3rd November 2023
Introduction: Meeting Tsigereda Nebai
Meet Tsigereda Nebai, a remarkable woman from Eritrea who joined our pilot program in 2017.
“When I was four, my father started teaching me the Tigrigna alphabet (Eritrean Language). He told me that I must be a good student when I started school and to make him proud although neither my father nor my mother had an education.” – from an interview with WeShapeTech in 2017.
Raised in Eritrea by her mother after her father’s tragic death, Tsigereda defied social norms and excelled academically. Battling gender bias in her village, Tsigereda emerged as a source of inspiration and was the only girl her age who joined the university in her village, where she studied Computer Engineering.
Tsigereda was forced to flee from Eritrea at 22 years old and embarked on a dangerous journey that eventually led her to Switzerland in 2015. Here, she not only sought refuge but also embarked on a path of education while single-handedly raising her daughter.
Today, she thrives in the tech industry and works as DevOps Engineer Security at Swisscom, fulfilling her dream career.
A Year of Milestones
“I think I am rather good,” Tsigereda says with a smile, expressing the positive energy that defines her journey. This year, Tsigereda has achieved several significant milestones.
Education and Academic Excellence
She completed her Bachelor’s in Computer Science at OST Ostschweizer Fachhochschule, specializing in Cybersecurity and Network/Cloud Infrastructure. Her Bachelor’s thesis received the highest grade, and Tsigereda won a prize for the best BA thesis!
Reuniting with Family
2023 also included a heartfelt reunion with her mother and youngest brother in the United States. It was a momentous occasion, marking the first time she had seen her mother in a decade since leaving Eritrea.
Another feather in Tsigereda’s cap is her successful job application at Swisscom. Starting her role as a DevOps Engineer Security last September, this job marked a significant step toward her dreams.
Independence from Social Assistance
A source of immense satisfaction is her newfound independence from social assistance. Tsigereda’s Social Assistant always believed in her and allowed her to manage her budget independently, a crucial element in her journey toward self-reliance.
The Past Five Years: A Journey of Perseverance
The last five years have been a testament to Tsigereda’s tenacity. Following an 8-month internship with Migros Genossenschaft facilitated by Powecoders, she was hired as a part-time project assistant. This experience laid the groundwork for her career. However, she decided to quit when the future of her role at Migros became uncertain and she was a new mom.
After leaving Migros, Tsigereda transitioned to full-time studies at OST Fachhochschule while simultaneously raising her daughter as a single mother. Juggling parental responsibilities with her academic and career pursuits was challenging, but she never gave up.
Throughout her journey, Tsigereda found steadfast support from her Job Coach at Powercoders, Andreas Steiner—a Software Engineer at Google, who continues to be a constant presence. In addition to this support network, Tsigereda’s connection with the Pfenninger family has been instrumental in her success. The Pfenninger family not only generously and actively assisted her with childcare and helped her navigate daily challenges but also played a significant role in her integration into Swiss culture.
Tsigereda reflects on the roots of this meaningful connection: “The bond with the Pfenninger family began when I met a woman teaching German to refugees at the church in Meilen. We connected during my early days in Switzerland when I was trying to learn German. Through her, I was introduced to her entire family, and our friendship flourished. During the period when I obtained my permit, I lived with them for about a year. This immersive experience not only deepened my understanding of the language but also allowed me to absorb the nuances of Swiss culture. Since then, our connection has endured, and today, they are more than friends—they are my family. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Pfenninger family for their unwavering support and for playing the role of grandparents to my daughter.”
Overcoming Challenges and Finding Strength
Amidst her journey, Tsigereda faced a significant hurdle: the global pandemic. The onset of COVID-19 forced her to adapt to online learning while managing childcare responsibilities and connecting with fellow students solely through virtual platforms. Despite these challenges, Tsigereda’s resolve remained unshaken. “I have gone through worse. That puts everything in perspective”, she says.
Reflecting on her experiences, Tsigereda acknowledges that her strong determination has been a driving force. From a young age, she knew she wanted a career in IT, even when there were absolutely no role models or clear paths for that in Eritrea. Her headstrong mind propelled her forward.
Thinking of the challenging days of juggling part-time work and part-time studies, Tsigereda recalls, “Even the lunch breaks were exhausting since I was trying to understand the conversations in Swiss German. I used to come home utterly exhausted, drained of energy and there was my baby, awaiting my attention.” How on earth did she manage it? “Despite my fatigue, I cherished those moments with her. She was so cute and innocent, requiring my constant care and affection. This time with her helped me put the hurdles of the day behind me”, she says smilingly.
You can’t help but notice that her face lights up whenever she talks about her daughter. “Last Sunday, we celebrated her 4.5-year birthday. Baking cakes is a passion of mine, and this occasion provided the perfect excuse to indulge in it”, she says laughingly. Her daughter’s aspiration to study computer science in Rapperswil and follow in her footsteps must be a source of immense pride and motivation for her.
How does she feel about all these accomplishments? “I can’t describe the feeling,’ she says, her voice filled with a mix of astonishment and joy. “I did it. I am proud. I am happy. A part of me still can’t grasp it. There’s always been a small voice that doubted that I would succeed. But I did it.” It’s deeply moving to witness her express this blend of slight disbelief and overwhelming relief.
Words of Wisdom and Gratitude
Her advice to others facing similar challenges? “If you want it, you have to keep going. Even if everything is against you and it feels challenging, take your time.” Her words echo the resilience that defines her journey.
Tsigereda pauses to extend her heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has supported her, with a special mention to Powecoders: “Without their support, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue my studies or accomplish everything I am doing today.”
Conclusion: A Journey Fueled by Determination
Tsigereda’s story stands as a reminder of the strength found in determination and support. Through her experiences, Tsigereda inspires us to face life’s hurdles with endurance and heart.
We at Powercoders are so proud of her! We wish her and her family all the best for the future.