techmakers ambassador program contacted me. When you speak, people get inspired. They share your slides, they share your name, and they speak your name. People started speaking my name in different places, and my next talk was at the Grace Hopper Celebration. 

I interviewed and became a Google expert. At that point, Google let me know that I had their support and they could help elevate me and give me more opportunities to speak. Being a Google developer expert meant I could travel anywhere, and Google paid for my flight and hotel. It was my passion to teach and keep sharing my knowledge. Being an individualist is okay, but having the community is better because you drain yourself. If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be, don’t do the same thing you did in your early career. I did not have any work-life balance. I would work the weekends just trying to get things done.

I realized this was not a good thing because nobody was there to tell us that. I was afraid of not having a job. That’s why I feel like I overworked and overlooked myself. When I got to the community, it was much easier. I never feared not being in a job because I realized I could reach out to somebody in the community if I didn’t have a job. When you know people, it’s much easier for you to get your next job.

After I found the community, I could connect with them and then make that network. That elevated me, and I wrote my first book. My reviewers came from the community. People who are more experienced than me and who are already experts. The community can help you grow your career. During the pandemic, the community helped me with my mental health.

The community helped me through their one-on-one sessions. They would have lunch and learn, and I would join and hear stories from other members about how they’re going through the pandemic. That helped and inspired me a lot. It motivated me to start a podcast. I would connect with other women and listen to their stories.

I’ve accomplished writing my book, speaking at over 30 conferences, and leading a main stage panel at, which was amazing. I was able to interview four amazing women and won the 2023 Technologies to Run to Watch Award by Women Who Code because the members of the communities recommended and nominated me. I ended up winning this year, too. I made the Top 50 Women of Impact in tech.

I found Women Who Code by looking. Find a community that you feel included in and resonates with you. There are so many communities out there that are very supportive of women and non-binary people. When I joined Women Who Code, we were like ten people. Now we’ve grown to over 2000 people. They have a couple of tracks. So they have all those tracks if you’re in machine learning, cloud, or blockchain. Many communities collaborate and work together because our main goal and purpose are the same: elevating and supporting women. There’s power and strength in the community. This will help you grow your career and grow your network, which is something that we all need.



Guest: Madona S Wambua, Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Jibu Labs

Producer: JL Lewitin, Senior Producer Press and Communications, Women Who Code