- Creative Project Manager and Kenyan Ashley Njoroge shares her career journey and why she enjoys working at RingCentral.
- Ashley was recently honored by our WISE ERG for her efforts in connecting African founders with Silicon Valley venture capitalists.
We recently sat down with RingCentral Creative Project Manager, Ashley Njoroge, a member of our Women in SaaS Empowerment (WISE ERG) and Black Employees at RingCentral (BE@R ERG) employee resource groups, and our Black Ladies in the Tech Zone (BLITZ) affinity group. Ashley shared her experience as an African woman living in the US, her career journey, and how she is connecting African founders with Silicon Valley venture capitalists.
A different journey.
While there are shared experiences amongst many Black people in America, each individual has a unique story, and we’re excited to share Ashley’s with you. Growing up in Kenya’s largely homogenous society meant that she was shielded from the challenges that come from being Black in the US. So when she left Kenya in 2019 to pursue a graduate degree in Journalism at UC Berkeley, she had no inkling that she would soon take on a new identity, being seen as Black and not just Kenyan. The shift in perception became apparent as soon as she stood in the immigration queue at San Francisco International Airport. In fact, Ashley told us “I didn’t realize I was Black until I came here…I did not know what it means to be Black in America because that was not my lived experience.”
Ashley began her career at RingCentral as a Brand Creative Operations Intern. Her internship was extended, but since her work authorization had expired, she had to temporarily leave RingCentral while anxiously waiting for its renewal. Coincidentally during that time, Ashley’s manager left for another company leaving a vacancy. By some miracle, Ashley’s work permit was approved just in time and after interviewing, she was hired for the open role. Ashley feels lucky since she’s seen so many other international students struggle to get their foot in the door. “For those of us coming from outside the US, the barriers to entry are so, so high. The biggest hurdle is finding access.” RingCentral’s RingTern program gave Ashley that first opportunity.
The work environment, though filled with opportunity, also presented a unique set of challenges. Ashley sometimes found it challenging to participate in conversations centered around shared (and specifically American) cultural experiences. “People were talking about Girl Scout cookies. I had no idea what Girl Scout cookies were. I had nothing to contribute to the conversation.” When I mentioned this to my team, they offered to send various flavors to my apartment. Other times, during team meetings, she felt her impostor syndrome really kick in. This was something she hadn’t experienced in Kenya where she was accustomed to a high level of confidence. “You literally have to be one of the best brains to make it out of the continent, so [in Kenya] we were literally the smartest, most competent people in the room.”
“When I came to the US the script was flipped.” For the first time, Ashley hesitated to voice her thoughts during meetings and questioned whether her ideas and opinions carried as much weight as those expressed by others with more American nuance. She discussed this with her manager, an Iranian woman who suggested that she join She Runs It, an organization providing comprehensive leadership training for women in marketing, media, and technology. Learning from the experiences of other women of color positively influenced her ability to show up more confidently at work.
Because she is intimately aware of the challenges facing African women in technology, we asked Ashley what career advice she would like to share with them.
Find people who will speak of you in rooms you cannot access. Find people who can relate to the nuances of your story and your experiences. Once you have people who understand your passions and goals and what makes you tick, those are the people who will help you get new projects, promotions, and roles. Find people whose shoulders you can stand on and then pay it forward.
Paying it forward.
Ashley is paying it forward in a big way. She was recently recognized by the WISE ERG for her efforts connecting African founders with startup and working capital. She leverages her business background and her experience as a board member of Zeraki Analytics, a Kenyan edtech startup digitizing the education value chain in Africa. Several meetings with US-based venture capital firms investing in Africa revealed that they struggled to find compelling African founders. Simultaneously, Africa-based founders encountered significant difficulties in raising capital. Recognizing this gap, Ashley saw an opportunity to play a pivotal role in connecting these two aspects of the startup ecosystem.
The technology world offers so many opportunities including some larger well-known Blue Chip corporations and Ashley’s friends have asked why she wants to work for a smaller company like RingCentral. For her, it’s all about making an impact. Working with a team that is friendly, inclusive, and supportive encourages Ashley to achieve even more. Her most recent interest is artificial intelligence (AI). By expanding her knowledge and utilization of the latest advances in AI, Ashley hopes to further enhance her marketing skills and better support RingCentral’s creative and integrated campaign teams.
We look forward to seeing all of the great things Ashley will do in the future with her RingCentral Brand Creative team, African founders, and other women in the tech space.
Originally published Oct 03, 2023, updated Nov 02, 2023