Meet Bobuchi Ken-Opurum who is a PhD candidate at the Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture, runs a design and technology incubator studio and lab called Neth|Port Studios alongside her sister, has a podcast called Lesser Knowns, created a social initiative called The Second Platform, and is the co-founder of an app called The CurrentSPACE.
Bobuchi Ken is originally from Rivers State in Nigeria and is currently a research assistant at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Architecture and also runs a design and technology incubator studio and lab called Neth|Port Studios with her sister.
When asked about how she and her sister created Neth|Port Studios, she said:
"we consider ourselves creatives and have always come up with out the box, socially stimulating, and innovative ideas. We wanted to take the ideas from just concepts to products and tangible work. Hence, in 2015 we conceived the idea to make a productivity mobile app. The process was very educational, especially regarding seeking funding and planning proposal packages for investments. As a result of that process we started using our new-found knowledge to help others and decided to create a platform for ourselves to further develop our ideas and help others through collaboration.
When asked about the hardest obstacle she had to overcome to get where she is now, she says it had to be rejection, which she now believes the rejection might have actually been a blessing. She goes on to say:
"Luckily, I am someone that has great faith in herself and constantly pushes herself to advance despite rejection. My dad would also console me by saying to me “Oh, it’s their loss, they don’t know the greatness they just missed out on”, and that is something I tell myself whenever I face rejection that challenges my growth and progress. My support system has always helped me get up from the wallows of defeat. Everyone needs a support system, no questions asked!"
Bobuchi attended Purdue University, Indianapolis for her undergraduate education and studied construction-engineering-construction management (CEMT). She then went on to Columbia University in the City of New York to get her Master of Science in Sustainability Management with a focus on the built environment and sustainable construction.
Her PhD research is about promoting flood and heat stress resilience in self-build housing in Nigeria by utilizing bottom-up strategies, multi-criteria decision making (MCDM), and low-technical visuals. She goes on to add:
"My research has determined that resilience with these solutions [mentioned in original interview] have potential for building adaptive capacity but is currently difficult due to the complex and holistic environment of resilient construction, coupled with the socioeconomic characteristics of self-builders within Nigeria. It is precisely for these difficulties that my research is investigating how to support decision making on the appropriate design solutions for a household, despite the complex environment of resilient construction. In addition, my research is supporting resilient construction by investigating the most appropriate communication methods to guide self-builders on how to design and build the appropriate resilient solutions."
Switching gears from her education background, we asked Bobuchi to tell us about her social initiative called The Second Platform (officially launching in 2021), which she was motivated to start because of her experience growing up female in Nigeria and how women did not have the same opportunities as men.
"The Second Platform is a social initiative that is actionable, and provides tools which include technology, education, community, and research to promote gender equality and spotlight women power in Global South communities such as India, Nigeria, South Africa, and Honduras. The Second Platform also provides solution-based approaches to ending gendered violence of sexual assault, rape, child mutilation, mob violence, and reproductive coercion within the Global South. Second Platform takes meaning from being the supplemental platform for women and girls to gain security, equality, and empowerment (SEE). It is intended to be their second platform because their interpersonal and social circle may be their first platform....Our main purpose is to provide opportunities and funding to support women and provide them with a purpose. We also aim to work on policy and legislation to give women an equal footing and women's rights."
We asked her to give us the 411 on some of the projects/initiaves that we can expect to see on The Second Platform. She let us know that there will be three main programs and one project. She also highlighted the Lesser Knowns, which is a limited series podcast that is available on Spotfiy. She goes on to tell us a bit more about the podcast:
"The podcast highlights lesser known acts of gendered violence using prose and form from the perspective of someone who has experienced the lesser known act in the past. The interludes of the podcast feature interview with people with expertise or experience in the field of human and women rights and social equity to get their perspectives on the prior lesser known acts." She also mentioned that if anyone is interested in becoming a narrator for the podcast to reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Besides the fact that the mission of this podcast is amazing, we also love that she plans to translate it into different languages such as French, Punjabi, Hindi, Spanish, Pidgin, and Arabic, which will ultimately increase accessibility and reach of the podcast! If anyone is interested in helping with the translation of the podcast, reach out to her at email@example.com. Her platform is also taking nominations for a project called the Fifty Women Project. The Fifty Women Project intends to highlight advocates, change makers, innovators, and humanitarians involved in supporting women's rights and feminism in global south communities. Nominations can be sent using this link.
When asked about long term goals for her initiative she said:
"My Co-founder and I intend to increase our activism presence in more countries within the global south and develop brick and mortar spaces to increase self-sufficient education for women and girls within those countries....We also hope to use data management to have more influence on public policy that caters to female empowerment and equality in the global south, as women are currently marginalized and there is significant disparity in income, education, and sexuality amongst for females in these countries. " She also hopes to expand on pre-existing programs.
Moving on to her next venture, which is co-founding an app called The CurrentSPACE, she gave us an overview of the app creation process.
"The mobile app making journey has been quite intense as we started in 2016 not knowing anything about the process of developing a mobile app. A lot of research went into knowing where to start and the process involved in taking an app idea from concept to completion, including mobilization of a great team to help."
