Human: Precious Diedemise
Country: Ibadan, Nigeria
Domain: Mathematical Modelling, Data Analytics , Content Writing
Job Profile: Mathematical Researcher, Content Writer, Mentor
The Pidgin English, a lingua franca that is spoken by the majority of the population in West Africa is known for its unique blend of English with the local dialects.
There is a famous phrase, ‘Jollof Rice wey dey for the bottom of pot today go dey for the top of cooler tomorrow.’, which loosely translates to how no condition is permanent.
And that’s the same attitude with which the Nigerians live their life. No matter how hard things or situations get, they knew it was just a matter of time. There were no circumstances that would remain forever. And that’s something a wonderful mathematician and an educationist showed us. That life, no matter how tough it gets, would help you find your way. She wasn’t just an engrossing storyteller but her riveting rhymes captivated our attention and make us see the transformational journey she has been through.
So here’s introducing our next human in the series, from the multicultural land of Nigeria, Precious Diedemise, a mathematical researcher entering the world of data analytics and a mentor extraordinaire who is a proponent in creating awareness of mental health among the youth in her community. She represents the new generation of Nigerians shattering the stereotype of the tech industry and creating a space for young women to break new barriers in the field.
Growing up in a Nigerian Household
When Presh was asked about what she loves the most about her homeland, her reply resonated with millions of people that inhabit the western African country of Nigeria.
She would say, ‘The people, of course!’
The multinational country was indeed a celebration of culture with over 250 and more tribes inhabiting the land. She tells me how they use the ‘Nigerian Pidgin’ as a means to communicate as each tribe has its dialect and it was almost humanly impossible to know all the multitude of languages spoken over in her homeland.
When she was growing up, she narrates how economic and political conditions did see instability at times in her country.
She would exclaim, ‘Nigerians are happy people, despite the challenges we are still able to find a way to laugh about things.’
She reminds me of the phrase ‘making lemonade out of lemons’ and I couldn’t agree more. This Western African country has produced world-renowned authors, artists, and personalities that have continued to spread that magic across the globe.
She reminisces Sundays filled with steaming hot aromatic rice preparations and Akara or ‘bean cakes’ after church services. The spicy ‘Banga rice’ is what she misses the most about home. But she has an admission that she was not always a foodie growing up. She chuckles and tells me how her mother had to try really hard to make her finish her meals.
The trailblazing Dr. Esther Okagbare, as Presh would say, has been her strength and idol all her life. Parenthood and family life didn’t stop her from achieving her Ph.D. And Presh admits she is the reason behind her pursuing her master’s too.
She has been that guidance in her daughter’s life as a real-life example of how to achieve things no matter what your circumstances are. She is indeed one of the formidable presences that have set the path for more women in Nigeria to follow their dreams and break the glass ceiling.
She admits, ‘I could talk the whole day about my mother. She is one of the strongest women I know.’
‘She is my hero.’
The pride in her daughter’s eyes says it all.
But all this won’t have been possible without the silent support of her father, the compelling Mr. Diedemise, who supported his wife’s dreams of getting her doctorate and did everything possible to make it happen. Presh fondly recalls her dad telling them how he would rather save up for their college education than drive fancy cars. And he ensured both her and her brother got the best education possible. A silent force, yet a powerful presence who put his family’s dreams on the forefront and I see the same selfless force in Presh too.
A journey of self-discovery
The outdoors was what she loved growing up. As a kid football was something, she and her friends were fond of playing. She recalls sometimes sneaking out when her mom wasn’t home. As soon as she would hear her mom’s car honking through the streets, she would dash back home and sit at her study table with her nose deep in her books.
We both laughed at that image and she did chip in to say that she hopes her mom doesn’t read this. I assured her we will try to hide it from Dr. Esther.
She recalls her mother’s love for literature and would bring home loads of books for her children to enjoy. Her mother encouraged her children to discover a new world through literature. It has indeed rubbed off on Presh too. She found a calling in writing.
She confesses, ‘I usually like to pen down my emotions… I write when I am sad… I write when I am happy… I just write them all out.’
Her elder brother has been a huge influence when it comes to writing rhymes. He was somebody who introduced her to a lot of music. Football is a shared passion between the siblings.
She would say,’ The only reason I am a Chelsea fan is because of my brother.’
But there was one thing they would disagree on. She tells me how they would get into debates about fiction and non-fiction novels.
She laughs and says, ‘I don’t do fiction. And he loved fiction!’.
Growing up in an exceptional household with trailblazing parents and an exceptional brother, she tells me how she had low self-esteem. So, she recalls spending her formative years hiding and not really being able to find her identity. Writing her thoughts down gave her a channel to express herself.
‘It has been a journey, ‘she would exclaim.
She admits to starting school early and getting into university way before her peers. She was always a smart kid. But the isolation made her close down and writing was something that she felt helped to channel the loneliness. She would stay away from participating in any activities and would isolate herself further from the crowd.
She confesses, ‘I felt like I wasn’t good enough.’
But there was one event that changed her life for the better. She took part in a track race and found something she was actually good at. Seeing her peers cheer her on as she took part in various sports like the 100m/200m races, high jump, volleyball, and more made her feel visible. The smiling faces that greeted her at the end of the races and the warm handshakes reassured her that she too could be good at something. It was a much-needed gratification for the young teenager.
She told me how she finally saw that she belong there too. The walls she had built to isolate herself as she felt she wasn’t good enough came off for the first time. And she saw the world in a different light again.
