Shelmina Abji

Global empowerment speaker

And - Former IBM Vice President and angel investor in early stage technology companies


All it takes to go from self-doubt to self-trust is a shift in your own thoughts.

What do you do?

I am a big proponent of gender equality and women in leadership - especially in STEM. After achieving success beyond my wildest dreams, I had a deep desire to pay forward. That journey led me to become a keynote speaker. I share my insights - not only my own journey but also what I have learned as an empowerment speaker to accelerate the success of other women.

Why did you choose this field?

I come from very humble beginnings and was the first person in my family to obtain a college degree. I had to leave home (Mwanza, Tanzania) at 15 to obtain higher education. I was so focused on getting a college degree that I did not really think through what I would do upon graduation.

After obtaining a degree in Mathematics from India, I realised there were no meaningful jobs for me with that degree and had read ( in 1981) that there were plenty of jobs for programmers so I decided to get a degree in Computer Science. That desire brought me to La-Crossse Wisconsin.

I started my career as a software developer in a start up which ran out of money in 1989. I then joined IBM as a software developer, became a technical consultant and then moved into sales. I thrived as a sales representative and then as a sales leader which enabled me to rise up to become one of IBM’s highest ranking woman of colour.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

The younger me had no idea I could achieve the success I did. Every achievement has been part of a journey unfolding as I kept applying myself, putting in my best effort, becoming stronger and more confident with every challenge and taking on greater responsibilities. Every role became a stepping stone to a bigger role as I learned from and excelled in it.

Why do you love working in STEM?

STEM is the only field I have worked it and I love it. It offers so many different career opportunities and opportunities for learning and growth. It is fast paced and changes fast which I love. You can follow whatever your passion is in STEM.

Best advice for next generation?

In today’s world, everything involves STEM. Embrace it, Be enthusiastic and excited about what you do. Remain curious, apply yourself to the best of your ability. Thrive in a changing environment. Define your success aligned with your strengths and values and grow in the pursuit of that success. Do not let any obstacles get in your way - once you achieve, reflect upon your growth as that builds strength and confidence. With more strength and confidence, set a higher bar for success and start the process again. Keep growing relevant competencies and contributing maximum value and your success will unfold. Always believe in yourself as the world takes you at your own estimate.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

I am coining the term Power Quotient as your ability to govern your thoughts. All it takes to go from self doubt to self trust is a shift in your own thoughts.

NOMINATE a woman in STEM

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