Ruby Igwe realised corporate legal work wasn’t as hands-on as she wanted, so she transitioned into film production. For many people, that made a lot of sense, as she grew up on movie sets assisting her mother, Amaka Igwe, a renowned Nigerian filmmaker. After six months, Ruby transitioned into project management and eventually became head of operations for a media company. But that wasn’t her final act. 

In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped work life across the globe, Ruby Igwe embarked on yet another work journey into the tech space. She was hired as the Country Activation Manager at Sand Technologies, overseeing talent acquisition and management. She eventually became the first female and youngest Country General Manager in the region where she’s worked for the last two years, empowering millions of youth and women with in-demand tech skills and training. 

How will people around you describe you?

Ruby Igwe: I believe they would describe me as hardworking, empathetic and resilient, as well as someone who brings their whole self to work. Executive leaders like me are caught daily between driving team members for optimum performance and managing emotions. I am a self-aware leader, and I respect people first as human beings with stories and context, not tools. I am also a creative person, and this is reflected in my work.

What’s the best thing about your work?

RI: I love my team. I believe that I have a very strong, innovative and supportive team and I enjoy working with them. I also love the work we do to enhance tech and entrepreneurship skills among youths and women and contribute directly to Nigeria’s unemployment, entrepreneurship, and workforce development. I feel fulfilled working with my team to impact over 145,000 youths in Nigeria with better livelihoods.

You’re also the co-founder of Tell us about that. 

RI: is a non-profit actively contributing to the critical mission of preserving Nigeria’s history through the digital documentation of newspapers and other materials; and then making them accessible to everyone online. As someone passionate about culture, our creative industries and infrastructure development, I believe that our history must be accessible to anyone.

Fu’ad Lawal leads the charge here and has been working tirelessly with a formidable team of staff, supporters and volunteers. So far, we have 4,029 newspapers scanned, over 60,000 pages scanned and $23,073 raised thus far. We are also currently fundraising for our next phase of operations. I’m excited about this project and the doggedness of our team, and I am looking forward to being even more hands-on than I have been able to be lately.

Tell us about ALX. How does it tie into your values or personality?

RI: ALX is a tech accelerator that seeks to provide tech jobs and build entrepreneurial capacity for Africans. We want to build Africa’s doers and changemakers by focusing on young people and offering accessible programs that empower the next generation of technology innovators, entrepreneurs, and business leaders through challenging real-world coursework. We have special courses in artificial intelligence, data analytics, software engineering, and cloud computing, among others and through ALX Ventures, we are shaping and supporting ethical entrepreneurial leaders. 

Personally, two things have guided my personal and professional life – quality service and infrastructural development. My work at ALX aligns with my core values as it involves invested work in transforming lives, ecosystems, and infrastructure in Nigeria and Africa. I am thankful daily that I am serving my nation and people with my talents and directly contributing to her growth.

You’re operating in the same space as other edtechs like Alt School, Miva etc. What makes ALX different?

RI: ALX doesn’t just tech train. We have a thriving learning community, the largest across the region, which fosters peer collaboration, prototyping, wholesome soft skills development and lifelong learning among learners. We have a high rate of applicants seeing their programmes through because of our community-first approach. Also, we have a robust “ALX fellows,” a nest for graduates to exchange ideas and identify opportunities for job placements. Our learners also find jobs soon after graduation or go on to create jobs as entrepreneurs. Our mission differentiates us: we impart technical and, most importantly, soft skills that turn learners into competent and ethical leaders in society.

Sand Technologies is bullish on AI. Do you think the Nigerian market is ripe for AI?

RI: There is a current AI boom that is fueling global market gains and the world isn’t going to wait for us. The market size is projected to reach US$305.90 billion by this year, showing an annual growth rate of 15.83% between 2024 and 2030. Countries like Singapore, Canada and New Zealand are leading in AI, and Nigeria must jump in quickly. We are often reactive in the technology industry when we have the potential to be market leaders if we have faith in home-grown innovations and our talents. We have shown promising signs of technology adoption, so we must create the market and allow the free interplay of all forces.

Are there any AI-related projects that you are (the company) currently working on?

RI: Yes, we recently launched one of Africa’s flagship programs on AI called the AI Career Essentials (AiCE). It is an online six-week programme that empowers learners to use AI tools to accomplish professional tasks, ace interviews, and solve complex problems. We expose our learners to technical and knowledge skills that will position them as industry competitors within a short period. I encourage Nigerians to enrol and learn basic AI skills to boost their careers. Also, after going through the Software Engineering program, there is an Applied AI course where learners can try to build their tools.

What’s the plan for Sand Technologies in the next five years?

Ruby Igwe: We remain committed to our vision of shaping and empowering three million ethical and entrepreneurial leaders across Africa by closing the skill gap and technical challenges through the delivery of in-demand tech skills training and soft skills development. We are also investing in founders and building future tech solutions to support businesses worldwide.

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