A Mathematical world
When I asked her if Maths was something she knew she would have as a career, she smiles and tells me, ‘It wasn’t necessarily my plan.’ She wanted to forge a career in academics and become an educationist.
She recalls her university admission days and how Maths was one of those few subjects still on offer. She had to settle for this one subject that didn’t feature in her initial plans.
But as the saying goes, sometimes you choose a path and sometimes it chooses you.
She was propelled to the world of Mathematics and she found a passion for mathematical modeling. She animatedly explains how real-life scenarios could be correlated to basic mathematical concepts and can help provide so many possible solutions to problems that can help save lives. ‘University’ maths was a refreshing difference from the maths of her school days. She tells me how one has to not just absorb these abstract theories but also learn to apply them in the real world.
She exclaims, ‘The very foundation of computer science is built on mathematics.’
Her journey in tech started with a scholarship. There are organizations like Feminine Energy, Agility Africa, Data Scientists of Nigeria, Ingressive for good, Hamoye, Decagon among several others that have been increasingly creating awareness on tech across the nation. She tells me how a lot of women in Nigeria are changing the tech space.
In her own words, ‘Tech is everywhere. And, as a mathematician, I would be damned if I keep running away from computer programming because codes are an expression of mathematics. ‘
She would tell me how the versatility of tech really drew her in. It was applicable in all works of life ranging from agriculture to fashion. The visualizations she can create using the data available around her stimulates her resolve to further delve into the field of data analytics . And she has really grown to appreciate the support community the tech domain has over different platforms.
She would say, ‘ Just take that first step and the rest will follow.’
Her decision to get acclimatized with programming made her see the thriving global tech community that exists. She fondly recalls asking for an accountability partner on Twitter and how they went on to create this Google classroom which had more than forty participants signing up. And that peer support is something she wishes to extend to others who are starting out in the tech field from non-traditional backgrounds.
Influencing the youth
There was an experience that heavily influenced her to get into mentorship and get involved with the youth. She recalls participating in NYSC (Nigerian Youth Service Corps) camps and attending the seminars conducted for young Nigerians. It opened up a world of opportunity to influence the lives of youngsters who needed a little push in the right direction.
She saw how a lot of school kids drop out due to bad influences around them and how a little guidance was all they needed to show them a world of opportunities that awaited them. She started an initiative called ‘PreshLife’ to create a community that would help young Nigerians to find their ‘purpose’.
On her ability to understand the need for peer support, she gives credit to her junior high school teacher who used to teach them the subject of ‘Introduction to technology‘. She was someone who would never lose her cool while handling teenagers.
‘She didn’t need a cane to garner respect from her students.’, she would whisper.
She encouraged the students to resolve things by communicating and gave Presh a perspective on how to be not just a good teacher but a mentor and a friend. It made her realize how fear was not the way to influence people. She admits she was really lucky to have had the support system while growing up and only wishes everyone could have access to the same resources she had.
She tells me, ‘I see myself as a coach.’, on her work with mentoring teenagers in her community. She does not want to be seen as just an educationist that teaches mathematical concepts. She wants to form a connection with the youth she interacts with.
She would say, ‘I don’t want to be limited by the walls of a classroom.’
She would tell me how a lot of youngsters fall prey to bad influences because they didn’t have somebody to guide them. Having had her fair share of struggles with mental health and an identity crisis, she tells me how it pushes her to get to know these young children and hear their woes, and be a ‘friend’ to whom they can confide their problems . Education isn’t supposed to just be limited to the subjects taught in a classroom. It’s supposed to provide you guidance to the real world and she feels the need for a change in the education system. She sees the value of a mentor or a teacher as not just a figure of authority but as a means to destigmatize a lot of issues like mental health that exist around us.
Finding a purpose
I had to ask her if she has finally found the answers she has been looking for.
She smiles and tells me how she must have been a tiny ‘blip‘ in her mother’s womb when Dr. Esther would attend her classes in her Uni. There was no slowing down when it came to her mother’s dedication to her studies. She has over the years garnered several degrees ranging from post-graduate degrees in education to management studies. Education indeed runs through her veins. And in the early years, she did it all without any support around her. She broke all barriers and shone the light for many more women to follow her lead.
She would say, ‘My mom did it all by herself, through her determination.’
And that is where she derives her ‘purpose‘ from.
She has found her passion to be a ‘coach‘ to youngsters and to help them find their ‘purpose’ too. She wants to be a part of the thriving community in Nigeria where a lot of professionals, researchers, and educationists are investing their skills, time, and resources to bring forth the next generation and create a support system to steer them in the right direction.
When Dr. Maya Angelou, the poet laureate, crooned about phenomenal women, I imagine the wonderful women over in Nigeria, the amazing trailblazers working to better their community each day. We have seen the definition around us. We have felt its presence in our lives when a heavily pregnant woman sits in her classroom with dreams in her eyes, when a young motivated woman leads a group of teenagers with compassion in her words, when a beautiful poet enchants the crowds with her rhymes of life, when a determined woman engages her audience with her skill sets and knowledge and when a sisterhood that extends beyond boundaries exists.
She reminds me how sometimes what we are seeking is right in front of us.
‘We don’t have to look so far away.’
From one phenomenal woman who broke stereotypes in the 80s to another phenomenal woman crossing new barriers in the 21st century.
If inspiration was something we were looking for, then the wonderful women over in Nigeria have indeed shattered the glass ceiling for us.