By: Awa Conteh
In this week’s Women in STEM episode, we feature Amie Khan Jammeh, a Network Engineer who breaks barriers and creates connections as Regional Manager of Gambia Telecommunications Company (GAMTEL).
Her role is critical in keeping our communities connected in the digital age, as she oversees the installation and maintenance of the 99% state-owned firm’s phone and data connections. Mrs. Jammeh is also the Chief Electronic Engineer at the Sir Dawda Conference Center. We’ll look at her fascinating career in STEM, her accomplishments, the hurdles she’s overcome, and her perspective on the changing telecommunications landscape. Stay tuned for an empowering story of technological innovation and leadership!
Mrs. Amie Khan Jammeh was born into a family of seven in Tanjeh Village, West Coast Region. Amie’s path to success was paved with determination and a thirst for knowledge. Her educational voyage took her through the halls of Tanjeh Primary School and then onto Gambia Muslim High School, where she held tight to a dream of becoming a doctor, inspired by the noble pursuit of healing.
However, she faced a moment of reckoning during her Form 3 years at Muslim High School. The sight of blood and the skeletal structures used for practical sessions filled her with a deep unease, and she realized that perhaps a medical career wasn’t her calling after all. It was a difficult decision, but she mustered the courage to approach her Biology teacher and explain her dilemma. She wasn’t thrilled, for losing one of her brightest students was a teacher’s worst fear. So, she dropped Biology and continued her journey, delving into Physics, Chemistry, and other science subjects. Every day on her way to school, she passed by Gamtel House, and she and her friends would passionately discuss the company’s success.
It was during these conversations that a new path crystallized before her. Right then and there, she decided to become an engineer and work for Gamtel. This newfound determination led her to pursue Electronics at GTTI after graduating high school. Mrs Jammeh’s journey had taken an unexpected turn. Still, it was a turn that would lead her toward a rewarding career in engineering.
Mrs Jammeh’s experience in the telecommunications industry has been one of progress and determination. She began her professional career as a Printer Technician at the Gambia Printing Department in Kanifing and afterward as a Photocopier Technician for a private enterprise after graduating from GTTI.
In 1998, the doors of opportunity opened wide when she joined Gamtel as a Technician in the Planning Department. Her role was crucial – designing the Outside Plant Network of Gamtel and overseeing its implementation. She progressed through the ranks, from Technician to Senior Technical Officer, eventually achieving the position of Engineer in 2009 after graduating from GTMI with a Diploma in Telecommunications.
Subsequently, Mrs Jammeh was promoted to Manager and transferred to the Networks Department in 2011, where she was responsible for installing and maintaining all data lines (ADSL) across the country. During her colleague’s deployment on the ECOWAN project, she took on the post of Senior Manager Planning for two years, from 2014 to 2016. Mrs Jammeh was appointed Acting Senior Manager for the Greater Banjul Area in December 2020, a post she held until July 2022, when she was officially recognized as Regional Manager for the Greater Banjul Region. Notably, she was the first woman to hold this prestigious position in the GBA – a tribute to the potential that hard work and devotion can bring to a fast-paced industry like telecoms.
Not satisfied with local expertise alone, our superwoman sought worldwide perspectives. Her fervent curiosity finally led her to China, where she mastered Conference Centre Operation and Management and AutoCAD and Geographic Information Systems courses in France and Ghana. She is now a mother of four and serves as an inspiration, a monument to the power of education, desire, and pursuing one’s aspirations. Her path, like her soul, continues to evolve, and she is now a student at the University of The Gambia, where she no doubt continues to leave an everlasting impression on the world of STEM.
This trailblazer’s challenges as the Regional Manager of the Greater Banjul Area were akin to steering a ship through turbulent waters: inheriting an aging network originally designed for voice but now tasked with the demanding job of carrying both voice and data presented its own challenges.
“Data, being more sensitive, demanded pristine network connectivity that our aged infrastructure struggled to provide. The relentless theft of network materials, from manhole covers to precious cables, was another thorn in our side. And then there was the increasing impatience of our customers, for whom the internet had become an inseparable part of life. Their inability to wait for line repairs added immense pressure to my team and me”, she said.
Mrs. Jammeh and her team’s response was to rehabilitate the network, replacing damaged cables and mending junctions while upgrading to thicker cables. However, obstacles remained; resource constraints loomed large in an industry as capital-intensive as telecoms. Copper, the lifeblood of a company’s networks, had grown exorbitantly expensive. To adapt and thrive, they turned to Fibre GPON (Gigabit Passive Optic Network), a cost-effective alternative with significant advantages over copper. With unwavering determination, she and her team harnessed their in-house expertise to rehabilitate and expand their network, making the most of the limited resources at their disposal.
Amid these daunting challenges, Mrs Jammeh exhibits excellent problem-solving skills as a woman in the world of technology, charting a path forward for young girls and women aspiring for a career in STEM.
Additionally, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about an extraordinary situation. While many were asked to stay home, Mrs Jammeh and her team were called to action, ensuring that individuals relying on their internet services, particularly ADSL, could work from home and stay connected during these challenging times. It was a risky endeavor, but their dedication to the well-being of our community drove them forward. This decision ultimately had a positive impact by alleviating the stress of prolonged home confinement and enabling people to stay connected in a time when it mattered most.
Telecommunications has undergone a spectacular transition, comparable to the transformation of a caterpillar into a bright butterfly. It was once limited to conveying speech signals and data independently. Still, it has since advanced into multimedia, with networks providing data at speeds measured in gigabits or terabits per second rather than kilobits. What was once a technology-driven industry has shifted gears to become customer-centric.
Mrs Jammeh and her team have embraced this rapid evolution by embarking on a continuous journey of self-improvement and network enhancement. Despite boasting 25 years of work experience and being on the cusp of turning 50, she refused to let age or experience deter her. In 2020, she took a bold step. She enrolled at UTG to pursue a BSc in Telecommunications, recognizing that knowledge is the ultimate source of power and a catalyst for positive change in our institutions and country.
She has also extended this commitment to her team, encouraging them to seize the opportunities for growth provided by GTMI. These endeavors symbolize personal growth and a commitment to ensuring the telecommunications infrastructure remains at the forefront of progress.
She told TAT: “My team and I are keeping up to date by constantly upgrading ourselves and our network. For example, I have 25 years of work experience. I have undergone several training about my functions. I am close to 50, but that does not stop me from enrolling in UTG in 2020 for my BSc in Telecommunications. This is because knowledge is power and is one way we can turn around the situation of our institutions and the country. I also encourage my team members to upgrade using our Training Institute GTMI”.
In the world of Telecommunications Engineering, where gender disparities often prevail, Mrs. Jammeh has chosen to be a beacon of change through action. As a woman in this male-dominated industry, she leads by example. She is guided by professionalism, effective communication, mutual respect, and inclusiveness. Her commitment extends to encouraging more women to join her department. Among the seven exchanges under her purview, four of the seven test clerks are women. She has also inspired change beyond her immediate circle; one of the cleaners at the firm has now transitioned to working with her data team, eager to learn the trade and thrive in her new role, all because she was inspired by the example of a woman excelling in this industry.
Mrs Jammeh, in addition to her work as Regional Manager at Gamtel, is an integral part of the management team at the Sir Dawda Conference Center, where she is the Chief Electronic Engineer. Her responsibilities as the IT team’s leader include operating and maintaining all communication equipment, including voice, data, and video. It’s a challenging profession but extremely rewarding, especially in this era of hybrid meetings when technology is crucial. This voyage demonstrates that hard labor does, in fact, reap its own rewards.
Our featured guest’s journey was far from a walk in the park; it was a path laden with challenges and obstacles. Growing up in a family of fishermen, her days were a delicate balance between helping her mother smoke and dry fish, tending to household chores, and diligently studying my books. In her community, there was a prevailing belief that educating a girl was a squandering of precious resources. Moreover, The Gambia was deeply entrenched in patriarchal traditions where leadership was synonymous with masculinity. Yet, here she stands today as an Engineer and the Regional Manager of GBA. She believes that if she can achieve this, so can others.
“All it takes is an unwavering focus on one’s goals, relentless hard work, and the understanding that engineering is both theory and practice; true respect as an engineer comes from actively participating in problem-solving. At this moment, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to my parents for their unwavering belief in me, guided by the Wolof proverb that says, “Gorr Bahna Giguen Bahna.” They labored tirelessly to provide an education for all their children, defying all odds”, she said.
Passionate about women’s representation in Telecommunications and STEM, Mrs Jammeh recognizes the efforts of WISTEM Gambia, a remarkable initiative led by her sister and colleague Kodu Jeng Gaye, for their unwavering commitment to empowering women in STEM and inspiring young girls to follow suit. She emphasizes the potential for transformative change when women unite to uplift one another, highlighting the strong work ethic of Gambian women as a driving force.
While we celebrate Mrs. Jammeh’s story and remarkable achievements, it is essential to recognize and appreciate the men who have played a significant role in her career, notably her husband, also a Civil Engineer, as well as male colleagues who continue to support and create conducive working environments for women in these fields. Their support, mentorship, and encouragement have paved the way for her success, highlighting the importance of collaboration and inclusivity in the STEM field. Top of Form