Adamaka Ajaelo is a leader, innovator, and problem solver. She is radical, analytical, bold and fearless. While being deeply immersed in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (also known as STEM) may not be a part of many people’s early childhood, it was for Adamaka. She and her siblings were encouraged to pursue these subjects by their father, a chemical engineer, who went as far as to give them math and physics lessons at home. Adamaka also engaged in activities such as building structures out of Legos, taking computers apart to understand how they work, and participating in science camps and math Olympiads. For Adamaka, STEM was never a foreign concept early in her childhood.
As an Oakland, California native, and first generation citizen of Nigerian immigrant parents, Adamaka believes in paying it forward, and in 2014 founded a nonprofit organization, based in Oakland, called Self-eSTEM. Its mission is to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) opportunities for young girls and women from untapped and underserved communities in the Bay Area. Adamaka states,
“the motivation to start my own nonprofit was driven by personal experiences of encountering resistance and adversity as I moved throughout the STEM pipeline from high school to college.”
She had tremendous support in high school, but she believes many other young girls don’t have the same exposure to STEM that she did. Additionally, Adamaka seeks to eliminate the critical shortage gap and lack of diversity of STEM professionals by building the resiliency of untapped STEM talent – women and minorities. Through Self-eSTEM, she hopes to encourage more young girls and women to pursue these career fields, and build a more diverse and inclusive STEM workforce pipeline. Adamaka feels that it is never too early for young girls to develop an interest in math and science.
Last year, Adamaka was instrumental in doubling the size of Self-eSTEM’s annual STEM Exploration Camp (from 57 to 114 participants), increasing funding by 500% (≈$10K to ≈$68K), and tripling the number of strategic partnerships (from 5 to 17). Key strategic partnerships include, but not limited to: Visa, Salesforce, Google, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Golden State Warriors, San Francisco 49ers STEM Museum, Fam 1st Family Foundation, and Oakland Unified School District. Self-eSTEM received endorsements by the City of Oakland and Lynette McElhaney, District 3 – Oakland City Council Member. Additionally, the organization received sponsorship from the Kapor Center for Social Impact, received the Visa Black Employees (VIBE) Group Grant Award, and received the PG&E Women’s Network Award Grant (which was given to the top five organizations out of 40+ Bay Area applicants). Adamaka has been interviewed on the “411 with Tally” on KBLX radio and on the “Spotlight with Shonda Scott” talk show. She has been influential in creating these notable milestones with her amazing team and continues to push Self-eSTEM towards remarkable growth.
Adamaka Ajaelo received her B.A. in Mathematics from Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA and her MBA from Holy Names University in Oakland, CA. She has worked at top companies such as Kaiser Permanente, Cisco Systems, and Visa in the areas of Finance, Workforce Planning & Analytics and Business Continuity. When she is not working as Sr. System Analyst at her current company Workday, or running Self-eSTEM with her dedicated board members, she enjoys attending Warriors basketball games, local wine tasting, trying new restaurants, and traveling internationally. Her ultimate vision is Self-eSTEM will be the leading talent source for STEM leaders, innovators, and for any company seeking strong, diverse STEM professionals.