In 2012, Nila founded Women In Digital with the goal of “empowering women through technology”. She wanted to help women have a bigger footprint on digital platforms
By 2012, Achia Nila, a programmer, had been working as a software engineer in the IT industry for almost a decade. During her career, she could not help but notice an under-representation of women in the field. She had been the only woman in many teams she had worked with until then.
As she rose through the ranks in her workplace and was included in decision-making roles, she wanted to bring more women into the sector. However, the number of women who applied for these jobs was very low.
And so, that year, Nila founded Women In Digital with the goal of “empowering women through technology”. She wanted to help women have a bigger presence on digital platforms. It was essentially a manifestation of her long-standing determination to bring more women into IT.
But it would not have happened unless her father had not meddled in her pursuit to go abroad for higher studies.
“Around that time, I was planning to go abroad. I was fully prepared. I got admitted to a university and in a few months, my classes would start. At the time, my father stopped me. He was not happy that I was going abroad,” she said.
Her father had somehow convinced her to stay in Bangladesh and do something for her country.
“I did not take it very seriously. I was half-heartedly trying to do something. I was sure that I would fail and then I would go abroad eventually.
She quickly developed the business model of Women In Digital. She presented and pitched it to her father first. Seeing the proposal, her father’s response was: “I didn’t tell you to do something that difficult!”
She knew it would not be easy, just as her own journey was not easy being a woman. But somehow, it clicked; probably because of her rebellious nature.
Nine years forward, Women in Digital is up and running; Nila also is still with the project. Women in Digital’s journey began with five girls, including Nila herself. The initiative got registered officially in 2013.
“Since then, we have engaged in business seriously. We have created a buzz, and made people believe that women can work in the tech world and are no less than men.”
Women in Digital offers a multi-faceted approach. First and foremost, the organisation’s core mission is to help women develop technical skill sets and find jobs in the software industry. But it does go beyond that. Other than providing training, it is also a software solution firm.
In addition to its basic objective, the organisation serves as an advisor to graduate schools and software firms in raising awareness of the need to educate girls in IT and hire them.
The organisation also performs root-level campaigns and has five training centres outside Dhaka. Moreover, recently, Women in Digital has expanded its activities beyond the border of Bangladesh. They are providing training facilities in Nepal and Sri Lanka.
“Many girls now dare to come to work in the tech industry. Our mission is successful to a large extent. I am also satisfied with our progress,” Nila said. As of now, Women in Digital has trained approximately 15,000 girls across Bangladesh since its founding. Market-related IT skills such as web, apps and software development, graphic design and animation, digital marketing, etc., are taught to these girls.
“Our model is that after we teach programming. We will give them jobs or we will connect them with other employers, or at least help them find employers. Moreover, we also help many girls start their journey in freelance marketplaces. We have a separate module for freelancing,” Nila explained.
In fact, many women who complete their training join the organisation itself. Currently, they have 23 such employees. The team includes web developers, app developers, graphics designers, digital marketers, etc.
Women in Digital has come a long way over the years. However, they have faced and are still facing some fundamental problems. One of them is the issue of “trust”. Nila said, “As a woman, I was trying to start an IT company which is solely based on women – that was difficult. Hardly a few trusted us or believed in us to get the job done. When we were reaching out to customers, clients – many thought that we would not be able to do tasks well or could not deliver perfectly.”
“We faced some negative feedback. After six months into launching officially, we decided that we would not do any work in the local software market. Rather, we are creating developers who may serve the local market. We became international-focused. Still now, we are working in the international market.”
Nila has completed her BSc in CSE from United International University and MSc from Daffodil International University. Starting from her sophomore year in university, she has worked in multiple software firms.
Presently, she is working as an international IP expert in the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and as a researcher for the Alliance for Affordable Internet.