Part 2: Aline Journey

"Quality education allows girls to explore who they are and the freedom to choose who to be."

Last week you met Peace, co-founder of Lifesten Health, in part one of this series on two Gashora sisters from the class of 2015.  Today we introduce you to Aline, who works at Lifesten Health as the lead of product and partnerships. Both young women's paths did not start where they hoped but led them to their passions and where they are today. If you missed Peace's interview explaining her journey to founding Lifesten Health last week, you can find it HERE

Would you please introduce yourself? 

My name is Aline Utuje, and I graduated from Gashora in 2015. You can often find my dancing or planning my next travel adventure in my free time. I consider myself a world citizen. I believe immersing oneself in different cultures is a powerful way to broaden our horizons, develop empathy, and foster connections with people from all walks of life.

Could you tell us about your educational journey post Gashora? 

I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Ashesi University in Ghana. In 2019 I left for Arizona State University, where I was accepted into an accelerated master's program through the Mastercard Foundation in partnership with Ashesi University. 

Ashesi University was initially not my first choice as I wanted to major in chemical engineering, and Ashesi did not have a program. Unfortunately, I could not secure adequate financial aid for schools abroad. With our university counselor's help, I received a full Mastercard scholarship to attend Ashesi University and major in mechanical engineering.  I discovered it was a vast field that allowed me to pursue similar ideals that initially drew me to chemical Engineering. It was a full circle moment after my acceptance into the master's program at Arizona State University (ASU), as it was one of the schools I originally wanted to attend. In Arizona, I completed the senior year of my undergraduate studies and the first year of my master's program.

After graduate school, I was fortunate enough to secure a position in the renewable energy industry, specifically solar energy. My first full-time job was as a performance engineer at SOLV Energy, a top-tier solar services provider in North America, specializing in utility solar, high voltage substation, and energy market storage. As a performance engineer, I oversaw daily commissioning activities. While there, I discovered that I enjoyed the managerial aspects of the job, such as mentoring, guiding teams, communicating with stakeholders, and seeing how all the different pieces fit together. I enjoyed the involvement of working on projects from start to finish. I decided to obtain my project management certification as it combines my management skills, interpersonal relationships, entrepreneurship, and engineering. 

"At Gashora, there is a holistic approach to education. You can explore who you are outside of the classroom and how that feeds into who you want to be in the future. You can think big for yourself, which allows you to believe that you can and will achieve your dreams."

You are currently working with your Gashora sister and co-founder of Lifesten. Tell us about your job.

I am a product & partnerships manager at Lifesten. As a product and partnerships manager, I ensure our product (Lifesten health app) aligns with the company's goals and meets market demands. I conduct market research, manage our product's reputation and develop go-to-market plans, including pricing and marketing campaigns. I establish and maintain relationships with key partners and stakeholders while identifying business development opportunities that align with our overall goals. Ultimately, I aim to execute strategic partnerships and ensure efficient product management and delivery.

I've known Peace, the co-founder, and my Gashora sister, for a long time, and working with her makes you feel like you belong and that your opinions matter. She's a team player, and building Lifesten together has made me feel like it also belongs to me, that I am part of a solution, and that it's my responsibility to see it grow and succeed far beyond. Her passion easily rubs off on me, and it's the best environment I've worked in so far. She makes the entrepreneurial journey seem fun and worth it. 

Aline (in red) and Peace (in green) with friends and partners at Biospectal SA, who are working together to ensure that no one is left behind on cardiovascular health screening. 

Why is quality education for girls important?

I am where I am and who I am because of quality education. Quality education offers girls the opportunity to explore who they are and the freedom to choose who to be. When a girl has that opportunity, she becomes a powerful being that advances herself and her community far more than imagined.

Did attending an all-girls high school better prepare you for your future?

Definitely! At Gashora, there is a holistic approach to education. You can explore who you are outside of the classroom and how that feeds into who you want to be in the future. You can think big for yourself, which allows you to believe that you can and will achieve your dreams. I am thankful for the vast network of girls to look up to, be inspired by, and turn to when I was lost. Gashora enables students to become diverse people, world citizens, and free-thinkers

I am proud of my Gashora sisters, and seeing what they accomplish motivates me to keep going. To know that I can also do it, that 'I AM THAT GIRL!' Hahaha! Undeniably, we're powerful and can do all when given the opportunity and resources to be ourselves. 

"GGAST provided a nurturing, accepting, and empowering atmosphere, allowing me to grow and develop into who I am today. This environment fostered my personal growth, giving me a better understanding of myself, and I became more self-assured."

What were some ways the extra-curriculars at GGAST prepared you for college and beyond?

At GGAST, I was the dance leader of the 'Inkumburwa' troupe, the traditional dance club. I love dancing, and it is where my extrovert comes out. I have many happy memories of traveling to dance competitions while at Gashora. I am also thankful for the impromptu dances we performed last minute. These impromptu dances were not ideal, but they taught me to be spontaneous and quick on my feet. Because a lot of great opportunities that came my way came like that, impromptu. 

I am so happy when I am dancing, allowing me to dream freely and remind myself who I am. Whenever I get sad, frustrated, or feel lonely, I dance. Dancing keeps me in a positive space. And that helped me a lot in college; I joined the dance club at Ashesi, which would help me relax, get to know people, and easily make friends from other countries. A dance floor gives you a lot of diverse good friends to share banter with.

I also participated in the community service club. It instilled in me the importance of giving back to the community. So wherever I am, I look for opportunities to give back. In Ghana, I was a volunteer of an NGO called Future of Africa. Future of Africa works with children in street situations in Accra to help transform their lives, families, and communities.

Who has inspired you?

My family is my inspiration. My heart swells with pride and gratitude when I think of my family. They are my motivation, my inspiration, and my reason for being. I have younger siblings who look up to me, and I am honored to be a role model for them. I am humbled that I have helped them dream big and achieve beyond their wildest imaginations. We inspire each other to improve, do better, and reach higher.

My father instilled a drive to strive for excellence and never give up on my dreams. He encouraged me to pursue higher education, work hard and be the best I could be. I became the first in my family to earn a master's degree, and I know I have made him proud.

My mother is my rock. She taught me the value of having a solid support system and never being afraid to ask for help when needed. She showed me that we all have the potential to improve our lives holistically, and that drives me every day. I am grateful for her love, wisdom, and guidance.

My family is why I wake up every morning with purpose and a determination to succeed. They inspire me to be the best version of myself and positively impact the world. And for that, I am forever grateful.

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