"The process started from hiring a freelance UI/UX designer, and then creating wireframes with notes to guide the designer on the design of the app at the front end. Once it was designed we got an animator to prototype the work to illustrate the flow, transition, and animations of the work to allow us to determine the user experience of the user interface. We were really focused on making a minimal, intuitive, and easy to use app and spent quite a lot of time on ensuring our goals were met. However, the work had to be put on hold for a year and half due to budget constraints and our funding methods were slow to uptake including using crowdsourcing.
Once we got back, we decided to modify the idea of the app as technology is constantly evolving and you must evolve with it to stay ahead of the curve. I decided to work on the UI/UX myself as I had learned quite a lot from the initial UI/UX designer. I learned how to design on these three programs Adobe XD, InVision and Justinmind and designed the new interface and ran functional prototypes of components for the CurrentSPACE. Once we got it to a great place, we spec’d it out to a developer and have gotten to a good place for alpha testing. Unfortunately, we once again placed a hold on it, though this time for delays in the development of other aspects of the venture beyond the software."
Unfortunately due to the fact that the app hasn't launched yet, she wasn't able to give us all the juicy details about the app. However she was able to describe it on a high level:
"The app is ½ of a productivity venture that is stemmed in promoting social equity in West Africa. The app aims to let users access resources including Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) to complete any type of project seamlessly with minimal overhead capital. A user also has real-time access to the progress of their project with their project team from anywhere in the world, and the project team can collaborate or work independently with the resources CurrentSPACE provides."
She hopes that the app will, "Improve access to a space for all people to use for enhancing their productivity and collaboration with their stakeholders. "
A launch date for the app has not been set but we can expect the app to pilot Spring 2022
With everything she has going on, we just had to know how she manages her time effectively. She told us:
"I tend to prioritize work and projects and keep an extensive calendar and reminders. My phone goes off about 25 times a day from when I wake up. If I miss a reminder it can really throw off my progress because I forget a lot of things especially in hectic periods due to tunnel vision. My calendar and alarms keep me in check beyond the 2-3 things I am actively working on at any given period."
When asked what advice she would give to girls who have been told that their ideas are "too big" for a girl, Bobuchi said:
"Go for it girl!!
Your sex has nothing to do with achieving your goals, if you can dream it then you can achieve it. Everyone is going to have an opinion whether you do, or you don’t . if you are dammed either way, you might as well go for it. Additionally, I believe there is nothing new under the sun, which shows that your dreams are never “too big”. Believe in yourself and go for it and give the world what you think it is currently missing – do not deprive us of your greatness because someone thinks you are better off “in the other room” or attributes gender normative roles on you .
If you do it work on your dream, someone else will work on their dream that may just be yours or very closely aligned with yours – not that that should stop you either, you can always have an edge than what is already out there (that’s called looking for the gap).
So many great women have come before you, and many more will come after you, and that should serve as your inspiration."
Being a woman in construction is extremely hard and being a black woman in construction is even more difficult, we asked Bobuchi about those struggles and how she deals with and overcomes them.
"Where do I start, for one it is not being taken seriously. Construction as you may know is predominantly white and extra extra predominantly male. From my experience, there is a deep ostracism due to ageism, racism, and sexism; and I was constantly undermined. When working in the field from internships to full time positions after college, it was a trend to not be viewed as educated or experienced enough to offer any benefit to a project. When I worked as a project manager after my undergraduate education, there was significant exclusion when I was at the field checking on a project. Superintendents, technicians, and laborers would frequently not speak to me if I went alone and would only speak to a male colleague if I was at the field with one. I never forget the many experiences where they would be looking at my colleague rather than me when I spoke. And the ones that did “take me seriously” only did so because they considered me “eye candy”.
What was harder was the women in the industry did not provide much support either. I had worked at a woman owned firm after my undergrad, which I expected would be supportive, however, my boss had made many comments that suggested that I flirt with contractors to help our chances of winning bids or accept rude behavior because it was a “man’s club”. That was one of the factors that led to my resignation.
TBH, I overcame these struggles by deciding to work in the resiliency and sustainability aspect of construction in a consulting capacity."
Because construction is such a "male-dominated" field, Bobuchi's advice to girls who want to follow a similar path as her is:
"Until the system changes, you are going to need thick skin to not let the bullshit (excuse my language) affect your resolve. We are unfortunately disadvantaged due to the system and hence need to work two-three times as hard to get half the recognition, however if you are resolved to work in construction, then you will have to carve your own lane as I did. I decided I still love construction but do not care for the bullshit, so I will create my own lane through consulting and impact the project from a different path."
To wrap up this interview, Bobuchi shared some final thoughts:
"Be resilient despite adversities. I know firsthand that this is harder said than done as I have been knocked down mentally and emotionally many times, especially when it comes to my education and career. However, if you seek happiness above everything else then it will all fall into place."
You can find Bobuchi on social media at:
Instagram – Personal: @ooopsprittygirls
Twitter - @think2ndChance
Facebook - @the2ndP