Her Silver Lining Turned Into a Golden Opportunity | Divine Chisom Ukonu - ALX SE Gold Fellow

The COVID-19 pandemic was a challenging time for most people. Like many young Nigerians who had just completed their national youth service, Divine Chisom Ukonu found herself stuck at home during lockdown with little to occupy her.

Little did she know that this unprecedented season would ignite her interest in technology and lead her to apply to ALX’s Software Engineering programme. Investing 70 hours a week paid off, propelling Divine to the top talent ranks and securing her a coveted spot in The ROOM Gold Fellowship.

Below, she opens up about her transformative experience and ambitious aspirations.

When did you first become interested in tech? Is this something you have always wanted to do?

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked my interest in tech. After completing my national service in Nigeria, I found myself isolated due to the lockdown. With all the free time on my hands, I embarked on a journey to keep myself busy, which led me to start learning to code and exploring the world of tech. During this exploration, I came across an advertisement for the ALX SE programme, decided to take a leap of faith and apply. The rest is history.

What were some of your highlights of the SE programme?

My biggest highlight was the fact that I completed this year-long online program that required me to dedicate over 70 hours per week! It was not definitely easy, but I’m so glad I made it through.

Another highlight was the fact that the programme was largely project-based, and we had to virtually teach ourselves. Peer learning days were really helpful because of this, and were a significant feature of the programme that I benefited from.

As a tech professional, what are your career aspirations and goals?

Though I gained software engineering skills through ALX, I actually work professionally as a freelancer in the data field. As a junior data scientist, my primary goal is to gain valuable experience and expertise in the field. I am eager to delve into machine learning algorithms, deep learning techniques, and artificial intelligence applications and have plans to pursue further education and certifications in these specialised areas. Ultimately, I hope to contribute significantly to the development of data-driven solutions that can address critical business challenges and enhance decision-making processes.

Who are your top role models in the tech space?

I truly admire all the instructors I’ve had in the different tech programmes I’ve enrolled in, including Google’s Data Analytics course and the KaggleX BIPOC Mentorship Program. Of course, from ALX’s SE programme, I am immensely grateful for the support and guidance I received from Maarten van Middelaar, who was instrumental as my technical mentor.

What value does being a Gold Fellow hold for you, and how has your journey been so far?

I feel so privileged to be part of the Gold Fellowship, and I’m grateful for this opportunity. My journey recently began, but it has been a great experience so far. I’ve had a session with my Pathfinder and I’m scheduled for another session next week. She has already shared some opportunities with me and some resources to help me with setting my career goals. I’m really enthusiastic about what lies ahead.

Why do you think it’s important to belong to professional networks and communities such as the Gold Fellowship?

Professional networks like the Gold Fellowship are important for several reasons. Firstly, they provide access to a wealth of resources that can help me stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends and best practices. They are also a great platform for networking with like-minded professionals who share common interests and goals, and are a source of valuable support and guidance throughout my career.

Finally, please share a quote that inspires you?

“The only way that we can justify privilege is by solving the world’s biggest problems, and by doing hard things.” – Fred Swaniker


The ROOM Gold Fellowship is an exceptional talent experience designed to support the top 5-10% of ALX tech graduates. With exclusive access to a workspace, a dedicated Pathfinder, and opportunities for lifelong learning, it empowers ALX tech graduates and propels their career growth. Apply today to one of ALX’s world-class programmes so that you can gain entry into the Gold Fellowship.

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