Shelmina was born in Mwanza, Tanzania. Her parents had very little money but always instilled in her the importance of an education. Although not monetarily rich they were abundantly rich in family values and love. Even at a very young age, determined to make her parents happy she focused diligently on her studies and got excellent grades.
At 15 years old Shelmina completed 10th grade and had to leave home in order to obtain a higher education. She initially moved to Dar-es-Salaam to finish high school and then to Pune in India for a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics. She brought back and sold clothes from India to help pay for her tuition and her airfare to see her parents during summer. Being far away from home was difficult for her as writing letters was her only form of communication with her family who did not own a phone. It was obvious that Shelmina was bright, optimistic, eager to learn, and not to mention, stubborn; nothing would get in her way of an education. Shelmina was the first person in her family to obtain a college degree. With a degree in hand, she had zero indication as to what she wanted to do and then came upon an article on computer science while reading a magazine. In order to pursue such she would have to move to the United States.