Black Futures: Computer Programming alum Esther Baruti aims to use her success to carve new paths

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Throughout February, George Brown College celebrates Black Futures Month. We're highlighting GBC students, employees and graduates who are making meaningful changes today with an eye on the future.

Alumna Esther Baruti

After graduating from George Brown College's School of Computer Technology as a valedictorian, rising to a senior position with Loblaw Digital and being celebrated as one of Canada's leading young developers, Esther Baruti continues to help others succeed. 

As a senior site reliability engineer at Loblaw, Baruti (Computer Programming and Analysis, 2015) ensures the organization's servers function well and finds solutions to issues that affect the company's digital products. The job provides exciting challenges for a natural-born problem-solver. 

"It could be someone from the mobile team who wants to build a new app, or it could be an issue from the web team or one of the stores," she said. "It's the process of problem-solving but coming in different forms of use cases. And it's fun." 

Using success to help others 

Baruti started as a software developer at Loblaw Digital in 2018, quickly moving her career forward. In 2019, Evoke, one of North America's largest tech conferences, named Baruti a Developer 30 Under 30. She said the award prompted both celebration and reflection.  

"It was very interesting because it shed light on diversity and equity and the number of Black women and women in the industry," she said. "I'm happy but sad. I would like it to be more diverse. So, it became a reflection of myself because I thought, yes, you've received this award, and now what can you give back." 

Baruti hopes to carve a career path in the industry from a Black perspective, a woman's and an immigrant perspective (Baruti came to Canada from Ghana in 2010). She's doing this through professional success and by sharing her experience with others. She participates in panels, including one in 2022 for newcomers to Canada interested in tech careers. She also recently participated in a Black History Month panel at George Brown's Centre for Arts, Design and Information Technology

"Me and my sister, we talk about it all the time, what can we do to help others. We had so much help when we came to Canada," she said. 

"Getting these awards and having these conversations are great and inspiring, and I love doing them. But sometimes, I want to do more for those who don't want to sit and have a conversation or ask questions. Some people need a little bit more of a nudge. So I want to create those resources and tools I would have appreciated." 

Baruti's passion for giving back was evident at George Brown, where she was a peer tutor and a student representative who supplied program feedback to the academic chair. In addition, she completed a Microsoft student research project. She said she still refers to GBC materials in her daily work life. 

"The thing I remember the most is the relationships with the teachers," she said. 

Exploring the connection between technology and human health 

The pandemic highlighted the importance of maintaining good physical health for Baruti (she developed carpal tunnel syndrome). She read a lot about human biology and became interested in the similarities between technology and the human body. 

"COVID shed light on the importance of taking care of your body. Human bodies are like technology. They have to be maintained," she said. 

In the coming weeks, Baruti is set to write her exam to become a personal trainer. And she's aiming to pursue university studies to earn a master's in computer science. She's also interested in studying human biology and exploring the effects of technology on people. 

Baruti is eager to apply her knowledge and experience in Africa — she was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was raised in South Africa, and later lived in Ghana before coming to Canada.

"I feel like opportunities are being spread across the ecosystem, but it's missing Africa a little bit. I would like them to have schools and technologies we have here in Canada and other places in the world," she said. "I want to spread the knowledge."