Marlene Mhangami is a remarkable woman. She was the first African woman to join the board of the global Python Software Foundation (PSF). PSF develops and maintains the Python programming language, one of the most popular programming languages in the world. Marlene was also chair of the first ever pan-African PyCon (Python Conference). She co-founded ZimboPy, a non-profit that empowers young women in Zimbabwe to pursue careers in technology.
In this conversation, Marlene and I discuss what it was like joining the board of PSF, particularly as a young African woman. She reflects on the resources she had, and the ones she didn’t, when she taught herself how to code. On many occasions, Marlene has needed to act against traditional views of what a Zimbabwean woman should do. In equal part, she’s needed to resist misguided donors with antiquated ideas of how to teach technology. Today Marlene sits at a crossroads, with open source and non-profit work down one path and the private sector technology industry down another. Which path will she choose – or will she find a way to bring these two worlds together?
- Marlene Mhangami’s personal website shares a host of her other work, writing, speaking, and coding to support science and technology for social good. Among other things, she writes about the state of open source in Africa and shares interviews about her work with PSF and ZimboPy.
- The Python Software Foundation (PSF) is an American non-profit that runs and maintains the Python programming language. Baked into its mission statement is its goal to support a diverse and international community of programmers.
- PyCon Africa: Marlene was the inaugural chair of the first PyCon Africa in 2019.
- Rebecca Enonchung: Marlene’s shoutout goes to Rebecca Enonchung, a founder, investor, and advocate for female tech entrepreneurs in Africa. She was featured on the cover of Forbes Africa Magazine in March 2020.
- The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power: Marlene’s recommended reading is this memoir from Samantha Power, the current administrator for USAID. It tells the story of how Samantha matched her beliefs and activism against the US State.
If you enjoyed our chat with Marlene Mhangami, you might also enjoy these conversations with other technologists and self-starters in Africa: