Madona starts with the letter “M”, and yet — she is also many “M”s.
Yes, you read that right – many Ms.
She is a Mother. She is a Maker – of applications, of lines of coding she punches into her computer, of change that she creates through what she engineers and develops.
And she is also a Model – a role model. We met on Twitter, and she immediately agrees to working on this feature with me for #WITS, our column focused on Women in Tech. “It’s for amplifying women’s voices”, she says via DM, “then I say yes.”
Madona Syombua is the amazing individual behind BudgetingBuddy, a free application that enables users to manage their finances in a quick and clear manner on their phone.
Besides Budgeting Buddy, she has open source projects which her followers and friends can contribute to as well. To release these open invitations, she often uses social media application Twitter to encourage other users to join in on the project.
The spirit of sharing prompted me to ask her about her thoughts on current labour patterns and how she expects the career landscape to change for her children’s time. “It is actually tenacious to talk about the future job market”, she says — and rightfully so. “Everything is changing so fast. What I would say to my young self now is save for the future and plan for the future, such that when we get there, it will not [catch us] off-guard.”
“We need more women in technology for sure, and we need more women taking up leadership and all significant roles.”
Madona is a developer for Android, a mobile operating system. It is based off of open source software and an altered version of the Linux kernel.
“I design and develop advanced applications for the Android platform”, she tells us. “Of course”, she adds, “there have been challenges and also enjoyable moments.
[But that is] simply because life is full of problems, and to overcome them, it is good to have passion for what we do. So passion plays a big part in my being a good developer.”
Madona and I communicate through email and through Twitter, dodging time-zones and the confines of physical, geographical boundaries to chat. Although she is busy balancing between her duties as a mother and her job, her passion for her work in STEM and application development shines through in the way we have conversations in the pockets of time between her night and my day, from the States to Asia.
“I have always been passionate and curious about how things work. It started from a young age, my first passion was airplanes, I was fascinated by their ability to fly above and far, and when I was young, I wanted to be an Aeronautical Engineer. That did not happen.” She pauses for a moment. I let the idea that even her, relentless in her craft and interests, was hit by rejection when young. “However, I found another passion for computers. Through this, I got into software engineering, and my love has grown since then.”
Speaking of times of rejection, I ask Madona if there have been any moments which she has felt were indicative of prejudice in the tech world against women. I can imagine her offering me a wry smile as she answers matter-of-factly, “I hope to inspire young women and also mothers to go after their dreams. Certainly, I hope to not let anyone or any prejudice stop or slow them down.”
Typically, as digital natives, we’re constantly in touch with various thoughts at once. We could be searching for “potatoes” on one open tab in our Chrome browser, but “Peru” in another. Growing up in a world devoted to technology and using it to enhance our processes has given us the boon of a ‘short attention span’ — yet using technology wisely and responsibly to connect and create meaningfully might lead to something wonderful. And that’s exactly what Madona tried to do, amidst setbacks. “You can do anything you put your mind, time and idea [to].”
“My first application was terrible, but looking back, if I [chose] to give up, I would not be where I am today. The internet has made self-education easier, though we lack time these days. But sacrificing 1 hour to learn something new goes a long way.” Madona used to tap on free coding resources, recommending Udemy’s free courses to explore the world of coding as a primer.
“For anyone who wants to get started trying free online resources, create a board to keep you organized, and staying on track will lead to success.”
Over 5000+ users have joined and used her application, and Madona has incorporated translation into Budgeting Buddy such that features are understood by the English/Spanish/German/French/Swedish. But beyond her application, she’s connected with our team over here in Singapore and hopes to forge more connections to communicate the message of courage and relentless passion in the world of technology.